Post-Memphis Bluez

Well folks, last Friday evening at this exact time I was tearin' up Beale Street - singing Willie Dixon's "I'm Ready" (no piano - just me and the mic!) at the jam held by Anthony and the Conqueroos (check 'em out here: they were semi-finalists last year in the IBC.. awesome band and guys!) at The Blues City Cafe. Now, here I am... one Friday evening later.. wishing I could go back one full week ha. 

Really though, I have SOOO much to celebrate!! My semi-final round was at The Blues Hall, kitty corner to Silky O'Sullivans (which is where I did my double quarter final rounds). I was sorta in and out of the bar a bunch because the crowd made me feel congested and I wanted to cheer on some other bands that were playing in the semi's before me (including hometown boys Boogie Patrol!). Again, the bar was PACKED!!!! I am still so overwhelmed by the amount of buzz and excited people that came out to listen to me. Holay molay was it ever fun to play.

Saturday was the finals, held at the renowned Orpheum Theatre! Honestly.. the theatre made every other theatre look like a shack. I'm not much of a picture taker, so I'm sorry that I can't share the sights with ya, but perhaps it's incentive for you to fly down and listen to me play there someday! Because I'm going to.. I have to! :)

I think my favourite day of the whole week was Sunday. A bunch of us rented a car and went down to Al Green's Soul Service. I have to say, that it might be the most amazing experience of my life. The choir brought me to tears! And GEEEEZE can Al SING. He was hilarious too! He would go off on these tangents, and never follow up with them, but none of that mattered because the music said it all. And the music was constant, and incredibly moving. There aren't words to describe what I felt in that church. Crazily enough though, the church was more than half empty! I was really surprised by that. BUT there was the presence of a rather well-known star by the name of... Ron Wood. I can't BELIEVE that I was sitting near a member of The Rolling Stones, in Memphis, at Al Green's Soul Service.... 

After the soul service, we headed down to Mississippi's Clarksdale. Clarksdale, for those reading that don't know much about the town, is world renowned for being the home of the Delta Blues. Muddy Waters was born just outside of the city... Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil at the junction of highways 61 and 49... Bessie Smith (who was essentially murdered by racism) died in the famous Riverside Hotel.. etc. It's a very special place! I am still shocked that such a magical place, and a place that is so crucial to us understanding and knowing the roots of MANY of our favourite musical genres, is so stricken. I was only in the town for a day but I could see a lot of poverty which at times made me feel rather heavy;  there are 'third world' conditions in our own backyard. Although, on the bright side, the people I met were amazing!! We went to Hobson Plantation which is virtually unchanged from when it was a working plantation. There were authentic sharecropper shacks, the original cotton gin, seed houses, cotton fields, and other outbuildings. On the plantation there's a venue called "The Shack Up Inn" which is a crazy place. So much for the eyes to take in. There's a gigantic stage that a band touring from Indiana was playing on and had me and some of the Boogie Boys come jam on. Pretty surreal to be in the home of so much pain and history and making music at the same time.

From The Hobson Plantation we stopped for dinner at a Mexican restaurant. Here was proof of the kindness and poverty levels in the town. The waiters were HILARIOUS. They loved our enthusiasm over the RIDICULOUS food that was WAAY too cheap. My thoughts go out to the boys running the joint! Thanks for the warm and welcome meal.

With bellies full.... the doors of Red's were entered. This was probably my ultimate highlight. Red's, from what I believe, is still an original standing juke joint (or barrelhouse). It was basically just a garage type room with plastic on the ceilings and no running water, or refrigeration. The room was PACKED! All the Mississippi folks were so endearing calling me "Miss Jenie"! "Miss Jenie, will you come up and sing us a tune?". Geeze. I felt part of a special community in the room. There were folks from all over the world, and a number from the town.. and everybody just seemed to be 'in it together' with all the dancing, music, drinking, conversing... I really really didn't want to leave. There is definitely no place in Alberta that could even attempt at replicating Red's. Home to those who need it, and open to those who want it. On the way out of town we stopped at The Crossroads....! I felt a bit silly actually.. approaching such a 'magical' and historical place with a big group of people.. it felt too touristy for me when all I wanted to do was personally pay my respects to all the folks that have paved the way.. M. Waters, C. Patton, R. Johnson, S. Cooke, S. House, B. Smith.... Perhaps it's more reason to return on my own and dig deeper into the roots when I get an opportunity. Even still, it's a bit of a dream to me that I was there...

All in all I am SOO thankful for the week I had! What a time. What a time... after hour jams at Jerry Lee Lewis, The Rum Boogie, Blues City Cafe, The New Daisy.. smoke filled bars.. cheap beer (that you can walk outside and into the next bar with)... music so loud that my ears are still bleeding.. sooo many people.. soo many crazy awesome musicians.. positive energy bouncing off of every old wall... taking down the streets until 8am.. playing as a semi-finalist in the INTERNATIONAL Blues Competition... hearing REALLY good music from across the world.. making new friends with people, again, from around the world...!....I keep getting an overload of amazing memory flashbacks!! I'm not sure if I've ever ridden a high for pretty much an entire week like I did. Perhaps it's due to the fact that I approached the week with no expectations that I was blown away by the whole experience. I feel super motivated and inspired to keep working hard so that I can meet MORE people and visit more places like I just did! The camaraderie amongst the musicians and blues societies was so heartwarming and encouraging. It lifted me right up! It also feels AMAZING to return home to a province that's been buzzing and rooting for me! THANK YOU to the support and love from home!! The Memphis send-off was off the wall, CBC and CKUA have been so kind playing my music and cyber-worlding updates, emails/posts from friends/fans have been really appreciated, and the EDMONTON BLUES SOCIETY kicks BUTT!

What a flippin' week!!
Still riding the highs,
Filled with love - thank you!

p.s. Here's a little vid from my first set in the quarter finals. Live indeed!

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