Saturday, September 20, 2008

"Hill Country Blues," Holly Springs

Hill Country musicians Kenny Brown, Duwayne Burnside,
Little Joe Ayers, David Kimbrough and Garry Burnside. 
Photo by Scott Barretta

On July 3, 2008 a marker honoring North Mississippi Hill Country musicians David "Junior" Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside was dedicated on the square in Holly Springs. Kimbrough, born in Hudsonville, and Burnside, born in rural north Lafayette County, spent most of their years in the vicinity of Holly Springs, where Kimbrough operated a juke joint in the '80s and early '90s. 

Video: Burnside being interviewed by Jim O'Neal and performing the Hill Country standard "Poor Black Mattie" for the documentary Blues Story.

Although both Kimbrough and Burnside began recording in the 1960s, they didn't gain broader recognition until the 1990s, when their CDs on the Oxford-based Fat Possum label caught fire with both blues and alternative music circles. Kimbrough's juke joint in Chulahoma, about ten miles southwest of Holly Springs in rural Marshall County, became a popular destination for blues pilgrims, while the distinctive, groove-oriented sound that characterized Burnside and Kimbrough's music was widely adopted.

From left: Kenny Brown, David Kimbrough, Duwayne Burnside and Cedric 
Burnside performing after the dedication. Photo by Scott Barretta 

Following Kimbrough's death in 1998 and Burnside's in 2005 their music has been carried on by many of their children and grandchildren. Duwayne Burnside and David Kimbrough have their own bands; drummer/vocalist Cedric Burnside tours and records with  Steve "Lightnin'" Malcolm as the Juke Joint Duo; Garry Burnside performs with Cody Dickinson's Hill Country Revue; Kinney Kimbrough works with the group Afrissippi; and Burnside's longtime guitarist and "adopted son" Kenny Brown  keeps a busy schedule both in the US and Europe, and has recently featured Junior Kimbrough's longtime bassist Little Joe Ayers in his show as a vocalist. In 2006 Brown founded the North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic, held each July in Potts Camp, southeast of Holly Springs.

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