by Andria Lisle
Unlike their rock-and-roll counterparts, who are busy over-analyzing the death of music magazines or pondering the navigational routes of social networking sites, blues fans Roger Stolle and Jeff Konkel aren't content to cool their heels while the music biz struggles to reinvent itself for modern times.
Last year, the duo, respective owners of the Clarksdale, Miss.-based Cat Head record label and retail store and the Missouri-based Broke and Hungry CD imprint, combined their mission via M for Mississippi: A Road Trip Through the Birthplace of the Blues, a blues tourism-oriented documentary film that celebrates contemporary performers such as guitarists Duck Holmes, T-Model Ford, Robert "Bilbo" Walker and the late Wesley "Junebug" Jefferson, who succumbed to cancer on July 22.
As Stolle told me back in May, "the main goal of the project was to get people to come to Mississippi and to promote these artists so they get booked other places. It's easy to sell the idea of blues museums or institutions that celebrate the blues of the past, but we wanted to promote the idea that even in the 21st century, you're able to travel here and experience the blues yourself."
One week later, the DVD won a Blues Music Award. And in late July, Stolle and Konkel took the show on the road to the Notodden, Norway Blues Festival, where they screened the documentary and staged a showcase with Ford, Robert Belfour, and 80-year old L.C. Ulmer (pictured above).
This weekend, the entire crew will repeat their performances — on their home turf this time, at the Sunflower River Blues & Gospel Festival in downtown Clarksdale. Bettye Lavette headlines the free, two-day festival, which also features James "Super Chikan" Johnson, Cedric Burnside and Lightnin' Malcolm, Shardee Turner and the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band, and more. Go here for a complete schedule.
If you head down to C'dale, don't miss the Cat Head Mini Blues Fest, slated for Sunday morning, or the myriad nighttime club shows, such as harmonica great Big George Brock's Saturday night gig at the Hopson Commissary. And be sure to check out the latest Mississippi Blues Trail markers erected by the state's Blues Commission.