Plant ‘Walk­ing Into Clarks­dale’ to head­line Mis­sis­sippi fes­ti­val

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Stacey Plai­sance

FOR­MER Led Zep­pelin front­man Robert Plant is head­ing to Mis­sis­sippi to head­line a fes­ti­val in the his­toric Delta blues town he recorded a song about in 1999.

Plant recorded Walk­ing Into Clarks­dale with for­mer Zep­pelin band­mate Jimmy Page and has vis­ited the town nu­mer­ous times. The rock star is re­turn­ing to Clarks­dale this week­end to head­line the Sun­flower River Blues and Gospel Fes­ti­val’s 25th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion with his new rootsmu­sic band, the Sen­sa­tional Space Shifters.

On Satur­day, Plant will take the stage with Grammy-win­ning vo­cal­ist Patty Grif­fin, West African vir­tu­oso mu­si­cian Juldeh Ca­mara, gui­tarists Justin Adams and Bill Fuller, key­boardist John Bag­gott and drum­mer Dave Smith.

The per­for­mance is be­ing hailed “one of the sin­gle big­gest things to hap­pen to Clarks­dale,” said res­i­dent and Cat Head mu­sic store owner Roger Stolle.

“Robert Plant can do any­thing in the world he wants to do but chooses to come here and pay homage to the land of the blues. It re­ally means a lot that he wants to do this, to give back to this community in that way, and I hope he en­joys it,” said Stolle, who added that Plant was in his store a few months ago and bought CDs by Mis­sis­sippi blues­men Slim Harpo and Skip James.

The fes­ti­val, which is free, runs Fri­day through Sun­day. More than 40 acts are lined up to per­form, in­clud­ing Grammy-nom­i­nated blues­man Char­lie Mus­sel­white and blues great Bobby Rush.

“Peo­ple travel from all over the world to the Mis­sis­sippi Delta to con­nect to the blues, to the roots of the mu­sic,” said Mal­colm White, di­rec­tor of the Mis­sis­sippi Arts Com­mis­sion and chair­man of the Mis­sis­sippi Blues Com­mis­sion. “It’s a holy pil­grim­age to peo­ple who are in­ter­ested in the Mis­sis­sippi story we have to tell through mu­sic.”

Clarks­dale and Coa­homa County were the homes of early blues­men W. C. Handy, Son House, Robert John­son and Charley Patton. The area also was the stomp­ing grounds of Muddy Wa­ters, Sonny Boy Wil­liamson, Sam Cooke, John Lee Hooker, Ike and Tina Turner, and Big Jack John­son.

The town is home to the Delta Blues Mu­seum, which oc­cu­pies an old train de­pot and in­cludes the re­mains of the cabin from Sto­vall Farms, where Muddy Wa­ters lived dur­ing his days as a share­crop­per and trac­tor driver. It also in­cludes a large col­lec­tion of mu­si­cal in­stru­ments, record­ings, sheet mu­sic and pho­to­graphs from B.B. King, Son Thomas, Jimmy Burns and John Lee Hooker.

Plant, who could not be reached for com­ment, has been a Clarks­dale sup­porter for years. He gave the mu­seum a cus­tom-de­signed plaque com­posed of minia­ture Led Zep­pelin al­bum cov­ers and an en­graved trib­ute to Delta blues mu­si­cians who in­flu­enced the band. He has also made do­na­tions to the Mis­sis­sippi Her­itage Blues Trail, a col­lec­tion of his­tor­i­cal mark­ers hon­our­ing peo­ple, places and events in Delta blues his­tory.

On Fri­day, a marker com­mem­o­rat­ing the 25th an­niver­sary of the Sun­flower blues fes­ti­val will be ded­i­cated. It joins more than 100 oth­ers set up across Mis­sis­sippi. On Aug. 22, a marker will be ded­i­cated in Kilmichael, Miss., where B.B. King was raised, White said.

The first Sun­flower fes­ti­val was held in 1988 on the banks of the Sun­flower River. Head­lin­ers that year were Otis Rush and Son Thomas. The fes­ti­val has al­ways been free. Or­ga­niz­ers ex­pect more than 20,000 peo­ple from across the globe to at­tend this year’s fes­ti­val.

Plant: pay­ing homage to land of blues

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