Blues Bytes


May 2012

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Roger Stolle and Jeff Konkel
We Juke Up in Here!: Mississippi's Juke Joint Culture at the Crossroads
Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art / Broke & Hungry Records

We Juke Up in Here!

In 2008, Roger Stolle and Jeff Konkel gave us a whirlwind tour of the Mississippi blues scene with the award-winning M for Mississippi. A new offering, We Juke Up in Here: Mississippi’s Juke Joint Culture at the Crossroads, also features Stolle and Konkel exploring what’s left of the Magnolia State’s juke joint culture, a scene that has rapidly declined in recent years for various reasons discussed during the film from the viewpoint of musicians and club owners.

Most of the film surrounds Red Paden, the owner and proprietor of Red’s Lounge in Clarksdale, one of the few joints that still offer live music on a regular basis. Paden has been operating Red’s and various other joints for over 30 years and his wisdom, wit, and straight-forward insight is a key part of the movie. It’s obvious from his first scene that Paden loves what he does, you can’t do something 30 years and not love it, but what comes through even more as the film progresses is the respect, admiration, and even love that the musicians who appear at his club and the various hangers-on and hangers-out have for him.

Konkel and Stolle visit several current and former clubs, ranging from Po’ Monkey’s Lounge in Merigold and the Do Drop Inn in Shelby, both of which are largely limited to using DJs these days. They also visit the Blue Front Café in Bentonia, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes’ club, where Holmes is attempting to bring back live music for the first time in many years. Visits to these clubs are intermixed with various performers playing at Red’s to appreciative crowds.

A couple of musicians that appeared on M for Mississippi (Holmes, Terry “Harmonica” Bean) also appear on We Juke Up in Here, and Big George Brock, whose song provided the title for the previous movie, is featured prominently. However, the remainder of the featured artists (Hezekiah Early, Elmo Williams, Anthony “Big A” Sherrod, Robert Lee “Lil’ Poochie” Watson, Louis “Gearshifter” Youngblood) will be fairly unfamiliar to most blues fans, but that shouldn’t last long. These musicians provide outstanding performances throughout the film. All of them are true characters and you will definitely want to hear more from them after watching the movie.

We Juke Up in Here comes as a DVD/CD set. The CD consists of 11 tracks from the movie, plus three snippets of Red Paden dialogue from the movie (plus a “bonus” recording of Youngblood’s amazing song, “Juke Joint’s Where I’m A Gwine,” complete with the roar of passing traffic, that rolled during the closing credits). The tracks are uniformly excellent, ranging from Holmes’ Bentonia-based sound, to the more traditional sounds of Bean, Williams, Early, and Watson, to Sherrod’s funky, more modern blues, to Youngblood’s strong country-flavored electric and acoustic blues.

We Juke Up in Here pulls no punches in its delivery. It doesn’t paint a rosy picture of the future of the juke joint. However, given the technology of today and the numerous alternative forms of entertainment available to so many people today, it’s actually a miracle that any juke joints are still in operation. Given the interest of blues fans, the determination of supporters like Stolle and Konkel, and the never-say-die attitudes of club owners like Paden and Holmes, it’s safe to say that even with the odds stacked against them, we blues fans will still be visiting and reading about juke joints for years to come.

--- Graham Clarke


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