Juke Joint Blues
CHASING THE BLUES, CHAPTER 10: Clarksdale, MS
Having covered our list of Clarksdale must-see tourist spots for this trip yesterday, we decided to kick back today in our characterless (but sparkling clean and fully functional) hotel room, get a bit of laundry done, and make plans for our upcoming travel. After settling for a simple salad in our room for lunch, by evening we were eager to hunt down something more interesting for dinner.
A little Yelp-ing led us to Chamoun's Rest Haven, a venerable family-run Lebanese restaurant which has been at the same spot on Highway 61 for more than 70 years. Thrilled to find an alternative to the local obsession with barbecue, we were salivating at the thought of some falafel and a fattoush salad. Instead, we felt we had walked into the equivalent of the Olympia Restaurant from the famous Saturday Night Live skit of the 1970s.
Rather than the typical Middle Eastern fare we usually find at Lebanese restaurants, the Rest Haven menu had a singular focus: kibbie. Like the foods we hoped to order, kibbeh (as it is usually spelled) is a Middle Eastern dish, but its central ingredient is ground beef, a deal breaker for both of us. Perusing the menu and talking with the friendly owner, we could almost hear John Belushi barking, "No falafel. Kibbie! No fattoush. Kibbie! No hummus. Kibbie!"
Still hungry, we left Rest Haven, whose name rather had the ring of a nursing home or cemetery, and drove to Ground Zero for dinner—fried green tomato sandwich, fried mushrooms, and a sugary, mayonnaise-thick coleslaw. There's a meal you can feel good about. The band hadn't started and wasn't due until 9:00, according to our Cat Head bill of fare, so we hopped in the car and found our way back to the Shack Up to see if their guitar campers were jamming at the inn's Juke Joint Chapel.
|The lobby at the Shack Up|
|Red's Blues Club|
|Red chats up some tree huggers from Oregon.|
We decided to stay and wait for Joyce to arrive while we sipped on a Southern Pecan nut brown ale by Mississippi's own Lazy Magnolia brewery and listened to the idle chatter between Red and his patrons. As we waited, more blues fans dribbled in, including a couple of Dutch guys who had arrived nine days early for a Clarksdale festival next weekend. By the time Dr. Bingo asked us to put our hands together for Joyce "She Wolf" Jones, the house was nearing its limited capacity.
|Dr. Bingo makes introductions.|
|Joyce Jones belts it out (guitarist Brad Webb in foreground)|
Before calling it a night, we were eager to return to Ground Zero to hear a little from Ricky "Da Soul Man" Burton, the headliner for tonight. We had found a couple of his YouTube videos this afternoon and were looking forward to hearing his mellower strain of the blues. Unfortunately, that was not what "Da Soul Man" was offering up tonight. His band was so loud he was forced to scream the lyrics rather than singing. We left after about 20 minutes, wondering how long our temporary deafness might last.
|Ricky Burton at Ground Zero|
Tomorrow we'll say goodbye to Mississippi and continue north on US-61 to Memphis, another legitimate contender for blues central. We leave you with a little sample of the unique stylings of the she wolf.