Singing the Blues in Mississippi

Notes from Nan: Singing the Blues in Mississippi
BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parati

I’m sitting in a big old house in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi listening to my long-time friend (since seventh grade!) Ellis and her band play the blues. Normally at this moment on a Sunday morning I would be scurrying around serving people food and I have to say that at this moment, I couldn’t be happier than sitting under these huge old oaks in this antebellum house listening to these hard-riding harmonies that sound just right in this town that was all but washed out to sea by Hurricane Katrina. They say around here that Hurricane Camille of 1969 killed more people in 2005 than it did in 1969, as people always thought that any house that could have withstood Camille could certainly outlive any hurricane thrown at them later on. So they stayed home for Katrina and washed right out to sea. They really did. For a first hand account of what it was to stare God in the face, read Ellis’ account of what all happened at The thing that gets me every time I read it is that these were not people who signed up to ride broncos or jump out of airplanes; these were regular old people who believed their 150 year old houses high up and away off the coast to withstand the worst hurricane the Gulf Coast had ever seen, so they banded together to make sure their roofs stayed home. It’s an account as harrowing as anything you will read and certainly worth reading. If you only have a little time, skip over to read the tale of The Baytown Inn and know that I met two of the survivors of that scary tale just yesterday, putting up “Please don’t litter” signs over at the Mockingbird restaurant. That these two men went on to be normal people is just more than you can sometimes imagine. One of the singers this morning told me a little while ago that it’s just now that many of the survivors around here are beginning to fall apart, four years after the cataclysm itself. Now some of the houses are rebuilt and the town just looks more like one under lots of construction than one that God tried to kill, and the combination of relative safety combined with the New World Financial Dysfunction is just taking them right out.

So listening to three citizens playing the blues and other songs of death and hope with their swirling harmonies and stealth bass lines is just better than anything else in the world I could be doing on this Sunday morning. The bass player is named Billy Ray and has a talking voice just like Billy Bob Thornton’s.

I’m inviting them to come up to Ashfield, MA sometime this summer and play for us because they are just great! I always hoped Ellis would take her music famous and she did so locally, but I’m hoping she’ll bring it up to us sometime this summer.

You know that on April 18th Swing Caravan is going to play at Elmer’s at 8pm (dinner starts at 5) and also, I don’t believe I have mentioned to you on Sunday, June 14th I’m planning a Cowboy Festival with bands the Sweetback Sisters and Girl Howdy. As I find out more I’ll let you know what the bigger plans are but that’s what I know so far. You are, of course encouraged to wear cowboy and girl outfits, however! I do know that!

Dinner this week … Read the rest of this entry »

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