Chicago…. Clarksdale… and Texas. All these regions spawned their own brand of blues music. But, whether it’s Deep Blues from Mississippi’s Hill Country or grittier sounds by way of the city of Chicago, musicians generally play in a style picked up from their own particular area.
But, the Reverend KM Williams Band is the glorious exception to this rule of geo-specific music. Although the Reverend hails from Texas’ Red River region and learned some licks from Elmore James, he has a voice that’ s reminiscent of John Lee Hooker and plays Hill Country blues/sanctified boogie with the best of them. So, right there, he’s got a nice musical mélange going on.
Adding to this savory blues stew is the self-proclaimed “maniac” harmonica player from Chicago’s south side. That would be one Jeff Stone who blows harp like nobody’s business and just happened to win a WC Handy award a few years back. Schooled in the Windy City blues style with a mentality to match, Stone said, “I’ve carried Chicago in my soul everywhere I’ve been in the world.”
Multi-talented percussionist, “Mississippi Rose,” Rosalind Wilcox is currently based in Clarksdale, Mississippi. But, as Stone noted, “she was raised in the Chicago big city blues tradition that is a direct evolution from Mississippi blues and the church she grew up in.” He added that Wilcox’s life is “reminiscent of any of the famous blues women in the history of the genre.”
Despite being legally blind, Wilcox currently teaches art at the Coahoma Community College. She wound up in Clarksdale after her Brookhaven, Mississippi home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Like her colorful and diverse designs, Wilcox’s Mississippi musical influences and partnerships run the gamut from Jessie May Hemphill, RL Burnside, Robert Belfour, L.C. Ulmer and now KM Williams.
Stone said that the trio first played together recently at Smoot’s Grocery in Natchez, Mississippi. He added that, “it was so natural so Rev could just be Rev” and was pleased to “give him the support to let him do what he does.”
There promises to be plenty of Mississippi doings for the Reverend KM Williams Band when they meet up in the Magnolia State beginning on April 10th. They’ll be kicking off the week at Foxfire Ranch in Waterford and then heading to Greenwood to record an album. Stone said that they will be going “throwback” and tracking the album in Wilcox’s recently renovated home. The wood floors will give the recording session a “great sound and acoustic feel.”
Scott Lindsey, who also recorded the Reverend Williams’ “Truth” CD at Wilcox’s old Son House Studios, will be tracking the action. Stone said that, “we’ll go wherever the Holy Spirit takes us” as the Hill Country band also has a strong evangelical bond between them.
The all-important mixing will take place back in Dallas. Stone said, “We have to take time and make sure that the mix is perfect. This is a project that we’re going out to the world and say this is the music of the contemporary hill country artist of his day.”
The group will wrap up their whirlwind trip with four appearances at Clarksdale’s 13th Annual Juke Joint Festival. This swing around “Ground Zero” can be likened to the Promised Land for a group that’s so deep into blues, spirituality and history.
Stone noted that when he first went there he had the “bluesical” experience of a lifetime. He said a simple stroll down the main streets of Clarksdale could lead to visions of what life was like in the twenties and thirties.
These visions are particularly fitting because the Reverend KM Williams Band will be playing at some of the most storied spots in Clarksdale. Their first gig is scheduled Club 2000, a little juke joint on Issaquena Street. The show starts at 9pm on Friday, April 15th.
The band will return to Issaquena to play outdoors in front of the New Roxy Theatre on Saturday April 16th.. Coincidentally, Issaquena was the main street in the “New World District,” where sharecroppers and other locals would come out to let loose on a Saturday night before heading to church on Sunday. So, it’s only fitting that the Reverend and company juke it up and take the crowd to church at the same time. The show begins at noon.
Following that set, the band moves over to the famed “Crossroads” at Route 61 and 49 for a 3 pm appearance on Saturday.