“Revolver Man” is the second tune off our debut album, Big Boned Woman to enter into the National Aboriginal Music Countdown! The song takes the 34th spot on its 3rd week in the charts, thank you for your requests and votes dear listeners.
There is magic in the Mississippi River. Its water has blessed the earth, producing some of the most fertile soil in the South, and home to various Blues Greats who were born in the Delta: Charlie Patton, Howlin’ Wolf, Son House, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Skip James, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Elmore James, Mississippi John Hurt, R.L. Burnside, Willie Dixon, B.B. King and the list continues growing to this day.
An older man in a Nashville bar whispered a warning to me before I left, “The further down you go in the States, the blacker it gets, watch yourself now.” I laughed and said with a smile, “Oh I can’t wait to get in touch with my black roots!” Mississippi is home to some of the friendliest folks, while the entire state feels like a small town, because people always smile and say hello when you walk on by.
Clarksdale, MS stands out as one of my favorite southern spots on the map. After getting through on a payphone, I was fortunate enough to book a last minute bed during the week of the bustling Juke Joint Blues Festival. I spent 6 nights at the Riverside Hotel in room #6, the very same room where John Lee Hooker had slept in when he’d pass on through to perform, and Sam Cooke used to sleep a few doors down.
Across the hall, an open door leads to a somber space where sunlight spills onto a bed dedicated to Bessie Smith, she died within those exact walls in 1937 when the Riverside originally operated as a segregated hospital for blacks only.
The current proprietor is Zee Ratliff, a generous, hard-working & kind-hearted woman who looks after the family business that her grandmother had begun in 1944, and who her dedicated father, Frank (better known as Rat), left his mark on. A young fellow by the name of Jesse also tends to the Riverside Hotel. On those warm spring afternoons in April, he’d sit out on the porch, and use a lighter as a slide to bend guitar strings into Delta rhythms. With his sweet Georgia accent, he’d often recount detailed stories of Rat’s sharp wit, sly humor, thoughtfulness, and quirky personality. In the front room, you’ll come across a stunning painting of Rat, and seeing the honest twinkle in his eyes reminds us that his spirit will forever live on at 615 Sunflower Avenue.
I experienced a few peaceful days of country silence in Clarksdale, right before the crowds came in droves for the Blues Festival. What a spectacular music filled weekend. My ears were spoiled by the sounds of Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band, Rip Lee Pryor, Deak Harp, Cash McCall and Super Chikan. I had the good fortune of singing Big Mama Thornton’s “Hound Dog” onstage with the incredible Stacy Mitchhart Band from Nashville, TN at the Ground Zero Blues Club (owned by Morgan Freeman & the Mayor of Clarksdale).
Then Red’s Lounge feels like you’ve stepped into a hazy orange lit living room, the musicians play on a rug situated in the centre surrounded by eclectic chairs, tables, and ribbons of smoke fill the air as sticky bodies stand side by side. Most people would always end their night at Red’s, it was by far my preferred juke joint in the States – they had a Sunday night jam to wrap up the festivities and the place was packed, I proudly represented Canada and sang my heart out as I was delighted to perform with their house band, The Cornlickers. Then there is Kingfish who definitely deserves a mention, he is one of the best young blues guitarist I have ever seen, and at the ripe age of fifteen years old, people call him a “Young Hendrix”. Most musicians I encountered in/from Mississippi are very humble, talented, and supportive of one another.
Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band plays for a full house at The New ROXY Theatre
The salesman in town who sold me a Son House record at CatHead had moved from Nashville, drawn by the music. He gave us an honest opinion about the towns history, development, and current portrayal of Clarksdale. During the 1950s, each factory in town began closing its doors which led to a flurry of citizens moving to Memphis for employment.
To this day, areas exists with particular living conditions which would not pass code in Canada. Passenger trains are no longer running, but the old train station has been renovated into a prime Delta Blues Museum that houses an array of beautiful old guitars, accompanied by musing stories of the blues men and women who made Mississippi a music staple.
Miss Rae is on the lookout for a similar Resonator Guitar like this one at the Delta Blues Museum
I will always fondly remember Clarksdale, Mississippi, it feels like a lifelong friend who you may not see all time, but with each visit, (and sip o’ pineapple moonshine) their warmth embraces your soul. Talk about small town charm, this one is a hidden gem folks!
An hour from Clarksdale is Greenwood, Mississippi, where you can experience a Blues Tour from the very knowledgeable Sylvester Hoover. The photo above was taken in the downtown area on a warm afternoon.
From the depths of the Mississippi, Tennessee & Louisiana – Miss Rae returns to Canada to perform with the Midnight Ramblers, featuring Clayton Sample (Rockin’ Highliners) on guitar, Johnny Richards (Sam Spades Band) on upright bass, and Dan Levasseur on the skins.
Each southern state has heavily influenced Miss Rae’s spirit and song. C’mon down to Brittany’s on Friday, May 30th and we’ll take you there. Prepare your ears for a series of tunes from the Delta, soul from Memphis, and we are even unleashing a special Johnny Cash cover.
$10 cover | No Minors
Doors at 8:00pm
Music at 9:00pm
Brittany’s Lounge | 10225-97street
First stop was Nashville, Tennessee for 10 days:
A sparkling Country infused City, filled with all kinds of honky-tonks that waft Hillbilly music onto Broadway’s streets. Nashville seemed awake and jumpin’ at all hours, 7 days a week. With a fondness for The Man In Black, I visited The Johnny Cash Museum. Admired a wall of his hit records on 45rpm, and learnt that he crafted traditional Native inspired jewelry. Although, it was disappointing that the exhibit barely touched upon Johnny & June’s relationship, I always considered her to be an integral part to the growth of his music. On display were multiple couple stage costumes, a photo of the two happily smiling on their wedding day (next to a collage of Cash’s first wife, Vivian), and then a tearful handwritten poem he wrote on the day of June’s funeral. Johnny passed on only 4 months after her. Overall, the exhibit left me with an strange sense of sadness. Johnny wore black for the poor, the sick, the weak, the wrongly accused, in an attempt to shed light on society’s realities.
“I’d love to wear a rainbow every day
And tell the world that everything’s okay
But I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back
Till things are brighter, I’m the Man In Black.”
- Johnny Cash
The Famous Hatch Show Print Shop in Nashville, TN
Nashville worked its magic by cheering me up at night, the venues seldomly charge cover, so you can sample a few tunes before moving along to another hot spot, and it’s custom to throw a few dollars in the musicians tip buckets. The best venue I frequented was the Bourbon Street Blues & Boogie Bar, tucked away a few blocks from Broadway in Printer’s Alley. Other notable places were Robert’s Western World, where I saw a phenomenal 19-year-old guitarist perform like he lived in the seventies, Daniel Donato is definitely going places with his Fenders. Right next door to Robert’s is Layla’s with the turquoise sign and hundreds of worn license plates hanging from the ceiling, they feature heavier foot-stompin’ hillbilly bands.
Out of the many locals who I met, only one of them was a born ‘n’ raised Nashvillian:
Billy Hazelwood Born in January, 1935
“I’m 79 years old, ‘n only made it up to grade eight before I quit school to help out with the family farm. God has been lookin’ out for this fool. Spent 37 years workin’ in a factory, Ford Motors it was, they treated me well.”
I had the best time staying at a swanky downtown hostel, where I met fellow travellers and music lovers. The rain was kind in Nashville, I was lucky to be jumping puddles while people were shoveling snow back home. The cherry trees even blossomed during my stay, and on the day of my departure their soft petals filled the back streets as I carried my luggage to the Greyhound station, heading to catch a bus to the Delta.
We stumbled upon this fan made live video from our February 21st show at Brittany’s Lounge. Have a looksie and you’ll get to sample the tasty tunes of:
• “Crossroads” (Robert Johnson cover)
• “Spoonful” (Howlin’ Wolf cover)
• “Midnight Oil” by Miss Rae and the Midnight Ramblers w/ special guest Lymon Brown on saxophone
• “New Coat of Paint” (Tom Waits cover)
• “Jiver” by Miss Rae and the Midnight Ramblers
Living in Edmonton? Then be sure to catch our next show at Brittany’s Lounge on Friday, May 30th!
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“Saturday night, Brittany’s Lounge was the place to be as
Miss Rae & The Midnight Ramblers took the full house audience on a mesmerizing journey into the Blues.” - Ed Ellis
View our version of Howlin’ Wolf’s 1960 tune, “Spoonful” (written by Mr. Willie Dixon)
“As a songwriter, [Miss Rae's] ability to venture into dark, confrontational material beyond the usual blues fare sets her apart from the crowd. With deep musical roots and a willingness to take risks, Miss Rae brings a refreshing spirit of innovation to the contemporary blues scene.”
- Jon Kleinman (Elmore Magazine 2014 March/April Issue)
Our Spring Show takes place on Saturday, March 15th, right before Miss Rae’s departure to travel the Southern States for 40 Days.
The night features Clayton Sample (The Rockin’ Highliners) on guitar, Johnny Richards on upright bass, and Dan Levasseur on the skins.
$10 cover | No Minors
Doors at 8:00pm
Music at 9:30pm
Brittany’s Lounge | 10225-97street