Clarksdale Mississippi, Friday April 13, 2013
Writing and Photos by Ray Proetto of BluesPowerPhoto
The Delta Amusement Café in Clarksdale is not a large establishment. It is basically divided into two long rooms that are at most twenty feet wide and separated by a wall that does not extend the length of the room leaving openings on each end.
The show was in the “back room” of the two where there was a small bar and rows of folding chairs facing the end of the room where the band set up on floor level. There was also a small area of floor space just in front of the band with room for a few to dance. The place was packed with die hard fans who were hooting, hollering and cheering on the positive vibe of this husband and wife team of Blue Mother Tupelo.
Who are they? Learn more about them here.
Each of them stood at separate mics; Ricky with guitar and Micol with her tambourine(s).
The show opened with a beautiful yet powerful version of the Paul Anka song, “Put Your Head on My Shoulder.” Ricky kicked it into gear with some high energy slide guitar. They alternated singing the lead lines and the song rose and fell repeatedly from intense energy to quiet beauty and back again until it finally ended on the soulful notes of Micol’s singing.
You Gotta See Them To Understand
To truly picture their shows, you have to imagine as a song really takes off, Micol dances all over the small stage area playing her tambourine while flinging her hair back and forth in and out of her face as she seems possessed by Ricky’s hard driving guitar.
Sometimes they share a mic and sometimes they each stick to their own. When Ricky’s jamming builds to a crescendo, they meet in the middle of the stage and she dances right in front of him pounding her tambourine as he thrashes out the rhythm and wails way at his guitar solos.
After the first song was over the crowd roared with approval.
Next up was a song written by Will Kimbrough on the band’s latest CD entitled “Only Sunshine.” The song, “Peaks and Valleys” is a slow sad sounding ballad song sung by the couple in harmony. It’s about the struggle for balance in a relationship while trying not to get burned again. The chorus ends with “Peaks and valleys for us all.”
Moving onto another song from the new CD the band played “Comfort for my Soul.” It begins with a blues shuffle and continues as the couple moans… “This worlds in a world of trouble.” The song slowly picks up the pace as they lament together about the world of greed and hunger.
Ricky hit the rhythm guitar and some slide guitar solos hard as the lyric changed to the repeated wail of “I need some comfort for my soul.” Gradually, it slows and quiets down as the couple repeat the verse until Ricky’s voice and guitar drop off… leaving just Micol singing gently without another sound. By now you could hear a pin drop in the room as she sings one last time. “I need some comfort for my soul.” Just beautiful!
The couple shifts gears again to a love song, “You will Accompany Me.” It starts out with Ricky singing over maracas as Micol just groans into the mic. They sing together, separately and use their voices to play off of each other again and again.
Ricky’s deep bass of a voice creates a striking contrast with Micol’s higher pitched notes. The result is a stunningly beautiful sound. Gradually the beat picks up pace as Micol sings and moans into the mic ending the song.
“Hand in Hand” is next and easily should be a country music hit with its profession of love bringing each of them from lonely to “hand in hand.” It’s got the best chorus hook of any song they have written and leaves you feeling their love as they sing it to each other.
Up next and out of the blue is a lighthearted R & B classic from Otis Redding. It’s the Fa Fa song and Ricky takes the lead vocals through most of it with some support from Micol.
Once again the pace changes as the band blended a medley of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “Kokomo Blues” with Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited” turning the two songs into one riotous jam!
“Kokomo” began the jam with some medium paced slide guitar and Micol banging a drum beat on her tambourine as they sang the verses. They shift into high gear for a fast paced “Highway 61” that has Ricky pushing his slide guitar playing to a frenzy. Then they shift back to “Kokomo” but never let up the intensity driving the song hard. Finally, it all deteriorates into a furious jam as Ricky thrashes and slashes his guitar and Micol dances wildly pounding her tambourine.
After the jam crashed to its conclusion, Micol began singing “I wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down.” Only the tambourine is played as she hit the notes louder and more powerfully than the recorded version. Ricky accompanies her in the background with vocal bass notes to counterpoint her high pitched singing. This time she literally blew the roof off with this version of the traditional gospel song. It’s worth the time to see them just to hear this song alone. Incredible!
“Mississippi Mud” was next and started out with a medium paced blues shuffle and ended much faster sounding like a gospel jam with a powerful beat.
The next song is one of my favorites. Before it began, Ricky slowly picked out blues notes and then used his slide for some more tasty blues as he talked to the audience telling them he’s going to tell the story of the great depression of the 21st century. Then he jumped into the infectious blues riff of “Give it Away” and the crowd erupted! The song ended like many of theirs with some wild pounding guitar and the couple belting out together… “I’ve got to give it away.”
The final song was yet another wonderful surprise. Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What You Want Me to Do?” Instead of trying to evoke Etta James, they covered this one with quiet tasteful guitar playing, beautiful singing with alternating lead vocals and ending with the couple singing in harmony.
Instead of picking up the volume with his guitar, this time they did it solely with their voices transforming the blues classic into a soulful event.
If you’ve read this far, I’m sure you are now trying to find a way to see this amazing couple perform. The best part about catching them at the Juke Joint Festival is that you’ve got 100 other acts to experience in the same weekend!
What can beat that?
See you in Clarksdale. The Juke Joint Festival is held the second weekend in April, it’s a special event with intimate performances from over one hundred blues acts! Click here to learn more about the 2014 Festival. Blue Mother Tupelo plays Friday night at the Delta Amusement Café. Each year they put on one of the best performances at the festival!
Here’s a taste of Blue Mother Tupelo from another show that will give you a taste of what they are like.