American Delta


Image Source: fearlessvk

I’ve dreamed of the delta as long as I’ve heard the sound. Memphis and Vicksburg, Jackson and Dockery and Yazoo City. I imagine the heat and dirt kicking off the tires on Highway 61, before it was revisited, and the smell of magnolias and the silt of the Mississippi and the Yazoo. High cotton in high summer, a rocker on a porch, sweet tea and good conversation. Catfish and ribs and cornbread, and biscuits as big as the sky. I hear the creak of old pine floors and a night full of cicadas. Hand-held fans, Mason jars, all genteel and proper. I see and smell and taste Mississippi America in my minds-eye and ache to see if my imagination is right.

But mostly I hear the delta. Hubert Sumlin and Mississippi Fred McDowell, Charley Patton, Son House and Pinetop Perkins. Robert Johnson selling his soul at the crossroads. I hear the call and response, the holler, the moan of redemption and exaltation in song. America, Americana, American Roots, American Blues. I hear a bottleneck against heavy strings raised well above the neck and the stomp of a foot keeping time. I hear one man playing three parts simultaneously and singing of a life of oppression on the plantation and salvation through Jesus: guttural and low, then liberated and blessed. I hear the spirit and soul of America and her promise and her shame. We Shall Overcome, Eyes On The Prize.

I dream of the delta and the sound of America, and I pick up the tune and join in the verse…

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22 comments
  1. Never knew you were a blues fan, and this piece could have come right out of my head.
    Perfect, and great tracks too.

    • Freshly Pressed Guapo! Yeah, definitely a lot of passion in this one. I studied jazz in college, and have soaked up all tributaries thereof my whole life.

  2. VERY nice Brian. The videos were great, but that first paragraph was magic. I spent some time living in this area and you just brought me back there.

    • AWESOME! So glad to hear that, Alex: thanks! I hope you’ll be writing and posting about it…

  3. Picture painting with words – that’s what it’s all about right? You put me right there in your first paragraph. Wow!

    • That’s exactly what I try for every time, Jeanette. Thank you so much!

  4. You do the call and I’ll do the response. You are really bringing everything you’ve got to these short essays, Brian.

    Go, man, GO!

    (Now, please excuse me. I need to spread the gospel of your Delta Blues on Facebook now.)

    • *blush*

      • Really impressed, buddy. I can see where you’re going now, and I’m excited for you. (I love watching people succeed!)

  5. I can honestly say that your influence is at work, Bluebird. So thank you for helping me succeed.

  6. I wanted to say I’d been here on a dark day and your words got through my mess and made me remember things that have touched me, too.

    • Wow. I am blown away reading this, Sparks: thank you so much. I’m so glad I could help just a little. And I hope it gets all better…

  7. Brian: There’s nothing like the blues… a great post…go on

    • You are correct, sir!

      • morezennow said:

        There is nothing like the blues. Don posts the best songs! I loved this story, Brian. I grew up on the Mississippi but not as far south as the Delta but I heard the streams of soulful song travel upriver to my humble little town on the Mighty Miss.

      • Meet you back there! I’ve made myself desperate to follow the river.

      • morezennow said:

        My dad took me fishing on ol’ Miss many times and took me back into the slews (not sure about spelling) and the water mocs scared the blues into me. “Oh Lawd, don’t bite me… Sweet Jesus, take me home”…you get my drift.

      • HOLY COW!!! I need to do that as soon as possible.
        Airboat or kayak?

      • morezennow said:

        We went in what my dad called a john boat. It’s just a regular flatboat with a motor…nothing too exotic. And those snakes were awfully close! To get over my fear of snakes we now have 3 Ball Pythons. See what that river inspired me to? I’m a snake-handler!

      • Insert Emmet Otter snake-oil salesman references here…

      • I always have been desperate to see the delta, of course, but now even more so…

  8. Zen, I’m now praying at the mere vision of a river full of mocs. Sweet dreams, me…

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