USA Summer 2014 – Part 2

I don’t want this follow up blog to turn in to some kind of tourist guide it is merely my own observations on a journey through some of the seminal points on America’s musical map. From strolling down Bleeker Street to the Ryman Auditorium this really did really turn out to be the journey of a lifetime.
I could easily list the many iconic music landmarks we visited and while places such as Sun Studios and Nashville’s Broadway are clearly influential, they were for me while impressive not the places which carried the most impact. The places I wish to talk about are more than points on a map or a box ticking exercise for the next bus tour passing through, they are a moment in time captured in my mind that will stay with me forever.
While driving through the heart of Virginia’s Blue Ridge we stumbled on the small town of Floyd and it was market day and here market day meant music. On the street a local band were providing the soundtrack for the locals’ morning shopping trip while inside the towns country store, tucked away at the back, was a small stage. This was reserved for artists performing along the country music trail and I along with many others settled in for the afternoon with a cold root beer while trio out of North Carolina swept us away into a world of old time music where the fiddle and banjo ruled. This was not a special event or festival, just a Saturday in small town Appalachia.
Further on the down the road the mountains gave way to the Mississippi Delta and that means one thing, the blues. We arrived in Clarksdale MS on a hot humid evening and the place was buzzing, thanks in part to the annual blues festival which was in full swing. After a drink in the Ground Zero blues club (owned by Morgan Freeman) we ventured over to a small juke joint called Reds, which was essentially a windowless dimly lit shack with a tin roof. Inside though it was magic and that night it was home to an 82 year old bluesman that could only be described as the ‘real deal’. Its raw and unashamed authenticity along with some genuine examples of southern hospitality made this small tin shack a very welcome place for four English travellers to call home for the night.
These are just two examples of the many places we visited on a 2,000 mile journey that took us to Fame Studios in Alabama, the Bluebird café in Nashville and countless others some of which had nothing to do with music at all.
It can be easy to get misty eyed visiting a place like America with its freight trains and long open roads but it is not a country without its troubles many of which were clearly visible. However through all this it was the clear sense of identity which really resonated with me, it is an identity born from many different cultures that over time have become less afraid to combine creating a rich tapestry of music. In my mind I thought this trip had the potential to shift and influence my music directly but on returning home I have found myself more sure of my belief that music should be without genre or boundary and therefore more sure of myself as an artist.IMG_20140831_200019

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