Entrepreneur, restaurateur, and musician John Mohead has been thinking about the Delta.
Mohead, singer-songwriter, was raised in the middle of a cotton field near Lula in the Mississippi Delta. He grew up making music with second-generation bluesmen like Sam Carr and Frank Frost among others. He heard firsthand accounts of clearing the land, building the levee, and recording expeditions of Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress.
He is a student of the Delta’s evolution. Modern homo sapiens have persevered and tamed the mighty river, defeated malaria, and settled the mostly uninhabitable areas of the backwaters and swamp of one of the last frontiers east of the Mississippi.
“Today we are losing so much of the Delta that we grew up with. I wanted to preserve and expose some of the essences of the real Delta experience. That is how Delta Rising came to be. A Delta version of Wild Bill Hitchcock’s Wild West Show,” Mohead said.
Not everyone “gets” the Delta, and not everyone understands it. The delta is forsaken, but it’s also forgiven. It’s flat, it’s beautiful but it’s also a tool. Sleepy, but on fire. Mohead wanted to create an experience to help people understand the Delta.
This first Delta Rising will follow the final Thacker Mountain Radio show on Thursday at the Powerhouse Community Arts Center. Tickets are $20 with a portion of the funds supporting Thacker Mountain Radio. The event includes small bites from Delta Chefs, a cocktail from Cathead Vodka, art by Bill Abel, and music from Mohead, Shared Thomas and Blue Mother Tupelo.
“We’re bringing segments of this microcosm right to you,” Mohead said. “The Mississippi Delta is a geographic region but also a piece of mind, sense of place, sense of time, sense of creation.”
Mohead has lined up local artists, musicians, chefs, and storytellers to explore the influence of the Delta. He hopes to create a recurring series of showcases that invite those who are interpreting the influences that shape Southern culture through their craft.
People from all corners of the earth inhabit the Mississippi Delta. They brought their traditions, customs, recipes, music, rhythm, words, and food. Blue Mother Tupelo actually resides in Como. A husband and wife duo with roots stretching from Appalachia to Indianola. Their mix of ancient rhythms, Appalachian harmony, and Delta slide guitar make for a unique blend of original music.
Sharde Thomas is an American fife player in the vanishing American Fife and Drum band tradition. She is the granddaughter of Othar Turner who founded the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band. She plays a homemade cane fife and The Rising Stars have retained the same format as Turner’s original band that includes two snare drums and one bass drum giving their music an organic, primitive expression.
Artist Bill Abel is presently studying and painting landscapes around the Mississippi River and west Bolivar County where he resides. The beauty of his rich hues transport and captivate his art enthusiast. Abel’s pottery is aesthetically pleasing and functional in use. He is influenced by the Korean Yi Dynasty and the Mengi Golf movement of Japan.
Tickets for the event are available through the Arts Council at oxfordarts.com.
Courtesy of Yaknapatawpha Arts Council