SITTING & THINKING: Blind Mississippi Morris at the Pocono Blues Fesival

Toby Levy
Thu Jul 31 07:59:04 EDT 1997


The sun was already doing it's best to turn the Poconos Blues festival
grounds into a seething cauldron as the crowd filtered through the gates
and began checking out all the vendors and staking their territory in
front of the two stages.  The music was supposed to kick off at 11:30.
At least a half hour earlier  a long haired guitar player stood on stage
and laid out a droning John Lee Hooker style beat as a dapper man in a
dark suit was led to the microphone to perform the traditional sound
check.  Morris, harmonica in hand, sang most of his delightful song
"Second Hand Store" to a steadily increasing crowd.  Best darned sound
check I ever heard.

At the stroke of 11:30 Niles Frantz stepped to the microphone and
officially started the festival.  Blind Mississippi Morris's band
consisted of that long haired guitar player accompanied by organ, bass
and drums.  I had admired Morris's album "You Know I Like That" as one
of the most exciting releases I heard all of last year.  The purposeful
distortion of the record gave Morris a tough, feral sound unapproached
by anyone since Howling Wolf.  After the introduction Morris launched
into his rolling "Hwy 61."  Without the distortion, the sight of Morris
in his sunglasses, head tilted slightly upward, a permanent impish grin
framed by prematurely gray facial hair, head wagging from side to side
with the music, Morris was transformed into a teddy bear.  But this
Teddy Bear still had quite a roar.  When Morris wailed of having to sell
his father's possessions to buy a ticket out of town, the pain sounds
very real.

The organ player, who had sat out the first song, led the band into
Morris's "Junkyard Dog."  The crowd continued to pour in.  By the time
Morris finished his rough and tough harp solo there were several
thousand people appreciating him.

Morris introduced the next song by saying that they had an expression
for trouble where he comes from.  To me it sounded like he was saying
"deafnit," but who knows?  At any rate he next sang a moving slow blues
entitled "When a Woman gets in trouble."  This was followed by a
swinging version of "King Bee."

Morris asked the crowd if they knew what a mojo was.  The guitar player
then asked Morris "Isn't it true that you have to go back every so often
to renew your Mojo?"  Morris then told a story about a woman who used a
mojo to mix up his mind.  This led into the song "Going back to

Morris then announced "this next one is off the cd," and played his
heart out on the harp as the band, "the Pocket Rockets," played a very
hot instrumental.  Morris and his band closed the set with three more
from the cd.  After  "You Know I Like That" and "Lover's Moon," the
guitar player really cut loose on the closer, "Beale St. Tonight," an
infectious jump blues.  This was a glorious opening act and the audience
was clearly showed their appreciation.

Reviewed by Toby Levy
NY CD BLUES - CD reviews and On-Line Catalogs

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