Blood, Soil and the Blues

There are two axioms in life of which I am sure.

There are two axioms in life of which I am sure. One is derived from the gospel of John and the other from the late member of Congress Thomas "Tip" O’Neill. They are as follows: Truth is incarnate. And all politics are local. Applied to the arts, these lead to a corollary. Art that aspires to be universal must be supremely specific, detailed, and rooted in a particular place and time.

And that brings me to the art that speaks the universe from the particular red dirt of the North Mississippi hills. I’m not talking about Faulkner (though I could be). I’m talking about the North Mississippi Allstars, the center of a blues-rock cult that started down here in the late 1990s and is, like kudzu, slowly headed your way.

Kudzu, for my more provincial and ill-informed readers, is the Japanese vine that was imported to the Southern hill country for erosion control and proceeded to take over everything in its path - trees, abandoned houses, and, legend has it, slow-moving cows. It actually can grow up to a foot per day. It is a wild, hardy, hot-weather plant, and, as such, it has become an emblem of the Southern hills.

If you’ve never seen kudzu, but you still want to feel the particular truth of this particular place and learn what it can teach you, you can always read Faulkner. But you can also purchase the North Mississippi Allstars 2004 live album, North Mississippi Hill Country Revue.

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Sojourners Magazine July 2005
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