The small town of Bentonia, Mississippi is an endlessly intriguing subject in both contemporary music and blues history, and the Bentonia Blues Festival is one of the oldest, most authentic blues festivals in the world — put on by none other than Bentonia blues legend and juke joint proprietor, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes. The festival, now past it’s fortieth year, will be taking place at Holmes’ farm, with related events happening at the legendary Blue Front Cafe juke joint!
Duck and his family have put on the prestigious festival in Bentonia — a small Mississippi Delta town close to Jackson. For years, the festival was held at the Blue Front Cafe, a longstanding, famous juke joint with it’s own Mississippi Blues Trail Marker, owned and operated by Duck (and his mother and father before him). For the upcoming festivities, however, the fortieth anniversary will take place at the same site as the first festival, on a road (Wilson-Holmes Rd.) named after the family that has continued to bring so much music to the little town with a big history.
Back at the first Bentonia festival, famed area deejay and vocalist Lee “Big Daddy” Hood, the self-proclaimed “500 pounds of blues” played the event. Hood, who sang lead for the Knee Deep Band, which was a staple at the famous Subway Lounge (a legendary juke joint that no longer exists) in Jackson, MS.
Staying true to form after over forty years, the festival continues to support an exclusive stable of regional musicians. The Bentonia Blues Festival showcases not only the fascinating history of the Bentonia style of blues, defined by haunting minor tunings and songs like Skip James‘ “I’d Rather Be The Devil”, but also the diverse delta sound and showmanship of some of the best the area has to offer.
Possibly what makes this festival stand unique from the many others across the country is the chance for blues lovers to stand in a place that is brimming with a unique blues music legacy, and combine the power of modern music’s origins with those artists that are marching to keep delta blues in the ever-more-popular consciousness of music fans everywhere.