Cypress trees on the Yazoo River on Hwy 49 West in Yazoo City, MS.  "I would rather be buried in some cypress grove I would rather be buried in some cypress grove To have some woman, Lord, that I can't control   And I'm goin' away now, I'm goin' away to stay And I'm goin' away now, I'm goin' away to stay That'll be all right, pretty mama, you gonna need my help someday   And the sun goin' down, and you know what your promise means And the sun goin' down, you know what your promise means And what's the matter, baby, I can't see   I would rather be dead and six feet in my grave I would rather be dead and six feet in my grave Than to be way up here, honey, treated this a-way   And the old people told me, baby, but I never did know The old people told me, baby woman, but I never did know The good book declare you got to reap just what you sow   When your knee bone's achin' and your body cold When your knee bone's achin' and your body cold Means you just gettin' ready, honey, for the cypress grove"  -Skip James, "Cypress Grove Blues"

Cypress trees on the Yazoo River on Hwy 49 West in Yazoo City, MS.

"I would rather be buried in some cypress grove
I would rather be buried in some cypress grove
To have some woman, Lord, that I can't control


And I'm goin' away now, I'm goin' away to stay
And I'm goin' away now, I'm goin' away to stay
That'll be all right, pretty mama, you gonna need my help someday


And the sun goin' down, and you know what your promise means
And the sun goin' down, you know what your promise means
And what's the matter, baby, I can't see


I would rather be dead and six feet in my grave
I would rather be dead and six feet in my grave
Than to be way up here, honey, treated this a-way


And the old people told me, baby, but I never did know
The old people told me, baby woman, but I never did know
The good book declare you got to reap just what you sow


When your knee bone's achin' and your body cold
When your knee bone's achin' and your body cold
Means you just gettin' ready, honey, for the cypress grove"

-Skip James, "Cypress Grove Blues"

 Jimmy "Duck" Holmes with grandson Eric Fox at his Blue Front Cafe started by his own parents in the 1940's in Bentonia, MS, making the Blue Front the oldest continuously-operated juke joint in Mississippi.

Jimmy "Duck" Holmes with grandson Eric Fox at his Blue Front Cafe started by his own parents in the 1940's in Bentonia, MS, making the Blue Front the oldest continuously-operated juke joint in Mississippi.

 Born in 1904, Bentonia blues man Jack Owens plays at the Greenwood Blues Festival in the spring of 1993. Owens was a contemporary of Skip James and carried on the Bentonia style of blues until his death in 1998.

Born in 1904, Bentonia blues man Jack Owens plays at the Greenwood Blues Festival in the spring of 1993. Owens was a contemporary of Skip James and carried on the Bentonia style of blues until his death in 1998.

 Harmonica player Bud Spires sits outside a cafe with friends in downtown Bentonia, MS. Spires, son of post-war Chicago blues artist Arthur "Big Boy" Spires, was the long-time harp accompanist to Bentonia blues man Jack Owens, recording and touring extensively together over several decades.

Harmonica player Bud Spires sits outside a cafe with friends in downtown Bentonia, MS. Spires, son of post-war Chicago blues artist Arthur "Big Boy" Spires, was the long-time harp accompanist to Bentonia blues man Jack Owens, recording and touring extensively together over several decades.

 Kids play in the yard of a house trailer with milk jugs hanging in the tree in Bentonia, MS.  Vessels of water are traditionally hung in fruit trees as a means of promoting growth and preventing bugs. It is a variation on the ancient African-based folk belief of driving away evil spirits by hanging bottles in trees.   

Kids play in the yard of a house trailer with milk jugs hanging in the tree in Bentonia, MS.  Vessels of water are traditionally hung in fruit trees as a means of promoting growth and preventing bugs. It is a variation on the ancient African-based folk belief of driving away evil spirits by hanging bottles in trees.

 

 House where James “Son” Thomas lived in Eden, MS before moving to Leland, MS, in the Mississippi Delta where he became a well-known folk art and blues artist.

House where James “Son” Thomas lived in Eden, MS before moving to Leland, MS, in the Mississippi Delta where he became a well-known folk art and blues artist.

 Joann Jones, sister of blues singer Paul "Wine" Jones, at her home Yazoo City, MS. Joann has sung in local blues bands, plays some guitar, and worked for many years at Malaco Records in Jackson.

Joann Jones, sister of blues singer Paul "Wine" Jones, at her home Yazoo City, MS. Joann has sung in local blues bands, plays some guitar, and worked for many years at Malaco Records in Jackson.

 This is the site where 37 yr. old Engineer Casey Jones crashed his locomotive on April 30, 1900, in Vaughn MS on the edge of Yazoo Co., dying instantly and becoming an American folk hero.

This is the site where 37 yr. old Engineer Casey Jones crashed his locomotive on April 30, 1900, in Vaughn MS on the edge of Yazoo Co., dying instantly and becoming an American folk hero.

 Jimmy "Duck" Holmes in front of his Blue Front Cafe, started by his own parents in the 1940's in Bentonia, MS, making the Blue Front the oldest continuously-operated juke joint in Mississippi.

Jimmy "Duck" Holmes in front of his Blue Front Cafe, started by his own parents in the 1940's in Bentonia, MS, making the Blue Front the oldest continuously-operated juke joint in Mississippi.

 Nehemiah "Skip" James grew up and worked as a bootlegger providing alcohol for the residents at Woodbine Plantation during prohibition. It is believed that he stayed with his mother in this house, just behind the kitchen in the main house. 

Nehemiah "Skip" James grew up and worked as a bootlegger providing alcohol for the residents at Woodbine Plantation during prohibition. It is believed that he stayed with his mother in this house, just behind the kitchen in the main house. 

 This mysterious brick ruin on the Woodbine plantation in Bentonia MS is an old work site of an unknown nature. Blues singer Skip James grew up at Woodbine and made bootleg whiskey there, and this site could possibly be related to that operation.

This mysterious brick ruin on the Woodbine plantation in Bentonia MS is an old work site of an unknown nature. Blues singer Skip James grew up at Woodbine and made bootleg whiskey there, and this site could possibly be related to that operation.

 Kudzu field in winter, Yazoo City, MS.

Kudzu field in winter, Yazoo City, MS.

 Mt. Olivet cemetery in Satartia, MS.

Mt. Olivet cemetery in Satartia, MS.

 Clay from the banks of Tesheva Creek in Eden MS is where Son Thomas collected clay to make his folk art sculptures.

Clay from the banks of Tesheva Creek in Eden MS is where Son Thomas collected clay to make his folk art sculptures.

 Dead tree and wall in downtown Yazoo City, MS.

Dead tree and wall in downtown Yazoo City, MS.

 Blues artist Arion Baby Bell at his home in Yazoo City, MS. Bell's father used to run the famous Peppermint Lounge there. Bell is now one of the few contemporary blues artists now working out of Yazoo Co.

Blues artist Arion Baby Bell at his home in Yazoo City, MS. Bell's father used to run the famous Peppermint Lounge there. Bell is now one of the few contemporary blues artists now working out of Yazoo Co.

 Roots hold up a crumbling wall at the back of a store on the lower end of Main St. in downtown Yazoo City, MS.

Roots hold up a crumbling wall at the back of a store on the lower end of Main St. in downtown Yazoo City, MS.

 Blues artist McKinney “Blues Man” Williams plays in front of the famous Blue Front Cafe in Bentonia, MS.

Blues artist McKinney “Blues Man” Williams plays in front of the famous Blue Front Cafe in Bentonia, MS.

 This abandoned and crumbling shack in Eden, MS. is where blues artist Son Thomas recorded part of his popular album "Gateway to the Delta" with harmonica player Walter Liniger in 1987.

This abandoned and crumbling shack in Eden, MS. is where blues artist Son Thomas recorded part of his popular album "Gateway to the Delta" with harmonica player Walter Liniger in 1987.

 Abandoned car in the woods behind the house where James “Son” Thomas recorded the album "Gateway to the Delta" in Eden, MS.

Abandoned car in the woods behind the house where James “Son” Thomas recorded the album "Gateway to the Delta" in Eden, MS.

 A black cat stares out from the front porch of blues singer Jack Owens as he plays his dark and haunting blues with harmonica accompanist Bud Spires. Owens, whose canon of songs comes from the minor-keyed Bentonia tradition made famous by the Delta legend Skip James, sings in his signature song, “ It must have been the devil that changed that woman’s mind/I’d rather be the devil than to be that woman’s man .” Songs in the Bentonia tradition are suffused with brooding images of the supernatural. Robert Johnson drew from this tradition in composing his most haunting blues, “Hellhound on my Trail.”

A black cat stares out from the front porch of blues singer Jack Owens as he plays his dark and haunting blues with harmonica accompanist Bud Spires. Owens, whose canon of songs comes from the minor-keyed Bentonia tradition made famous by the Delta legend Skip James, sings in his signature song, “It must have been the devil that changed that woman’s mind/I’d rather be the devil than to be that woman’s man.” Songs in the Bentonia tradition are suffused with brooding images of the supernatural. Robert Johnson drew from this tradition in composing his most haunting blues, “Hellhound on my Trail.”

 Jacob Stuckey, son of Henry Stuckey, the originator of the Bentonia Blues style, plays at the 1995 Bentonia Blues Festival in Bentonia, MS.

Jacob Stuckey, son of Henry Stuckey, the originator of the Bentonia Blues style, plays at the 1995 Bentonia Blues Festival in Bentonia, MS.

 Born in 1904, Owens was a musician contemporary with many of the first generation to record although he didn’t make his recording debut until late in life. His music consisted primarily of songs made famous by his childhood friend, the legendary Skip James. Owens methodically picked out songs such as “Devil Got My Woman” and “Killing Floor” in a minor key while singing in his haunting falsetto. Unlike James, Owens never left the Bentonia area with his music until the last 10 years of his life when he played across America and Europe. He was also a recipient of a National Heritage fellowship award given by the federal government for his work in keeping folk traditions alive. For years afterward until his death, Owens kept his entire $10,000 prize in a pouch hidden under his shirt.   

Born in 1904, Owens was a musician contemporary with many of the first generation to record although he didn’t make his recording debut until late in life. His music consisted primarily of songs made famous by his childhood friend, the legendary Skip James. Owens methodically picked out songs such as “Devil Got My Woman” and “Killing Floor” in a minor key while singing in his haunting falsetto. Unlike James, Owens never left the Bentonia area with his music until the last 10 years of his life when he played across America and Europe. He was also a recipient of a National Heritage fellowship award given by the federal government for his work in keeping folk traditions alive. For years afterward until his death, Owens kept his entire $10,000 prize in a pouch hidden under his shirt.

 

 Jimmy "Duck" Holmes in front of his Blue Front Cafe, started by his own parents in the 1940's in Bentonia, MS, making the Blue Front the oldest continuously-operated juke joint in Mississippi.

Jimmy "Duck" Holmes in front of his Blue Front Cafe, started by his own parents in the 1940's in Bentonia, MS, making the Blue Front the oldest continuously-operated juke joint in Mississippi.

 Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, McKinney “Blues Man” Williams and Arion “Baby” Bell outside the famous Blue Front Cafe in Bentonia, MS.

Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, McKinney “Blues Man” Williams and Arion “Baby” Bell outside the famous Blue Front Cafe in Bentonia, MS.

 Guitarist Tommy Lee West and harmonica player Cleo Pullman play at Blue Front Cafe in Bentonia, MS, owned by Jimmy "Duck" Holmes. The Blue Front Cafe is the oldest continuously-operating Juke Joint in the state of Mississippi.   

Guitarist Tommy Lee West and harmonica player Cleo Pullman play at Blue Front Cafe in Bentonia, MS, owned by Jimmy "Duck" Holmes. The Blue Front Cafe is the oldest continuously-operating Juke Joint in the state of Mississippi.

 

 Guitarist Jimmy Holmes plays at Blue Front Cafe in Bentonia, MS, owned by Jimmy "Duck" Holmes. The Blue Front Cafe is the oldest continuously-operating Juke Joint in the state of Mississippi.   

Guitarist Jimmy Holmes plays at Blue Front Cafe in Bentonia, MS, owned by Jimmy "Duck" Holmes. The Blue Front Cafe is the oldest continuously-operating Juke Joint in the state of Mississippi.

 

 Pigs feet for sale on the bar at Blue Front Cafe in Bentonia, MS, owned by Jimmy "Duck" Holmes. The Blue Front Cafe is the oldest continuously-operating Juke Joint in the state of Mississippi.

Pigs feet for sale on the bar at Blue Front Cafe in Bentonia, MS, owned by Jimmy "Duck" Holmes. The Blue Front Cafe is the oldest continuously-operating Juke Joint in the state of Mississippi.

 Guitarist Tommy Lee West and harmonica player Cleo Pullman play at Blue Front Cafe in Bentonia, MS, owned by Jimmy "Duck" Holmes. The Blue Front Cafe is the oldest continuously-operating Juke Joint in the state of Mississippi.       

Guitarist Tommy Lee West and harmonica player Cleo Pullman play at Blue Front Cafe in Bentonia, MS, owned by Jimmy "Duck" Holmes. The Blue Front Cafe is the oldest continuously-operating Juke Joint in the state of Mississippi. 

 

 

 Guitarist Jimmy Holmes and harmonica player Bud Spires play at Blue Front Cafe in Bentonia, MS, owned by Jimmy "Duck" Holmes. The Blue Front Cafe is the oldest continuously-operating Juke Joint in the state of Mississippi.

Guitarist Jimmy Holmes and harmonica player Bud Spires play at Blue Front Cafe in Bentonia, MS, owned by Jimmy "Duck" Holmes. The Blue Front Cafe is the oldest continuously-operating Juke Joint in the state of Mississippi.

 Guitarist Jimmy Holmes plays at Blue Front Cafe in Bentonia, MS, owned by Jimmy "Duck" Holmes. The Blue Front Cafe is the oldest continuously-operating Juke Joint in the state of Mississippi.   

Guitarist Jimmy Holmes plays at Blue Front Cafe in Bentonia, MS, owned by Jimmy "Duck" Holmes. The Blue Front Cafe is the oldest continuously-operating Juke Joint in the state of Mississippi.

 

 Harmonica player Cleo Pullman plays at Blue Front Cafe in Bentonia, MS, owned by Jimmy "Duck" Holmes. The Blue Front Cafe is the oldest continuously-operating Juke Joint in the state of Mississippi.  photo by Bill Steber

Harmonica player Cleo Pullman plays at Blue Front Cafe in Bentonia, MS, owned by Jimmy "Duck" Holmes. The Blue Front Cafe is the oldest continuously-operating Juke Joint in the state of Mississippi.  photo by Bill Steber

 Guitarist Jimmy Holmes plays at Blue Front Cafe in Bentonia, MS, owned by Jimmy "Duck" Holmes. The Blue Front Cafe is the oldest continuously-operating Juke Joint in the state of Mississippi.  photo by Bill Steber

Guitarist Jimmy Holmes plays at Blue Front Cafe in Bentonia, MS, owned by Jimmy "Duck" Holmes. The Blue Front Cafe is the oldest continuously-operating Juke Joint in the state of Mississippi.  photo by Bill Steber

 Crosses along Hwy. 49 at the edge of a cotton field in Bentonia, MS.

Crosses along Hwy. 49 at the edge of a cotton field in Bentonia, MS.

 Bud Spires puts his hand on the gravestone of his playing partner Jack Owens during a visit to the grave shortly after the stone was placed. photo by Bill Steber

Bud Spires puts his hand on the gravestone of his playing partner Jack Owens during a visit to the grave shortly after the stone was placed. photo by Bill Steber

 Cyprus trees on the Yazoo River on Hwy 49 West in Yazoo City, MS.  "I would rather be buried in some cypress grove I would rather be buried in some cypress grove To have some woman, Lord, that I can't control   And I'm goin' away now, I'm goin' away to stay And I'm goin' away now, I'm goin' away to stay That'll be all right, pretty mama, you gonna need my help someday   And the sun goin' down, and you know what your promise means And the sun goin' down, you know what your promise means And what's the matter, baby, I can't see   I would rather be dead and six feet in my grave I would rather be dead and six feet in my grave Than to be way up here, honey, treated this a-way   And the old people told me, baby, but I never did know The old people told me, baby woman, but I never did know The good book declare you got to reap just what you sow   When your knee bone's achin' and your body cold When your knee bone's achin' and your body cold Means you just gettin' ready, honey, for the cypress grove"  -Skip James, "Cypress Grove Blues"

Cyprus trees on the Yazoo River on Hwy 49 West in Yazoo City, MS.

"I would rather be buried in some cypress grove
I would rather be buried in some cypress grove
To have some woman, Lord, that I can't control


And I'm goin' away now, I'm goin' away to stay
And I'm goin' away now, I'm goin' away to stay
That'll be all right, pretty mama, you gonna need my help someday


And the sun goin' down, and you know what your promise means
And the sun goin' down, you know what your promise means
And what's the matter, baby, I can't see


I would rather be dead and six feet in my grave
I would rather be dead and six feet in my grave
Than to be way up here, honey, treated this a-way


And the old people told me, baby, but I never did know
The old people told me, baby woman, but I never did know
The good book declare you got to reap just what you sow


When your knee bone's achin' and your body cold
When your knee bone's achin' and your body cold
Means you just gettin' ready, honey, for the cypress grove"

-Skip James, "Cypress Grove Blues"