Mississippi John Hurt: bluesman, fellow hater of humidity (I think)

“I believe I’ll get drunk, tear this barrel house down.”
—’Drunken Barrel House Blues’, Memphis Minnie.

Time to bitch about the summer. The mercury’s on the rise, and so’s my short temper with it. And the humidity. For the love of Satan’s breath, it’s humid already. That’s the problem with movies depicting scenes in the South, scenes in the desert, scenes in the Midwest: they never can replicate the scorching, syrupy mess that drips off your neck, running in rivulets down your leg hair, making your head hang with the weight of the whole hot and sticky affair.

People who say they just love this time of year should be shot. That includes several of my friends, so when the shooting goes down, I’ll make it an ankle shot, not a kill shot. These are the same people who generally work indoors for a living and consider the stroll from the air-conditioned comforts of the house to the air-conditioned comforts of the car “getting outside”. My own folks like to comment on how wonderful and green the area looks, especially considering that Coastal California is now turning a lovely shade of dead yellow and dead brown combined with just a hint of scrub-brush drab green. Green in pictures IS lovely, I suppose, but do you know what that takes? It takes steam and relentless sun, both of which are plentiful in the Ozarks. Which apparently is nothing, as compared to the South.

I once visited some friends in Mississippi in summer and came back with a whole new appreciation for the state of weather in Missouri. That region of the country is king when it comes to making sweat sauce soup. For the life of me I can’t figure out how one would work on a road crew down there without spending one’s evening’s with a revolver in your mouth, contemplating sweet release from asphalt and back sweat. But I also came back with a new appreciation of an art form that never held my interest: the blues.

The blues are a product of life in the South. The music has that lulling cadence, a result of expending all available effort to the  task of chewing the air before breathing it. It speaks of misery, heartbreak and unrequited passion that ends in gunplay. In short, the blues is complaint set to music, and I love it. It is driven by the sultry steam that is a constant companion of that part of the country. You can’t have the blues in New Mexico – I mean, sure, you’ve got the heat, the loneliness, desolation, all that but you’re missing two ingredients: sticky air and fried foods. Up North? Prairies and bitter cold seem like they’d make good fodder for the blues but they are a people far too practical to complain in that time signature (Chicago, of course being the major exception. Chicago is an entity in and of itself, but I know nothing about it, so I’m going to stop talking about it. Just pretend I know that of which I speak). And California? Forget it. When I go home and witness the beauty of the ocean, the irate drivers and self-absorbed fabulosity, it’s hard to picture taking them seriously with regards to cranking out blues tunes. They have no humidity, no fuel for the slow-pace of a music that moans and wails and not in a good way.

So now, as soon as it kicks past 80 degrees and I get all clammy and sticky from just sitting there, I know just the thing to commiserate with me. I want to bitch and moan, and the blues is, if nothing else, bitching and moaning to a soulful beat. So I’ll kick it onto B.B. King’s Bluesville on Sirius/XM radio and wipe the sweat from my brow as I contemplate another day of building random shit out there in the heat. Then, I’ll say “screw it”,  jump on the motorcycle, meet up with El Jefe and find a joint that’s selling some ribs and sweet tea. Because if I keep on complaining to the Wife about this weather, I’m the one that’s gonna be shot.

And that sounds like a song in the making.