Monday, February 16, 2009

David 'Honeyboy' Edwards

The Secret Museum

Michael Mooney & Jim Webb

Kachina Lodge,
Taos, New Mexico
Feb. 6, 2009

I want to jump the queue here before Jim’s review. For me, the highlight of the Honeyboy Edwards show came after an audience member (the bearded gent who provided a running commentary throughout the set) inquired of Mr. Edwards about the notable players he had known. When Honeyboy nonchalantly began to recount his memories of Charlie Patton, I was stunned. Patton’s been gone 75 years now; it was like hearing someone say they’d met Madame Curie, Winsor McCay, or Bonnie and Clyde, all of whom also died in 1934 (as did Holst, Elgar and Delius.). I’m still trying to comprehend the implication of this man’s recollections (and what recall: in a London Times interview from last year, Edwards describes witnessing Robert Johnson’s death: “Now, when he died, August 16, 1938, that was on a Tuesday, I come over there an’ I was around 23 years old. Robert was 27 then. He got poisoned out there, a little place called Three Forks. He had been playin’ out there for pretty close to a year. They had a roadhouse out there called Juke House - white whiskey, gamblin’. Robert started goin’ with the man’s wife, an’ she a good-lookin’ woman. An’ the man got him.”)

David Edwards is the sole remaining original practitioner of a particularly American musical idiom (unless you count Pinetop Perkins; I do but I don’t), which in turn paved the way for the greatest of all 20th Century art forms. There is no truer expression of life as art than that of a classic American Blues singer. Honeyboy Edwards defines the genre.
-Michael Mooney

PS To the tactless dude who felt compelled to shout, “How does it feel to have lived long enough to see a black president,” here’s the answer: “Matter of time. That’s all it was.”

Honeyboy Edwards is ninety-four years old. It would be easy to list all the changes this country has gone through since 1915, from race relations to technological advances, and marvel at what David has witnessed, like a real life Forest Gump. But that’s not what makes Honeyboy Edwards special to me.

Honeyboy doesn’t just play The Blues; untold thousands of musicians can make the same claim. What separates him from almost all the others is that he has also lived The Blues- born in 1915 and raised in a Mississippi where slavery had become known as sharecropping, and most African Americans were still looked at as no more than chattel. He survived by becoming a musician, and along the way played with such legendary Bluesmen as Robert Johnson and Charley Patton.

The Blues aren’t just about bad times; they’re about everything that happens in life. Joy, frustration, and relationships are all part of what Honeyboy and the true Bluesmen express through their music. What’s unique about him is that he hasn’t musically changed with the times. Sure, he plays an electric guitar some of the time now, but if you close your eyes you could be in a Southside Chicago tavern in 1952, or a juke joint hidden off Highway 61 in the 30s. After opening his Kachina show with (I think) Muddy Waters’ Rollin’ Stone, Edwards played the standard Sweet Home Chicago before being joined by Michael Frank on harmonica for the rest of the set. After about forty-five minutes, Honeyboy put down his guitar and talked about some of the people he played with in the past, and answered a few questions from the crowd before taking a break.

Mr. Edwards survived the changes that occurred in the last ninety-four years of our history, from The Great Depression and WW II onward to the present day. He also survived as a blues musician, an extremely endangered species these days. In the 1930s Honeyboy played for people trying to break free of the drudgery of everyday life. These were folks who worked too hard for not enough pay, just trying to escape their problems for a while. In 2009, those in attendance at The Kachina Lodge are also worried about jobs and money, and they, too, want to leave their everyday world behind for an hour or two. If you look deeply at David Honeyboy Edwards you will see that he continues to show us through his Blues that whatever happens, we will deal with it and roll on. Some things really don’t change.
- Jim Webb

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