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Touring the Southern Blues Trail

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© R. Crumb, from R. Crumb’s Heroes of Blues, Jazz & Country, Abrams Books

Clarksdale, MS

Clarksdale, Mississippi, always gon’ be my home. That’s the reason you hear me set right here and moan. —Son House, “Clarksdale Moan”

Nowhere has the worldwide interest in the blues spurred greater revitalization than in Clarksdale. The town is home to two blues museums: the public Delta Blues Museum (1 Blues Alley; museum.org), in which one can find the cabin from Muddy Waters’s sharecropper days reassembled, among other exhibits; and the private, nonprofit storefront Rock & Blues Museum (113 E. 2nd St.; blues2rock.com), opened in 2006 by Theo Dasbach, a blues lover from Holland who hosts biannual blues festivals in downtown Clarksdale.

Roger Stolle, a codirector of M For Mississippi, owns Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art (252 Delta Ave.; cathead.biz), which is full of Delta blues books, albums, DVDs and CDs, some of which are produced by Stolle’s own label, Cat Head Presents. “People didn’t believe the blues could save Clarksdale, but it has provided a solid foundation,” Stolle says.

Clarksdale offers more than just music. The Lofts at the Five and Dime (121 E. 2nd St.; 888-510-9604; fiveanddimelofts.com) are six spacious new lofts above a landmarked Woolworth building. At night, venture to Madidi (164 Delta Ave.; 662-627-7770; madidires.com), a sophisticated restaurant co-owned by another native son, actor Morgan Freeman, with riffs on Southern soul food like buttermilk-fried quail accompanied by truffle-clover honey.

And after the fried quail, let the blues draw you into the night. Clarksdale is home to two of the Delta’s best blues clubs: Ground Zero Blues Club (387 Delta Ave.; groundzerobluesclub.com), also co-owned by Freeman, and Red’s Lounge (395 Sunflower Ave.), a genuine juke joint, small, hot and crowded, where you’re likely to hear some of the Delta’s greatest living bluesmen, like Robert “Wolfman” Belfour and Terry “Harmonica” Bean. Little has changed (except the cover charge) since Son House sang “I can have a good time there, if I ain’t got but one lousy dime.”

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