Mother’s Best Music Festival — it’s named after another brand of flour that once sponsored a radio show in Helena, Ark. (King Biscuit Flour was the sponsor of King Biscuit Time, which lent its name to the town’s much bigger and longer-running festival, the King Biscuit Blues Festival, until an unfortunate legal challenge took that name away. That festival is now called the Arkanksas Blues and Heritage Festival.) Mother’s Best has been going for just five years, and I had the pleasure of playing at it last year and again this year. It happens in June. It’s free. It’s in the middle of this historic riverport. And it offered some great music! Legendary blues drummer Sam Carr (son of Robert Nighthawk) joined Dave Riley for a terrific set. (Sam is not in good health, so Bob “the Mississippi Spoonman” Rowell filled in for him on part of the set.) Jimbo Mathus of Squirrel Nut Zippers fame, now a Mississippi resident, played some torrid blues with his band. Donna Herula, an acoustic blues solo act from Chicago, made her major-festival debut in fine form. C.W. Gatlin, a rockabilly great who lives in Helena, burned up the stage with an all-star band. And I did my best to stir up the ghosts of Robert Johnson, Skip James, Robert Lockwood Jr., Ma Rainey, Roosevelt Sykes, Memphis Minnie and all the other wonderful blues artists who worked in Helena in the early 20th century. I also had the pleasure of appearing on Terry Buckalew’s “Delta Sounds” radio show the day before the festival, with longtime King Biscuit Time emcee “Sunshine” Sonny Payne co-hosting. Gatlin, Riley, Herula and I got to jam on air.
If a trip to the Delta is in your future, consider going next June to catch Mother’s Best!