On June 6th, country music royalty will descend upon the Mississippi Delta when Rosanne Cash will perform a benefit concert at Sunflower County’s Dockery Farms. “The fact that she just recently won Grammy Awards for all three of her nominations makes this an unbelievably exciting time for us and for the whole community.”
At the recent awards, Rosanne won both Best American Roots Performance and Best American Roots Song for “A Feather’s Not a Bird,” and Best Americana Album for The River & The Thread. Rosanne says that the inspiration behind her newest album comes from the stretch of highway between Greenwood, Mississippi, and the Mississippi River. “The very center of the creative spark is Dockery Farms,” she continued. “It’s a huge thrill and the completion of a circle to finally perform these songs in this historic place.”
Dockery Farms is significant indeed. The place’s rich history started in 1895, when it was established to produce cotton, back when cotton was king and served as America’s biggest export. Many of the farm’s African American workers were credited with creating the culture that inspired the very famous Delta Blues. These pioneers that sparked such a soulful culture included Charley Patton, widely known as the “Father of the Delta Blues” and others, whose songs would in turn influence the development of popular music all over the world. Patton learned to play from fellow Dockery resident Henry Sloan and influenced a bevy of other musicians who lived on and around the grounds, including Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Brown, Tommy Johnson and Roebuck “Pops” Staples.
Located just east of Cleveland on Highway 8, Dockery Farms’ musical heritage is as rich as the soil that drew Will Dockery to clear thousands of acres for farming in the late 1800s. Rosanne will perform on a cotton storage shed built around 1925. This “stage” sits a little over 100 feet from the commissary porch where Patton often played. Although the commissary burned in 1960, the concrete porch foundation remains today. “Two years ago, Rosanne and John came to Dockery to talk about a ‘Save America’s Treasures’ grant they had been awarded to save her father’s home in Arkansas,” recalls Bill Lester, Dockery Farms Foundation Executive Director. “I’m very pleased that they will return here to perform at the birthplace of the Blues.”
Rosanne’s album, The River & The Thread, was written alongside her husband and longtime collaborator, John Leventhal, who also served as producer, arranger and guitarist. The album is a colorful examination of not only the geography and history of the American South, but the emotional landscape that resides here as well. Sounds drawn from country, blues, gospel and rock, reflect the soulful mix of music that traces its history to this region. What better place to sing tribute to the South than in the birthplace of American music?
Eddie Cotton, Jr., the 2015 winner of the International Blues Challenge, is a young player who hails from a traditional background. Eddie will be the opening act on June 6th.
The Dockery Farms Foundation is hard at work to ensure that Dockery can once again return to its roots as a center for music education, serving both the general public and the local community. During the past decade, the Dockery Farms Foundation has restored many of the original buildings that once made up the commercial center of Dockery Farms. The Foundation has also partnered with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz to bring music education into Delta schools.