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All Around Man No Longer Around--Elegy for Lonnie Pitchford
Anita Fix | Alcazar in the Land of Enchantment | 11/23/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is gonna be long, because its for Lonnie, an elegy, a memoir to inform the world of one of-if not sadly thee actual last of the legendary wandering Mississippi Delta Bluesmen, sauntering drunkenly down the Clarksdale sidewalk some summer afternoon 1995, nearly 90 degrees outdoors at an open stage barely occupied but by, I kid you not, a 7, 8, and 9 year old band of kids under the apprenticeship of an old musician I know not the name of, who were tighter than many bands come of proper drinking age I have heard play all over Seattle, NYC LA Albuquerque, etc...Lonnie took up the guitar readily available for all, tuned it amidst the hum of the summer insects close by the Sunflower river, and I predicted some out of tune horrid version of a Chicago cover made up of powerchords and the voice of a dying mule... foolish me...Lonnie?s performance that day was one of the greatest I have ever witnessed in or out of that summer spent searching out any Bluesmen still alive from the old days (finding several such as jack Owens and best friend and backing Harpie, 60 something years old Bud Spires tho Jack still used to call him "SON"!, Othar Turner with his blue eyes & family fife and drum band, poor old Eugene Powell: whom Lonnie was close as a son to) Many of those I just named have sinced passt on into the SummerLands behind the cotton fields where pre-civil war mansions rot smothered beneath the weight of serpentine vines creeping throughout every niche as if covering up some terrible crime that bears an ancient curse...After Lonnie played with as much genius as an exiled Hendrix who never left the countryside but wandered from friend's place to friend's place seeking constant good times surrounding by good people, living a life as nomadic and courageously free as any imaginable in present day America. As I said, he was a REAL LIVING BLUESMAN, not just another musician who specialized at the guitar and played blues tunes; No he made the music his own, and happened to be perhaps the greatest country Blues guitarist alive, just nobody knew it, and he didn't care about fame or even think about it much I imagine, so constantly cutting around alone but waving at many folks genuinely glad to see him, he appeared aware of who he was, and seemed satisfied enough to share a smile, tip his hat, nod, wink, and have a drink from the unnatural spirits inhabiting his back pocket...yet he was famous! Every musician and local about the area knew this man whose angelic presence surrounding him never left even when drunk as much as possible it was always with a smile, the same when he made his music, never playing the same song the same way twice except (the mark of true ability in the blues, as anyone who ever copied note for note a song part of shared heritage would be ridiculed in not all that good of humour as a bad musician incapable of contributing to a tradition they cheated by stealing someone else?s song without making it their own, which remains the fee for to be entitled to be called and known by a Bluesman name, as originality marks their music separate from everyone else even if it?s the same traditional song, as it often is, it?s always barely distinguishable as the same song given the nature and individuality that marks every bluesmen, which includes any women capable of the life of course) except for a certain few that were sacred such as the version of 'cc rider' passed down to Lonnie from Robert Lockwood Junior, from the stepson of legendary Robert Johnson whose version it ultimately was, with the additions of only those others named who greatly respected those recordings that have traversed the world changing so many musicians aspirations, expanding the possibilities by making the horizon able to hold that much sun as the Delta itself does...such was Lonnie's resolve, it knew no bounds. The man suffered a fate most would be crushed under the weight of, yet he actually smiled in its face and tamed the beasts prowling out there in the total dark of the delta midnight with a music that could impress any of hell's creations and bring an angel down to the crossroads to banish anything that might harm so saintly a musicmaker, one of the last Bluesmen, who had few concerns with civilization beyond a liquor store, a juke joint be it someone?s house, and daylight parties and picnics at various backyards and farms throughout a good part of the state of Mississippi, a state which even the Bluesmen of old were intimidated by the lawlessness and insanity prevailing with a horrific violence, more like the old west in the 20's and 30's than any other state except perhaps new Mexico...but no time for a history lesson...just know Lonnie's music on the record, which contains some of the most original and exceptional country Blues existent in this day, only just begin to reveal what he was capable of...His is the most tragic of the many deaths around that Decade before the Millennium, from Bukowski and Cobain early on, to Bowles, Corso, Jack Owens, Burroughs...Poets and Bluesmen are a dying breed...but Lonnie's death hit me hard because I came to know him through seeing him all arond town, hearing his music directly from the hand during the few weeks I spent in Clarksdale that summer during the bluesfest I had no idea but was struck by the divinity of chance to have wandered through just a week before and begged a hotel room for 100 bux per week in the worst part of town where every room was filled every night absolutely come alive with a people whose party took on a joyous rage embraced by a freedom rare in any town or city, where little violence took place, but every vice was indulged with an innocence absent of cruel intentions....feeling good whence the sun goes down, because the sun is the only murder they'll never catch up with...holed up play old blues tunes with my best friend THE JESTER RUTHLESS people expected two antiquated black men surviving on nothing but cheap gin and valium...the shock every night when we came out, two poor white boys with guitars barely held together so hard did we womp on them continuously with our fists, and me a dope fiend to boot, heading over to Church's chicken for our midnight meal...the only white faces for miles, yet never have I been treated with a respect so fearless and honest as my own by so many who were amazed to find the likes of us in a place that was mostly the only place they knew and were perfectly happy with life in such a place...but one day when I first met Lonnie walking down the street after that brilliant performance where he played everything from the traditional to a version of 'if 6 was 9' that these children on drums, bass, and backing chords actually kept up with until Lonnie just drifted off into outer space and mesmerized every eye and ear in the vicinity, including those kids themselves....and when he stopped, as though coming out of trance with a smile on his face that said "oops, I did it again!" everyone that had been gathering together hearing such a music in the air applauded this Bluesman dressed in smelly dirt jeans as old as mine with a shirt just as stained as two weeks of booze, ribs, and coffee slept in could be, with shoes tied with pieces of stringed laces...As he and I passed by I had to just say, hey man, thanks, that was amazing!...He reached out his hand for me to shake and held on to it with a strength not hostile while staring straight into my eyes seeing a part of me no one else sees or cares about, and I barely understand....but he said, "No man, thank YOU!"..."
The best of classic blues with humor and tears
Nancy Peters (email@example.com) | Virginia | 07/14/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Lonnie Pitchford's All Around Man is one of my favorite blues CD's. I keep waiting for another one to appear. I grin every time I hear the title song; sometimes I laugh out loud. I play it in my car as I go on sales calls; it always puts me in a good mood.His music is heartfelt;his discussion of his background is genuine, a man really driven to make music.The CD itself is well produced; good clear quality. Good arrangement and variety of numbers and the reprise of ALL Around Man is welcomed at the end-----I am only sorry that the CD is finished. I often play it again."