Recent articles have made me aware of the significance of music in our state. Most people know that rhythm and blues has been predominant in Mississippi for decades. Two recent articles from our local paper interested me.
Oxford-based writer Scott Baretta reported that he put together the music for The Great Debaters movie starring Denzel Washington, which is now showing nationwide. As he tells it he was called by the music supervisor G. Marq Roswell to help put together "a band that could perform music that one might have heard in the Marshall, TX area juke joints in 1935."
Baretta contacted Alvin Youngbood Hart, a Memphis-based acoustic blues master and the Carolina Chocolate Drops, a NC-based threesome now reviving early African-American string band traditions. He states that this combination was intended to "recreate the sounds of the Mississippi Sheiks, the most popular African-American string band of the pre-WWII era." There is a re-recorded album "Honey, Let the Deal Go Down: The Best of the Mississippi Sheiks" that has something for everyone.
(NOTE: In case you've not heard string bands, go to Amazon.com for string bands and listen to "String Bands, 1926-1920" In the list find and listen to the music of the Mississippi Sheiks and you'll understand the sound Baretta was reaching for.)
As in most movies large portions of filmed material are edited to fit the time frame, and the scenes with this music is no exception. However, the soundtrack features some great work by Hart, Chocolate Drops and singer Sharon Jones of the retro soul group Dap-Kings. Later guitarist Mabon "Teenie" Hodges also of Memphis, lent his guitar of soul sounds to the final songs. Be sure and buy the CD after you've seen the great movie. You can bet this addition was enouraged by Washington, upon hearing the music and wanting more. Tofurther realism, the musicians can be seen in the scenes inside the juke joint.
See The Great Debaters and what Baretta achieved to enhance the story.