Down at the Crossroads

New Years Eve

 Curry Weber and myself were hired for some field recording in Clarksdale, MS. The artist was Justin Johnson who plays cigar box guitars. Cigar box guitars have been around since about 1840 and can range from 1-6 strings.  Justin was able to borrow a few 150 year old cigar box guitars from a museum and use them on the record. One was especially intriguing, ranging between 130-150 years old it originated from Haiti and used an IV tube as a strap. It had dried blood and scars all over it.  As you can imagine these instruments are very delicate and there were a few luthiers on site monitoring the guitars.

Justin set up the crew in a few of the small shacks at the Shack Up Inn in Clarksdale, which is a must see for anyone visiting Clarksdale. That night was New Years and the plan was to head to the original crossroads (Robert Johnson fame) and record some traditional songs on the two Cigar Box guitars at midnight. My friend and amazing engineer Jeff Powell had some creepy handwritten directions to the real crossroads from local VooDoo legend Tater Red. The real crossroads is not in Clarksdale but actually near Cleveland,MS. Located down a dirty road near the Dockery Plantation where Charlie Patton and many other famous blues musicians worked. We arrived at the crossroads as it was getting dark and just before we found it we came across  a very old cemetery... Curry and I jumped out and investigated with only our cell phones for light. The ground was moist from a quick southern rain and the ground was so soft if you stayed still you would sink rather quickly!

We set up the makeshift portable studio and just as Justin finished the first take, fireworks went off which are audible on the fade out. Surreal timing! 

 Matt Ross-Spang at the Shack Up Inn Clarksdale, MS . 12/31/13 . Photo by Nikki Johnson.

Matt Ross-Spang at the Shack Up Inn Clarksdale, MS . 12/31/13 . Photo by Nikki Johnson.

 Hard to say where the tree ends and the cemetery begins. Photo by Matt Ross-Spang

Hard to say where the tree ends and the cemetery begins. Photo by Matt Ross-Spang

 Engineers Curry Weber (right) and Matt Ross-Spang (left) delicately attach a microphone to a turn of the century  cigar box guitar for the field recording session at the Shack Up Inn. Photo by Nikki Johnson.

Engineers Curry Weber (right) and Matt Ross-Spang (left) delicately attach a microphone to a turn of the century  cigar box guitar for the field recording session at the Shack Up Inn. Photo by Nikki Johnson.