There is a lot going on this Memorial Day weekend in the Twin Cities, with an extra day off to chill out in your backyard in what finally feels like spring and summer.
As far as music is concerned, there are plenty of big outdoor gigs and block parties. But what really constitutes summer is the ability to get out of town and city limits where gravel roads and trees become the norm and the din of construction season hammering grows silent as you are greeted by scenic lakes and the scent of fresh pine that comes with rural Minnesota. Just past Stillwater in Bayport, Minnesota the waft of barbecue will be added to the mix courtesy of our favorite new juke joint, Bayport BBQ.
Cited recently by City Pages as the Best Restaurant Worth the Drive, Bayport BBQ has slowly been adding music to their down-home stew of Texas-style cooking, white whiskey drinks, Mexican beer and fantastic atmosphere, all of which make the place a premier mainstay for the small town -- and offers a treat for the real rural blues fanatics that don't get much from the Famous Dave's-style spots that dominate the urban idea of what a real blues bar is all about.
What Deep Blues Festival founder and Bayport BBQ proprietor Chris Johnson has developed is a simple formula of really great barbecue and the style of blues that perfectly compliments the authenticity, flavors and surroundings the special little dining room and outdoor patio provide. Unlike most self-proclaimed Juke Joints in the Cities, there will be no Blues Hammers at Bayport BBQ.
This past week we checked out the spot while James Leg, organ wizard and gut bucket vocalist of the band Black Diamond Heavies, was making a two-night stand at Bayport. After what he described as his own "personal apocalypse" (some keyboard problems), Leg and his drummer bowled out some fresh new blues-charged old fashioned rock and roll for the towns folk and visitors from the city who were there, out for lovely night's dinner and some lively music.
With a full calendar of local and national acts on the roster Bayport has perhaps their most noteworthy performer to date on their Memorial weekend schedule: elder-statesman of the blues T-Model Ford.
T-Model Ford "Sallie Mae" live on KEXP July 2008
Born James Carter Lewis Ford, the 90-year-old (!) delta-bluesman has a reputation as an outlaw since being convicted of murder and having spent several other nights on various occasions in jail. When asked how many times he's been to prison, Ford once answered, "Every Saturday night there for a while."
While Ford might live up to the romanticised ideal of a bluesman off the stage, it's been the music and records he's been cranking out since hooking up with Fat Possum label in the '90s that he is most known for. His latest, Taledragger on Alive Records with back-up band Gravel Road -- who will be joining Ford for his stop in Bayport shows -- proves that despite a recent stroke he's suffered, the cat from Mississippi still has more than got it.
If you ever needed a reason to get out town, I can't think of anything better than the party that's going on at Bayport BBQ this Memorial Day Weekend.
T-Model Ford with GravelRoad play at Bayport BBQ Sunday, May 29 at 8pm and Monday afternoon as part of the Bayport Memorial Day Parade. FREE.
For Bayport BBQ schedule and directions check out www.bayportbbq.com. T-Model Ford and Chris Cotton at Phil'z Coffee in Palo Alto, CA March 2009