Festival offers soulful music of hardship and triumph

Liz & Burle.jpg


The annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival features Ole Timey Blues artists on Saturday and Ole Timey Gospel artists on Sunday. There is no contradiction in the appreciation of both. As the elders tell it: The wailing blues tell the stories of our struggles, hardships, heartaches, lost loves and lost lives. The prayerful gospel music lifts the stories of our faith, determination, perseverance and How We Made it Over. Many of the founding festival musicians are no longer with us, including Willie King, Bo McGee, Jesse Daniels, George Conner, members of the Echo Gospel Singers, members of the Tishabee Male Chorus, members of the New Gospel Travelers. Shown above are festival founders Clarence Davis, Lemon Harper, Burlie and Liz Daniels, who, along with many others, will be with us at this year’s festival, Saturday August 26 and Sunday August 27 on the Old Courthouse Square in Eutaw, AL.

Black Belt Folk Roots Festival celebrates 42nd year

festival story.jpgWhere else can you smile and sway to ole timey blues, enjoy the delicacies of right-off-the grill barbecue and polish sausages, feast on freshly cooked country dinners with assorted pies and cakes and then top it all off with hand churned homemade ice cream.
All this and more is happening at the annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival on Saturday, August 26 and Sunday August 27 on the Old Courthouse Square in Eutaw, AL.
In its 42nd year of community celebration, the festival will again feature down home blues music, old timey gospel, traditional foods, handmade crafts and special events for the young people.

Saturday’s events are scheduled from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. with Ole Timey Blues and dancing featuring musicians Clarence Davis, The Liberators, Jock Webb, Davey Williams, Russell Gulley, Terry “Harmonica” Bean, Jock Webb, Lil’ Jimmie Reed and others.
The handmade crafts available at the festival are traditional quilts and other needle works; baskets from white oak, pine needles and corn shucks. The assortments of down-home foods include soul food dinners, barbecue, fried fish, chicken and skins, Polish sausage, homemade ice cream, cakes and pies; snow cones, Italian ice, and more.
Ole Timey Gospel is reserved for Sunday’s festival beginning at 2:00 p.m. and featuring the The Echo Juniors, The Melody Kings, The Mississippi Traveling Stars, The Golden Gates, New Generation Men of Promise, Sons of Zion, Greene County Mass Choir and many others. “The Black Belt Folk Roots Festival is home coming time in the region. Many families, class reunions and social clubs plan their annual activities to coincide with the festival’s schedule,” stated Dr. Carol P. Zippert, festival coordinator. “The festival brings together musicians, craftspersons, storytellers, food specialists, community workers – all who are considered bearers of the traditions and folkways of the West Alabama region,” she explained. “This is a festival where people truly celebrate themselves – their joys and struggles and especially ‘how we made it over,’” Zippert states.
According to Dr. Zippert, the two day festival is open to the public free of charge. The hours are Saturday, August 26, 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. and Sunday August 27, 2:00 p.m.- 7:00 p.m.
The Black Belt Folk Roots Festival is supported in part by the Black Belt Community Foundation, and other local contributors.
The festival is produced by the Society of Folk Arts & Culture. There is no admission fee for the festival events. For more information contact Carol P. Zippert at 205-372-0525;
Email: carolxzippert@aol.com


Davis claims 41 years of Black Belt Blues

By: Mynecia Destinee Steele


Mr. Clarence Davis


Mr. Clarence Davis has been around since the first Black Belt Folk Roots Festival, and he remembers it well.
Clarence attended the first Black Belt Folk Roots Festival 41 years ago and he has not missed one yet.
Davis says that he remembers when Jane Sapp, music and cultural instructor for the event, and other staff of the Miles College-Eutaw Program, started the festival. “I remember them going around trying to get people and musicians together,” said Davis.
Davis has not only attended the festival regularly, but he also participates in musical performances. Davis was inducted in the Blues Hall of Fame in 2014. The City of Eutaw is privileged to have had Davis’ music grace its courtyard square every August.
He plays what he calls Delta Blues. This style of music came from the Mississippi area during the ‘20s and ‘30s.Growing up, Davis fell in love with this style of music, and eventually taught himself to play blues on the bass.
“I first started playing around with a guitar at seven”, said Davis. “But, I really started getting into it when I was 12.”
Learning to play took lots of practice, but Davis was dedicated. He would listen to songs and mimic the sounds of other musicians until he sounded exactly like them.
According to Davis most musicians during that time tried to imitate that delta sound. The music expressed the hardships that many people, especially farmers, were experiencing during that time.
Davis went on to reminisce about some of the other original festival performers and musicians.  He clearly remembers that raw down-home sound. He particularly loved the way the performers played the hambone.
There was something special about those homemade instruments said Davis. These instruments were reflective of our roots. And that is what the Black Belt Folk Roots Festival is all about.
He misses the old time sounds of the festival, but he also appreciates the way that younger generations have taken on the tradition of playing at the festival, with their new school blues and hip-hop.
Mr. Davis says that one thing he would love to see, before his last festival, is for it to continue to grow. He suggested that the event be moved to the local park.  This space would provide a larger venue, and therefore more vendors could participate and more people could attend.
Davis emphasized how important this event is to the Black Belt community. “For a lot of the older people, this is probably the only time they really get to come out of the house,” said Davis. He said that this event is one time out of the year that the entire community is able to get together and have a great time.