When bluesman Mike Eldred first visited Baptist Town—a small, impoverished, black community on the outskirts of Greenwood, Mississippi—he was greeted by local police who ordered him to leave immediately. But Baptist Town held a fierce attraction for Eldred and it would take more than the police to keep him away.
In 1938, blues legend Robert Johnson was murdered in Baptist Town. And Eldred’s visits there—both for its historic connection to the Delta blues giant and the hospitality present-day residents (above)—inspired him to pen the songs on his latest album, appropriately titled Baptist Town (Great Western Recording Co.).
Recorded at the fabled Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, Eldred is joined on the album by the other members of his trio: bassist John Bazz of the Blasters, and drummer Jerry Angel of Mojo Nixon fame.
Guest artists include guitarists John Mayer and Robert Cray, and accordionist David Hidalgo.
On this Acoustic Guitar Session, Eldred (with Bazz and drummer Brian Fahey of the Paladins) talks about the Delta, its people and its music while performing three songs from the Baptist Town album: “Run Devil Run,” “Bess” (a tribute to blues singer Bessie Smith, who died after a car crash outside of Clarksdale, Mississippi), and the album’s title track.
Eldred plays a National Style-O resonator and a small-bodied flattop built by luthier Travis Django Wade of Ft. Worth, Texas.