We all know what feelin’ blue means; getting the blues is synonymous with being melancholy, unhappy, miserable. So why does the news that Darke County Center for the Arts will be presenting artists who sing the blues fill me (and many others) with delight?
Why are those who have previously witnessed the extensive talents of Clevelanders Austin “Walkin’ Cane” Charangat and Kristine Jackson eager to partake of DCCA’s upcoming presentation of the longtime friends at The Bistro Off Broadway on May 11 in a show entitled “Blues from the Heart of the Rock and Roll City?” Well, maybe because the blues truly can be many different things.
Delta blues pioneer Son House famously once said, “The blues ain’t nothin’ but a low-down aching chill”—an apt definition, perhaps, but not a complete explanation. Blues music originated in the Deep South after the Civil War, incorporating field hollers, chants, work songs, spirituals, and more into rhymed narrative ballads expressing universal emotions. Although most of these songs focus on personal loss and hard times, they can evoke a broad range of feeling, much of which is cheerful, positive, or even happy. But how can this be? What explains the pure joy I feel when I hear great blues artists perform?
Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that the blues tells stories, making blues artists musical storytellers—who doesn’t love a good story well told? Mix in some blue notes and a groove, and you have a recipe for good feelings and good times regardless of the sorrowful subject matter.
Truth be told, both “Walkin’ Cane” and Kristine Jackson are excellent storytellers as well as outstanding performers; and they have powerful personal stories to tell. Kristine, a diminutive powerhouse who emerged from a traumatic childhood to become a confident performer, says that she uses music to empower herself and others. “You don’t need to be downtrodden to sing the blues,” she once told a reporter from Cleveland magazine. And whether she’s singing songs by Robert Johnson, Janis Joplin, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, or her own compositions, your spirits will be lifted by her talents.
The son of Catholic immigrants from India, Austin “Walkin’ Cane” Changarat says that he plays the blues because “the blues are what grabbed me, made me feel good inside.” See, there it is once again—the blues makes people feel good! Due to a congenital arterial malformation in his left leg, Austin walked with a cane for many years, and acquired his nickname while performing in New Orleans when a homeless man called out, “Hey Walkin’ Cane, got some spare change for a brother?” The damaged limb was amputated below the knee in 1996, after which “Walkin’ Cane” returned to the music scene stronger than ever, now wearing a prosthetic leg and no longer relying upon the walking stick.
Tickets are going fast for “Blues from the Heart of the Rock and Roll City;” in fact, initial response was so great that the show has been moved from the usual Coffeehouse performance space to the main restaurant, which is being reconfigured into a show club to create the best possible concert experience for the expected crowd. As is true for all of DCCA’s Coffeehouse presentations, food and drink will be available throughout the evening. Dinner reservations can be made by calling The Bistro at 937-316-5000.
You, too, can enjoy the blues; reserve your tickets now to see and hear “Walkin’ Cane” and Kristine Jackson by contacting DCCA at 937-547-0908 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets may be purchased at The Bistro Off Broadway as well as at DCCA’s office located within Greenville Public Library or online at www.CenterForArts.net. The show starts at 7 p.m.
Marilyn Delk is a director of the Darke County Center for the Arts and can be reached at email@example.com. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.