Last of the Mississippi Jukes Review - A Gem that Strikes All The Right Cords

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Last of the Mississippi Jukes, from Mug Shot Productions and MVD Distribution, is an easy traveling ride through the history of the Delta Blues, the birth of the Juke joint, with stops in Jackson and Clarksdale.

Directed and written by Robert Mugge, Last of The Mississippi Jukes, stars Morgan Freeman with his business partner, Bill Luckett. Morgan Freeman also provides partial narration.

Last of the Mississippi Jukes, begins at the beginning, where the music was born. With Freeman narrating he brings teh audience to a place and time that is a part of America, good, bad or indifferent: the days when the Negros were owned.

The master, knowing the people needed to let off steam to keep them from thinking of escape, or worse would let them set up a shack, behind the cotton field, far enough away from the main house or the road so no attention would be drawn to negros laughing, or having fun, or for a moment being free. A juke joint and a tradition was born.

The historical references of the jukes, usually out of the way dirt road shacks, as the film tells it the crowd would show up on Friday and only leave for Church on Sunday. The weekend belonged to the sound. To the freedom of escape, the freedom of living free for the moment.

The colored folk and the tradition of the juke continued long after the master had no choice but to let them leave. Soon, juke joints were springing up all over the Mississippi Delta, and there was none more famous than the Subway Lounge.

The most famous Juke Joint which last three decades was the world-famous Subway Lounge, a basement club, in the Summers Hotel, the only Negro owned hotel in Jackson, Mississippi. And the only hotel the Negros could receive accommodations.

During the height of the Civil Right movements, when segregation kept many from even thinking of doing the right thing, Negros could travel to Jackson and know they would be safe in the Summers Hotel.

The documentary also talks about the days of deep darkness worse it seems than the days of slavery when integration was wrenching the power from the “man” and putting it into every man’s hand. It was a dark season, and hear it told in the film, there never was a colored problem at the Subway.

White locals would talk of their friends coming to visit and always wanting to hear the “real” juke music and off they would go, white folks into the Subway Lounge at the Summers Hotel and at 2:00am, if they had an early morning, they would leave with no trouble ever.

And when evening rolled around, the basement would beckon the locals, and others to hear the jazzy blues, the delta sound. And again, as if history were repeating itself in a different location, free from stress and worry. For a minute, anyway.

Last of the Mississippi Jukes was filmed when the better days of the world renowned Subway Lounge were in the rear view and with councils and ordinances and city zones the future didn’t look promising.

Jimmy King, legendary owner and operator of the Subway shared his story and allowed access to his house were the blues greats would entertain.

Last of The Mississippi Jukes features music from both the Subway Lounge and Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale. The soundtrack includes some of the great blues and jazz singers from the Delta including Alvin Youngblood Hart, Greg “Fingers” Taylor, Dennis Fountain and Pat Brown, Patrice Moncell with The House Rockers, Eddie Cotton Jr., with Jimmy King, Vasti Jackson with King Edward Blues Band, Patrice Moncell and Vasti Jackson, Levon Lindsey and J.T. Watkins with King Edward Blues Band, Bobby rush, King Edward Blues Band, David Hughes with Virgil Brawley, George Jackson and Vasti Jackson, Steve Cheseborough, Lucille, Abdul Rasheed and The Deep Cuts.

Needless to say, I really enjoyed Last of the Mississippi Jukes. As a connoisseur of music, with an appreciative ear, of all types of music the trip into the deep blues, the jazzy jukes, it strikes the right cords and introduces the history of this deep south delta sound.

Some would say, the Mississippi Jukes and the Delta sound are not the same, for the sounds meld together to form a fabric of Americana. A sound long lost in clanging symbols, the cacophny, of modern music.

Last of The Mississippi Jukes features Morgan Freeman who owns a Juke Joint, Ground Zero Blues Club, in Clarksdale, Mississippi along with his partner Bill Luckett.  Keeping tradition alive, Mr. Freeman, and his partners have recreated a traditional Juke Joint, modernizing when necessary, the decor is the mismatched outdoor chairs and bar stools, with buckets of beer, and traditional southern cooking.

The stage also stays warm, as tradition isn’t lost and the reason that carried the sound over the generations, from triumph and through tragedy, the Mississippi delta sound kept the people. Now, its here for everyone to share.

Last of the Mississippi Jukes is a bluesy, foot-tapping, trip through the musical roots of the delta.

Last of The Mississippi Jukes is available across streaming platforms. See it.