What I Learned from White Lightnin Malcolm

A Hill Country Blues Foot Soldier

Steve Lightnin Malcolm at the Shack Up Inn in Clarksdale, MS

Steve Lightnin Malcolm at the Shack Up Inn in Clarksdale, MS

“Always be thankful and have a thankful heart; it makes the sun shine better!”Steve Lightnin Malcolm

Anyone who has taken a precursory look at deltabohemian.com over the last five-plus years will easily ascertain Lightnin Malcolm as being Poor William’s favorite musician. His lyrics, music, work ethic and joie de vivre are as infectious as a mosquito bite in the swamplands—just a heck of a lot more curative.

My first exposure to Malcolm (we all call him by his last name) was in 2008 at the Shack Up Inn during a festival. I kept hearing that Cedric Burnside and Lightnin Malcolm were playing at the Shacks. Who the hell were Cedric and Malcolm? I then saw a poster downtown at Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art showing a white/black duo and thought that was pretty neat, thinking I should check these cats out.

I had been in Clarksdale for about a year, after a couple decades out West, and knew little about the blues, never went out on the town, am tone deaf, and sure hadn’t heard of Hill Country Blues, though I do own a didgeridoo and have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express!

After seeing the Juke Joint Duo in the then recently opened Juke Joint Chapel at the Shack Up Inn, I was hooked on Hill Country, Malcolm, and Cedric. Also, it didn’t hurt that my future wife, Magical Madge, was by the stage dancing solo in feline print shorts…smokin’ hot. If I had been channeling Jerry Clower that evening I would have been hollerin’ for Marcel Ledbetter!

Leaping forward eight years, after having heard Malcolm play at least fifty times, Magical Madge and I wanted to give our daughter, Bethany Howell, a going-into-the Air Force sendoff party, so we asked Malcolm to play. Hopson Commissary agreed to put it on. What a fantastic party it was. Carl “Stud Ford” White, grandson of the legendary T-Model Ford, played drums; Joyce Jones, Cameron Kimbrough’s mom shook a tambourine and sang a bit, and Lightnin Malcolm, as always, played about four hours before he even took a short break. That’s how Hill Country Blues musicians roll.

The highlights of the evening for Poor William included Malcolm doing my favorite song in the whole-wide world, “Meet Me in the City” by Junior Kimbrough, and Bethany Howell singing “The Parting Glass” impromptu and mostly a cappella.

VIDEO
[youtube width=”600″ height=”350″]https://youtu.be/PEYmFUj8Dv4[/youtube]
[youtube width=”600″ height=”350″]https://youtu.be/ABvQYJRQUpE[/youtube]
[youtube width=”600″ height=”350″]https://youtu.be/xivG_-FsXKo[/youtube]

So, what did I learn from White Lightnin Malcolm? A lot. We shared a couple beverages and a shot of white lightnin’ or two that evening, and then Madge, Malcolm and I had a great breakfast conversation at The White House, where Malcolm and Stud were staying. We chatted about the importance of: HARD WORK, EDUCATION, RIGHT BEHAVIOR, CONFIDENCE, and most importantly: THANKFULNESS.

“These are the skills you need to go out into the world and play. There are a lot of different types of music a musician may be asked to play in their life, and they don’t have to be able to read music—I can’t read music, but I know enough about what’s going on to figure out what’s going on; you got to know that stuff.”Malcolm on HARD WORK

“It’s like education, there are skills you need to be able to have in order to play. The wider somebody’s vocabulary the better he can speak. You don’t say every word you know, but the broader the vocabulary the deeper one can draw to communicate.”Malcolm on EDUCATION

“What you don’t do sometimes is more important than what you do. The trouble you don’t get into is important. Silence is the most effective note!”Malcolm on RIGHT BEHAVIOR

Malcolm discussed different musicians he plays with and their styles, strengths, personalities, etc., always mentioning that any areas of improvement for him or others is just a matter of working harder and becoming more confident in one’s skills. – Malcolm on CONFIDENCE

“I am just so thankful for life, music, family and friends. Life is what you make it. I always try to be appreciative and thankful; always be thankful and have a thankful heart; it makes the sun shine better!”Malcolm on THANKFULNESS

So, listen to Malcolm and let the sun shine better, and be on the lookout if he is playing somewhere near you. He is awesome; I always leave a Lightnin Malcolm performance more thankful and happier than when I arrived! God is good! All the time! Cheers! Pw

Check out Lightnin Malcolm’s newest album “Foot Soldier.” The Delta Bohemian took the album cover photograph while cruising back roads with Malcolm.

FOOT SOLDIER CD by Lightnin' Malcolm. Photo cover by Poor William of The Delta Bohemian

FOOT SOLDIER CD by Lightnin’ Malcolm. Photo cover by Poor William of The Delta Bohemian

VIDEO
[youtube width=”600″ height=”350″]https://youtu.be/XpO302uTulI[/youtube]

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