Watermelon Slim Sings Northwest Passage

At The Alluvian Hotel in Greenwood, Mississippi

Watermelon Slim singing "Northwest Passage" at The Alluvian Hotel in Greenwood

Watermelon Slim singing “Northwest Passage” at The Alluvian Hotel in Greenwood

By POOR WILLIAM

VIDEO and PHOTOS

Delta eclectic is not relegated to Clarksdale, MS, though I think we have a short leg up on the rest of God’s fertile country south of Memphis down to Vicksburg. Magical Madge and I were delivering the latest issue of The ‘Sip magazine all over the North Delta last Thursday, ending up in Greenwood where we heard the ubiquitous Watermelon Slim playing in the lobby of The Alluvian Hotel. 

The carrot: A drink in the lobby of The Alluvian Hotel prior to pompano for dinner at Lusco’s restaurant. We were thrilled when we entered the lobby and heard Clarksdale’s own, the inimitable Watermelon Slim. We love Slim, aka Bill Homans! He plays many Monday nights in Clarksdale at Bluesberry Café and on Sunday nights at Red’s Lounge, in addition to traveling the world. There ain’ but one Watermelon Slim. He is a Vietnam veteran, well-educated wealth of knowledge, dapper dresser, agile dancer, member of Mensa and speaker of multiple languages, and one of the finest musicians anydamnwhere! Fact!

He plays a mighty fine harmonica, a wicked guitar on his lap or on its side with a slide, and he enthralls one and all with esoteric tails of his varied past. Often playing Taps and asking the audience to please remove their hats, his reverence for what matters, matters.

Slim sings a song a capella that tugs at Poor William’s heart, always. It is the unofficial national anthem of Canada, and Canada boasts many renowned singers and balladeers. “Northwest Passage” is a haunting tune reminiscent of Canadian Gordon Lightfoot’s “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

VIDEO OF WATERMELON SLIM SINGING NORTHWEST PASSAGE

Roger’s anthem is about the sea route through Canada’s North West Territories attempting to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Many explorers sought to find the route, which would connect Asia and Europe, but the Arctic-like conditions and terrain made the journey impossible, claiming many lives over time. There is also speculation that Roger’s sought to compare the Northwest Passage and his own musical travels.

Stan Rogers was to Canada,” veteran folk artist Tom Paxton has remarked, “what Woody Guthrie was to the United States.”… A Canadian national hero and an international folk legend, Stan Rogers instigated the Celtic music renaissance in North America, performing his Maritime-style music on the folk circuit from Cape Breton to San Francisco, from the Arctic Circle to the Rio Grande River. — Northwest Passage, by Chris Gudgeon, http://stanrogers.net/media-gallery/northwest-passage-book/

The intrepid Watermelon Slim, like many blues musicians, sings to tough crowds—nature of the beast, but one can find a tough crowd even in the elegant Alluvian Hotel, where Delta elite meet, greet, and fete con libations galore. Twas a fine early evening, a good time was had by all revelers, and Slim won them over as he always does! Enjoy the video…

Northwest Passage lyrics:

Cho: Ah, for just one time I would take the Northwest Passage
To find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea;
Tracing one warm line through a land so wild and savage
And make a Northwest Passage to the sea.
Westward from the Davis Strait ’tis there ’twas said to lie
The sea route to the Orient for which so many died;
Seeking gold and glory, leaving weathered, broken bones
And a long-forgotten lonely cairn of stones.
Three centuries thereafter, I take passage overland
In the footsteps of brave Kelso, where his “sea of flowers” began
Watching cities rise before me, then behind me sink again
This tardiest explorer, driving hard across the plain.
And through the night, behind the wheel, the mileage clicking west
I think upon Mackenzie, David Thompson and the rest
Who cracked the mountain ramparts and did show a path for me
To race the roaring Fraser to the sea.
How then am I so different from the first men through this way?
Like them, I left a settled life, I threw it all away.
To seek a Northwest Passage at the call of many men
To find there but the road back home again.


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