Blues music has a storied history of mentorship and apprenticeship. Without Willie Dixon, the music world probably never gets to hear the soul-blues sounds of Otis Rush. Without the care and tutelage of Howlin’ Wolf, the world of blues probably never has a chance to hear the words of Hubert Sumlin and without Muddy Waters looking out for Buddy Guy in the beginning of Guy’s career then millions of guitar hero wannabees probably never get the chance to steal guitar riffs credited to Jimi Hendrix.
To a lesser extent, the mentorship and apprenticeship extends to the the trance blues emanating from the Bentonia area of Mississippi. Though an accomplished singer/song writer/guitarist before his initial trip down to Bentonia, Carter always speaks highly of the Jack Owens and Jimmy "Duck" Holmes.
Below is an interview conducted with ‘Mississippi’ Gabe Carter through e-mail exchanges. Be sure to stay tuned to the Boston Blues Society May newsletter for a review of ‘Mississippi’ Gabe Carter’s 2008 release “Midnight Dream”.
Georgetown Fats - I realize the why you have taken on the ‘Mississippi’ moniker, what I am curious to know is did someone dub you ‘Mississippi” Gabe or was it a name you gave yourself? Given your ties to the Midwest (Carter was born in Indiana, raised in Michigan and now lives in Chicago) it seems to be an ambitious moniker, which given the authenticity of your sound you have earned.
Mississippi Gabe Carter - I used to play on the street in a neighborhood of Chicago called Garfield Park. I got to be popular with the older black men there, who are mostly from down south. "Mississippi" is what they called me. Actually, if you are getting technical, it's more like "Missippi".
Georgetown Fats - It is probably a question you receive often, but when and where did you get your first taste of the Bentonia blues sound?
Mississippi Gabe Carter - It happened when I saw Jack Owens on a documentary that I rented from the library. The documentary is called, "The Land Where the Blues Began". I was just out high school at that time.
Georgetown Fats - The first time I heard your voice, and playing I was not picturing a 28 year old from the Mid-West. Is it your musical roots (Carter’s father is a blues pianist, Carter’s uncle Beans Richardson played with Aretha Franklin, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis) or does it stem from being exposed to that Bentonia sound at such an early age that has given you the gift of authenticity?
Mississippi Gabe Carter - I think it is a combination of things that have allowed me to play the way I do. Having kind of a screwed up youth, I think is a big part of it. Partly, it's being exposed to blues from birth. But, I think more than anything else, it's just genes. Some people can draw the most beautiful lines when they are three years old. Other people can take whole cars apart and put them back together, before they can read. I happen to be able to play blues. I got lucky.
Georgetown Fats - You have taken a DIY approach to both your sound, and the business elements. In fact, there was a deadline to pull off this interview in order to reach you before you headed out of the country again. Could you provide some information on this next swing outside of the US?
Mississippi Gabe Carter - I would love to get help from anyone who would like to. I can use it. But, I just got back from playing at a blues festival in Beauvais, France. And now I'm headed down to Peru for a month, where I will be doing a number of small shows.
Georgetown Fats - I understand you’re a solo artist, do you also hit the road alone too or is there someone behind the scenes?
Mississippi Gabe Carter - Luckily, as a solo musician, no matter where I go I can find work. I rely mostly on people who would like to get me around to play in their area, and would like to help out in terms of scheduling. I do travel alone typically though.
Georgetown Fats - Are there any particular cities/towns/countries you are particularly amped up when you receive bookings in the area?
Mississippi Gabe Carter - I love France, I have to say. They take really good care of me there. They love what I do, and they know how to show it.
Georgetown Fats - I am told you should expect an infestation of 10 Foot Polecats in May/June on this year. Are there any secrets as to how to treat your home to prevent long-termed damage?
Mississippi Gabe Carter - Yeah, it's called "Super 8".
Georgetown Fats - Midnight Dream has garnered you critical acclaim from Deep Blues patrons all over the web, are you planning on a follow-up CD?
Mississippi Gabe Carter - I just released one, actually. It's called "Live at Duke's with Uncle Walt". It is also available at cdbaby.com.
Georgetown Fats - If you could impart any wisdom on folks who think all blues has to be a reproduction of the I, IV, V 12 - bar Chicago blues sound, what would it be?
Mississippi Gabe Carter - Go back, and find out who and what gave birth to that sound. Take a listen to Cecil Barfield or Robert Pete Williams. Listen to the music that was played and passed down by slaves in our country.
Georgetown Fats - Who is your ideal ‘Mississippi’ Gabe Carter fan? Do you find yourself receiving more support from the college radio crowd, or by the blues purists?
Mississippi Gabe Carter - My ideal fan, is a fan that finds me paying shows in his or her area! And one who turns their friends on to me. I have found support from both groups, but I would say more from blues purists.
Georgetown Fats - Great! Thanks Gabe! Please let everyone know the best way to get a hold of "Midnight Dream" or your other release “Live at Duke's with Uncle Walt”.
Mississippi Gabe Carter - Just look me up on cdbaby.com both albums are available there! And thank you!