By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The blues may be dominated by black men, but this weekend, the blues will be redefined by a black woman and a white man.
The pair in question? Glenis Redmond, a renowned poet, educator and performer, and Scott Ainslie, a blues guitarist and historian. Poetry and spoken word will mix with music for a special performance called “Southern Voices: Black, White and Blues.”
“Glenis and I have been working together, gosh, for eight or nine years,” Ainslie said in a phone interview from his home in Vermont. “We’re both capable of doing shows alone, but together it gets emotionally deep in a hurry.”
Nothing is set in stone for the shows, although they generally have an idea about where the show will go.
“We have some pieces we rehearse, but we also riff off of each other as well. As Scott traverses the territory in song, normally singing songs from the black male perspective, I stride on the landscape from a personal woman perspective,” Redmond said. “It creates both tension and harmony. Ultimately we meet in the middle.”
Ainslie said the show will be uplifting.
“It’s a celebration of life. It’s not about how hard it is. The blues are beautiful. It’s a music of survivors. I’ve always said that, no matter what they’ve done to you, if you can get up in the morning and sing, you win,” he said.
Both performers have ties to the South and spoke of a love for the Southern voice.
“It is musical and lyrical in the best kind of way. Southerners are natural born poets,” Redmond said.
Ainslie said he loves the way Southerners tell a tale.
“One of the things I like about the South is its long tradition of what I call slow storytelling,” he said. “You just glory in not getting to the end of the story, but in the telling of it.”
Prior to Friday night’s concert, the pair will be a part of several workshops in town, separately.
Ainslie will be working with the Tupelo High School Choir and Diversity Choir, as well as with teachers.
Redmond’s workshops will be with writers, as well as one at the Lee County Library.
“They can come and be inspired to bring the poet within out,” she said. “They will surprise themselves with the stories they have to tell.”
Both promised an inspiring night of music and poetry on Friday.
“It’s always powerful, and always really emotional,” Ainslie said. “We’ll leave people glad to be human beings.”
“Come experience poetry, music and soul. Be ready to be surprised, intrigued and uplifted,” she said. “It’s a lot like church, or at least the church I went to as a child, a lot of clapping and verbal affirmations such as ‘amen’ and ‘tell it.’”
Contact Sheena Barnett at firstname.lastname@example.org or (662) 678-1580.