By Sheena Barnett
WEST POINT – The Howlin’ Wolf Festival celebrates the blues of the past and the future.
The festival pays tribute to one of the greats, and opening the festival this year is a young Mississippi man who’s following in the Wolf’s footsteps.
Castro Coleman is better known by his stage name, Mr Sipp, “The Mississippi Blues Child.”
After years of recording gospel music, Coleman went for the blues.
He and his band competed in the International Blues Challenge last year and were runners-up; this year, they won.
“When we played the IBC in 2013, at that point we were three and a half weeks old. We went straight to the finals, and that really started the buzz. Not winning was one of the greatest things that ever happened,” he said in a phone interview with the Daily Journal. “We only knew four songs. But we came back in 2014 and won.”
Coleman, a McComb native, released his debut blues album, “It’s My Guitar,” last year, and he played every instrument on the album.
Though his roots are in gospel, the transition to blues has been natural. He’s always looking for ways to make his style of the blues stand out.
“I want to be on the edge of everything,” he said. “I don’t want to play it safe.”
Coleman’s energetic live shows are full of personality.
“I’m my own manager. I work so much during the week, so on the weekend, the stage is my recess. I can’t wait to go to recess. There are no phone calls, trying to work deals or trying to make the best decision I have to,” he said. “I try to provide a show that has everything: fun, excitement, laughter, spiritual (elements), high energy.”
Coleman is ready to record a new album, and he has a slew of tour dates going into 2015.
He’s looking forward to paying tribute to Howlin’ Wolf and welcome blues fans from all over the world to West Point.
“We bring joy to the life of the world through our music,” he said. “We’re making sure we have a juke with the hook.”
• What: 19th annual Howlin’ Wolf Memorial Blues Festival, featuring George Porter Jr. & His Runnin’ Pardners, Carolyn Wonderland, Lightnin’ Malcolm & Stud, and Mr. Sipp
• When: 7 p.m. Friday
• Where: Mary Holmes College Auditorium, West Point
• Cost: $15/advance, $20/door
• Info: (662) 605-0770, wpnet.org/index.php/attractions/howlin_wolf/blues_festival
• Extra: Small coolers are allowed