In the spirit of Delta Blues musicians before him, Mississippi Gabe Carter has developed quite a fan base with music aficionados from across the pond. Fresh off a three-week tour in France, he has an upcoming gig at a place that’s been likened to an “Italian countryside meeting the American Farmhouse… in Keith Richards bar!”
But the Three Aces gig on Taylor Street isn’t until Wednesday, January 30 so Mississippi Gabe will continue to search for places and people who want to hear him play. And once again, it’s easy to find parallels between this 29-year “Archangel of the Blues” and the wizened old bluesmen who have influenced him.
Despite his young age, Carter comes across as an old soul who is steeped in the raw, down-home blues of Bentonia, Mississippi. Given his first $5 guitar at the tender age of five, Carter was soon picking out tunes and playing along with his father—a blues pianist.
While Carter started out playing tunes in the style of BB King and more mainstream blues artists, his musical epiphany came about after checking out a documentary video at his local library in southwestern Michigan. There, he discovered the sparse blues sound immortalized by Jack Owens. Carter sensed a musical kinship with Owens and immediately picked up the style and nuances of the Bentonia bluesman.
Although Owens didn’t board a plane and play in New York City until he was well into his nineties, Carter’s career has been characterized by trips to far-flung places like France and Peru as well as frequent gigs in and around the city of Chicago. He picked up the “Mississippi” moniker from some elderly black men while playing on west side street corners. And while Carter certainly made his mark around places like Garfield Park, he said that his preferred spot to play is on Milwaukee Avenue just south of North Avenue in Wicker Park.
Of course, Chicago’s notoriously nasty winter weather makes those outdoor gigs hard to handle during these mean months, so Carter was happy to get such a warm reception in France. He noted that it was his third trip over there and it is always heartening to play for an audience that is “more engaged” and added that “they have a much bigger respect for artists over there.”
Carter also intends to make the trek down to the crossroads in Clarksdale, Mississippi to play at the annual Juke Joint Festival in April. He said that he already has a firm booking at the venerable New Roxy Theatre but “usually ends up playing a few gigs that are completely unplanned.” Carter also received an enthusiastic reception at the Windy City Blues Tent at the 2012 Chicago Blues Festival.
With a voice that has been likened to the late Junior Kimbrough, Carter can be seen as a standard-bearer for the next generation of bluesmen. Yet he conceded that he “does not know how much of the music will stick” with future generations. He compared blues to classical music of the past when he said that he expected “bits and pieces” of the genre to remain because “anything that’s worth keeping around, people will make sure that it stays.”
If you’ve got a hankering for some down-home blues, you’ll find the music of Mississippi Gabe Carter on both I-Tunes and CD Baby. You’ll also find more details on Carter via the ReverbNation website. His next scheduled live performance will be a free show on Wednesday, January 30 beginning at 8 pm at Three Aces, which is located at 1321 W. Taylor Street in Chicago. Have a local brew and some savory food as you kick back and listen to tasty blues by way of Mississippi Gabe Carter.