“Rosedale, Mississippi, Magic City Juke Joint… Mr. Johnson sings over in a corner by the bar… Sold his soul to the devil so he could play guitar… Too cool to be forgotten.”
I’m a big fan of Lucinda Williams. Her Lake Charles, Louisiana, Texas-proximity-influenced twang resonates throughout her music with one of the prettiest vibratos I’ve ever heard. Her music – an amalgamation of country, Delta blues, Zydeco and Americana – paints a vivid picture of love, toil, longing, joy, sweat and heartbreak. To label her as strictly a country artist is a complement to those of the genre and a disservice to everything else she personifies.
It is a portrait of moments to be found across the entirety of the Deep South. Seemingly plain folks elevated to a status of local legend. Simple, everyday experiences whose roots, it turns out run far deeper than one would likely give credit. Tramps and cads leave their ladies with tear-streaked faces and unpaid bills.
So, every time I’m driving through Mississippi on my way to points west, I have to put her “Car Wheels On A Gravel Road” album in the stereo and imagine her tales unfolding right along the side of the highway I’m headed down.
One of those destinations is Baton Rouge. I used to head to the infamous night club – The Bayou – to catch shows back in the day, too inexperienced and naïve to consider trying out a real juke joint no matter the southern state. Safe to say I would not have ended up a character in a Lucinda Williams song. No guts, no glory.
The Bayou is, sadly, no more. It burnt down in 2002. 25 years of raucous noise and spilled whiskey. Too cool to be forgotten.
Filling the void in my heart, assuaging my own longing, having my spirits buoyed with joy is another kind of juke joint out of Red Stick; Tin Roof Brewing.
While India Pale Ale isn’t exactly the kind of libation one would discover in any a dusty dirt road juke joint, Tin Roof’s Juke Joint, to me at least, captures the wild spirit of criss-crossing backgrounds found in such an establishment. Or, so I imagine. I’m only going by Ms. Williams’ music, which itself criss-crosses genres with precision and soul.
In six short years Tin Roof has become one of Louisiana’s most iconic breweries. In its own – perhaps accidental – blend of styles, their Juke Joint IPA has a west-coast hop overload yet comes off a little like a British IPA. In the glass it’s a shimmery shade of orange with plenty of head and dots of sticky lacing. Nice scents of tangerine, grapefruit and herbal tea lead off while earthy, leafy hop bitterness is wonderfully balanced out by a solid malt base. Citrus peel, muted menthol, turbinado sugar and a hint of apricot carry into a long, dry finish.
Too cool to not be drinking. Put some Lucinda on the record player, pop a Juke Joint and drink in some real Louisiana magic.