Berklee guitarist felt the souls of Mississippi blues pioneers

Noe Socha turned 20 on his trip to Mississippi, though his birthday was the dimmest of the highlights from his trip. Noe is a deep devote of the blues and the Mississippi musicians whose music has transcended generations and oceans to influence a kid from Capri, Italy, who started out playing classical music on his guitar. This was his first trip down South and every time he stepped out of the van to explore another historic landmark, he tapped into something spiritual coming up from the grounds where Robert Johnson, Tommy Johnson, Honey Boy Edwards, B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and Albert King once roamed with their guitars.

Noe took every opportunity to infuse the spirits of the Mississippi bluesmen with his guitar and harmonica playing. He and Eric Finland busked in Clarksdale and performed in the small theater at the B.B. King Museum in Indianola. The crowd at the Hopson Plantation Commissary on the outskirts of Clarksdale looked up from their trays of crawfish and sausage whenever Noe soloed during a firery set by the Berklee Blues Explosion.

Noe put his guitar aside one morning for a tour of blues and civil rights sites around Greenwood. He and the rest of the travelers set out with guide Sylvester Hoover, historian and owner of Hoover’s Convenience Story located in Baptist Town, one of Mississippi’s oldest African American neighborhoods, located on the other side of the tracks from Greenwood. On foot and in the van, Hoover took the group to see where Robert Johnson was buried, where Emmett Till whistled, and where numerous civil rights had been violated.

After knocking around the memories of darker days, and some not so long ago, Hoover’s wife served the crew barbecue back at the store, and the mood lifted. The group really shook loose at Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale, playing a set at the annual Juke Joint Festival, with local special guest musicians including singer Chris Coleman on Albert King’s “I Play the Blues for You.”

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