Blue in Green: Public competes with plants to hear duo revive ‘old women’s’ music at Mary-Ann’s Polarrigg

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(Dark Season Blues festival blog by Staff Writer Marion Prudhon, 4 p.m. Saturday): No stage here, just two chairs and a display of old vinyl from blues legend Jessie Mae Hemphill serving an artel altar for Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey’s source of inspiration.

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Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey perform acoustic blues at Mary-Ann’s Polarrigg on Saturday. Photo by Marion Prudhon / Icepeople.

Indeed, they started by referring to Hemphill, presented as the queen of the hill country blues, then to Janis Joplin. Both musicians spent their Saturday afternoon concert at Mary-Ann’s Polarrigg narrating the story of old women’s blues between songs that they performed in turn or together.

Standing out among their repertoire was Janis Joplin’s “What Good Can Drink Bring,” complete with a circumstantial reference to their locale.

Mary-Ann’s winter garden restaurant was full and public had to compete with the plants when bringing in extra chairs. The venue was fitting for the two blues women who managed to get the crowd out of those seats and clapping in rhythm, even singing with them.