Clarksdalesfordians – a musical exchange

August 5th, 2023Clarksdalesfordians – a musical exchange

CLARKSDALE is a town of 15,000 in the US state of Mississippi and considered by many music aficionados to be an important part of the development of blues music.

Words: Tony Sawrey

CLARKSDALE is a town of 15,000 in the US state of Mississippi and considered by many music aficionados to be an important part of the development of blues music.
It is one of the main attractions on the modern day Mississippi Blues Trail with sites such as the Riverside Hotel where many significant touring blues entertainers stayed and the Delta Blues Museum, which for many years was the town’s only major tourist draw.
Over the years the place has counted artists such as Muddy Waters, Sam Cooke, John Lee Hooker and Ike Turner as residents. And somewhere on the surrounding plains are the crossroads where, nearly 100 years ago, singer-guitarist Robert Johnson supposedly sold his soul to the devil to improve his playing skills.
For this and many other reasons fans of blues music from around the world now come to Clarksdale in the heart of the Delta.
In 2006, Daylesford musician Adrian Kosky made his own pilgrimage to the area, but his journey turned out to be more than a fleeting visit. It led to love and marriage along with a lifelong connection to both Clarksdale and the contemporary Delta music scene.
“I met my wife Carla Maxwell the year before while I was on a music scholarship in North Carolina, but returned in 2006,” says Adrian. “Next time I saw her, I had an ambition to get to Clarksdale and needed a ride. She gave me that ride, and the rest is history.”
Carla is a musician from Tennessee with family roots in Kentucky. She had ventured to the Appalachian region bordering the east of the state to learn about her musical heritage and the music of the mountains.
Adrian, an Australian tourist with a deep interest in music of the American south was looking to get to Clarksdale and experience its rich blues history. Carla took him back to Memphis and gave him a quick taste of Clarksdale, setting the course for a union of friendship, love and music.
Together, as husband and wife, their music evokes the traditions of folk blues, combined with old-time Appalachia, while arousing the restless yearning that keeps them on a permanent walkabout between their homes in Mississippi and rural Victoria.
Though the couple came from completely different backgrounds, their entwined cultures of Australia and America inform their folk-driven sound and they regularly play together as Table Hill.
“Carla’s family live around Memphis, and mine are around the Victorian Central Highlands. We have created two homes, one here where our Australian family lives and another in Mississippi, which is close to our American family,” he says.
Before meeting Carla, Adrian had embarked on numerous projects renovating and restoring historic buildings in Daylesford and Trentham from the 1990s on.
With this sort of development experience under his hat, it was not an implausible idea to do something similar in Clarksdale – and in doing so merge the couple’s love of music with a project that would eventually see the creation of a unique cultural interplay between the Delta and the Central Highlands.
“We purchased an old Masonic temple in the downtown area of Clarksdale in 2012, and revitalised the building over three years. We called it The Holy Moly after the rebuild and it includes our US home on the second floor.”
Today the building is part of a revival of the Clarksdale downtown area that was, for many years, neglected and empty. As well as being the couple’s US base, it provides retail and residential spaces for creative people and features a multi-use theatre. And Adrian and Carla regularly open their place up for special events, house concerts and local festivals.
“Both of us are keen to support visiting Australian musicians and artists who have an interest in the Americana Music Triangle (covering an area between Nashville, east to Memphis and south to New Orleans.)
“Likewise, we are also happy to support artists from the US, who might be drawn to the Central Highlands region, to write, heal, create or record. We do this by having self-contained accommodation in both of our homes.”
Adrian adds that the 14 friends who have visited the local region from Clarksdale are called ‘Clarksdalesfordians’ and the many Australians who have come to Clarksdale are known as ‘Clarkstralians’. A cultural exchange that has grown stronger and stronger since 2012.

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