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Michael Loyd Young

Blues, Booze and BBQ

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“The Mississippi River Delta is flat country.  Not a hill in sight.  It is often way too cold or way to hot.  Yet there is a subtle beauty to it.  Large plantation owners used to rule this delta country and I imagine what it may have been like 100 years ago.  I can almost smell the history from the front porch where I sit now, as a thunder storm rolls loud and black across the flats, creating waves in the wheat fields resembling a green tumultuous sea.”

“From these former cotton fields came a new art form.  Out of commerce, out of slavery, out of greed, out of necessity, out of Africa, came the BLUES.  Yes, the music; blues, jazz, rock n’ roll and rap came from these cotton fields.  Out of these blood and sweat fields and out of these little one room churches came the voice of an enslaved people.  The voice of the men and women that toiled in these fields is the BLUES, and it is a voice heard around the world”

(text from the book forward by David Alan Harvey)

Blues, Booze, & BBQ documents the 150 miles of Highway 61, the famed blacktop road snaking from Memphis, TN down to Greenville, MS. At the halfway point, in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, sits Clarksdale, MS, the city considered the birthplace of the blues and the location of Robert Johnson’s famed “Cross Road Blues” intersection of Highway 61 and 49.

The Delta has been home to blues legends such as Charley Patton, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Ike Turner, Cadillac John Nolden, B.B. King, T-Model Ford, Mississippi Slim, Big Jack Johnson, and Willie King, among countless others whose music has become the glue that holds these communities together as they struggle to survive.  The photographs, taken at juke joints, in private homes, or just hanging out, illustrate the bond blues creates between the Delta and its people. It is through this music that the people pass on their heritage and culture to future generations.


Michael Loyd Young lives in Houston, TX. Since 2002 Young has worked on several projects, traveling to 21 different countries documenting cultural symbols and the impact they have on the daily lives of the people he photographs. This is Young’s first book. All proceeds will be donated to the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, MS. He is currently working on his second book documenting the hunting and fishing culture along the Gulf Coast, from southern Texas to the Florida Everglades.

PowerHouse Opening December 10, 2009 7-9 PM 37 Main Street Brooklyn, NY 11201 (718) 666-3049 .

Blues, Booze, & BBQ is available NOW. Simply click on the PowerHouse link below to order.

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Michael Loyd Young




Editor’s note:

Please only one comment per person under this essay.. Further discussions should take place under Dialogue..

Many thanks… david alan harvey

51 thoughts on “michael loyd young – blues, booze and bbq”

  1. JIM…

    this IS a book…now…POWERHOUSE….please support independent photography…..i worked with Mike for three years on this project as i am working with several other photographers here on Burn towards their own books…..proceeds for Blues, Booze, & BBQ book go to the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Mississippi……..many thanks…

    cheers, david

  2. I’m liking this. But I did need to get to grips with the text statement first (a good or bad thing? I dunno – everytime I come to a conclusion on artists essays I usually change my mind). The essay isn’t attempting to be profound (imho) but that doesn’t matter. You’ve resisted the temptation to do the blues in black and white – bravo I say (and that’s from someone who loves black and white). The overall aesthetic i think works. Maybe a little tighter in the edit but meh, then it wouldn’t be what you’ve presented here. Love the Robert Johnson references – we all arrive at the crossroads at some point and I like how you’ve captured it.

    Respect and best wishes,

  3. Terrific. I love the way you sequenced the images (I say “sequenced” as opposed to “paced” because first time around I didn’t have the sound turned up) – the way you draw the viewer into a loosely suggested narrative. The only image that didn’t work for me was #19 – a nice try, but that tilt shift thing has gotten somewhat tired (especially now that you can do it with the iPhone!) and it’s also a strange singleton in the series. I’ll be looking for the book – hey, the holidays are upon us…

  4. I love the dynamic that the music adds to these pictures and that the pictures add to the music as well. It all communicates something more powerful to me than just one or the other would alone. Something like attitude or style. Whatever it is, it left me with a good feeling this Monday morning. Thanks.

  5. Love it, it brings back a lot for me and what I miss most about the southeast. Damn, wish I could have done this … have always loved the blues, it’s at the heart of many things :)) Looking forward to my copy.

  6. Interesting, my computer was on mute the first view and I thought that this was a nice collection of images. Personally though, bbq was very underrepresented.

    The next go round, with the mute off it revealed the power of sound. The piece became much more cohesive.
    My only observations: The music just stopped and it should have faded or ended on a cue. There just wasn’t enough about bbq. Nice work Michael.

    Disclaimer- I live in the south and I have had experience with items in the title.

  7. I am a easy sell on this one – as I love anything having to do with The Blues and of course having such a great musical backdrop. In the introductory text, I was a little thrown off by the “way too cold” comment and, as I step back into my house out of the -18 (-28 c) air, am wondering how such a thing could be, but then I doubt that houses are at all well-insulated whereas the wood-fire is burning and it is nice and toasty in my house right now, despite the outside temperature.

    Anyway, I enjoyed the pictures and they made me want to go wander around down there and listen to the music.

    I gave it my old, view the pictures, leave for awhile, return and before looking at it again, see what images my brain could quickly recreate on its own and these are the ones that appeared in my mind:

    The opener, 5, 18, 17, 19 and 23.

    This does not necessarily mean they are better than the others but only that, for some reason, these planted themselves in my memory for whatever reason, be it aesthetic or association. In #23, for example, it was all association – for reasons that I will not delve into but that will be readily apparent to anyone who knows where I live. So there are all kinds of reasons why one photograph will plant itself in any given individuals brain, even as the one next to it does not.

  8. No sense…
    When I saw it first time on David’s website I was thought this are all David’s photos…
    The same light, flash…
    Not everything the same but I was sure it is DAH’s!!!

    Now I don’t know it’s good or no.

    Excellent pictures.

    hats off.


    I really enjoyed seeing your essay…Somehow, David had shared a link way back at the time of Road Trips that I never managed to open so I discovered your work for the first time today… I will most certainly try to get your book as I wanted to see more… Overall, I could not stop myself from thinking also about the work that William Albert Allard has done on the Blues and it is clearly not easy to follow after this as, in my opinion, this was Allard’s very best work…but still, you have many great shots! My prefered photographs are the ones you have done with lower light, getting closer to the musicians. There seem to be such great charaters (like your man on picture 8) with such expressive faces..if anything, I would have liked to see more of them, see more of them playing late in the night, when the bodies and the minds are tired and there is the intoxication from the booze… the heavy atmosphere from the bars, the return in the hotel at night etc… again, I am pretty sure some of this must be in the book but I would have liked to see more of this… In any case Michael, congratulations and good luck for your show opening and the book!!!



    PS: by the way, I remember a very close photographs from David of the Blues man shown on picture 18…. seems that you guys must have ben shooting together at the time… you guys must have had fun listening to the man and his music. good times I am sure….

  10. These are the kinds of pictures, I want to learn to take. Sometimes I think I am taking still too often the obvious. You have the eye for taking the not so obvious pictures. This makes the essay so interesting. It is normal situations, and special pictures by the way you saw it.

    Congrats to your book.
    And now it is time to further develop your style.

  11. All those Fender amps and Stratocasters. Yeah. Wheres a Tardis when one needs one. I’m converted, fuck the photography, I want to play music…..

  12. Frank Michael Hack

    Congratulations Mike. This essay is really fantastic. I am totally sold on the idea of photographs as multi-media. The music adds another dimension and subtext that creates a cohesive story, almost like movie stills. Great Work. Can’t wait to get a copy of the book.


  13. Some wonderful images here, especially the first. Whilst I feel the pictures of the musicians are just part of a bigger plan, I have to say that in my eyes “they are the cream of this particular cake” Well done!

  14. ERIC…

    i always wondered why Allard never went beyond his assignment and create a book on the Blues..almost a crime….yes, some of his best work..but Bill never works unless on assignment, which is strange for such a fine photographer…a loss to be sure that he did not go back down and do that book….i leaned on him several times, as did all his friends, to no avail…


    A Time Not Here sits on my coffee table…i love Norman’s work….now for a trivia question: which very specific person did both Norman and Mike photograph??

  15. Great stuff in the traditional mode, though not sure if #19 fits in.

    I’m still wrapping my head around the deep fried Twinkies.


  16. DAVID,

    Since you asked me a trivia question I’m posting here twice.
    This is not a subject I’m very familiar with but I think it’s gotta be T Model Ford since he’s been touring lately.

    Thanks for asking. You got me to spend some time researching the Delta Blues.

  17. I have to echo Eric Espinosa here… the first thing I thought of when I saw these pictures was Bill Allard’s Blues photos… I agree with Eric and DAH that that was some of his best work, and it sets a high standard. Some of Michael’s photos certainly rise to that level and would not out of place hanging in the same gallery. Not all, perhaps, but many. The other strange thing is that, like Marcin, when I first saw some of these photos, in a different edit, on DAH’s website, for a few moments I thought they were DAH’s photos… but the more I looked, something didn’t quite match and I realized it wasn’t David but someone he was mentoring. I think this edit appearing now on Burn is a better one than I remember. I will reseerve judgement on the book until I actually see it, of course, but I’ve gotta doff my hat to Michael’s vision and effectiveness at communicating it.
    Taking still pictures of performers and musicians (and in my case, often dancers) always raises the question of: why stills?, wouldn’t it be better to use motion photography with an audio soundtrack to try to communicate the experience? That’s a long, complicated discussion, and sometimes I come down on one side, sometimes on another. I first watched this essay without sound, and to tell the truth I felt something was missing, that video would have been a better choice. Then I watched the essay again, with the soundtrack, and had a completely different reaction. Not only was it more substantial and satisfying as an essay, but I actually saw the individual photographs differently. I’m not even particularly crazy about the tune… there many blues pieces that I think might have worked better (and I agree that the soundtrack badly needs a fadeout instead of ending abruptly), but that is less important than the fact that any half-decent blues tune soundtrack completely changes the photo essay and elevates it to another dimension.
    For some time now I’ve been putting musical tracks to all my own slide shows, and this essay just confirms the desirability of that. Much of my frustration with the expressive power of stills to convey performance– especially dance and singing– disappears when the pictures are accompanied by a well-chosen soundtrack. Even better if they can be synched so that the pacing and sequencing actually works in time with the changes in the music. I’m hoping to see more such efforts here on Burn.

  18. Nice work, Michael, and congratulations on the book.

    More often than not, I find the audio in slideshows like this distracting, but I think it works perfectly here – it really reinforces the mood without becoming intrusive. Definitely a cool song.

    The portrait work is especially strong. #5 – wow. The landscapes give some nice context.

    I’d agree with the others who said #19 feels a bit out of place, not for the subject, but because of the tilt-shift effect. I’d like to see this one without the selective focus.

    Overall, great work. I’ll keep an eye out for your book.

  19. I did NOT want this essay to end! I’d seen Michael’s book at DAH’s loft in October and was blown away by its vibrancy and life, but there is something special about seeing this slideshow while listening to the man himself, T Model Ford singing his blues. I must admit I look with envy at the vantage points from which Michael takes his photos. Makes me wish I could move around better and get low and high when shooting. There is such variety here; it’s like I never know where he’s going to take me next. Great work, Michael, and HUGE CONGRATS on the book and upcoming exhibit! I’ll be with you in spirit…


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  21. I feel as if I’ve been slapped silly by this wonderful essay! The images and the introduction are a perfect marriage, and on that level have hit the “sweet spot” the best of the essays I’ve seen here.
    I can’t say I’m a big fan of the Blues, and I could never wrap my ears around why the Delta (Robert Johnson et al) waas such heavy influences on the Stones, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, etc., but this series does. Congratulations Michael, you have opened my eyes – and maybe my ears!

  22. cool musicians
    a bit like the rich gangsta angst rappers in DAHs latest book. i always wonder when i look photos of musicians if the photos about are about good photography or about celebrities trying to look cool, or like the og (millionaire) gangstas in DAHs book (cube at his home?) west side.. BOW DOWN!, is it about making visual history, about the history of music or about “we all that”…………………

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  24. I’m sorry I am not a member of the mutual admiration society that is burn. I visit regularly and look at the work, a lot of which is very good, some even cutting edge. Unfortunately, ‘blues, booze and bbq’ fits in neither of those categories. Image-wise, there are 3 that are worthy of publication, nos. 2,3 and 11. Apart from those, the work is visually mediocre — nothing that we haven’t seen before, as other commentators have mentioned.
    My first concern though is with the introduction which mentions the roots of the blues in an enslaved people; the ‘struggle to survive’; and (photos that) ‘illustrate the bond blues creates between the Delta and it’s people’. The discrepancy between these words and the actual imagery is enormous. I see nothing that tells me anything about the continuing, current-day struggle that gives sustenance to this rich musical tradition. Nothing about the connection between the land and the people that work it and/or live on it and how that might reflect in today’s blues. I don’t necessarily have to see sorrow and pain to be convinced that this is the blues, but the reason for singing this music was and is, to escape, to get out of something, usually the harsh existence in the Delta and the reality of life there. On this basis alone, the disparity between what I read and what I see, I wouldn’t buy the book.
    But more than this, I feel that the photos show an utter lack of risk-taking on the part of the photographer. Visually and personally the work looks very comfortable, as if a couple of juke joints, a handful of blues festivals and some landscapes thrown in for good measure would suffice. And if you are not risking (either at the camera, on the ground or in your narrative structure) anything, to make a photo how are you going to entice someone to look at it? Another pretty picture, of ‘exotic and folkloric’ Mississippi we don’t need.
    After looking at Michael Loyd Young’s work here, I feel like I’ve been taken on a tour bus through Delta Disneyland. I’m all for independent photography and books that derive from it, but please give us imagery that provokes your viewers, that generates more questions than it answers; not a hackneyed, refried treatment disguised as penetrating social documentation.

  25. Hmmm… “disguised as penetrating social documentation.”

    Despite Harvey’s intro–which gives a little history about where the blues came from–it is my understanding that this is about, um… the Blues, some booze and little BBQ. I see people celebrating, loving, enjoying. Nothing seemed to be even remotely “disguised”.

  26. keithyviet, interesting what you write, now I’m even more curious to get the book and see if what is missing here in the essay will be there, as there’s many more pictures..

  27. keithyviet, thank you for the essay review. Since you are not charging me for the critique I would like to send you a signed copy of my book…. Blues, Booze, &; BBQ….a penetrating social documentation of the Mississippi Delta.

    To all of the Burn fans that DON’T spend hours and hours sitting at their computer attempting to impress themselves and others with their endless critique and are out shooting: Don’t give up your dream and DO NOT stop submitting your essays because you are afraid that your work will fail to impress. Don’t shoot what you think certain people want to see, shoot what you see. Your style will find you. I am leaving for Disney today to shoot a penetrating social documentation…in B%W. (because I love Disneyland!)

  28. Michael, congratulations. The photo of the street sign “Blues & Delta” really captures the spirit of the music. I look forward to seeing the book. L

  29. Michael:
    As I said, this was the first time I’ve ever sent a response to burn about an essay. I took the time and I tried to keep the tone of my critique serious and directed at the work and the discrepancy with the intro because I thought it warranted that. It was not sarcastic (as your response was) and it was not an ad hominem attack (as your response was).
    Just wanted to let you know that.
    And as Bob Black would say, “Running”. I’m out to shoot on the streets of Mexico City this afternoon, where I am most days. If you want you can see some of that work here http://www.keithdannemiller.com
    Keith Dannemiller

  30. “…but please give us imagery that provokes your viewers, that generates more questions than it answers; not a hackneyed, refried treatment disguised as penetrating social documentation.”

    This is serious? Heh!

  31. Michael,
    We are very impressed with Blues, Booze & Bbq. It inspires us to follow our dream. You’ve created a story that brings the characters to life with emotion and a touch of humor. We like your emerging style and look forward to seeing where this takes you next.
    Glenn and Sally Jensen

  32. David and Michael,

    I asked Norman and he said it is Poor Monkey that was photographed by both of you.

    He sent me a photo of Model T Ford who he has also photographed.

  33. KEITH…

    thanks for your critique….most welcomed of course….and i write the following being just a bit closer to Mike and his work than i am with many since i have mentored him and pushed him to follow his own personal path of growth and his dreams…..so surely, my following words are in this context….

    when you write about Mike’s “treatment disguised as penetrating social documentation” i just scratched my very bald head….at what point did Mike try to “disguise” anything? did he say, or did i say in my into, that we were going to see a “penetrating social documentation”? i re-read my intro over several times in an attempt to see what you were reading into it..

    yes, of course, historically the Blues came from suffering…obvious…but, Mike certainly had no intention in this work to revisit the history of this suffering but rather to celebrate the results..the positive results of suffering..of art born from suffering…..

    another photographer attempting another kind of essay entirely could have made an essay showing modern day struggles which would parrot and symbolize the historic, but that is not Mike..not as a person, not as a photographer..as a matter of fact mostly what we see of black Americans by white photographers is some cliche attempt to show this struggle by way of truly hackneyed poverty pictures……c’mon now THAT is the cliche of all cliche….rarely do we see celebration of black Americans…

    isn’t it sometimes quite refreshing to see work born of the heart?

    speaking of heart, isn’t it simply a bit cruel on your part to call Blues, Booze & BBQ a “Delta Disneyland” ? the validity of your comment goes right out the window with a non-constructive slap as this…that is not critique…that is just being mean spirited…

    you then had the audacity to link to your Mexico work which i suppose was intended to then show all of us “well boys, this is how it is done”…

    hmmmm, a strange link to show given that long before the African descended peoples arrived by force on this continent was the total subjugation of the indigenous peoples in what is now Mexico…to be fair, i did look at your website, saw some very interesting pictures, and wrote you a private email saying so…but i saw no attempt on your part to document the last 500 years of suffering that went into the making of your work…since you are making no attempt in Mexico to show what you require of Mike in his essay, you just left me wondering about your own parameters…and i sure as hell saw no “heart” in the work..no real evidence of a connection to the people of Mexico…with Mike’s work one senses a connection…someone who loves the Blues, pure and simple…what do you love about Mexico Keith? or what do you hate? what is it for you? or,are visual question marks the only way to be on the leading edge for you?

    in any case, this is an open forum…honesty on your part is of course welcomed and why we are here…in this spirit, i am sure you expect nothing less than honesty in return…


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