Tuesday, June 4, 2013

San Angelo, Texas, home of Sealy Flats

As it was described to us by a local, San Angelo is not bisected by any major interstate in the vast western to central Texas region, therefore there is just a tiny bit of "inbred mentality" among its population. This was not said in a negative sort of way and the town is by no means sleepy or unconnected to the outside world. Our destination, Sealy Flats, was smack in the middle of downtown, a one-hundred-year-old restored rooming house and former bordello, that has been transformed into a blues mecca by Rod and Denise Bridgeman. Sealy Flats is the realization of a dream and passion that is metamorphosing the downtown area into a cultural "scene." In 2008, Rod and Denise created the Blues themed inn, art gallery, gift shop, and delightful music venue. This was followed next door with a wonderful eatery/diner a year later. Everyone is super Texas-friendly and very connected to the founders' vision of making you feel at home while embracing the muse of this music. Rod walked Ruth and me around the other side, around the corner from this arts compound, to a separate building, where musicians who travel to perform in the club are housed in charming "juke joint" style. Everything is period appointed throughout the kitchen, bedrooms, and musical jam space; and walking through, I felt the comfort and security that public musicians often crave, away from the energy and intensity of public performance and spotlight. One detail that brought a smile to our faces was the trumpet shower head in one of the bathrooms. The walls of the inn were covered with old 78, 33-1/3, and 45 records, show posters from blues venues, original paintings of the pantheon of blues greats, and upon each door the monikers of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Etta James, Robert Johnson, and many others, created a themed space. Here is a shot of a sample room.

We arrived to check out the blues inn on Monday, the first day of the series of six music nights a week. Mondays are usually reserved for open mic, but the night we were there we were entertained by Cary Morin, a Native American who plays the finger style blues. (Here is a video clip of a young John Lee Hooker playing in this style and singing about a devastating flood that swept the delta region.) This was our first trip encounter with live blues and this kick-off was stunning. I've included his website with samples of music and video. Cary is an extremely talented artist who has devoted most of his life to the craft. He and his wife, Celeste, travel the roads of America playing and moving the art form forward. His fame slumbers with his awesome playing style, awaiting the kiss of public recognition to awaken them to the mass mind of music.

Now, please don't get the impression that Sealy Flats stands alone on the island of the blues! The town's blues community network has come together in the form of the San Angelo Blues Society, the sole purpose of which is to learn about, keep the history alive, promote social networks, and sponsor a yearly blues festival and competition that draws from the entire western Texas region (image of officers).  Their collective "voice," coupled with those of Sealy Flats', Rod and Denise, broadcasts the power and nurtures the blues throughout the region, much like the power that "clear channel" night time radio had throughout America in the days when radio was king.

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