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Traveling the backroads of the Mississippi Delta can feel like a rootsy American homecoming, and it can also feel like visiting another country—sometimes in the same moment. It’s been called “the most Southern place on earth,” with a complex and fascinating history as rich as its soil. Following the Mighty Mississippi along legendary Highway 61 toward Clarksdale, the unofficial capital of the blues, you’ll become intimately acquainted with the area’s perfectly authentic, gritty vibe. After all, this is the region where bluesman Robert Johnson traded his soul for his talent; where the Civil Rights movement took hold; where the sons of sharecroppers rose to international stardom; and where theDelta Blues sound was born from church songs, back alleys and cotton fields, and went on to inspire the genesis of rock and roll. Many of the sites and stories on this leg of the Gold Record Road are told through the Mississippi Blues Trail, an incredible resource for preserving and promoting the history of the blues long after the physical buildings and landmarks have crumbled or been razed in the name of progress. In this day and age, blues history isn’t tied to specific addresses—it’s about breathing in the thick air of the Delta, watching the Mississippi carve its way through the basin, standing on a railroad track at a country crossroads and soaking up the cotton-covered rural landscape. It’s about finding yourself in a juke joint in a rural town and understanding segregation, hardship, beauty and strength in a new way. Welcome to the Delta Highway.
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