Venessia Young and The Pure Blues Express
Gig Seeker Pro

Venessia Young and The Pure Blues Express

Band Blues


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos


The best kept secret in music


"Celebrated Handy Award Winner Boosts Local student by Panny Mayfield"

Celebrated multiple W. C. Handy Award winner, Jessie Mae Hemphill shares a joke and some guitar instruction with 16-year-old student musician Venessia Young, who attends afternoon classes at the Delta Blues Museum. "She's ready to go on the road," says Hemphill, who heard about Young's talent and made a special trip to Clarksdale to hear her play. The daughter of Katherine Young and a junior at Clarksdale High School, Young participated in the 1998 international student workshop at the Notodden Blues Festival in Norway. Her teacher at the museum is Michael "Dr. Mike" James. - Clarksdale Press Register, Thurday November 18, 1999

"The Blues Is Dying in the Delta, Where It Was Born"


Venessia Young, a 17-year-old high school senior who plays wicked guitar, is one of them. Her classmates refuse to listen to the Blues.

But when she hears it, she hears something Paul Jones and Cedell Davis and T-Model Ford hear.

"I'm going to attend Mississippi State next year, and they want me to play in a jazz group, " she said.

"But that music, I just don't feel it. - The New York Times National Sunday, April 22, 2001

"Howlin' Wolf Fest Brings Background by Claire Stone"


Twenty year-old Blues prodigy Venessia Young will appear at the 2004 Howlin' Wolf Memorial Blues Festival Friday with her band, Pure Blues Express.
A Clarksdale native and a Mississippi State University student, Young began playing guitar at age 14, and is also the vocalist in Pure Blues Express.
She is backed up by her younger sister, Fazenda, on bass and drummer Lee Williams. Both are 17 years old.
"Venessia is the product of the Delta Blues Education program over in Clarksdale, " explained Richard Ramsey, festival coordinator.
"She has received much acclaim for her studies of the Blues."
Ramsey first encountered Young at MSU's anniversary celebration as she sat in on a couple of tunes with Willie King, another Howlin' Wolf featured artist.
- Daily Times Leader, Sunday August 22, 2004

"Clarksdale, Miss: Birthplace of the Delta Blues by C. Richard Cotton"


Pure Blues Express accomplished something none of the other-mostly rock-bands could. The traditional blues trio got people out of their lawn chairs and up to the foot of the stage, clapping, swaying, and even some dancing at a recent music festival a few miles outside Clarksdale, MS.

Now it's understandable that giants like B. B. King or Buddy Guy or any of dozens of other seasoned bluesmen (and women) could have that kind of effect on an audience, but the average age of Pure Blues Express is 15.6.

"I started on keyboard and then Bass. My teacher wanted me to play guitar, "says lead guitarist and vocalist, Venessia Young, 17, who after three years on the guitar is playing music that would make any aspiring guitarist envious.

"I play the clarinet in the school band, but this is better, " says Fazenda Young, 13, who's been backing her older sister on Bass for the past year.

The siblings and their drummer, Lee Williams, 17, are students of Michael "Dr. Mike" James, intructor of Blues music at Clarksdale's Delta Blues Museum, established in 1979 and housed in the old freight station along the train tracks that bisect Clarksdale.

Not only is Pure Blues Express an ambassador for the Blues, having played in Norway, Nashville, Tenn., and twice in Washington, D.C., (once for President Clinton to satisfy his curiosity about the music), but also the group embodies Clarksdale's quest to embrace the Blues as never before. - American Profile Magazine, January 21, 2001

"Blues' Best to play Saturday"

Clarksdale will be well represented in this year's Mississippi Delta Regional Blues Challenge to be held Saturday in Indianola.

The evet, entering its second year, will be held at the historic Club Ebony beginning at 3 p.m.

Two acts from Clarksdale scheduled to perform Saturday are Lightining Malcom and Venessia Young and the Pure Blues Express. - David Owens -Nov 4, 2005

"Students to perform concert Saturday"

Venessia Young, one of the program's teachers, was a member of the class about a decade ago. Young, now 22 and lead singer of the Pure Blues Express, joined the class when she was 11 years old.

"I enjoyed being able to play in front of people, learning different instruments and being able to play in different festivals, she said.
"The better I got the more places I got to see", Young said. "I also enjoyed being part of such a historic place. "Playing at the museum is an honor."
Young's groups which includes sister Fazenda Young and drummer Lee Williams also came together through our class.

"We've been together for about six years now," Young said. "We are going to be playing at the opening of the B.B. King Museum and a Hwy 61 Blues Festival in Leland. All of the graduates network and stay together." Young said the program works because young musicians understand someone more in their age range.
"They also havea role model and someone to look up to, "she said. "They really enjoy playing for people and have some great voices. These kids are going to be good."
Young said it was exciting for her to remain as a teacher to see the kids grow and develop musically.

"Teaching blues is a gift that keeps on giving", she said. "You can do anything you want to do with it. I especially love to see women in the Blues, because a lot of people think that Blues is men's music. "Blues is very much alive, " Young said. "There are a lot of young people in the blues. I will not let it die." - Clarksdale Press register Dec 17,2005

"Howlin' Success by Amanda Harris"


People from around West Point and beyond were entertained Friday Night at the Howlin' Wolf Festival. Heels were tapping when 20-year old Venessia Young of Clarksdale and her band, Pure Blues Express, took the stage. - Daily Times Leader, Sep 4, 2004

"Editorial by Scott Barretta"

In the early hours of April 6, Junior Kimbrough's juke joint in Chulahoma, Mississippi, burned to the ground. Here in Oxford, just about 40 minutes south of the juke, the news was particularly hard, the fire depriving us of one of the things that made living in North Mississippi most enjoyable.
Junior's was known well beyond North Mississippi, drawing Blues fans and camera teams from around the world, and in a certain regard came to serve as the symbol of modern down-home Mississippi blues in the last decade. Former LB editor Peter Lee founded Fat Possum records in the early 1990s to document the magic of R.L. Burnside and David "Junior" Kimbrough's live performances at the juke, and the vitality of the groove-oriented, electric ensemble sound of the North Mississippi hill country captured on these records alerted many to the fact that Mississippi blues didn't disappear or cease to develop when Muddy Waters moved North.
The Juke-with its friendly locals, funky architecture, and folk art-adorned walls-subsequently became celebrated on documentaries, magazine articles, and tourist guides, and was often depicted in these as a holdout from a nearly bygone era, or even as embodying the last gasp of "authentic" blues culture. The juke certainly provided ample fodder for visitors' romantic projections, but in reality it was less than a decade old, just one in a series of many jukes Junior Kimbrough had run through the years(since his death two years ago the juke has been run by family members)
Juniors served as a focal point for outsiders who wished to explore the otherwise elusive north Mississipppi scene, and although its disappearance is tragic, it would be short-sighted to view its departure in flames as marking the end of an era. This was all too clear to me on a recent Tuesday night at an impromptu juke in Como, where David and Kenny Kimbrough played their father's music together with the talented 16-year-old Clarksdale guitarist and bassist Venessia Young.
- Living Blues Magazine, May/June 2000 Number 151, Vol. 31, No. 3

"Blues Girl, Way Out Front, She's 16, Got A Voice That Sparkles, & She's From Clarksdale"

Venessia and Fazenda Young went to Como one night in late May to work. They wore matching dark suits, long jackets with straight skirts that came to their knees.

Venessia singing and playing guitar and Fazenda on bass, they performed several blues standards for a small crowd that included some of the art's best-known current Delta practitioners - Big Lucky Carter, CeDell Davis, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Othar Turner.

Fazenda's bass was consistent, competent. Venessia's voice was powerful, clean and controlled. Her guitar lead confident, impressive.

"She is bad," said the harpist Blind Mississippi Morris, meaning, of course, that Venessia was good, really good, on Stormy Monday Blues.

"What's her name?" he said after she finished I'm a Woman, her version of I'm a Man.

Before other people in the crowd told him her name, they told him her age. She's 16.

"She is bad," Morris repeated respectfully. It was somewhat disconcerting to hear a wholesome, inexperienced high school kid express the pain of love so accurately with her voice, and imitate depth of experience so convincingly with her guitar.

The outdoor event was organized to entertain a film crew with Blues Odyssey, a project of former Rolling Stone Bill Wyman, and the photographer Annie Leibovitz, who was in Mississippi to take pictures for a book on American music.

After the Young sisters performed, Morris and Jessie Mae Hemphill stopped them to compliment them. Their mother, Katherine, listened patiently to the expressions of surprise about their youth. She's heard it for years. Venessia, who will be 17 July 28, began playing blues on keyboard when she was 12. Fazenda, who plays drums and bass, turned 13 June 3.

Venessia doesn't graduate from high school until 2001, but she's already a graduate of the Delta Blues Education Fund, and she works as an assistant teacher weekdays at the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale.

"Oooh, she is one of the most talented students we've seen," says John Ruskey, executive director of the Delta Blues Education Fund, when Venessia is mentioned.

"She's not only good at one instrument, the guitar, but her best instrument may be the keyboard. She has a beautiful voice, a great attitude about her music. She sparkles when she's on stage," Ruskey says.

"There are people who think - they've seen her at the festivals - club owners and management people, who think she's an upcoming star."

"She's fantastic," said Bill Gresham, chairman of the Delta Blues Museum's board of trustees. Venessia played with musicians at his birthday celebration this month. "She has the ability to be a professional. She'll go somewhere with her musical talents. I think she'll be recorded sometime."

And the Delta Blues Education program's artistic director, `Mr. Johnnie' Billington, said, "As well as she plays, she could earn a good living at what she's doing." For him, her youth is a source of something like frustration.

"She's doing wonderful as far as playing, but then, you know, she's going to have to wait another three to four years to get grown, to do something successful, which she could have did years back."

Venessia's mother, accounts receivable manager at a community health center in Clarksdale, does not want her daughter to travel without her on music gigs, Billington said.

In Venessia's hometown of Clarksdale, the blues is revered as an art and taught like a trade. It is local history with worldwide implications. Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Earl Hooker, Junior Parker and Ike Turner came from Clarksdale. It's an inheritance, the artful expression of the hard labor and overcrowding imposed on the African-American population working the land in the last century.

Robert Palmer, music critic, record producer and author of Deep Blues, has described the beginnings of Mississippi Delta blues this way: "The simplest way to characterize the music's origin is as a turn-of-the-century innovation, accommodating the vocal traditions of work songs and field hollers to the expressive capabilities of a newly popular stringed instrument, the guitar."

The importance of the lead guitar explains why Venessia prefers that instrument. "I like being at the front. On the bass and keyboard, you're in the background. With the guitar, I'm in the front."

As if it's a charm, she repeats the story of how she came to the blues the same way, every time she's asked. She was 12 years old, she was hanging out at the Carnegie Library in Clarksdale one day, when the Delta Blues Museum was still attached to that building. She was curious and climbed the stairs with the names of famous blues artists printed on them.

"As I went up the stairs, I heard (a recording of) Big Mama Thornton, playing Hound Dog. I made it to the top of the stairs and saw a man playing the guitar. I watched him intently for 30 minutes. Then h - The Commercial Appeal, July 16, 2000 by Peggy Burch

"Blues Help Bridge Racial Barriers"


CLARKSDALE - Andrew Turner holds the heavy metal door open, leaning his head into the room cluttered with instruments and chairs to check on his students at the Delta Blues Museum.

"Listen," Turner tells his students in the beginner blues education class. The former blues musician wants his protégés to not only concentrate on the instrument they are playing but to also keep the beat.

Beginner instructors, Turner, 48, known as "Mr. Shine," and Billy Williams are teaching this uniquely American music style to students ranging from preschool age to a college professor.

Students learn to play the blues in a corner room of the museum, located in the heart of the Mississippi Delta where most agree the music style originated.

"To see the look on their faces and say 'I did it' - that is the most rewarding thing," Williams said.

All courses are taught by working and experienced musicians, who can also offer tips to musicians on how to put on a great blues show.

"As long as they know that they are going to play somewhere, they will pretty much do what we tell them to do. They'll go in there and take care of their business because they love to play," Williams said.

The program was originally known as the Delta Blues Foundation Education program. In 1997, it was re-christened the Delta Blues Arts and Education Program.

Maie Smith, the museum's interpretation specialist, said the program was originally started as an outreach for underprivileged children in the area.

"It is something rewarding that they can learn from and grow from and become a complete person because their parents didn't have money to get them into other clubs and activities," Smith said.

The museum charges $15 per year for children, but Smith said that the fee is often waived for underprivileged children. The program costs $25 per month for adults.

The sessions have also brought together children of all races, Smith said.

"It is great that the two races can play together and make some great noise - music. That is one of my dreams with the program that we could be able to reach out to the community," Smith said.

In addition to bridging racial barriers, Smith said the program is also serving as a springboard for a new generation of blues artists.

"It is a way of keeping the heritage alive, a way of passing it on down to the next generation this great art form of music - the blues," Smith said.

With beginner, intermediate and advanced classes, the program is already producing talented students, like Venessia Young.

Young, 21, enrolled when she was a preteen, cutting her teeth on the keyboards and bass guitar and eventually moving to the lead guitar.

"I've always been raised around a blues atmosphere," Young said.

At 15, Young became an assistant teacher with the program, at times helping people twice her age to master the keyboards and guitar.

"A lot of the kids in Clarksdale are underprivileged. They don't have things to do after school. It was just a joy for me to be a part of something that they could take on," Young said.

Now a senior at Mississippi State University, Young has her own band, Pure Blues Express.

During her recent winter break from school, she spent time working at the museum as Smith's apprentice.

Though college students her age may be not be attuned to the blues, Young still finds herself drawn to the museum and the music she learned there.

"I just feel the blues," Young said.

The program has also spawned other blues talents, including Jacqueline Nassar, 13, who enrolled to develop her guitar skills. Nassar is reportedly working on songs for her debut album.

Detric Shields, 6, has quickly worked his way to the advanced class. Though he disappears behind a regular size drum set, Shields and his band - Minor Blues - are becoming regulars on the blues circuit.

- Sun Herald, Jan 3, 2005


Still working on that hot first release.


Feeling a bit camera shy


Pure Blues Express is different from other bands in that it has two female guitarists that are also sisters. They are also different because the band members are younger than most other blues artists. Their sound has been described as "wicked". They have a variety of influences including Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin Wolf, Bobby Blue Bland, Big Mama Thornton, Susan Tedeschi, Shemekia Copeland, and Buddy Guy. Pure Blues Express has performed in places such as The White House, The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., Bologna Arts Performing Center at Delta State University, Fox 13 News at W.C. Handy Park, Notodden Blues Festival in Norway, Howlin Wolf Blues festival in West Point, MS, Como Blues Festival, Sunflower River Blues Festival, and Ground Zero Blues Club owned by Morgan Freeman in Clarkdale, Ms. They have been featured in Blues Revue, The Commercial Appeal, Clarion Ledger, Daily Times Leader, Clarksdale Press Register, New York Times, Telen, a Norwegian newspaper, American Profile Magazine, Living Blues, and Merian, a German magazine.