Durham News: Opinion

Pam Saulsby: Barbecue and the blues

I am sitting on the outside looking in at the beautiful, brand-new-looking, brick façade of the space that once was Ed Mitchell’s Que.

If you love Eastern-style North Carolina barbecue, then you know the man. Mitchell is the legendary pit master who made his name famous for preserving the art of whole hog barbecue.

Last year, he set up shop right next to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. It’s hard to see the condition of the place now. The floor-to-ceiling glass windows are lined and conceal everything to any casual observer.

I am not a casual observer. I was booked to perform at Mitchell’s. It’s not “funny” funny, but the restaurant and blues lounge shut down the same week that I was scheduled to sing with the House Band and Friends.

I have recently added some cool blues tunes to my repertoire. It’s an outgrowth from the new single written by Nick Driver that I released in January called “Brand New Day.” This little ditty is a far departure from some of the sweet and sultry songs that people who listen to me are used to. I call this song “My Grown Woman Anthem.”

It starts like this: “Some people come, some people go – I made my name on a TV show.” It’s a blues song all right. Some listeners say it’s even got a rock music edge to it.

You likely know the feeling that I was feeling leading up to my chance to show the people what I was working with! Just think Christmas Eve. I mean, Santa coming to your house! That, or maybe the feeling you get when you and your friends are sitting near the front row when the curtain rises and you see one of your all-time favorite musicians perform. Got it? Well then, you got me!

I am not trying to over-exaggerate but I was over-the-top happy about being invited by the restaurant’s music arranger to touch the floor of Mitchell’s blues corner. The band was going to be playing “Brand New Day” and many other songs we had rehearsed. It was going to be the first time listeners would hear a funkier, edgier me performing live.

But guess what? All is not lost.

A reliable source tells me that while Mr. Mitchell’s Que Restaurant and Blues Experience is no longer in business at The American Tobacco Campus in Durham, there are plans to re-open in a larger location. In fact, Mitchell has his eye on two locations: one between Chapel Hill and Durham and another on the outskirts of Raleigh.

I had to put my knee to the ground to see what the inside of the vacated venue near the DBAP looks like now. I saw lots of big moving boxes stacked against a wall, velvet soft-looking black leather couches jammed together, and an empty bar.

I was staring at disruption. Temporary, yes, but disorder nonetheless. Shoot, if we live long enough, we all know what that looks and feels like. Just speaking for myself, without a doubt, I’ve seen my share of shakeups and setbacks. Like a lot of you who’ve been on the planet a minute like me, I also know comebacks.

Here’s the deal. If all of his dreams come to fruition with the new Mitchell’s ‘Que and Blues Experience, I’ll be there to sing. If you ever stopped in at the small, beautifully appointed restaurant to satisfy your hunger for barbecue and the blues, and ate them both up, I’m betting that you’ll be making plans to come to the new place too. I got a dollar. I’ll bet it. 

You can listen to Pam’s single “Brand New Day” at vimeo.com/116507369 and buy the single on iTunes.    

You can reach Pam Saulsby at pamsaulsby@yahoo.com. Follow her on Twitter @pamsaulsby and on her website pamsaulsby.com