Published on June 22nd, 2015 | by TLV News0
10th Annual North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic: June 26-27, 2015
Full schedule located below article.
Now in its tenth year, the North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic is not so much a traditional music festival as it is a confluence and celebration of an entire community. A veritable who’s who of current Hill Country-influenced artists and offshoots of the genre’s original masters, the Picnic seeks to recreate the laid-back feeling of past Sunday get-togethers held by the likes of R.L. Burnside, albeit on a larger scale.
Those who have been to the festival before (or have kept their finger on the pulse of the North Mississippi music scene over the past couple decades) will recognize many of this year’s artists. Familiar names include North Mississippi Allstars, Garry Burnside, Eric Deaton, Jimbo Mathus, Cary Hudson, Rising Star Drum & Fife Band, and numerous others.
According to Sara Brown (who runs the festival alongside her husband, Hill Country legend Kenny Brown), the Picnic’s audience has expanded through the years, but still retains a neighborly feel. “There are people who have been every year, and they tell their friends,” she explains. “So we have both repeat visitors and new people.”
The 2015 Picnic will kick off at 3 pm on Friday, June 26, and run until midnight on Saturday, June 27. However, the festivities really kick off on Thursday with guitar and harmonica workshops from some of North Mississippi’s most respected musicians.
The guitar workshop is being taught by Kenny Brown, DuWayne Burnside, Luther Dickinson, and Alvin Youngblood Hart. The harmonica workshop is being taught by Adam Gussow, John Nemeth, Jason Ricci, and Brandon Bailey. Tickets for the workshops are $100 per person and available on the picnic’s website through June 19.
“Each attendee will have approximately one hour with each instructor and share lunch together,” says Brown. “There will be a jam after the workshop for all instructors and workshop attendees open to the public, starting at approximately 5 pm at David Kimbrough’s Juke Joint in Holly Springs.”
The gates will also open for on-site primitive camping at 5 pm on Thursday. For blues fans who might prefer electricity and running water, camping is also available at the nearby Wall Doxey State Park. “The Campground stage is really growing, so plan to come early on Friday,” Brown advises.
There’s a lot to enjoy at the Picnic aside from the music; an artist’s village will be set up, featuring works from several local vendors. “The ‘artist village’ has really grown over the past few years,” says Brown, “so plan to spend some time there and take home that unique Hill Country souvenir.” If you are interested in being a vendor at the 2015 Picnic, send an email to NMSpicnicvendorinfo@gmail.com for details. There will also be a raffle featuring several donated gifts for a good cause (last year’s raffle funded headstones for some late members of the Burnside family).
And what’s a picnic without food? Betty Davis BBQ returns this year as vendor/host, and other staples such as fried catfish will be available. Of course, you are also allowed to bring your own cooler of any food or beverage you like (as long as there’s no glass) for a $10 fee.
With the help of local and regional sponsors (Cathead Vodka, Fat Possum Records, and Yalobusha Brewery, just to name a few), this unique festival has not only survived, but flourished. “We focus on the hill country music from North Mississippi, nothing else,” says Brown. “We aren’t your usual blues festival showcasing the latest act. Nothing but Hill Country Blues here!” -by Alex Thiel
The North Mississippi Allstars
Saturday, 4:35 pm
Perhaps the most well-known artists at the picnic to those outside of the area, NMAS was founded by brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson (sons of Memphis recording legend Jim Dickinson), they have been nominated for several Grammy awards over the years and have worked with such renowned artists as John Hiatt and The Black Crowes. Their stop at the Picnic falls in the middle of a summer full of festival appearances nationwide.
Grammy-nominated guitarist Alvin Youngblood Hart was born in California, but a stay in North Mississippi during his youth greatly influenced his musical career. A multi-instrumentalist (in addition to guitar, he also plays banjo and mandolin), he has made steady festival appearances at home and abroad over the years. He has worked on the soundtracks for such films as The Great Debaters and Black Snake Moan. His three-piece band, Muscle Theory, makes an appearance at the Picnic this
Rising Star brings a different flavor to the usually guitar-dominated Hill Country Blues genre. Though the influential Otha Turner passed away in 2003, his granddaughter, Sharde Thomas, carries on the drum-and-fife tradition with Rising Star. The band is one of the few remaining to flaunt this unique, yet distinctly American sound, and they can still be seen performing in north Mississippi and have made appearances at larger festivals, such as New Orleans Jazz Fest.
Cary Hudson is a singer-songwriter and guitarist from the great state of Mississippi who resides somewhere between Memphis and New Orleans. Hudson has been playing music since the 80s with legendary Oxford bands The Hilltops and Blue Mountain, as well as having an impressive solo career. He’s played guitar for many greats, including Bobby Rush, R.L. Burnside, Big Jack Johnson, Shannon MacNally, Dayna Kurtz, and many others in his close to thirty years on the road.
A native of Corinth, Mississippi, Jimbo Mathus has kept a national profile since breaking through with his band Squirrel But Zippers in the 90s. His latest solo album, Blue Healer, was recorded in Water Valley at Dial Back Sound and released on the Fat Possum label. His output of late has featured producer Bruce Watson and engineer/instrumentalist Bronson Tew. He has played with Luther Dickinson and Alvin Youngblood Hart in South Memphis String Band, described as an “acoustic supergroup” that will also be making an appearance at the Picnic. He can still be found playing solo shows locally (his show at Proud Larry’s with His Dirty Crooks is coming up on June 18).
Duwayne Burnside Friday, 11 pm
Garry Burnside Saturday, 3:30 pm
David Kimbrough Friday, 10 pm
A frequent performer with the North Mississippi Allstars, Duwayne is the son of R.L. Burnside. However, he has become a well-traveled performer in his own right, sharing the stage with such blues legends as B.B. King and Albert King during his stay in Memphis. His brother, Garry Burnside, will also be at the Picnic once again, performing with his own band. Both brothers continue to play regularly and carry on their father’s influential music tradition. Similarly, David Kimbrough (Junior’s son) has been playing in his father’s juke joint circuit and recording music with the likes of Luther Dickinson from a very young age, and will be gracing the picnic stage with his band once again this year.
RL Boyce is a blues musician from Como, Mississippi. Born in 1955, he picked up music as a teenager, starting out as a drummer in the local fife-and-drum bands of Otha Turner and Napolian Strickland, and later with Jessie Mae Hemphill as heard on her classic “Feelin’ Good” album. He is also a singer and guitarist, inspired by his neighbors R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough, as well as the records of John Lee Hooker and Howlin’ Wolf. Boyce developed an individual style that draws upon songs from the local repertoire and interprets them with a considerable degree of enthusiasm and spontaneity. Though his recorded output is slim, Boyce’s renown has grown over the years and his performances at his frequent house/yard parties attract friends, neighbors, and visitors from around the world.
Although the band is based in Oxford, Miss., it features a collection of veteran musicians Rosamond Posey (vocals, rhythm guitar) from Vicksburg, Miss.; Jamie Posey (vocals, lead guitar, harmonica) from Meridian, Miss.; Robert Chaffe (keyboards, organ) from New Orleans; Ryan Rogers (Drums) from Forest, Miss.; and Nathan Robbins (bass) from Pontotoc, Miss.; who have played in projects such as Rev. John Wilkins, Kenny Brown, Jimbo Mathus’ musical Mosquitoville , The Tri-State Coalition, Eric Deaton, Kudzu Kings, Shannon McNally, Honey Blonde, DuWayne Burnside, Garry Burnside, and Geronimo Rex. Having been described as everything from “juke joint gospel,” old time country, Americana, hill country blues, to straight ahead rock and roll, Rocket 88 earnestly delivers an authentic sound that is drawn from the music of the region they call home.
Adam Gussow and Alan Gross, a.k.a. The Blues Doctors, are Mississippi-based blues veterans who play a mix of down-home Delta standards and urban grooves from the Texas-to-Chicago axis with some New Orleans funk thrown in. They’re a two-man band with a full-on sound: Gussow on harmonica and drumset, Gross on guitar, with both men sharing vocal duties. Adam Gussow needs no introduction to blues harmonica fans. He is “one of the world’s finest blues harmonica players” according to Philadelphia blues DJ Jonny Meister. Alan Gross is best-known for his long association with Mississippi bluesman Terry “Harmonica” Bean—he’s played guitar in his band for a decade—and work with hill country performers Kenny Kimbrough, Lightning Malcolm, and Eric Deaton. He’s also gigged with R. L. Boyce, a mainstay of Otha Turner’s Rising Star Fife & Drum ensemble, and played numerous festivals across the state of Mississippi. His guitar influences include Muddy Waters, Duke Robillard, Jimmie Vaughan, and Warren Haynes.
Ricky and Micol began their musical life together as (The) Blue Mother Tupelo at an open mic night at Sassy Ann’s in Knoxville, Tennessee, in the spring of 1995. That night turned into a standing Wednesday night gig for awhile and over the next couple of years they were graced with the gifts of musicians of all kinds sitting in to jam until settling in as an electric four-some. BMT has shared shows and the stage with many wonderfully gifted and successful recording and touring artists – at theaters, festivals, juke joints, and venues of every sort. Currently on tour as a duo, Ricky and Micol are traveling roads across the United States bringin’ stomp and sway to music lovers lookin for somethin real, soul-filled, earthy and lifted up.
This article was printed in The Local Voice #231 (published June 11, 2015).
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