The first in a series of online-only Mississippi Music CDs, because if you're like us, one CD can't even begin to encompass the fantastic, soul-stirring riches of the Magnolia State. Here are thirty additional tracks by super-talented musicians, most of whom are underrated. Listen and rejoice!
I first met David Gates—former editor at Newsweek, Pulitzer Prize finalist for fiction, contributor to OA’s music issue—in the mid-aughts, when I was a graduate student studying writing at The New School MFA program in New York City. We shared an enthusiasm for country and old-time music, though it became clear quickly enough that Gates was a layman scholar of these traditions, whereas I was just fumbling around. He turned me onto the New Lost City Ramblers, Joseph Spence, Tommy Jarrell and Fred Cockerham, George Jones and Gene Pitney. I admired and envied the seemingly superhuman scope of his musical knowledge, and also the fact that he didn’t just listen: He played.
From The OA's Mississippi Music Issue: "Food and family, it is said, were the only sanctioned topics of conversation in the Polite South of myth and memory; anything else—politics, race, religion, most aspects of sex—was a sure cure for sanity, if not a shortcut to utter social ruin."
From The OA's Mississippi Music Issue, 2011: "The Billboard charts are filthy with people who've helped themselves to tiny pieces of the Syl Johnson songbook. Public Enemy. Ice Cube. De La Soul. Marky Mark & The Funky Bunch. Both The Beastie and The Geto Boys. Michael Jackson. And every conceivable branch of The Wu-Tang Clan."
From The OA's Mississippi Music Issue, 2011: "The Hilltops, still in their early twenties, are riding the crest of Oxford’s Golden Age. The town has become a creative Mecca of sorts—“The Vatican City of Southern Letters,” according to Pat Conroy. The literary Big Dogs are in plain sight: Hannah, Brown, Grisham, Morris. The music scene is thriving. Fat Possum Records is recording hill-country bluesmen R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough; bands like Mud Boy & The Neutrons and The Grifters come through Oxford to perform. The Memphis photographer William Eggleston can sometimes be seen lurking around The Square, which is still the locus of business in Oxford."
From The OA's Mississippi Music Issue, 2011: "This brings me to some remarks that must be made about the exterior of Tyler Keith's head: it is the hardest, most indestructible one ever. Someone at NASA, or NASCAR, needs to analyze it."
From The OA's 11th Annual Music Issue: "Here's a band from Mississippi, basically in my own backyard, whose jangly guitars sonically related to everything I loved about early R.E.M. and, at times, The Connells. How did a band this good—who could hold their own against early Stipe and Mills—fly so far under my radar?"
The Swinging Rays become The International Sweethearts of Rhythm, advertised as a band "in whose veins flow the blood of many races." The Sweethearts have one bus in which they sleep, and another in which they learn. Eighteen bunks for eighteen virgins, most of whom have never left Mississippi.