Remembering Jimmy Buffett and celebrating new music from Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, HARDY and other Mississippi natives.
Growing up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, it was hard to ignore Jimmy Buffett. His gentle acoustic guitar strumming and beach-hobo lyricism wormed its way into my consciousness somewhere around middle school and only grew from there as classmates, siblings and friends sang along, and to varying degrees, adopted his laid-back lifestyle.
Our parents told stories of seeing him play in Biloxi bars and busk at the University of Southern Mississippi before he went to Nashville and Key West and became Jimmy Buffett. But his persona was always there. It was coastal Mississippi mixed with some West Coast hippie vibes, with a strong musical influence from Jerry Jeff Walker, John Prine and the other great singer-storytellers of the 1970s.
And that storytelling streak is how we know he was a Mississippian. He followed the traditions of blues songwriters like Willie Dixon of Vicksburg, who wrote classic tunes with Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, and Jimmie Rodgers of Meridian, considered by many the Father of Country Music. Their songs spoke of hard times and good times alike and laid the foundation for R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, and most popular music that has followed.
When Buffett passed away on September 1 at age 76, he left behind a musical and entrepreneurial legacy worth billions on paper but priceless in cultural currency. And he recorded music up to the end—his 32nd album, Equal Strain on All Parts, was released two months after he died. Maybe you’ll discover it this Christmas, on what would have been his 77th birthday.
Here’s a roundup of what else happened this year from musicians who have roots in Mississippi.
Paramore, the hugely successful Nashville alt-rock band fronted by Haley Williams from Meridian, cut its teeth playing emo-punk to Hot Topic kids. On its sixth album, This Is Why, Williams led the band into dancey-Duran Duran territory, especially on the irresistible title cut and first single, which hit No. 1 on Billboard Alternative Airplay. The album reached No. 2 on the Top 200 albums chart.
The brother-sister trio Track45, who relocated from Meridian to Nashville, dropped their Grew Up On EP, while band member Benjamin Johnson landed co-writes on Morgan Wallen’s One Thing at a Time and HARDY’s the mockingbird & THE CROW, two of country music’s biggest albums. Speaking of HARDY, who hails from Philadelphia, he scored a major crossover hit with “Wait in the Truck,” his duet with Lainey Wilson, one of his five Gold and Platinum singles in 2023.
Marty Stuart, another Philadelphia native who released the album Altitude, is well on his way to realizing his dream of turning his hometown into a country-music mecca. He reopened the 500-seat Ellis Theater as the first wing of his massive Congress of Country Music project, which will eventually display his 20,000-piece collection of country music memorabilia. Dolly Parton, Dorothy Moore and Bobby Rush all performed on the Ellis stage this year. “America’s Got Talent” stars Chapel Hart (Poplarville), who will play the Ellis on January 27, released their third album, Glory Days.
Jackson teen Prentiss, whose early singles were praised by Justin Bieber, blink-182 and others, continued to evolve his heart-on-sleeve hyperpop this year on five new singles, including a feature on “3 a.m.” by Skrillex. Also hailing from the Capital City, hip-hop artist Dear Silas followed up his sublime viral hit “Ain’t Stressin’ Today” with a remix featuring Snoop Dogg and a European arena tour opening for Ibrahim Maalouf.
Tupelo natives Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi of Rae Sremmurd have been everywhere in hip-hop and pop music over the past several years. Their new fourth album, Sremm 4 Life, skirted the top 10 of Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. Fellow Tupelo native, occasional collaborator and super producer Diplo put out his second collaboration with country artists, Diplo Presents Thomas Wesley: Chapter 2 – Swamp Savant, with features from Sturgill Simpson, Lil Nas X, Morgan Wallen and others.
Blues artists represented in grand form, as well. Christone “Kingfish” Ingram (Clarksdale), the rightful heir to the Delta blues crown, unleashed the full power of his performances on Live in London, his first live record. Soul-blues master Bobby Rush (Jackson), who turned 90 on November 10, released All My Love for You, while Castro “Mr. Sipp” Coleman (McComb), put out The Soul Side of Sipp. Luther Dickinson (Hernando), who learned Hill Country blues from watching R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough, returned with Magic Music for Family Folk. John Primer (Camden/Madison County), who can be heard backing Muddy Waters and The Rolling Stones on Live at the Checkerboard Lounge, Chicago 1981, dropped Teardrops for Magic Slim: Live at Rosa’s Lounge.
On the indie-rock front, Wilco—which includes multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone of Meridian and bassist John Stirratt, who played in the ‘80s Oxford band The Hilltops—released Cousin. Bass Drum of Death, also of Oxford, put out Say I Won’t on local Fat Possum Records, and Andrew Bryant released the album Prodigal and was featured in the documentary “Present Tense” about the making of the record. Farther south, Hattiesburg hardcore crew MSPAINT’s Post-American album earned high praise from music websites Pitchfork and Stereogum as the band toured the U.S., and the Ocean Springs-based ska septet Flying Raccoon Suit released Moonflower.
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