The gift of song has a unique power all unto itself while often providing a lasting effect on others. We can all name a song that has brought joy and, at times, a profound meaning in our lives. For every song, there is that person or persons who has poured their heart and soul into writing something so special.
Recently, I spent three enjoyable days along the Mississippi Gulf Coast while attending the annual Mississippi Songwriters Festival in picturesque Ocean Springs. The festival has a history that began in 2010 and has attracted and combined some of the areas top songwriters with several other talented songwriters from other parts of the country, including Nashville. This year was no exception.
On Friday evening of the festival, I met a few of my friends at Murky Waters on Government Street for a number of acoustic songwriter rounds. This particular location was once the childhood home of my Uncle “Bo” Hall and when it was still a home, I visited as a boy many years ago. Ocean Springs has much significance to me because it’s where my parents’ first home was located on Russell Ave, a short distance from where I spent the majority of my time during the festival.
Along with Murky Waters, several other locations served as venues for the event – Boots & Spurs, Salvetti’s, Tom’s Extreme Pizzeria, Perfecto Cigars, The Shed Barbeque & Blues Joint, The Julep Room, Azteca’s (in nearby Gautier), The Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center, Mosaic Tapas Bar and The Ocean Springs Plaza. I was able to easily get around to the various locations with zero difficulties. The help of a well-designed schedule featured on the festival’s website made things easy.
Historic downtown Ocean Springs, MS
Simultaneously, songwriters were performing their own songs at the various venues. One of the things I enjoy most about songwriter festivals is often learning about the process the songwriters go through with each of their songs and there was no shortage of entertaining stories provided by nearly a hundred songwriters. Though country music was the prominent genre, several others including folk, blues, Americana, and rock were also a big part of the festival.
Due to my extensive traveling and attending a wide range of music events around the globe, I sadly have not had the opportunity to enjoy this very special event in my own home state. As this year’s festival approached, I turned down numerous offers and rearranged my schedule to be in Ocean Springs.
Abe Partridge from Mobile, AL
Several talented people I admire as songwriters were in the lineup and I definitely saw this as a perfect time to enjoy their music in person. Christina Christian, who released a beautifully crafted album earlier this year with an emphasis on her incredible gift as a songwriter, was on the schedule. So was Mobile, Alabama’s Abe Partridge, whom I had the privilege of interviewing for the TV show “Music Scene” in 2016 was featured in several rounds throughout the weekend. Taylor Craven, a songwriter who was mentioned abundantly by others for his songwriting collaborations, was someone I haven’t heard in person since he opened for Will Kimbrough at the end of last year. It was high time to take in more of his great songs. These are just a brief sample of the many singer-songwriters that performed over the course of the weekend.
What I love about such music events is learning about artists totally new to me. There were several at this festival that I could mention, but I will keep it to two very talented singer-songwriters. Summerlyn Powers has the voice of an angel and songs far beyond her teen years. I expect we will be hearing more from her – I am looking forward to it. The other artist I would like to mention is Sarah Peacock. While the festival was going on, I made constant mention of her on social media and in personal conversations. Now calling Nashville home, this Georgia-born artist already has several accolades based on her impressive collection of songs. During the month of October she, along with the already mentioned Abe Partridge will both be performing their own songs at the Dripping Springs Songwriters Festival in Dripping Springs, TX – quite an honor.
Sarah Peacock from Nashville, TN at The Mississippi Songwriters Festival
After a steady lineup of great weekend music, the event’s finale on the outdoor stage in the heart of downtown Ocean Springs was a highlight as several of the songwriters performed one after the other.
The highly popular Grayson Capps and the duo of Sugarcane Jane, which features Anthony Crawford and wife Savana Lee, performed several of their original songs as a beautiful Sunday evening arrived. Crawford, a multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter, has a writing resume of songs recorded by everyone from Kenny Rogers to the Oak Ridge Boys and has toured with Sonny James, Neil Young, Steve Winwood and Dwight Yoakam. I have had the privilege of following his career since the early 1980s.
Grayson Capps at The Mississippi Songwriters Festival
The list of songwriters who performed at the finale was a perfect way to end one of the nicest weekends I have enjoyed in 2017, and believe me, I get around as I attend over 300 shows and events each year. Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about the event and I will make every effort to return in 2018.
Anthony Crawford, Sarah Peacock and The Line’s Johnny Cole
Derek Norsworthy at The Mississippi Songwriters Festival
Click Here for the official website of The Mississippi Songwriters Festival.
Thank you to all the songwriters, event organizers and good people of Ocean Springs, MS. It truly was a memorable weekend.
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