MS Bicentennial North ft. Marty Stuart, Mac McAnally + more

The North MS Bicentennial Committee Presents

MS Bicentennial North ft. Marty Stuart, Mac McAnally + more

Shannon McNally, Vasti Jackson, The Mississippi Bicentennial Symphony Orchestra, Steve Azar

Jun 24 Saturday

Doors: 6:00 pm / Show: 6:30 pm

Ford Center - University of Mississippi

Oxford, MS


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This event is all ages

Marty Stuart
Marty Stuart
If you were to give country music an address, you might say it's at the corner of sacred and profane, two doors up from the blues and folk, and just across the street from gospel, R&B and rock 'n' roll. And on a deeper emotional and spiritual level, it resides where Saturday night meets Sunday morning.

No one understands these coordinates better than Marty Stuart. For over forty years, the five-time Grammy winning multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, photographer and historian has been building a rich legacy at this very crossroads. On his latest release with his band The Fabulous Superlatives, the double-disc Saturday Night & Sunday Morning, Stuart captures all the authentic neon and stained-glass hues of country music – from love and sex to heartache and hardship to family and God – in twenty-three tracks.

"I've always thought that country music had a really unique relationship with gospel music," Stuart says. "It is interesting to me that country stars can sing drinking and cheating songs authentically, then at some point during the evening or the broadcast, take their hats off and say, 'Friends, here's our gospel song.' If it's the right messenger it seamlessly flows. That's a time-honored tradition, from Jimmie Rodgers to Hank Williams to Johnny Cash. Rogue prophets and rogue preachers. That is my world.

"Another part of my world, while growing up in Mississippi, was listening to our local radio station, WHOC. 'One thousands watts of pure pleasure.' In the morning, they signed on with country music and farm reports. At noon they played gospel music for an hour. Then afternoon was rock 'n' roll and top 40. Late afternoon was soul. And they signed off with easy listening. I thought everybody's radio station was like that. It was kind of a reflection of how Mississippi is. The birthplace of America's music. The church house is the common denominator, and every form of music has a touch of the blues. So I come from that perspective. Traditional country touched me the deepest, but all of these other styles were relevant to me. It felt like just another day at the office."

That day at the office on Saturday Night and Sunday Morning offers a rousing blend of Stuart originals, classic covers and traditional hymns and that throw their arms around the whole
history of not only country but modern American music. Kicking off with the revved-up rockabilly rush of "Jailhouse" and "Geraldine," disc one winds through Stuart's grand "When It Comes To Loving You" and the honky tonker "Talking To The Wall" through deeply soulful covers of Charlie Rich's "Life Has Its Little Ups And Downs" and George Jones' "Old Old House" before wrapping up with the positively frantic blues rocket ride of "Streamline." Disc two trades sawdust for sermons, and goes right to the river with the gorgeous "Uncloudy Day," featuring not only the legendary Mavis Staples on lead vocals, but Marty playing a guitar that the Staples family bequeathed him that once belonged to Pops Staples. The Fabulous Superlatives shine with their celebratory group harmony singing on standouts like "That Gospel Music," "Angels Rock Me To Sleep" and "Mercy #1," while uptempo rockers like "Keep On the Firing Line" and "Good News" build the service to a big hands-to-heaven call and response finish with "Cathedral," featuring the mighty soul shouts of Pastor Evelyn Hubbard.

"There are a few twists and turns in the record," Stuart says with a smile, "so I hope it all feels like it's part of the same thing. As a band, that's where we are. It's natural."

Born in the small town of Philadelphia, Mississippi, Marty Stuart caught the music bug early, displaying prodigious talent on every stringed instrument he picked up. At an age when most kids are running bases in little league, 13-year old Stuart was logging cross-country interstate miles as a mandolinist with the legendary Lester Flatt's road band. In his twenties, Stuart toured with Johnny Cash, and also played with other legends such as Bill Monroe, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. By the late 1980s, Stuart was a solo artist, rising faster than mercury in the heat of a hillbilly fever. But amidst the hits and hoopla, the bright lights eventually revealed a deeper truth.

"I had such a great run, playing butt-wigglin' songs in coliseums, and it was just wearing thin," he admits. "I remember spinning around one day at Foxwoods, up in Massachusetts, there was a full house, the band was really loud, we were doing good, the crowd was screaming and hollering, and I thought, 'I am not enjoying this music.' And then I told myself, 'Well get back to enjoying it, because you're on top of the world right now. Platinum records, Grammys, it was all coming. But I did not like the way my legacy was shaping up. So I took the better part of a year to unwind it. Another issue that fueled that decision was that radio was starting to cool on my records. I was beginning to chase after hits, and it was tearing me apart. I had one record left on my contract with MCA, and I vowed to get back to the music I've always loved the most, and let my heart be the chart.'"

To get some clarity, Stuart consulted his friend and mentor, Johnny Cash. "I went to his house and said, 'J.R., I've got a record in my mind called The Pilgrim. I laid it out to him, and he said, 'Well, just know you're stepping up for rejection. Potentially.' I said, 'I understand, but I've got to do this.' He said, 'If you've got to do it, that's all the reason you need.' So I made the record. It was a great critical success, and it was a line-in-the-dirt artistic moment of reconnecting with my true self, a piece of myself that I had hidden away years before, to go exploring. From that moment forward, I realized that there's a different way to live a life as a musical citizen."

Stuart knew he didn't want to travel this new path alone, so he recruited fellow musical missionaries Kenny Vaughan, Harry Stinson and Paul Martin."From the Superlatives' first rehearsal, I knew this was the band of a lifetime," Stuart says. "I knew this was my Buckaroos, my Strangers, my Texas Troubadours - my legacy band. Kenny Vaughan, Harry Stinson and Paul Martin are not only musical geniuses, but statesmen. The Fabulous Superlatives are without question one of the greatest bands of our time. We have played ourselves out of the woods and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning is one of those milestone projects in the band's legacy that truly brings the spunk and fire of the bandstand to the studio. The other person that should be mentioned is the invisible Superlative, Mick Conley. His engineering brings a touch of class and a spark to our music that any band would long for. We are a much better band because of Mick's presence."

With acclaimed albums like Ghost Train: The Studio B Sessions and Souls' Chapel, as well as The Marty Stuart Show, a musical variety program on RFD-TV, Stuart says "I've found my place to drive a stake in the dirt, and proclaim, this is what I believe in."

"I think traditional country music should be regarded alongside jazz and ballet and classical music in the pantheon of the arts," he says. "I thought, 'As a band, that's our mission. Putting our arms around what's left of the culture. Making sure the old timers get loved on and shown dignity.' And then it became, let's show young musicians that traditional country music is alive and well. The message is, C'mon, over here and play it if it's in your heart. RFD-TV gave me a stage and a broadcast to put country music and Saturday night back together. Those two entities were made for each other. We've just finished our 156th episode of The Marty Stuart Show. It's been pure magic."

All of Stuart's immersion in authentic country music has also found creative expression through the lens of a camera. Inspired by the photographs of jazz drummer Milt Hinton of his fellow musicians, Stuart realized in the early 1970s that he could fill a similar role as a chronicler. And for decades, he's been capturing strikingly beautiful images of performers and fans that feel like little windows into the soul of our country.

A collection of his most resonant photos is currently on display in an exhibit called American Ballads at Nashville's Frist Museum (also a new coffee table book published by Vanderbilt University Press), and later this year, a second exhibit of his work called The Art of Country Music will open at the Sheldon Gallery in St. Louis.

Of his photography, Stuart says, "Whether it was the doorman at the Opry, or Ernest Tubb's bus driver, or stars or songwriters or musicians, everybody stood still for me and let me take pictures. I'd aim to capture what they all meant to me. It was basically like taking pictures of my family. It takes a tribe to raise a kid, and they were my tribe. All of those people invested something in me when I was a kid, and I wanted to remember that kindness. The thing about that era of those old masters is that most of them were really country people. They were down to earth. Basically, farm people who'd come to town and got a job singing songs. That's what I related to, coming from Mississippi. The other side of it, I wanted to take pictures of my life on the road to send home to my family and they could see what I what I was up to. It was basically documenting family.

"Songwriting, photography, guitar playing, entertaining, singing, designing TV shows - it's all the same thing to me," Stuart continues. "If I take a good photograph, it absolutely makes me
do everything else better. If I play a good guitar solo, it absolutely affects how I take the next picture. It's all interwoven."

With Saturday Night and Sunday Morning set for an autumn release, and more touring ahead for the Superlatives, Stuart says his expectations are high, but grounded in reality.

"I heard Aretha Franklin say something one time that I never forgot - 'When I do something new, I always wonder if people will like it, but I step forward, present it, close my eyes and stick out my hand and hope somebody takes it.' I thought that was a beautiful way to put it. I hope the new album is accepted. Starting with The Pilgrim forward, I chose a very different path, an unthinkable path, to tear down such a huge wall of success and go, 'That was wonderful, but I'm gonna do something different now.' And basically start over. I look back at what we've done with the Superlatives over the last twelve years, and I'm very proud of it. That legacy that I didn't see forming right that day at Foxwoods, I have a better feeling about it now. And as the old song says, 'I do believe everything's gonna be alright.'"
Mac McAnally
Mac McAnally
If Mac McAnally never sang or played another note of music, his place in music history is more than assured. Writer, producer, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and all around musical sage, Mac has seen and done it all. Now he is back once again with a new and energizing album – Live in Muscle Shoals.

Recorded live from the Norton Auditorium at the University of North Alabama during the W.C. Handy Music Festival, Mac put together an incredible band of musicians consisting of fellow Coral Reefers and Muscle Shoals/Nashville session friends in which they captivated the audience. "Last summer the fine folks in charge of the W.C. Handy Music Festival asked me to play a
show that ran the gamut of everything I've done," Mac said. "In live performance you don't have to look far for imperfections. I look at the imperfections as blessings too," he added. "W.C. Handy made a career out of mixing influences from his surroundings and expressing them musically. I share that aspiration and hope to merit having shared the bill with his legacy on July 31, 2010 in his hometown of Florence, Alabama." A master storyteller, Mac introduces each song with anecdotes, describing how the songs came to be and how they have impacted his life. Mac's wit and love for life and music shine throughout. Live in Muscle Shoals includes his hits "Back Where I Come From", "All These Years", and "Down the Road", as well as a cover of the '60s hit "I Heard It through the Grapevine". The album serves as the perfect compliment to an incomparable career.

Music was the most obvious road for Lyman "Mac" McAnally to take from his Red Bay, Alabama birthplace and Belmont, Mississippi hometown. He was a guitar and piano prodigy who performed in clubs at 13, wrote his first song at 15 and landed as a Muscle Shoals studio musician at 18. Mac signed his first record deal, with Ariola, at 20 and launched two singles to moderate success on the Billboard Hot 100. "It's A Crazy World" peaked at No. 37 and "Minimum Love" topped out at No. 41.

His songwriting drew the attention of Jimmy Buffett and Hank Williams, Jr., both of whom cut McAnally songs. Alabama took his "Old Flame" to No. 1 in 1981. The song cemented his status as a hit maker, a reputation that has never waned. Reba McEntire, Kenny Chesney, Zac Brown Band, and Brad Paisly are just some of the artists who cut Mac's songs over the next 20 years.

In the late '80s and '90s, McAnally became an in-demand producer, along the way working with Ricky Skaggs, Chris LeDoux and Little Feat, among others. He produced the band Sawyer Brown through their biggest successes and penned their signature hits including "Cafe On The Corner," "All These Years" and "Thank God For You."

Meanwhile, Mac's skills as a musician continued to bring calls that carried him into the studio. Over the course of his career he's built an enviable registry of credits that includes Toby Keith, Roy Orbison, George Strait, Amy Grant and many more. And his guitar and vocal skills weren't confined to the studio as he joined Buffett's touring Coral Reefer band, an association that continues to this day. McAnally has also produced several of Buffett's albums and written many of his songs.

And even in the midst of creating a prodigious body of behind-the-scenes work, McAnally continued to make his own music. All told, he has recorded 11 albums, all for major labels. In
fact, he was the first artist signed to David Geffen's legendary rock label Geffen Records.

His accomplishments are now beginning to be fully recognized. In 2007, McAnally was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. The following year, the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame followed suit, while the Country Music Association named him Musician of the Year for the last six (6) years in a row. And, Mac continues to own and operate his own recording studio in Muscle Shoals.

So the question remains: Why? Why now? Why is his biggest success and notoriety as an artist happening after he's already achieved so much? McAnally is more than confirmed as one of the most accomplished and revered creative forces in the music business. He has nothing left to prove. Maybe this time, however, the music business has something to prove to Mac McAnally.
Shannon McNally
Shannon McNally
A prolific artist and troubadour, Shannon McNally, originally from New York now lives in Oxford, Mississippi having relocated from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Focused on American roots music, she has worked with visionaries such as Rodney Crowell, Jim Dickinson and Dr. John. A critics' darling, McNally's last few years have cemented her reputation as a singer, performer, songwriter and new music industry survivor. Her velvety and highly expressive voice wraps around pretty much anything she sings like a country-soul moonlit braid.

The last of her ten recording projects/albums, “Small Town Talk”, was a collaborative tribute to the late Bobby Charles, conceived and created together with Dr. John and his Lower 911 Band at Dockside Studios, in Maurice, Louisiana. The record was nominated for Offbeat Magazine’s Album of the year 2014 and features a duet with Vince Gill and a guest appearance by Derek Trucks.
2014 found Shannon on the road with Rodney Crowell in support of his ‘Tar Paper Sky’ album on which she sang a duet on the song ‘Famous Last Words’.
Most recently McNally performed with John Doe and Bruce Springsteen for the Music Cares Person of the Year dinner honoring Bob Dylan and was a featured performer at the Kennedy Center Tribute to American Songster Huddie Leadbelly. She was also featured in comedienne Tig Nataro’s Showtime Network special “Knock, knock it’s Tig”.
Most currently McNally is representing the state of Mississippi and the Recording Academy as a resident artist performing six nights a week, in the Grammy Experience Room curated by the Grammy Museum aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship, The Getaway. McNally will also be part of the opening ceremonies for the Mississippi Grammy Museum opening in November 2015.
Vasti Jackson
Vasti Jackson
Grammy nominated world renowned guitarist, and vocalist, Mississippi living blues legend, Cultural ambassador, 2012 Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame inductee, and 2015 Albert King Lifetime Guitar Award recipient, Vasti Jackson is a powerful force in the world of music! With more than forty three years as a professional musician. As an artist, Vasti is known for sweat-drenched, soul-ripping live performances marked by some of the most stunning, and innovative guitar playing today. Vasti's stellar vocals, fiery guitar, and stage presence captures the audience, and leaves a lasting impression that celebrates the triumph of the blues, and the joy of rhythm that is soul satisfying to all that are lucky enough to experience his music.
Question: What does The Grammys, BB King, Harry Connick, Jr., Martin Scorsese, Wynton Marsalis, Bobby Rush, Dr. John, and Cassandra Wilson, have in common? Vasti Jackson!
Vasti (pronounced Vast-Eye) Jackson is a consummate performer, songwriter, arranger, and producer. From his early beginnings playing in churches, and juke joints in McComb, Mississippi, to festivals, Concerts, and theatres around the world. Vasti move effortlessly from Blues to Soul to Jazz to Funk to gospel to pop, and beyond.
Steve Azar
Steve Azar
Growing up in tiny Greenville, Mississippi, fascinated by the old blues and jazz musicians who used to congregate behind his father's liquor store--the first in the state--Steve Azar knew early on that music would be his life. Waitin' On Joe, his first CD for Mercury Records, showcases Steve's songwriting passion and performing talents against the fabric of his unique Delta heritage.
"Albums are like life," Steve says. "You put what you've learned into them. No matter who you're writing and singing about, they're still a reflection of you." As writer or co-writer of all 11 songs on his CD, Steve manages to weave favorite themes--wishing, wanting, working--into carefully-crafted mini-slices of everyday life, creating an album that's both autobiographical and universal. Whether championing "The Underdog" or shoving an elbow in the ribs of the almighty dollar ("Damn The Money") or tremulously trying to protect his heart in "How Long Is This Time Gonna Be," Steve writes from personal experience enthusiastically seasoned by his own observations.
Steve's musical education began early with the music he heard live behind the family store. "I'm not a blues musician," says Steve, "but there was this one great blues guitarist named Eugene Powell that used to be around. He used to always tell me, 'keep it real, keep it real.' His words made a lasting impression on me." Watching those guys behind the store also fueled Steve's desire to play the guitar. "It was like a sport to me--when I'd go see a basketball game, I couldn't stay the whole game because I wanted to go home and shoot hoops all night. When I watched those guys, it made me want to go home and practice."
While still in his teens, Steve began sneaking out to local nightclubs to hear other blues legends like Albert King and Son Thomas, and it wasn't long before he was fronting his own band, playing original songs. "A lot of my music reflects the sounds of where I'm from, in sound or lyric, or both," Steve explains. "Conway Twitty grew up in Mississippi--he was a Delta boy. Hank Williams had a lot of Delta influences in his sound. Bruce Springsteen kept it real to his workingman New Jersey shores, Mellencamp kept it real to his small-town heartland Indiana roots. And Willie's just real, period. I listened to all those guys growing up and it was the authenticity of who they are and what they were singing about that attracted me to them."
Eventually Steve moved to Nasvhille and continued to support himself performing and writing. When he went to write with producer/songwriter Rafe Van Hoy ("What's Forever For"), they clicked immediately. "We wrote two songs that day--one was "You Don't Know How It Feels"--and when I listened to the demo that night, I realized I had never heard myself sound that way. It was exactly how I'd always wanted to be recorded." With Rafe at the helm, they began work on a project that eventually got the attention of Mercury Records.
Steve's out-of-the-box hit, "I Don't Have To Be Me ('Til Monday)," taps into the increasingly relevant theme of how people accelerate into their weekends as a reward for five days of punching a time clock. Like many of Steve's songs, this one is based on a real-life occurrence. Steve got a call one day from the wife of an old college buddy, asking if her husband could fly in for a long weekend because he was showing the stress of his high-powered job. "She was worried about him," Steve recalls. "So all weekend, we just hung out and talked and laughed and did stuff together. By the time he left to go home, he was like a new man. He felt great. And it got me thinking how many people live for the weekend because it's the only time they can escape reality. I think who we are too often gets tied up with what we have to do every day, and it's essential to be able to get away from that sometimes."
The centerpiece of the album is the title cut, "Waitin' On Joe." Although Steve wrote it about his older brother Joe, who just like the Joe of the song, had a bad habit of being late--it's also allegorical. "My brother Joe is very much alive," Steve explains, "but in a sense, we all know someone like Joe in our own lives. We end up waiting for them over and over, just like we end up waiting for so many things in our lives that never happen. We've spent all that time dreaming and working toward something that never happens."
Today, Steve's focus is on getting his music heard. Now that the album is done and his first single is a hit he still feels he's only part of the way there. "I can't wait to start touring and playing this album live for audiences," he says. "To me, a record isn't really finished until you've taken it out on the road. That's the greatest feeling there is. That's when you know it works.
Venue Information:
Ford Center - University of Mississippi
351 University Avenue
Oxford, MS, 38655