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New Agrarians to showcase Songs and Stories of the Southland

 

The New Agrarians — from left, Pierce Pettis, Kate Campbell and Tom Kimmel — will perform at the Rosenzweig Arts Center Omnova Theater Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance at the Columbus Arts Council’s Rosenzweig Arts Center. Tickets are $12 at the door, if available.

The New Agrarians — from left, Pierce Pettis, Kate Campbell and Tom Kimmel — will perform at the Rosenzweig Arts Center Omnova Theater Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance at the Columbus Arts Council’s Rosenzweig Arts Center. Tickets are $12 at the door, if available. Photo by: Courtesy photo

 

Jan Swoope

 

 

Individually, Kate Campbell, Tom Kimmel and Pierce Pettis are among the most respected singer-songwriters in the industry. Collectively, they form the New Agrarians, a fairly recent configuration bringing together three children of the South, each expert at their craft. It's a powerful combination. 

 

The Columbus Arts Council presents them in concert Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. in the Rosenzweig Arts Center Omnova Theater at 501 Main St. The group's Golden Triangle stop follows their appearance as featured artists on Thacker Mountain Radio in Oxford Thursday. 

 

Getting all three musicians in Columbus is something of a "coup" the arts council has been trying to bring about for some time. 

 

"It all finally fell into place," said CAC Program Manager Beverly Norris, "and we couldn't be more happy to have them. They truly are considered master songwriters of their generation." 

 

 

 

The artists 

 

Pettis, who hails from Fort Payne, Alabama, has twice been on the Omnova Theater stage. His finely-wrought songs have, throughout his career, been recorded by artists including Joan Baez, Art Garfunkel and Garth Brooks.  

 

"From the time I was very little, I always had the music going in my head," he has said. The former songwriter for Muscle Shoals Sounds Studios and later PolyGram, went on to release multiple albums on High Street Records, a division of Windham Hill, and Compass Records. He and his gifted singer-songwriter daughter, Grace Pettis, are the only father-daughter to both win the coveted New Folk Songwriting Award at Texas' Kerrville Folk Festival, about 25 years apart. 

 

Campbell's clear and eloquent voice shines on her 15 CDs, which have included collaborations with Emmylou Harris, Spooner Oldham, Will Kimbrough, David Hood and many more. The daughter of a Baptist preacher, she grew up in Sledge in the middle of the civil rights struggles that influenced her music.  

 

Ballet Memphis featured six of her songs in their production called "South of Everywhere," which included a live performance by Campbell.  

 

Tom Kimmel covers the gamut -- songwriter, entertainer, speaker, poet, teacher and lecturer. His compositions have been recorded by a host of major artists, including Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker, Linda Ronstadt and Randy Travis. Television audiences have heard his songs in films like "Runaway Bride" and "Twins to Serendipity" and on TV shows ranging from "Dawson's Creek" to "Captain Kangaroo." Kimmel's humorous approach to poetry and storytelling endears the University of Alabama alumnus to listeners.  

 

Making the trip 

 

Judy Peiser at the Center for Southern Folklore in Memphis, Tennessee, has called the New Agrarians "three of the best singer-songwriters you'll ever hear on one stage." David Walker of Hattiesburg knows it. 

 

Walker traveled to Columbus in July to attend Pettis' show at the arts center. He's making the trip again Friday, accompanied by five or so other music fans. 

 

"You're not just going to hear their songs, you're gong to hear their hearts -- that's what you're getting with the New Agrarians," said Walker, who co-organizes concerts for the Back Door Coffeehouse in his hometown. 

 

When the Back Door celebrated its 20th anniversary two years ago, "I said we've got to do something special," remarked Walker, who spent a lot of time in Macon growing up and visiting relatives. The anniversary answer was the Agrarians. 

 

"It was a super special night; all three of them are incredible people. Nothing beats live performance and these people, their kind of music, is far more oriented to an interactive experience." 

 

Norris said, "We're thrilled to hear from fans like David, who are asking about hotels and restaurants and things to do in Columbus." 

 

 

 

How to go 

 

Concert tickets are $10 in advance at the Rosenzweig Arts Center Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Or call the CAC, 662-328-2787. Tickets at the theater door, if available, will be $12. Seating is limited; advance tickets are recommended.

 

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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