May 18, 2013 1:46:09 PM
Jan Swoope - firstname.lastname@example.org
In recognition of the 80th anniversary of the death of "The Father of Country Music," Meridian native son Jimmie Rodgers, and in celebration of the 60th anniversary of Meridian's Jimmie Rodgers Festival, the Jimmie Rodgers Foundation on Thursday released a unique CD recorded in Meridian's Jimmie Rodgers Museum.
The collection features not only "the singing brakeman's" music, but also his favorite guitar -- the 000-45 Martin, as well as a microphone believed to have been used by Hank Williams, and Elsie McWilliams' piano. The late McWilliams (Rodgers' former sister-in-law) contributed to music and lyrics for 39 of his songs. The CD also features Britt Gully and his company of musicians sitting on Rodgers' personal furniture.
"This project developed when Jimmie Rodgers fans and members of the Jimmie Rodgers Foundation brainstormed ways we could pay tribute to Jimmie Rodgers and his significant contribution to the development of American music," said Betty Lou Jones, president of the foundation. "We want to share Jimmie's legacy and the fact that in Meridian and at the Jimmie Rodgers Museum, 'It is all about the music.' What better way to share his legacy than sharing his music at this museum featuring his favorite guitar?"
The CD's producer, Allen Delk of Allen Delk Management and Production Works LLC of Columbus, said, "From the technical production aspect of this project, we wanted the listener to hear, as close as possible, the actual sound that made Jimmie Rodgers so popular in his day, and even 80 years after his death. This live recording captures the authentic sound with acoustic instruments, just like he was heard in his live shows."
Britt Gully, singer, songwriter and guitar-picker from Cow Creek, grew up listening to Rodgers' music and is the CD's featured vocalist. In his own words, " I enjoy singing it, playing it, arranging it and updating it, but always remaining true to its original spirit."
Local audiences who attended Gully's musical tribute to Jimmie Rodgers, presented by the Columbus Arts Council in September 2012, got to see that first-hand.
Grammy winners Mac McAnally and Carl Jackson are also on the project.
Singer-songwriter McAnally adds his guitar talents to "Nobody Knows Me," and Louisville native Carl Jackson plays guitar on "Miss the Mississippi and You."
Jackson has been described by Bluegrass Unlimited magazine as "Bluegrass Music's MVP." The Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame member was recently inducted into the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America Hall of Greats.
McAnally, a native of Belmont, was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2007. He was named the Country Music Association Musician of the Year four consecutive years and is a member of the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame.
Both Jackson and McAnally have received Mississippi's Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts.
Starkville natives Hannah and Caroline Melby, now of Nashville, Tenn., bring fiddle, mandolin and harmony vocals to the recording.
"They may be young, but in the world of music, they're veterans," Delk remarked.
Musicians also include David Zettler and Tommy Ethridge on percussion and bass. Both hail from esteemed musical families from Meridian. Amy Lott of Meridian contributes clarinet, piano, harmonica, flute and accordion. Steve Smithson, on blues harp, draws from the early roots of blues and country. Alabamian Rodney Turner plays upright bass, and award-winning Kirk "Jelly Roll" Johnson adds soulful harmonica.
Thursday's CD release at Dumont Plaza in Meridian kicked off the 60th anniversary of the Jimmie Rodgers Festival. The recording is available for $15 from the Rodgers Museum. To order, call 601-485-1808 or 888-868-7720. A portion of the proceeds will benefit museum operation and Music Cares Inc.
After a preview of the album, radio personality and veteran broadcaster Ken Rainey said, "Congratulations! Outstanding! This is the best ... using the world-famous Martin on the CD is awesome. Another first for the Jimmie Rodgers Foundation. With this CD y'all just told the world, 'it is all about Jimmie Rodgers' music.'"
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.