Last July’s inaugural North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic was a resounding success, drawing over 1,000 people to a rural site in Potts Camp in Marshall County. The festival demonstrated the vitality of the contemporary blues scene in North Mississippi, and in light of the tremendous public response this year’s event has been extended to two days, June 29 and 30. Potts Camp is located off of Route 78, about halfway between Memphis and Tupelo.
The festival celebrates the legacies of departed North Mississippi blues legends including R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, and Othar Turner, and the festival will once again feature many of their children and grandchildren. These include Duwayne Burnside, and his band the Mississippi Mafia; the Burnside Exploration, featuring Cedric and Garry Burnside; David Kimbrough; the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band, led by Othar Turner’s 17-year-old granddaughter Sharde Thomas.
Other “second generation” acts returning to the event include Kenny Brown, R.L. Burnside’s longtime guitarist and “adopted son;” and the Reverend John Wilkins, son of pre-WWII recording artist Robert Wilkins, whose song “Prodigal Son” was covered by the Rolling Stones. Also returning to the festival are soul-blues legend Bobby Rush, Jimbo Mathus and Knockdown South, Cary Hudson, Jocco Rushing, and John Barnett.
Additions this year include the North Mississippi Allstars, whose leader Luther Dickinson grew up listening to R.L. Burnside and attending Othar Turner’s fife and drum picnics; songstress Shannon McNally, a resident of Holly Springs; and the Oxford-based Taylor Grocery Band, which features Junior Kimbrough’s son Kinney Kimbrough on drums and vocals.
Potts Camp resident Kenny Brown, who has been playing Hill Country blues since he was a young boy with artists including Mississippi Joe Callicott and Johnny Woods, conceived the festival.
“The original idea for this thing was to get all the Hill Country acts we could together at one time here in North Mississippi,” says Brown. “I know from first hand experience how popular the music is all over the world, but we previously didn’t have an opportunity to celebrate our shared heritage here on our home turf.
“Last year we had a better turn out than we expected and it was wonderful for the performers to be able to hang out together and see the audience having such a great time. Sara Davis and the other organizers did a great job of getting everything together.
“This year we’re adding another day and some more acts, and we’re looking forward to an even greater turnout. Last year we had people from seventeen states and three foreign countries and I’m sure it will be even better this year. We’ll have plenty of food and a camping area.”
The festival is run by the non –profit organization North MS Hill Country Picnic, Inc., and enjoys great support and sponsorship from North Mississippi communities. Camping will be allowed both nights, coolers are permitted, and vendors will sell local delicacies including barbeque and fried catfish.
A portion of each ticket will be donated to MusiCares©, a charity run by the Recording Academy that provides free health care for musicians in need. Sponsors to-date include R&B Charitable Foundation, Paragon Casino, Freeland & Freeland, One Day Signs, Oxford Tourism, and Budweiser.
For more information visit the website www.nmshillcountrypicnic.com