“An iconic celebration of Blues, Rhythm and Soul” will have the Saint James Wright VFW Post 5397 in Hattiesburg jumping this Sunday, Jan. 14, when 2017 Grammy winner Bobby Rush and nominee Vasti Jackson perform.
Southern soul singer Ms. Tabatha will also provide entertainment beginning at 7 p.m. at the VFW, located at 108 Market St. The doors open at 5:30 p.m. and tickets are $25 apiece.
Jackson, who grew up in McComb and now lives in Hattiesburg, was nominated in the Best Traditional Blues Album category, where he has his first nomination as a soloist with the CD “The Soul of Jimmie Rodgers.” He is also the musical director for Bobby Rush, who won the Grammy in the same category for “Porcupine Meat.”
However, Jackson said “The Soul of Jimmie Rodgers” is one of a kind. He recorded the songs in Hattiesburg.
“This nomination is special and unique,” he said. “It is the first time that I have been nominated as a recording artist. This album is acoustic, just me, my voice and my guitar. And it was all recorded in Hattiesburg.”
Even more than just being recorded in the Hub City, the songs played an important role in understanding the roots of blues for Jackson.
“Historically, this is so important,” he said. “I learned about Jimmie Rodgers when I was doing research on the material for the play ‘Jimmie Rodgers: America’s Blue Yodeler’ in Meridian. The songs were so natural and I began to feel them. I was familiar with most of his songs, but there were other songs that I had not heard. There were a lot of lyrics and melodies that stuck with me so much. I started singing them and the next thing I knew, I had recorded eight songs. I wrote two of my own, including ‘Lowdown Hoedown.’”
Jackson portrayed Hobo Bill in the production of the play for the Meridian Little Theatre. The music touched him deeply.
“It became a real project for me because I felt the soul of Jimmie Rodgers,” he said. “He is known as ‘The Father of Country Music,’ but it goes much deeper than that. He is the link from blues to country music.”
Jackson also said he is proud to represent Hattiesburg and Mississippi with the nomination.
“I am so excited about (the Grammy nomination),” he said. “I want to get the word out that this is for Hattiesburg and this is for Mississippi.”
Hattiesburg native Craig Wiseman, a songwriter living in Nashville, won a Grammy in 2003 for “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw as Best Country Song.
“The Soul of Jimmie Rodgers” is Jackson’s sixth CD release. According to his website, “This body of work celebrates the powerful influence that the blues had on the father of country music in an acoustic setting with voice, and guitar. The disc reveals how country got the blues.”
In 2001, Jackson co-produced the Bobby Rush “Hoochie Man”“ CD, which was nominated for the 2001 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues recording.
Other nominees in the 2016 category included “Can't Shake This Feeling” by Lurrie Bell, “Live At The Greek Theatre” by Joe Bonamassa and “Blues & Ballads (A Folksinger's Songbook: Volumes I & II)” by Luther Dickinson.
Among the awards that Jackson has received include Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame inductee in 2012, Albert King Lifetime Guitar Award in 2015, cultural ambassador of Mississippi appointee in 2004 and Mississippi living blues legend honor in 2011. His legendary performances include featured performer at the National Blues Museum and the Grammy Museum Mississippi grand openings in 2016, at Super Bowl XLVII in 2013, as the lead role in the play “Robert Johnson: The Man, The Myth, The Music!” in 2013 and at the Mississippi State Capitol for the Senate and House of Representatives proclamation honoring 2011 as the Year of Robert Johnson.