Back where I come from

I am a proud native of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. 

When I tell most people that, they tend to have similar responses.

  1. “That’s cool. I’ve been to the Beau Rivage before.”
  2. “Why is the water brown?”
  3. “Do you live close to the Prime Outlets?”

Believe me, I like shopping just as much as the next person (not really, I kind of hate it) and the Beau Rivage is a great spot during the holidays if you desire cheesy family photos, but that’s not what I love about where I’m from.

Let me explain number 2 in detail. The Mississippi Sound, not the Gulf of Mexico, is the body of water directly south of the coastline in Mississippi. The barrier islands surrounding the Sound lead to the Gulf of Mexico. Conundrum: the islands (and the addition of water from the Mighty Mississippi) don’t allow for much circulation to take place near the coastline. While the water doesn’t seem super appealing, the islands have acted as a sort of blockade in past hurricane seasons. We’re grateful for that.

Besides, take the trip to Horn or Ship and you’ll notice that the water actually gets…blue.

What does one do on the MS Gulf Coast? I don’t know about the average inhabitant, but this is what I do when I go visit my favorite place on earth:

  • Go to the beach; I’m not sure how long I could stay away from the salt air
  • Check out the local shops, restaurants and museums (I recommend Downtown Ocean Springs for the full experience)
  • Visit the barrier islands
  • Drive down a few back roads for the hell of it
  • Listen to awesome music in dives you’ll never hear of unless you’re from the area
  • Hang out with family and friends (usually on or around the water)

There’s more than meets the eye. I’m not talking about the new casinos or shopping centers. I’m talking about learning more about the history of the coast. Believe me, some of it’s juicy. I can say that when I left the coast for college, I thought it was for good. Now I realize that no matter where I go, I’ll never truly be home. 

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Why I’m proud to be a ‘Mississippi Girl’

I’m southern and I like it. 

My accent rarely comes out, and I believe that surprises people. I’m from the Mississippi Gulf Coast, which I consider to be the “melting pot” of the state. There is a pretty diverse ethnic makeup, and due to the casinos there are also a significant number of transplants–temporary and permanent. Most assume that a small-town girl from the ‘Sip should don a serious drawl.

My plan with this post is not to compare MS to other states…that’s pointless. My intention is to explain why Mississippi is so important to me; this explanation could and will most likely differ from the next Mississippian.

I grew up in a very small area, St. Martin, where annexation always threatened the humbled community boasting half of Washington Avenue, half of Lemoyne Boulevard, Latimer, a library AND a community center. Ocean Springs and d’Iberville (the cities surrounding us) acted as taunting older siblings. St. Martin doesn’t have a “Welcome To” sign, but we do have amazing sausage biscuits at the BP/Fayard’s down the street.

Growing up and throughout high school, I didn’t have the opportunity to take advantage of the beauty my town–or the MS Gulf Coast–has to offer. I’m not talking about the Beau Rivage, kids. The barrier islands that surround the Gulf Coast are just an example of the little secrets Mississippians hide from the masses. A short boat ride will bring you to a number of islands where you can lose yourself in the beauty of the Mississippi Sound.

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I never went to clubs or bars in high school. Instead I went to Krohn Creek, CC’s, Sugar Gate, and places that I can’t remember the names of to sit around a massive fire, drink cheap beer and make up excuses to tell my mom as to why I was late when I got in. I worked at a restaurant every weekend that showcased blues artists, and my love for the Mississippi blues was subconsciously born.

You see, my home state has a bad reputation. I honestly think it’s because no one takes the time to learn more about it. The music, the food, the people (locals in particular) and the incredible landscapes can’t be duplicated. From the delta to the coast, there’s something for every visitor. I like to eat local, drink local and give back to my community as much as I can. Faulkner, B.B. King, and even Oprah consider it home.

My advice? Take the time to appreciate where you are right now. I’m in Baton Rouge as a student, but I have grown to love what the capitol has to offer its inhabitants. I miss home daily, sure. Of course my family and friends have something to do with that. Honestly what I miss most is the authenticity of the people I run into who were born, raised, and learned to live and love in Mississippi. I have a feeling the Magnolia State will always be a place I consider my home.

Mississippi Never Gets Credit

I’ve noticed something in my 21 years of life. Mississippi has a reputation that will never be anything more than a racist bubble of festering bigotry.

You read that right.

“The South Will Rise Again” is one of the first things that seems to come to mind when people think about the state that is first for every bad list and last for every good list. I’m here to say that this sentiment is bull shit. (Sorry for the expletives.)

As soon as I mention, “I’m from Mississippi,” people form their own perception of me. She must be country; she lives on a farm; etc. Actually, I live next to a farm. I do enjoy country music from time to time. My grandfather used to be a bonafide cowboy. 

Anywho. my main point is not to rant about the stereotypes I have encountered. I’m talking about music, yeah. Artists that influence me range from blues to indie to reggae, pretty much anything. Some of my favorite “Hill Country” Mississippi blues artists, though, follow:

  • R.L. Burnside; this man is boss. I don’t care who you are or where you come from. You can’t help but bob your head to his simple rhythms that carry so much weight. He has a personality that can’t be denied when he sings (and mumbles in between verses). In fact, the inside flap  for “A Bothered Mind” includes a picture of him peeing. Ha ha. I think it’s funny. 
  • Junior Kimbrough; this guy was raunchy. No really. Just listen to his live recordings in juke joints around northern Mississippi. His instrumentals are some of my favorites. More modern artists have tried to do him justice, but I wasn’t impressed until I heard “Chulahoma.” The Black Keys do an incredible job of harnessing Junior’s intensity and charisma. The last track on the short album is actually a recording of Junior’s wife, who expresses her gratitude to Dan and Patrick for commemorating her late husband in an authentic way.

I’ve only mentioned a couple of artists, but they are genuinely my favorite. It doesn’t matter how I’m feeling emotionally. These two artists have the ability to make me laugh, sing, tap my nails on the steering wheel, dance around my kitchen and suggest songs to friends.

Mississippi is better than what everyone assumes. I love my state and I’m proud to say I grew up as a “country” girl.

Fat Possum Records

With a tagline of “We’re trying our best”, Fat Possum Records based out of Oxford, Mississippi is still staying true to its roots.

The first time I learned of Fat Possum, I was working at The Shed BBQ in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. The artists represented by FPR range from old-school Mississippi blues to serious folk. Sporadically, I see the logo on bumper stickers or as a sponsor for different fests throughout the South.

I love learning about the background work it takes to represent artists–especially those who are up-and-coming. FPR does a great job of maintaining the grassroots appeal that is so unique in a mainstream entertainment industry. A few of the artists represented are The Black Keys, Al Green, Junior Kimbrough, Jimbo Mathus, T-Model Ford and others.

Keep on trying, FPR. I’ll keep on listening.

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

I have seen this group live once in Oxford, Mississippi at the Lyric. I have to say that it was one of the best shows I have ever seen. She has this incredible ability to energize the crowd. We waited around later to get our posters signed by the band members, and she embraced us as if she knew us for years. She said, “Thank you for taking the time to come see us.”

I have to admit that if I had to choose, Grace Potter would be my girl crush no doubt. She displays her femininity in sequin-covered tanks and glitter skirts while simultaneously making every man in the room feel musically inadequate. Ha ha. Mad respect for her stage presence–it can’t be denied.

Take a weekend off and travel to see this group. It’s worth every mile, my friend.

Listen to Me

If you have never been exposed to serious Mississippi blues, you’re welcome in advance for this gem.

I have been influenced by music in several ways. Whether it be from my time working at The Shed BBQ in Ocean Springs, ex-boyfriends, best friends, my mother, or whatever variable you want to imagine, I feel that my taste in music has become developed tenfold within the last couple of years.

I love the grit and grime of the background; I love how you can feel the rhythm like you’re in an old-school juke joint in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

I hope you like it, too.