Celebrating the Hill Country Tradition at Como’s Annual Day


Each October, the City of Como, Mississippi sponsors a large, daylong festival and picnic called Como Day, featuring vendors, food trucks, custom cars and excellent live music. Como Day is one of a number of “town days” that are held in predominantly-Black Mississippi towns. These are held throughout the year, generally bear the name of the town, feature live music, and often become an excuse for those who moved away to return home for a day or a weekend. Although most small towns have some sort of festival, these town days are unique, functioning almost like a homecoming for these communities, many of which no longer have high schools due to consolidations, and which have lost many residents to bigger cities. Como’s massive day is one of the largest, and also serves as something of an annual end to the blues festival season, as the last big blues event of the year. Uniquely situated at the place where the Hill Country meets the Delta, Como has a long blues tradition, and its local gospel, blues, soul and funk are highlighted at Como Day each year.
This year’s Como Day featured a crowd of well over a thousand people, coming out to enjoy barbecue, live gospel music, Sharde Thomas and the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band, the Duwayne Burnside Band featuring Garry Burnside and J. J. Wilburn, Deandre Walker and his band, and the headliner Terry Wright from Memphis, whose single “I Done Lost My Good Thing” has been popular in the Mid-South for more than a year. I was particularly impressed by Deandre Walker, a former gospel singer, who delivered a very soulful reading of a country song “Tennessee Whiskey”, which he then blended seamlessly into Etta James’ timeless “I Would Rather Go Blind.” Such epiphanies are the rule rather than the exception at Como Days, as are the elderly townspeople who suddenly feel young enough again to get low to the ground as the bands or the drummers are playing. Perhaps the whole day was best summed up by the slogan on the back of many of the T-shirts: “Together We Stand.”









Celebrating the Legacy of Hill Country Blues On Its Biggest Day

001 Hill Country Picnic002 Hill Country Picnic003 Hill Country Picnic004 Hill Country Picnic005 Hill Country Picnic006 Hill Country Picnic007 Hill Country Picnic008 Hill Country Picnic009 Hill Country Picnic011 Joseph Burnside Band012 Garry Burnside on Drums013 Kenny Brown014 Joseph Burnside & Duwayne Burnside015 Joseph Burnside016 Kenny Burnside017 Joseph Burnside018 Joseph Burnside019 Kenny Brown020 Garry & Joseph Burnside021 Joseph & Duwayne Burnside022 Joseph Burnside & Duwayne Burnside023 Duwayne Burnside024 Kenny Brown & Garry Burnside025 Garry Burnside on Drums026 Hill Country Picnic030 Joseph Burnside031 Duwayne Burnside032 Garry Burnside033 Garry Burnside034 Bill Abel035 Bill Abel036 Bill Abel037 Bill Abel038 Bill Abel039 Bill Abel040 Bill Abel041 Hill Country Picnic042 Hill Country Picnic043 Hill Country Picnic044 Hill Country Picnic045 Hill Country Picnic046 Hill Country Picnic047 Cary Hudson048 Cary Hudson049 Cary Hudson050 Cary Hudson052 Cary Hudson053 Cary Hudson's Drummer055 Cary Hudson056 WWOZ057 Eric Deaton Trio058 Eric Deaton059 Eric Deaton060 Eric Deaton Trio061 Eric Deaton Trio062 Hill Country Picnic063 Eric Deaton Trio064 Hill Country Picnic065 Rising Star Fife & Drum Band066 Rising Star Fife & Drum Band067 Rising Star Fife & Drum Band068 Rising Star Fife & Drum Band069 Rising Star Fife & Drum Band070 Rising Star Fife & Drum Band071 Sharde Thomas072 Rising Star Fife & Drum Band073 Rising Star Fife & Drum Band074 Rising Star Fife & Drum Band075 Sharde Thomas076 Sharde Thomas077 Rising Star Fife & Drum Band078 Rising Star Fife & Drum Band079 Rising Star Fife & Drum Band080 Sharde Thomas081 Rising Star Fife & Drum Band082 Rising Star Fife & Drum Band083 Rising Star Fife & Drum Band084 Rising Star Fife & Drum Band085 Rising Star Fife & Drum Band086 Rising Star Fife & Drum Band087 Rising Star Fife & Drum Band088 Garry Burnside089 Garry Burnside090 Garry Burnside Band091 Garry Burnside Band092 Garry Burnside093 Garry Burnside Band094 Garry Burnside Band095 Garry Burnside096 Garry Burnside Band
Although the Friday night shows had been harassed by storms, no such problem occurred on the Saturday of the North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic. In fact the day was a bright sunny blue one, with fairly cool temperatures compared to what we had been having, and it was the perfect setting for a full day of Hill Country blues. The gates had opened with R. L. Boyce at 10:30 in the morning, but by the time I arrived, Joseph Burnside was on stage, with Duwayne and Garry Burnside backing him up. He was followed by Bill Abel, then Cary Hudson of the band Blue Mountain, and finally Sharde Thomas and the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band from the Gravel Springs community near Senatobia, one of the last Black fife and drum bands in America. Garry Burnside and his band went up on stage after that, and then I left to go to dinner at Lamar Lounge in Oxford. In addition to the live performances, there were lots of arts, crafts and clothing for sale at various tents up on the hill, and a raffle, which was being held to raise money for a gravestone for the late bluesman Robert Belfour. And the whole day’s proceedings were broadcast live by New Orleans’ superb radio station WWOZ.

Keep up with R. L. Boyce:
https://www.facebook.com/RLBoyceBlues

Keep up with Bill Abel:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bill-Abel/192999535686
https://myspace.com/billabel

Keep up with Cary Hudson:

Home


https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cary-Hudson-Music/124389767589979


https://myspace.com/caryhudson

Keep up with Sharde Thomas and the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sharde-fifemastor-Thomas/225158361001370

Keep up with Garry Burnside:
https://www.facebook.com/garrybluesmanburnside

Keep up with the North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic:
https://www.facebook.com/nmshillcountrypicnic

Celebrating the Hill Country Blues at Oxford’s Powerhouse Community Arts Center


While registering for the Southern Entertainment Awards at Resorts Casino in Tunica, I looked on my phone and saw where a concert of Hill Country blues was taking place at the Powerhouse Community Arts Center in Oxford. The weather had gotten really bad, with high winds, thunder and lightning, but I decided to drive over that way from Tunica, stopping for dinner at the Oyster Bar in Como. The concert had already started when I got to Oxford, and Sharde Thomas was on stage with the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band. I learned that the event was being held for the attendees of the Southern Literary Festival, which was being held on the Ole Miss campus nearby. After the fife and drum band, Hill Country blues legend Duwayne Burnside came on stage with his band, including David Kimbrough Jr on drums, and played a selection of traditional and modern blues songs, getting the most applause for his reading of his father’s “See My Jumper Hanging Out On The Line.” (The strange title of that song had always mystified me, until I read recently that rural women who were cheating on their husbands used to hang a man’s jumpsuit on their clothesline as a signal to their boyfriends that the coast was clear and they could come over). Duwayne Burnside was followed by the Rev. John Wilkins, whose style of gospel is largely based on the music of Hill Country blues, despite the religious tone of the lyrics. Although I had seen all the performers elsewhere in the past, it was an exciting and enjoyable performance.