A surefire way to annoy, insult, upset or even anger a Mississippian is for some Northerner to spell the state's name in a silly chant: "Em, eye, crooked-letter, crooked-letter, eye, crooked-letter, crooked-letter, eye, humpback-humpback, eyeMississippi. Billy Gibson and his band get away with it, partly because he's a Southerner who knows, all too well, how the chant can infuriate the locals. It doesn't hurt that he put it into a delightful song on Southern Livin'
Gibson, a fixture on the Memphis blues scene, spent his early career in the Mississippi Delta town of Clarksdale, honing his craft with the harmonica while playing in guitarist Johnnie Billington's band, The Midnighters. A native of Clinton, Miss., who spent many years in the Jackson area, Gibson was strongly influenced by the music of his surroundings. Since then, he's gone on to participate on recordings by such artists as Deborah Coleman and Michael Burks.
On Southern Livin'
, Gibson is joined by his regular band, David Bowen on guitar and backing vocals, Charlie Wood on keyboards and backing vocals, James Jackson on bass and Cedric Keel on drums and backing vocals, as well as a few guest musicians.
On "Mississippi, one of five songs written by Bowen, Gibson sings about going to his home state and having the time of his life. With clever innuendo, he sings of country girls and getting a taste of the South in his mouth. It's a cool track that celebrates many aspects of Southern living, aided by a subtle yet effective rhythm track by the band.
Guest guitarist Preston Shannon delivers a sharp solo on "I'm Single, an upbeat tune wherein Gibson let's the ladies know he's available, supplemented by the horn section.
"Hey, Hey Pretty Lady is Gibson's own composition, a slow swing where the artist tells his woman to prepare for a long night. Kirk Smothers' baritone saxophone gives this piece some extra soul, but Gibson's harmonica also adds a nice touch.Southern Livin'
is an ideal soundtrack to typical Southern pastimes: cookouts, backyard swimming pools, lounging on the patio and chatting with friends around a backyard table. With seven original songs, including one written by Wood, it's another example of Gibson's straightforward approach to the blues, previously exhibited on The Billy Gibson Band
(Inside Sounds, 2005). The excellent music makes it easy to forgive his "crooked-letter transgressions.
Billy Gibson: vocals and harmonica; David Bowen: guitar and background vocals; Charlie Wood: organ, piano, Rhodes and background vocals; James Jackson: bass; Cedric Keel: drums and background vocals; Preston Shannon: lead guitar (3); Daddy Mack Orr: lead guitar (10); Jeff Burch: congas, percussion; Jackie Johnson and Z-Da: background vocals; Scott Thompson: trumpet; Jim Spake and Howard Lamb: trombone; Kirk Smothers: baritone saxophone.