CG | If you’re a Gen Xer like me, you probably remember the particular joys of creating mix tapes for friends and loved ones. Maybe you were trying to get a song or two with a little extra meaning onto a cassette for someone you had a crush on. Maybe your little brother discovered that he liked songs that featured prominent bass guitar, and you were trying to help him scratch that itch. Or maybe the drummer in your band had given you a mix that included bootleg versions of Stooges, Modern Lovers, and Velvet Underground songs, and you were just trying to keep up.
I loved stringing together a collection of songs with a particular person in mind, adding little snippets of found audio, and creating individual cover art for each mix – so much so that I tried to keep the spirit of the mixtape going as cassettes fell from favor and I found myself burning CDRs for friends, finally drawing the line at digital playlists.
But now, taking a cue from my old friend Meeghan at Auntie Bellum, I’ve decided to cobble together a modern day mixtape for fellow Incidentalists. I tend to skew towards music from the past in my personal listening habits, so I challenge you to keep me on my toes with suggestions for newer Southern music. Meeghan is highlighting Southern women, trans, and non-binary artists in particular, and I strongly encourage you to check out her playlists for a fuller picture of what’s happening with music in the South.
Because I’m continually delighted by and a firm believer in the New Orleanian concept of lagniappe, I’ll be supplying you with 13 songs to enjoy. So without any further ado, here’s your inaugural “devil’s dozen” of Southern music.
“Up Jumped The Devil”
Ronnie Dawson | Dallas, TX
Although Texans have made it abundantly clear that THEY ARE NOT THE SOUTH, THEY ARE THEIR OWN THING, the swampy skronk of Ronnie Dawson’s “Up Jumped The Devil” can’t be denied – it just can’t. So I’m gonna claim it for just a minute.
“Tap Dancin’ Daddy”
Taylor Hollingsworth | Birmingham, AL
Taylor is a prolific musician who plays in Dead Fingers, Conor Oberst & The Mystic Valley Band, SDX, Dexateens, and so on and so forth when he’s not making incredible music on his own.
“Hold Me Close/Daniel Bloom”
Hope for Agoldensummer | Athens, GA
The Campbell sisters harmonize with that uncanny sibling sixth sense similar to the Everlys or the Louvins. It always amazes me that they make such richly textured music with such sparse instrumentation.
“Blue Kentucky Girl”
Loretta Lynn | Butcher Holler, KY
Loretta says this is her favorite song to play, and when she sings “I swear I love you by the moon above you,” you can really hear that love in her voice. And check out that zippy patter at the beginning of the clip!
“Picked Apart (Left To Rot)”
Overnight Lows | Jackson, MS
Marshall and Daphne of Overnight Lows have been playing snotty punk together in one form or another since they were kids. This clip catches them in their natural habitat: a sweaty, beer-soaked show in a little Jackson dive.
Discount | Vero Beach, FL
Before Alison Mosshart went on to the Dead Weather and the Kills, there was scrappy little Discount, a gang of high school friends mixing equal parts post-punk, pop-punk and emo.
“I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore”
Lucy Dacus | Richmond, VA
When Lucy sings, the first thing I notice is her lush, rich voice. The second thing I notice is how much it sounds like she means what she’s singing.
“Just Walkin’ In The Rain”
The Prisonaires | Nashville, TN
Easily the most bittersweet song of longing ever performed by convicts – at least to my knowledge. If you have a another contender for that title, I want to hear it!
“I Don’t Believe”
Jeremy Pinnell | Elsmere, KY
The upbeat chicken-picking of this honkytonk number belies the darkness of its lyrics, which simultaneously refute religion and promote a grim self-determinism. Jeremy may have the state of Ohio tattooed on his head, but we’ll let him in anyway since he has the state of Kentucky tattooed on the other side of his head.
Beth Ditto | Searcy, AR
Beth Ditto, a self described “fat, feminist lesbian from Arkansas,” first caught my ear with the Gossip – to me, it sounded like what would happen if Bikini Kill got the blues. The production is slicker here on Ditto’s latest solo release, but retains a raw, soulful edge that harkens back to the Gossip’s earliest work.
“Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar”
Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard | Montcalm, WV & Seattle, WA
Written by the Delmore Brothers in the early 30s, this tune was reworked by Hazel and Alice in the mid-60s with a slightly different arrangement, bringing it to a whole new generation of folk musicians.
“I Can’t Hardly Stand It”
Charlie Feathers | Holly Springs, MS
My friend Jim introduced me to Charlie Feathers some years ago. I’d been familiar with the Cramp’s version of “I Can’t Hardly Stand It” since I was about 14, but hearing the original was a revelation.
“Love Lots of Lovin”
Lee Dorsey & Betty Harris | New Orleans, LA & Orlando, FL
Lee and Betty are a natural duet – their voices are matched so nicely, and they really sell this Allen Toussaint-penned number. It’s a crime that they only recorded two songs together (this tune and its B-side), but at least we have that.
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