Sam Mosley is arguably the best-known musical performer to come out of New Albany, Mississippi, so this year, the city of New Albany organized a Sam Mosley Freedom Fest on June 24, which was originally intended to be held in the city’s large park along the Tallahatchie River, but which was moved to the Tanglefoot Trail welcome center near downtown the day of the event, perhaps because of the extreme heat.
A moderate crowd gathered to hear several bands perform, including the Garry Burnside Band, for whom I played keyboards, featuring an important young guest, Gracie Williams, the young guitar player whom Garry has been mentoring. Although the date of the event conflicted with the Hill Country Picnic in Marshall County, by the end of Garry’s set, there was a fairly decent crowd present, as well as food trucks.
Garry had to immediate head to Waterford to play at the annual Hill Country Picnic at Betty Davis’ Ponderosa, and rather than go all the way to Holly Springs, I decided to brave the Potts Camp Road from Potts Camp to Waterford, and it was not nearly as bad as I had feared, despite a fair amount of hills and bottoms. And it brought me into Waterford past an old abandoned schoolhouse which I had never seen before, so I had to stop and photograph it while it is still standing.
This year’s Hill Country crowd seemed consistent with the pre-pandemic years, and should put to rest any fears about the festival bouncing back from COVID. When we arrived, Charlie Musselwhite was on stage, performing in a duo setting. Musselwhite, who moved to Memphis a few years ago, has lost nothing as a performer despite his advanced age, and getting to see him in that setting was quite worthwhile. Cameron Kimbrough was in the crowd, and backstage I ran into Artemas LeSeuer, his wife Peggy who was asleep from the extreme heat, Sarah and Kenny Brown, who run the picnic, as well as Melvin, Daniel and Duwayne Burnside. Scott Barretta, writer and blues activist from Greenwood was around as well. Although I had already had dinner in New Albany, I could not resist the barbecue sandwiches provided for performers.
Garry Burnside came on stage after Alvin Youngblood Hart, at 11 PM, and was the headline artist for Saturday night. His set featured Gracie Williams, Kenny Brown and Alvin Hart as a sort of mini-jam toward the end, rather than the hour of jam session that used to close out the picnic. A brief fireworks display ended this year’s festival.