By Talbert Toole
As the summer heat begins to descend onto the bustling streets of Oxford, LOU community members have a new opportunity to grab a chair, sit back and relax as artists play tunes for community enjoyment 20 minutes south of Oxford.
The Water Valley Arts Council is set to host an inaugural concert series of Mississippi musicians this summer as apart of its free Summer Sunset Concert Series on four Friday nights throughout the summer. From 7- 10 p.m., community members of Yalobusha and Lafayette are invited to enjoy music in the Pocket Park—located on Main Street across from the Water Valley Chamber of Commerce.
The first show is scheduled for Friday, May 31. Prior to the concert, Main Street plays host to its second annual block party. Beginning at 5 p.m. community members and those from the surrounding area can enjoy field games, extended shopping hours and food vendors.
Hannah McCormick, co-director of the arts council, said the concert series has been in motion for a couple of months when the proposal was first approved by the Water Valley Aldermen.
The council was given a budget where it decided to focus the funds toward great musicians that would be a big draw for residents of Water Valley and the surrounding area, McCormick said.
With hopes to make this event an annual event, McCormick said the town has worked diligently in producing events throughout the year for the community.
McCormick said the council worked closely with Dial Back Studio, a recording studio located in Water Valley. By working closely with the local recording studio, the council was able to secure four different musical acts that are well-known throughout the state and beyond, she said.
Young Valley is the first to take the stage in the community park. The group features songwriters Zach Lovett, Dylan Lovett and Spencer Thomas. The band added Kell Kullum and Ethan Frink to make a five-piece group that experiments with a variety of melodies and harmonies to form a range of styles from traditional country to southern-tinged rock ‘n roll.
The band has a special place in the hearts of residents of Water Valley, according to McCormick. Many of the members of the band actually live in the town.
“That’s really exciting for the people here,” she said. “They’re like hometown heroes.”
June 14, Duck Hill native Willie Farmer graces the stage with his infusion of gospel, blues music. Farmer, a self-taught guitarist, has owned and operated an auto repair shop for over 44 years. It was not until 2017 that he would produce his first album, “I’m Coming Back Home,” with the help of Australian blue label Wolf. On the album, Farmer alternates between acoustic and electric guitars that Music Maker Relief Foundation states resemble that of Lightnin’ Hopkins.
On the heels of Fourth of July, eccentric artist Jimbo Mathus will take center state in Water Valley on July 12. Mathus debuted his latest album, Incinerator, which on April 5 via Mississippi’s Big Legal Mess Records.
The Mississippi artist is no stranger to Water Valley; the town is where he cut the latest album in just two days in the Dial Back Sound recording studio, owned by Matt Patton of The Drive-By Truckers and The Dexateens.
Although Mathus has produced a mass majority of albums, he decided to hand the reigns over to Bronson Tew and Drive-By Truckers bassist Matt Patton, who co-owns Dial Back and opted to play piano instead of his trademark guitar, for the production of Incinerator.
“I wanted to get to the soul of these songs, without distractions,” Mathus said to his record label. “So, I decided to play piano and record me singing live in the studio.”
Closing out the Summer Sunset Concert Series is Oxford’s very own And the Echo on July 26.
The band was formed in 2014 and features the combination of talent from Morgan Pennington and Winn McElroy. The duo independently writes and produces their own music.
From The Thirsty Hippo, based in Hattiesburg, to Oxford’s Proud Larry’s, And the Echo now makes its return to Water Valley. Known for their synth-pop sounds and light shows, Pennington said she the duo loves being able to be a part of community events such as the Summer Sunset Series.
“It’s always an honor to be asked and the vibe is always so laid back and wonderful,” Pennington said.
She said performing in Water Valley has proven to be a wonderful experience in the past.
“Small towns show up and know how to have a good time just as much as big cities,” she said.
For more information on the Water Valley Summer Sunset Concert Series, visit the Water Valley Art Council’s Facebook page.