Best of Jackson 2007 | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Best of Jackson 2007

Best Place to Buy a Stiff Drink
Best Karaoke
Best Open-Mic Night:
Fenian's 901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055

Fenian's is one of those great bars that ought to be on tourist guides. There are no foam parties or sharks in tanks, no ice-tables or holograms of dead celebrities pretending to listen to your boring life story. There are no gimmicks, in other words, and the reason is that real character has no need for gimmicks. You could never make a Fenian's—it has made itself. Now, it is like a life raft for us all.

Some of the best times I've had in this fine city have been within the walls of Fenian's. I've had profound discussions and trivial banter. I've said things so obscene that even thinking about them ought to be illegal. I've sat on the balcony, and I've marveled at musical genius in the back.

What I mean to express is that Fenian's is as much a community as it is a place. It's a welcoming haven and a harsh mistress. It's the sort of bar that makes you glad some drunk guy came up with the idea of bars. If you haven't had a black and tan there, you don't actually know anything about Jackson at all.
— Brian Johnson

Best Place to Buy a Stiff Drink
Second: Martin's (214 S. State St., 601-354-9712) / Third: Tico's (1536 E. County Line Road, Ridgeland, 601-956-1030) / Good showing: Char (4500 I-55 N # 142, 601-956-9562); Last Call (3716 I-55 N, 601-713-2700)

Best Place to Drown Sorrows
Second: Martin's (214 S. State St., 601-354-9712) / Third: Hal & Mal's (200 Commerce St., 601-948-0888) / Good showing: Cherokee (1410 Old Square Rd, 362-6388), W.C. Don's (218 S. State St., 601-969-6962), Sam's Lounge (5035 I-55 N, 601-983-2526)

Best Karaoke
Second: McB's (815 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-956-8362) / Third: Last Call (3716 I-55 N, 601-713-2700) Good showing: Southern Fried at Hal & Mal's (200 Commerce St., 601-948-0888)

Best Open-Mic Night
Second: Seven*Studioz (147 Millsaps Ave., 601-371-0358) Third: Martin's (214 S. State St., 601-354-9712) / Good showing: Alumni House (574 Highway 51, Ridgeland, 601-605-9903)

Best Bartender: Dave Naser at Fenian's
Dave Nasser has been "mixing" at Fenian's for about two years now. I like writing blurbs for the "Best Bartender" in Jackson, mainly because I finally feel as if I am writing about something I truly understand. Dave is the best bartender in Jackson. I'm not just saying that because he makes me divine fruity concoctions and then allows me to name them after myself. It's because he truly believes in the "art" in b'art'ending. The man can make a drink … out of almost anything. This is a man with a talent I'd like to have stranded on a desert island with me. When I've had a bad day, its Dave's face that I want to see. In fact—when I've had a good day—it's Dave's face that I want to see. Dave stranded on a desert island with only me? Well, a woman can dream, can't she? — Lori Gregory

Second: Cotton at Edison Wathall / Third: Nick Chatham at Last Call / Good showing: Trevor at Voodoo Lounge; Duane at Que Sera

Sexiest Bartender: Toni Jones at Fenian's

When I was informed that "Tony Jones" won sexiest bartender, I first asked who in the hell this "Tony Jones" guy was. Then, when I saw Toni's photograph, all confusion ceased. This was no muscle-bound meat head but a sensual seductress, a siren of the sauce. Like so many of you, I have observed her from afar and marveled at her bar skills. When Toni bar tends, you can hardly find a spare seat at the bar, and her admirers range from young beaus to toothless old-timers. It takes a special kind of tough to be a sexy bartender. It means breaking hearts every night, and busting heads whenever necessary. She is a tender mother to broken-down drunks, and a no-nonsense mama to fellas up to no good. She pours a mean martini, and she pulls it off with style and grace. Call me biased, but I'm glad she's a girl. — Brian Johnson

Second: Duane Smith at Que Sera / Third: Cotton at Edison Wathall; Laura Collins at Hal & Mal's

Best Club DJ: Phingaprint at Freelon's 440 North Mill St., 601-353-5357
What can we say? Phingaprint is the DJ of Jackson. He wins this category perennially because he feels the music, he loves to make people dance, he loves a wide variety of music, and he is a mixmaster of the highest order. Not only that, but he is gorgeous and puts on a show that even involves demos and near-calisthenics. Don't believe me? Show up at our Best of Jackson Party 2007 at Mardi Gras this Sunday (Jan. 21) after 8 p.m. when the doors open to the public and see just what it means when Phingaprint starts spinning. Warning: Do some warm-up exercises before you hit the floor.
— Donna Ladd

Second: Knol Aust at Jack and Jill's (3909 Northview Drive, 601-982-5225) / Third: DJ Freeze at The Spot (6107 Ridgewood Road, 601-899-5333) / Good showing: Patrick Waits at W.C. Don's (216 S. State St., 601-969-6962); DJ Joe Nasty (99.7 FM; various clubs)

Best Exotic Dancer: MissiHIPPY Dancers
All right, I give. Kelly J., Gwen M. and Tyson B., where are you? Word is Ashley left Danny's months ago for New Orleans.

The MissiHIPPY Dancers, on the other hand, are at Alladin's the first Friday of every month. Director Kristina Kelly, who has been a belly-dance student for over 17 years, says "MissiHIPPY introduces locals to dances of the Middle East, North Africa and India" focusing on the true definition of exotic dancing as "introduced from another country; strikingly different." All performances are PG and family-friendly. Currently, the group's focus is tribal fusion, "Raks Gothique" and American Cabaret belly-dance. Performers include Kristina Kelly, Michele Campbell, Trish Alexander, Katy Lewis and Sheila Norwood. Kristina invites the Feb. 2 audience to dress in dark colors, as this will be the anti-Valentine's Day spectacular.
— Emily Braden

Second: Gwen M. / Third: Kelly J.; Tyson Bridges / Good showing: Ashley; Adam Lynch

Best Place to Shoot Pool: Green Room 444 Bounds St., 601-713-3444
Bits of blue hang in the air and permeate my nostrils as I absent-mindedly chalk a cue, my attention fully on the green felt table and the smooth spheres scattered randomly. Geometric lines form in my mind's eye, from the white ball, through the striped ball, into a pocket. Hit the ball right and it's poetry. See it. Breathe. Line it up. Shoot. There's something amazingly satisfying about sinking one of those hard little balls into a pocket. As the bourbon mellows and the night wears on, there's joking, camaraderie, and always, always watching the table, watching the balls line up.
— Ronni Mott

Second: Last Call (3716 I-55 North, 601-713-2700) / Third: Cherokee Inn (960 Briarfield Road, 601-362-6388) / Good showing: Joker's Tavern (4637 McWillie Dr., 601-981-3041); Sportsman's Lodge (1220 E. Northside Dr., 601-366-5441)

Best Martini: Elixir 4800 E. Frontage Road, Jackson, 601-981-7896
What's better than a Mississippi Martini, shaken not stirred, made with tea-infused vodka? You really need Grady's hint-of-southern-gentleman-drawl on the lower level of Elixir to do this right. The bartender knows a Mojito, which is the new Cosmo. If you're feeling kicky, order one of the hard candy garnished martinis and remember the carefree days of Jolly Ranchers. Bravo! at Highland Village serves the Absolut Fredo, coined the "Revirginator" by Jill Conner Browne.
— Emily Braden

Second: Bravo! (Highland Village, 601-982-8111) Third: Julep (Highland Village, 601-362-1411) / Good showing: Char (Highland Village, 601-956-9562); Schimmel's (2615 N. State St., 601-981-7077)

Best Sports Bar, Best Wings: Buffalo Wild Wings Bar and Grill 808 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-856-0789
Buffalo Wild Wings was rated as one of the 10 best soccer bars in America in 2006 by GQ Magazine. But there's a lot more than soccer to watch on its multitude of televisions. (I stopped counting at 30). There are also sports-trivia games and video games if you need other forms of distraction. BWW's reputation for great wings is well deserved. The breading is excellent, while the chicken is tender and not too greasy.
— Doctor S

Best Sports Bar
Second: Sportsman's Lodge (1220 E. Northside Drive # 100, 601-366-5441) / Third: Time Out (6270 Old Canton Road, 601-978-1839) / Good showing: Last Call (3716 I-55 N., 601-713-2700)

Best Wings
Second: Hooter's (4565 I-55 N, 601-981-0480) / Third: Wingstop (1430 Ellis Ave., 601-969-0606) / Good showing: Last Call (3716 I-55 N, 601-713-2700)

Best Beer Selection: Martin's 214 S. State St., 601-354-9712
I hate it when I have to scan the back of a bar to find the dusty line-up of beers. Without fail, this results in a bartender asking me what I want—forcing me to make a hasty and unsatisfying choice. With its gloriously visible beer fridges, Martin's preempts this problem. What is more, it manages surprisingly well given the Capital City Beverage Co. list—I'm always giddy to see Samuel Smith's beaming at me through the fluorescence.
— Dave Molina

Second: Fenian's (901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055) / Third: Buffalo Wild Wings (808 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland 601-856-0789) / Good showing: Hal & Mal's (200 Commerce St., 601-948-0888); Mellow Mushroom (275 Dogwood Blvd., Flowood, 601-992-7499); Sportsman's Lodge (1220 E. Northside Drive, 601-366-5441)

Best Hotel Bar: Fitzgerald's at the Hilton 1001 East County Line Road, 601-957-2800
Where else can you find a bar that boasts a dinner menu that includes Chateaubriand beef tenderloin, filet mignon and seven different types of desserts? Fitzgerald's also boasts live entertainment every night except Sunday. On Mondays, the lunch special is shrimp scampi, Wednesdays feature steak oscar with crabmeat, béarnaise and roasted potatoes, while Fridays' special is almond-crusted tilapia. All for $6.99! Including Iced Tea, hot rolls and dessert! And let's not forget the alcohol. Whether it's a sophisticated martini, an electric-blue "Walk Me Down" or a sugar coffee-infused cocktail, Fitzgerald's is sure to please.
— Nientara Anderson

Second: Edison Walthall (225 E, Capitol Street, 601-948-6161) / Third: Sam's Lounge (5035 I-55 N, 601-983-2526)

Best Biker Bar: Hooter's 4165 I-55 North, 601-981-0480
Well, isn't Hooter's something? Again the Best Biker Bar. For old time's sake, let's send a (*)(*) to Hooter's and acknowledge their biker-friendly wait staff. We know bikers love the wings. Now if you're a more sensual kind of motor head, Shucker's is welcoming and has some of the most long-lived parties in town. If you don't have a Shucker's story, get on the sissy bar. They have beer, oysters and fried stuff on any Sunday, or maybe stop for lunch on "Take Your Bike to Work Day." Ladies, if your biker takes you to The Pub or Left Field, know that you are at the meeting-the-mother stage.
— Emily Braden

Second: Shucker's (116 Conestoga, Ridgeland, 601-853-0105) / Third: The Pub (Highway 51, Ridgeland, 601-898-2225) / Good showing: Left Field Sports (1198 Lakeland Drive, 601-982-9775)

Best Casino for Shows: Ameristar Casino 4116 Washington St., Vicksburg, 800-700-7770
The folks at Ameristar leave nothing to chance. One concept stands soundly behind every decision made at mid-Mississippi's largest dockside casino—provide the best possible experience for patrons, day in, day out. Free live entertainment draws crowds of appreciative music-lovers to the dance floor in the Bottleneck Blues Bar, with local standouts like Meet the Press, Eddie Cotton and the Mississippi Cotton Club and Vasti Jackson. Then there's this: Isaac Hayes performs there Feb. 16-17. It's not free, but, hey, he's the Black Moses.
— Lynette Hanson

Second: Beau Rivage (875 Beach Blvd., Biloxi, 228-386-7111) Third: Silver Star (Highway 16 West, Choctaw, 866-44PEARL)

Best Casino for Gaming: Ameristar Casino 4116 Washington St., Vicksburg, 800-700-7770
Gaming means to play for a stake. I prefer to think of said stake in terms of time spent on personal enjoyment. You're wondering how the likely loss of money could be enjoyable? That's where the games come into play. At Ameristar I'd happily slip some paper money into a video slot machine, select the lines to play and the amount to bet, then wait to see what I'd won (or spent) and do it all over again. So, I'm naïve. When I'd win enough to keep playing, I'd enjoy myself into the night at Ameristar.
— Lynette Hanson

Second: Golden Moon (Highway 16 West, Choctaw, 866-44PEARL) / Third: Beau Rivage (875 Beach Blvd., Biloxi, 228-386-7111) / Good showing: Isle of Capri (3990 Washington St., Vicksburg, 601-636-5700)

Best Place for Live Music / Best All-Ages Venue: Hal & Mal's 200 Commerce St., 601-948-0888
The Jackson tradition of Hal & Mal's wins the prize this year for the best place for live music and best all-ages venue. The big room has been rocking since before many of the Red Room and Brew Pub performers were born. The brothers White always offer a spot in the H&M complex for the next generation of talent. While the 930 Blues Café brings in a new weekend of regional and national artists, you can show up with not but a few dollars for beer at never-a-cover-Fenian's, and you'll be entertained for an evening. Give the kids an electrical plug and a 7 p.m. Sunday-Monday at W.C. Don's, and you'll see a smorgasbord of bands hour after hour. Hell, these young cats even make use of the outdoor stage at the Jackson Zoo on a Saturday afternoon. You need not look for dedication to Jackson talent beyond seeing the Pix-Capri here on the list. It's quite something to see 500 kids pack in a facility that hasn't had running water, heat or A/C in a quarter-century. In the immortal words of The Who, "The Kids are Alright."
— Herman Snell

Best Live Music
Second: Voodoo Lounge (824 S. State St., 601-351-3300) / Third: Fenian's (901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055) / Good showing: Martin's (214 S. State St., 601-354-9712), 930 Blues Café (930 N. Congress St., 601-948-3344)

Best All-Ages Venue
Second: W.C. Don's (218 S State St, 601-969-6962) / Third: Fenian's (901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055) / Good showing: 930 Blues Café (930 N. Congress St., 601-948-3344); Pix-Capri (3023 N. State St.) / Funny: The Zoo (2918 W. Capitol St. 601-352-2580)

Best R&B artist: Akami Graham
To hear the best R&B voice in the city, make it your business to go to the Executive Place on Bailey Avenue. There, you can hear Akami Graham singing songs the godmothers of rhythm & blues made famous. Singers like Chaka Kahn and Aretha Franklin. As Graham puts her on twist on '70s classics, she brings you up-to-date, paying tribute to modern-day performing artists like Alicia Keys and Mary J. Blige. This sweet and soulful singer definitely has a music career she can look forward to, and Jackson has in its own backyard, a star in the making.

Vasti Jackson, voted second best R&B voice in the city, has a sound that's taken him places: Monterey Jazz Festival, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and he's even toured Europe with Z.Z. Hill. Tying for third were Dorothy Moore and Compozitionz, a group that started in 1994 on Jackson State's campus.
— Natalie A. Collier

Second: Vasti Jackson; Recognitions / Third: ML; Dorothy Moore / Good showing: Compozitionz

Best Gospel Artist: Dathan Thigpen
Some people bubble over with energy, enthusiasm and authenticity. Dathan Thigpen, whose first name means "fountain" in Hebrew, is one such person. And not only can the members of his gospel group with the fresh sound, Holy Nation, attest to it, but so can the group's fans. No stranger to gospel music, Thigpen has sung with the Mississippi Mass Children's Choir, Mississippi Mass Choir, Integrity, and formed Holy Nation in 2003. Since the group's inception, with the help of their leader, Holy Nation has made their mark on the nationally on the gospel music scene, and are representing Mississippi well.

The Mississippi Mass Choir has been one of the state's claims to fame; it doesn't seem that the limelight will dim soon. The same is true for the Jackson Southernaires, Dorothy Moore, a Lanier High School grad, who was first recognized as a blues/R&B star or the Williams Brothers quartet.
— Natalie A. Collier

Second: Mississippi Mass / Third: Southernaires / Good showing: Dorothy Moore; Williams Brothers

Best Original Band: Living Better Electrically
Living Better Electrically is no stranger to the Free Press Crowd. The bigger-than-life five-piece fronted by brothers Joshua and Jakob Clark, LBE has been rocking Jackson to its core for years with their relentless guitars and moody vocals. My only complaint is that they don't play enough in Jackson. With a sweaty, sexy show, these guys own their audience with what can only be called a ROCK show. LBE are bona fide stars in the Bold New City with energy that just doesn't quit. While you're impatiently waiting for the new LP (recorded for Sweet Tea Records), go to Bebop and get the LBE e.p. Between the buzz from "Don't Say Anything" and the sexy pleading of "Princess Blue," you're guaranteed to get some swagger in your step. Living Better Electrically, indeed.
— Neola Young

Second: The Vamps / Third: Colour Revolt / Good showing: Goodman County; Jonezetta; Storage 24

Best Dance Club, Best Place to Dance Like a Fool, Best Place to Scope Out Hotties:Voodoo Lounge
824 S. State St., 601-351-3300

The first time I was at Voodoo I saw a 26-year-old refer to her three ex-husbands, and the second time I had the worst martini ever made. Fortunately, these aren't the two things for which Voodoo is known. The Lounge is the best place to go to hear loud bands, see women wearing clothing I can't even figure out when it's on a hanger, and the best place to dance off the ass you gained over the holiday season. I heard a horrible rumor last week that this place closed down—thank the Sweet Baby Jesus that it was just a rumor. See you at the best-of party Sunday. — Lori Gregory

Best Dance Club
Second: Jack & Jill's (909 Northview Drive, 601-982-5225) / Third: The Spot (3848 Bailey Ave., 601-713-4250) / Good showing: Dick & Jane's (206 W. Capitol St., 601-944-0123); Freelons (440 N. Mill St., 601-353-5357) / Funny: "Dent's Old House"

Best Place to Dance Like a Fool
Second: 930 Blues Café (930 N. Congress St., 601-948-3344) / Third: Jack & Jills (909 Northview Drive, 601-982-5225); W.C. Don's (216 S. State St., 601-969-6962) / Good showing: Dick & Janes ((206 W. Capitol St., 601-944-0123)); Hal & Mal's (200 Commerce St., 601-948-0888); Shuckers (116 Conestoga Road, 601-853-0105); The Spot (3848 Bailey Ave., 601-713-4250)

Best Place to Scope Out Hotties
Second: Old Venice (1428 Old Square Road, 601-366-6872) / Third: Julep (Highland Village, 601-362-1411) / Good showing: Fenian's (901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055); Northpark Mall / Funny: Family reunions; Fondren Guitars; McDade's; "Wish I knew"; "Under Joe Barnes' arm"; "You tell me"; "Through a keyhole"

Best Cover Band: The Rainmakers
Throughout the '80s, back in the days of New Wave, Larry Brewer ruled the regional music scene with his band The Windows. Since their Jubliee Jam! performance in 1995, Larry has performed more than a dozen times a month either solo or with his classic rock 3-piece, The Rainmakers. Serving at Jackson's classic dives like McB's and Shucker's, you'll find classic rock honed by decades of experience. The Rainmakers deliver Tom Petty, Beatles, INXS, The Cars and The Police like no one else in Jackson.
— Herman Snell

Second: Dr. Zarr and the Funk Monster / Third: United States Good showing: The Pates

Best Rock Band: Storage 24
With a wall of sound made of hard riffs and a solid backing band, Storage 24 is this year's Best Rock Act. This hardcore rock band based in Jackson has an upcoming album for 2007 called "The New Rock Era." The five-man band is fronted by the singer with a voice coated in drive, Baby Fred. Fred's smooth delivery is a perfect match with the heavy guitars of Mackin and Jeff and the rhythm section courtesy of Anthony and Ronnie. Storage 24 brings energy to their shows unmatched by any other rock band in the area, and their audience soaks in it and gives it right back. Their fans have nothing but love for their live shows. Speaking of performances, your next chance to see Storage 24 is Feb. 3 at Left Field Sports Bar. If you've been missing some hard rock in your life, Feb. 3 is your chance. Don't miss these guys. They are a Jackson star on the rise.
— Neola Young

Second: Living Better Electrically / Third: Jonezetta; Colour Revolt
Good showing: Rainmakers; Tuff Luvs

Best Jazz Artist: eZra Brown
Three particular moments stand out for me when I dwell on eZra Brown's music. The first time I ever heard him play was a Saturday night in 2003, at the Ameristar's Bottleneck Blues Bar. Out of the shadows came a young man, dressed in dark clothes, carrying a shining saxophone. He put that instrument to his lips, held it in his long, slender fingers and played. I didn't even know his name. I haven't forgotten that sound. Months later, I knew he was eZra Brown. He and his group mesmerized the crowd at the Museum of Art on a jazz-filled Thursday night. I was spellbound and transported, simultaneously. Thanksgiving week 2005, eZra and his talented group backed Henry Rhodes at the Executive Place on Bailey Avenue at Woodrow Wilson. Dynamic, mellow, sexy, rhythmic music, led by eZra's mellifluous saxophone. Unforgettable.
— Lynette Hanson

Second: Barry Leach / Third: Andy Hardwick; Raphael Semmes; Rhonda Richmond (tie)

Best Singer/Songwriter: Eric Stracener
Sunset. Highways. Breezes. Blazing. Fading. Love. I'll bet Eric Stracener could take those three nouns, two adjectives and that one word—love—which can be either or noun or a verb, and write a song. He'd mull and muddle for a bit, behind those sparkling brown eyes, and come up with lyrics we'd all want to hear over and over again. He'd write the music, too. Then he'd gather together a grand group of musicians so that they could practice and play that song for us. Thankfully, Stracener cannot stop this from happening any more than he could stop the world from spinning. He's a singer/songwriter from the inside out.
— Lynette Hanson

Best Hip-Hop Artist: Kamikaze
Unless you live in a hole that even daylight doesn't penetrate, you've heard of Kamikaze, even if you haven't heard his music. As one half of the rap duo Crooked Lettaz (David Banner, the second best, according to the best of ballots, was the other), Kamikaze made a name for himself and quickly established a fan base among Jacksonians. Since releasing "Grey Skies" with his partner, the rapper has gone on to release three albums on his independently owned record label, OurGlass Entertainment. It doesn't stop there, however: 'Kaze is also one of the founders of the Mississippi Artists and Producers Coalition—a teaching tool for those trying to find their way in the music business.
— Natalie A. Collier

Second: David Banner / Third: Skipp Coon

Best Country Artist: Faith Hill
Faith Hill is a bona fide country music star, known around the world, but she's still a "Mississippi Girl," as she sings in one of the songs on her latest album, "Fireflies." That strong, clear, lovely voice is just one reason she's the best. After all, if the lyrics weren't memorable, it wouldn't matter one whit how she sounds. Other reasons include her concerts, videos, and TV specials, along with the duets she sings with her terrifically handsome and sexy husband, country artist Tim McGraw. How fitting that she's from Star, right down Highway 49, south of Jackson.
— Lynette Hanson

Second: William Michael Morgan; Coyote Wild / Third: Goodman County

Best Blues Artist: Jackie Bell
They say the mark of a true bluesman is one where his music is his life. There are no musicians who live and breathe their art like Jackie Bell, Eddie Cotton, Ironing Board Sam, Jesse Robinson and the King Edward Blues Band. Not a day goes by where one of these musicians are not sweating their life blood for you, in front of a microphone. The 930 Blues Café Queen of the Blues, the sultry Jackie Bell wins our first Best Blues Artist. While these do their best to chase the blues away, it seems we had some voters feel that Mayor Frank Melton deserves a slot for bringing the blues out of people. It seems the yin and yang of Jackson blues sources are not without a sense of irony.
— Herman Snell

Second: Eddie Cotton / Third: King Edward / Good showing: Ironing Board Sam, Jesse Robinson / Funny: Frank Melton

This story has been corrected since first posted.

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