Best of Jackson 2014: Music & Nightlife | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Best of Jackson 2014: Music & Nightlife

Photo by Trip Burns.

Best Cover Band; Best Jazz Artist; Best Original Band: Southern Komfort Brass Band


One might not expect Jackson to be home of a talented New Orleans-style brass band. But with influences including Rebirth Brass Band and Soul Rebels Brass Band—two influential groups from New Orleans—the Southern Komfort Brass Band uses brass-band music as a base to which it incorporates covers of R&B, hip-hop and pop songs.

Southern Komfort includes sousaphone player Jamie Abrams, percussionist Tim Boyd, trombone player Lorenzo Gayden, percussionist Gerard Howard, tenor saxophonist Cedric Eubanks, trumpet player Joseph Handy, trumpet player Terry Miller and trombone player Eric James. Trumpet player Corey Hannah and trumpet player and percussionist Dorran Thigpen serve as alternates.

Since its formation in 2010, Southern Komfort has made an impression with its second line-style performances, which allow audience members to participate by dancing alongside the band, as well as energetic stage performances. —Briana Robinson

Best Cover Band

Second: Jason Turner Band ( / Third: The Colonels / Finalists: Diesel 255; Kid Vicious; Otis Lotus

Best Jazz Artist

Second: Cassandra Wilson / Third: Pam Confer / Finalists: Barry Leach; DimeBros; Lisa Palmer; Rhonda Richmond

Best Original Band

Second: Jason Turner Band ( / Third: The Weeks ( / Finalists: AJC & the Envelope Pushers; Chad Wesley Band (; 
Furrows; Young Valley

Best Bar; Best College Student Hangout; Best New Bar: Fondren Public

2765 Old Canton Road, 769-216-2589

"This is like Facebook come to life," Mark Ward said, describing Fondren Public one weekend in November. The bar—open just over two months at that point—was packed to capacity during a Homecoming weekend, with folks running into friends and acquaintances in every nook of the multi-room bar. The sound on the back porch was deafening, as laughing, chatting groups filled every table, bench, chair and rail.

Fondren Public has enjoyed that type of scene more often than not since opening. The bar feels in some ways like a transplant from a much bigger city, with style to spare and a one-in, one-out policy when it gets full.

Although the bar's main focus is craft beer (especially local brands such as Lucky Town and Lazy Magnolia) and handcrafted cocktails, it also serves some pretty delicious food. The menu keeps it simple and creative, offering appetizers including truffle dip, salads, sliders, and "big bites" such as a fried chicken and waffle taco. The pub also offers beer by the growler starting at $12 a fill.

Patrons can't get enough, whether they are playing shuffleboard indoors or bocce ball on the outdoor back deck, sipping on a signature copper cup containing a Mississippi Mule—a take on the Moscow Mule featuring Cathead vodka—or watching a Saints game with friends.—Kathleen M. Mitchell

Best Bar

Second: Hal & Mal's (200 S. Commerce St., 601-948-0888) / Third: Metropolitan Bar Sports Grill (M-Bar) (6340 Ridgewood Court Drive, 601-398-0999) / Finalists: The Apothecary at Brent's Drugs (655 Duling Ave., 769-257-3517); The Bulldog (6111 Ridgewood Road, 601-978-3502); Fenian's Pub (901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055)

Best College Student Hangout

Second: Cups: An Espresso Cafe (Multiple Locations, / Third: The Bulldog (6111 Ridgewood Road, 601-978-3502) / Finalists: Club Magoo's (824 S. State St., 601-487-8710); Fenian's Pub (901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055); Sneaky Beans 
(2914 N. State St., 601-487-6349)

Best New Bar

Second: Apothecary at Brent's Drugs (655 Duling Ave., 769-257-3517) / Third: Metropolitan Bar Sports Grill (M-Bar) (6340 Ridgewood Court Drive, 601-398-0999) / Finalist: Capitol Grill (5050 Interstate 55 N., Suite F, 601-899-8845)

Best Rock Artist; Best Singer; Best Singer/Songwriter: Jason Turner


Since he started performing live in the late '90s, Jason Turner has played more than 2,500 shows, mostly solo gigs in Mississippi. Turner's solo set, however, isn't the average "guy singing with an acoustic guitar." He goes to his shows also equipped with his harmonica and several effects pedals. Although he's using only two instruments at a time—harmonica and guitar or vocals and guitar—his sound is massive. His loop pedal allows Turner to create layers of sound through his guitar playing.

Constant performing has proved to be the right direction for Turner, as he wins and places in more Best of Jackson award categories each year. This year, in addition to winning three categories, he also got second place in Best Country Artist, Best Cover Band, Best Musician and Best Original Band.

This summer, Turner plans to release "Like the Night," an album he has been working on at Malaco Records with bassist Dan Joiner and drummer Murph Caicedo. Also in the next few months, Turner hopes to record a live solo album at New Orleans' House of Blues. —Briana Robinson

Best Rock Artist

Second: The Weeks ( / Third: Chad Wesley Band ( Finalists: Diesel 255; Furrows; Storage 24; Young Valley

Best Singer

Second: Pam Confer / Third: Kerry Thomas / Finalists: Akami Graham; Chad Wesley; Victoria Cross

Best Singer/Songwriter

Second: Taylor Hildebrand / Third: Kerry Thomas / Finalists: Chad Perry; Chad Wesley; Zach Lovett

Best LGBT Hangout; Best Open-Mic Night: Fenian's Pub


901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055,

Being voted Best LGBT Hangout doesn't mean that Fenian's is now a gay bar; it's actually a testament to the bar's open and welcoming environment for all people. Patrons of all different backgrounds come together there peacefully to have a good time.

The bar's weekly open-mic night is probably one of the most organized in the city. Prospective performers must call the bar after 4:30 p.m. on open-mic nights to schedule a time to play. A local musician, such as Joe Carroll and Jason Bailey, hosts the event starting at 9 p.m. and keeps the night running smoothly. —Briana Robinson

Best LGBT Hangout

Second: Bottoms Up (3911 Northview Drive, 601-981-2188) / Third: Club Metro Reloaded (4670 Highway 80 W., 347-685-9745) / Finalist: JC's (425 N. Mart Plaza, 601-362-3108)

Best Open-Mic Night

Second: Last Call Sports Grill (1428 Old Square Road, 601-713-2700) / Third: Ole Tavern on George Street (416 George St., 601-960-2700) / Finalists: Martin's Restaurant and Bar 
(214 S. State St., 601-354-9712); Soul Wired Cafe (111 Millsaps Ave., 601-863-6378)

Best Dive Bar; Best Jukebox; Best Place to Drink Cheap: Cherokee Inn


1410 Old Square Road, 601-362-6388,

Cherokee Inn has been a staple landmark of the Jackson landscape for more than seven decades. After several moves on State Street, previous owner Chip Angelo moved the business to its current location on Old Square Road in 2003. Hayes and Blake McMillan, current owners, bought the establishment in October of 2006.

Cherokee Inn boasts a laid-back staff, most of which have worked at the restaurant and bar for more than a decade. With such a staff on hand, it's easy to see how Cherokee Inn earned 
its regular patrons.

The restaurant and bar has daily lunch specials, such as Monday's homemade chicken and dumplings or Friday's country-fried steak with rice and gravy. Cherokee also makes its own award-winning comeback dressing. Happy Hour at Cherokee Inn is from 4-7 p.m. every day, and domestic long necks are $1.75 on Throw 
Back Thursdays.

Cherokee Inn also offers corporate catering and rentals for private parties. —Briana Robinson

Best Dive Bar

Second: Fenian's Pub (901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055) / Third: Ole Tavern on George Street (416 George St., 601-960-2700) / Finalists: Martin's Restaurant and Bar (214 S. State St., 601-354-9712); Pop's Saloon (2636 S. Gallatin St., 601-961-4747); Sam's Lounge 
(5035 Interstate 55 N., 601-983-2526)

Best Jukebox

Second: Last Call Sports Grill (1428 Old Square Road, 601-713-2700) / Third: Sam's Lounge (5035 Interstate 55 N., 601-983-2526) / Finalists: The Green Room (444 Bounds St., 601-713-3444); Peaches (327 N. Farish St., 601-354-9267)

Best Place to Drink Cheap

Second: Fenian's Pub (901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055) / Third: Martin's Restaurant and Bar (214 S. State St., 601-354-9712) / Finalists: Fondren Public (2765 Old Canton Road, 769-216-2589); Sam's Lounge (5035 Interstate 55 N., 601-983-2526)

Best Live Music Venue: Hal & Mal's


200 S. Commerce St., 601-948-0888,

It's hard to imagine something as universally reviled as Mondays, but those in the know in Jackson have found a way to beat the weekend hangover, and the answer comes from a familiar spot.

Hal & Mal's, the winner of Best Live Music Venue for the past several years, hosts the Central Mississippi Blues Society every Monday night. It serves as a kick-start to what promises to be another week of good music at one of Jackson's downtown landmarks.

Commerce Street has been home to Hal & Mal's for 29 years, and the venue has hosted everyone from Leon Russell and B.B. King to Snoop Dogg. The atmosphere is rough around the edges, but its unmistakable character is what makes it great. —Tyler Cleveland

Second: Duling Hall (622 Duling Ave., 601-292-7121) / Third: Underground 119 (119 S. President St., 601-352-2322) / Finalists: Burgers & Blues (1060 E. County Line Road, Suite 22, Ridgeland, 601-899-0038); Club Magoo's (824 S. State St., 601-487-8710); The Penguin Restaurant and Bar (1100 John R. Lynch St., Suite 6A, 769-251-5222)

Best Musician: Hunter Gibson


Courtesy Hunter Gibson

For as long as he can remember, Hunter Gibson has had diverse musical tastes. "I started really being influenced by Elton John and Billy Joel," he says. "But I was also really influenced by piano players from the 1970s, like Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman and Pete Wagner." The keyboard sensation plays everything from Elvis to The Black Eyed Peas. Gibson, a Jackson native, says playing the piano, rather than the guitar, allows him more range than other artists in the Jackson area. "It gives me something different," he says.

You can hear Hunter Gibson play at Jackson-area spots such as Olga's, Shucker's on the Rez and Shea's on Lake Harbour. No matter where he is, he strives to give the crowd a great experience. In addition to original songs, he often plays covers of popular songs. "If people request a song, they probably like it the way it was played by the original artist," he says. "I also think it's important to pay tribute to the original artist to play the song the way it was written."

To hear more of Gibson's music, visit his website or find him on Facebook. Gibson also plays for private events across the metro. —Greg Pigott

Second: Jason Turner ( / Third: JaVonta Young / Finalists: Barry Leach; Chad Wesley (; Cody Cox; Scott Albert Johnson 

Best Place to Dance: Underground 119

119 S. President St., 601-352-2322,

When it's time to break out the dancing shoes and glide across a smooth dark floor, no place is more inviting than Underground 119. The basement restaurant and bar is the ideal place to fill your belly, quench your thirst and satisfy your need to move. Let your body rock to the rhythm of blues, jazz, bluegrass and classical music. Underground 119 offers live music most nights of the week from artists such as Time to Move Band, Grady Champion, Southern Komfort Brass Band and Swing de Paris. And don't let the size of Underground 119's dance space fool you into thinking this is a sit-down bar—although the genres change from night to night, every act is booked with one thing in mind: getting patrons to hit the dance floor. —Brittany Sanford

Second: Club Magoo's (824 S. State St., 601-487-8710, / Third: Freelons Bar and Groove (440 N. Mill St., 601-949-2535, / Finalists: Bottoms Up (3911 Northview Drive, 601-981-2188); Martin's Restaurant and Bar (214 S. State St., 601-354-9712,; Ole Tavern on George Street (416 George St., 601-960-2700); Shucker's on the Rez (116 Conestoga Road, Ridgeland, 601-853-0105,

Best R&B Artist: Jarekus Singleton


It's tough to be a blues musician in Mississippi. Many giants of the genre hailed from the small towns scattered throughout the state. Jarekus Singleton, 29, has done his homework and risen to become one of the most exciting names playing blues in 2013. His live concerts feature a blend of slow jams to outright funky soul from his debut release, 2011's "Heartfelt." He was a featured artist at 2013's R&B Festival, in addition to frequent shows at local haunts such as Underground 119. The Clinton native's diverse range appeals to live audiences and critics alike. Blues and Rhythm magazine in the UK said he is "destined to be the next big thing in the blues world." The future of blues music is all right as long as musicians like Jarekus Singleton keep playing. —Tommy Burton

Second: Kerry Thomas ( / Third: Victoria Cross / Finalists: A1; AJC & the Envelope Pushers; Akami Graham

Best Club DJ: DJ T. Lewis


Courtesy DJ T. Lewis

DJ T. Lewis, born Terrell Lewis, has been bringing beats since 2002. He began as a student at Callaway High School and continued his passion while as a student a Jackson State University, where he graduated with degrees in speech and mass communications.

"I would have annual birthday parties every year, and I would be the host of my party. And I would have parties in high school after football games and dances," Lewis says. "When I deejay, I want to give people that are feeling bad a better feeling about life. I like hearing everyone singing the songs and having a good time. ... It's all about the memories."

Lewis now works full-time as a DJ traveling throughout Mississippi and other states, especially through college towns. You can find him at Freelon's, where he's been working since 2008, every weekend. If you can't make it to the club, tune in to 97.7 FM WJMI to hear him spin live Saturday nights. "I'm really trying to perfect (my) craft ... to be a better show DJ," he says. "I want to be one of the people who helps define Jackson's party culture and Mississippi's party culture." —ShaWanda Jacome

Second: DJ Young Venom / Third: DJ Cadillac / Finalists: DJ Jonasty; DJ Phingaprint; DJ Spre; DVDJ Reign; The Nasty Sho

Best Karaoke DJ: Angela Pittman


When Angela Pittman started doing karaoke around 15 years ago, she was just a singer who wanted to make sure the people listening to her had a great time. Now she's the "Queen of Rankin County Karaoke" and has developed a local following. The Jackson native says female country singers like Tammy Wynette and Patsy Cline are her biggest influences, but makes no secret that she loves all music genres. Pittman is a paralegal by day, but puts on karaoke events throughout the Jackson area, including Monday nights at Burgers and Blues, and Friday nights at Alumni House in Pearl.

Pittman also plays monthly at restaurants, events and festivals. She likes her events to have a family atmosphere, and says building relationships with the regular singers is her favorite part of the experience. She also loves learning about new music. "Some of these songs I had never heard, but I hear someone sing them at karaoke, and I wind up really liking it," she says. "We love doing this, but it's not about the money. We just want to have a great time." —Greg Pigott

Second: Matt Collette / Third: Casey Hardigree / Finalists: D-Day; Josh Hailey; Mike Mott

Best Place to Shoot Pool: The Green Room

444 Bounds St., 601-713-3444

With drink specials that offer to fill your cup for less than three George Washingtons and billiards tournaments that could fill your pockets with thousands of dollars, The Green Room proves once again it is the best place to shoot pool in Jackson. While other locales might offer a felt-top table tucked away in a corner, The Green Room centers its entertainment on billiards—and local pool sharks know it. The bar and restaurant, which Truett Hawkins owns and operates, is a member of the American Poolplayers Association, and regularly offers 8-ball and 9-ball singles, doubles and team events. The Green Room has also hosted world-renowned pool players such as hall of famer and trick shot champion Mike Massey for exhibitions. With so much to offer in the world of pool sports, The Green Room is right on cue. —Kathleen M. Mitchell

Second: Cherokee Inn (1410 Old Square Road, 601-362-6388) / Third: Last Call Sports Grill (1428 Old Square Road, 601-713-2700) / Finalists: Reed Pierce's (6791 Siwell Road, Byram, 601-376-0777); Sam's Lounge (5035 Interstate 55 N., 601-983-2526)

Best Hip-Hop Artist: David Banner


Courtesy David Banner

Follow David Banner on Instagram as I do, and you'll see that the rapper-turned-actor has come a long way from his childhood as Lavell Crump, miles from his local Crooked Lettaz duo days in Jackson, even a distance from his early national "On the flo, on the flo" success when he would come home to Freelon's and show out and show off.

I met and trailed Banner, who turns 40 this year and has produced six studio albums, around for a story ( in the very early years of the JFP when his "Mississippi: The Album" was climbing the charts. What I liked about Banner then—beyond his more meaningful recordings like "Cadillac on 22's"—was that he was bent on both succeeding and using that success to give back. He was also, like many other commercially known hip-hop artists, a deep thinker who seemed to both regret and accept that the industry forced him to do the kind of recordings that would give him a platform to effect social change—from his local Boys & Girls Club support to his post-Katrina charity concerts to his get-out-the-vote efforts.

The Provine High School and Southern University graduate even appeared before Congress in 2007 to defend violent, misogynistic rap lyrics: "I can admit there are some problems in hip-hop, but it is only a reflection of what's taking place in our society," he said. "Hip-hop is sick because America is sick."

Since 2007, he has piled up 14 acting credits (including Lee Daniels' "The Butler" and the now-filming "The Last Punch"). Banner also has 11 soundtrack credits under his belt, and has produced music for several big-brand commercials. —Donna Ladd

Second: Hollywood Luck / Third: 5th Child / Finalists: AJC & the Envelope Pushers; James Crow; Tricky LT 45

Best Place to Watch the Game: Burgers & Blues

1060 E. County Line Road, Suite 22, Ridgeland, 601-899-0038,

The only thing more difficult than choosing what game to watch on one of Burgers & Blues' many television screens is deciding what burger to have with it. Large televisions hang at the bar, making it the perfect place to make friends with those cheering on your favorite team. Or you can load up on one of the family-style picnic tables with a cadre of jersey-clad friends to make an afternoon of it. Within its 3,000 square feet, Burgers & Blues provides something for every type of sports fan, no matter who you're watching with or which team you're cheering on. —Michael Jacome

Second: The Bulldog (6111 Ridgewood Road, 601-978-3502) / Third: Metropolitan Bar Sports Grill (M-Bar) (6340 Ridgewood Court Drive, 601-398-0999) / Finalists: Capitol Grill (5050 Interstate 55 N., Suite F, 601-899-8845); Fondren Public (2765 Old Canton Road, 
769-216-2589); Last Call Sports Grill (1428 Old Square Road, 601-713-2700)

Best Gospel Artist: Mississippi Mass Choir


Mississippi Mass Choir

Like the God who is at the center of its soulful praise, the Mississippi Mass Choir seems omnipresent. Franklin Delano Williams, a Smithdale native and record company executive, formally organized the choir in the late 1980s and produced its first studio album in 1988. Since recording its first album, "The Mississippi Mass Choir Live," the choir has been central to African American Christian and American musical experiences. Today, the mass choir tours internationally, including a multi-city stop in South Africa in 2011, the group's first time performing in Africa. In October 2013, a quarter-century after its inception, the Mississippi Mass Choir completed its 10th live recording. —R.L. Nave

Second: Dathan Thigpen / Third: Laurie Walker / Finalists: Benjamin Cone III and Worship; Chandra Wise; Darius Brown and FreshWind; Larry Johnson

Best Country Artist: Skylar Laine


Courtesy Skylar Laine

Fans of Skylar Laine, better known as Skoutlaws, have been following her rise as a country artist since her appearance on Season 11 of "American Idol." Last year was an exciting one for the talented and spirited performer. She relocated to Nashville to continue writing, performing and pursuing her dream of a music contract. Creative Artists Agency and The Cirlot Agency currently represent her, and she launched a swanky new website in April where she debuted two new songs: "Renegade" and "Miss You in the Morning."

Laine played shows all over Mississippi, and even made a trip up to New York in July to sing the national anthem for the Syracuse Chiefs game. She also stopped by Woodville Heights Elementary in south Jackson for Dr. Seuss/Read Across America Day, where she read "Green Eggs and Ham" as a special celebrity guest. She chatted with teachers and staff, and posed for tons of pictures; she is one of the kindest young ladies you'll meet. In 2014, Laine will marry her long-time love Coty Holifield—our hats areoff to her for a great new year! —ShaWanda Jacome

Second: Jason Turner / Third: South of 20 / Finalist: Shaun Patterson

Best Place for Cocktails: Julep Restaurant and Bar

4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 105, 601-362-1411,

If you are looking for a place to unwind after work, take a date, or just hang out with friends, Julep Restaurant and Bar is the place to be. This Highland Village staple serves up fresh ingredients in classic drinks and unique cocktails. The restaurant offers an extensive wine list and a martini menu—try the Wedding Cake Martini, it's my favorite. Other martinis include the Jolly Rancher, the Francotini and the classic variety, in gin or vodka. But the real appeal is in the knowledge of the bartenders, who can mix up just about anything you ask for.

At Julep, no one goes thirsty for long, whether ordering a drink or two with dinner, celebrating with a group of friends into the evening, or sipping on two-for-one mimosas or bloody Marys with brunch. If you're lucky enough to snag a seat at the bar, catch Brad's eye and he'll make something special. —Pamela Hosey

Second: Babalu Tacos and Tapas (622 Duling Ave., Suite 106, 601-366-5757) / Third: The Apothecary at Brent's Drugs (655 Duling Ave., 769-257-3517) / Finalists: Capitol Grill (5050 Interstate 55 N., Suite F, 601-899-8845); Library Lounge at Fairview Inn (734 Fairview St., 601-948-3429); Parlor Market (115 W. Capitol St., 601-360-0090); Table 100 (100 Ridge Way, Flowood, 601-420-4202

Best Blues Artist: Jesse Robinson


Courtesy Jesse Robinson

Actor Jack Nicholson once said, "The blues and jazz will live forever ... So will the Delta and the Big Easy." Jackson-based jazz guitarist Jesse Robinson is one artist who helps to keep blues going strong year after year. Robinson was born in Benton and grew up on a farm until his family moved to Jackson when he was 15 years old. His childhood was filled with music, and he eventually started playing guitar in church. These days, you'll find Robinson playing solo as well as with a band at various venues around Jackson including Underground 119, Peaches Restaurant, F. Jones Corner or at special events.

In 2013, Robinson released "Stray Star," a collaboration with Brazilian guitarist, producer and composer Robertinho de Recife. The music, recorded in Jackson and Rio de Janeiro, is based on Brazilian poetry. Mississippi singers including Jewel Bass, The Williams Brothers and Rhonda Chambers, as well as Brazilian singers, provided backup vocals. As part of the Two Rivers Cultural Exchange program, Robinson also played at the Virada Cultural Festival Sao Paulo. —ShaWanda Jacome

Second: Jarekus Singleton / Third: Grady Champion / Finalists: Chad Wesley; Jason Bailey

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