Best Musician; Best Singer; Best Singer-Songwriter; Best Rock Artist: Jason Turner
There's much to appreciate about Jason Turner's level of dedication, passion and sheer musical output, especially in the past year. Turner, 36, released his third full-length album, "Like the Night," in December.
While Jacksonians can occasionally catch him performing with friends and fellow musicians, Turner is a tireless one-man band, skilled at weaving catchy melodies with striking guitar play. Whether listeners latch onto his pedal work or bluesy harmonica, Turner creates a masterful mix of authentic rock and singer-songwriter sound that is easy to enjoy and difficult to ignore.
Booking several shows a week in the metro area while recording four releases in the past four years, including a live "Oxford Sounds" EP, Turner is one of the hardest-working musicians in Jackson, and his sound is current, accessible, and crafted with great care and skill. —Jake Sund
Best Musician Finalists
Hunter Gibson / Cody Cox (Furrows) / Shaun Patterson / JaVonta' Young
Best Singer Finalists
Shaun Patterson / Kerry Thomas / Chad Wesley / Akami Graham
Best Singer/Songwriter Finalists
Tricky LT 45 / Zach Lovett (Young Valley) / Chad Perry / Cody Cox (Furrows)
Best Rock Artist Finalists
Chad Wesley / The Empty Handed Painters / Dream Cult / Andrew Campbell (Splendid Chaos)
Original Band; Cover Band; Jazz Artist: Southern Komfort Brass Band
For the second year in a row, Southern Komfort Brass Band has taken the titles of the best original, jazz and cover band in Jackson, solidifying the staying power of its brassy brand of grooving music with local fans.
Since its debut in 2010, Southern Komfort has served as Jackson's premiere high-energy act, delivering impressive original compositions coupled with undeniably funky renditions of contemporary pop and hip-hop staples. Every show feels like a genuine celebration built to bring in audiences and provide one of the best live music experiences in Jackson.
The band had a banner year in 2014, with an appearance at the Chicago Blues Festival where the members showcased their crowd-favorite second-line style. It outright demands that audiences engage in the party with masterfully orchestrated New Orleans-inspired jazz. —Jake Sund
Best Original Band Finalists
Acoustic Crossroads / Young Valley / Furrows / Dream Cult
Best Cover Band Finalists
Jason Turner Band / Acoustic Crossroads / Diesel 255 / Shadz of Grey
Best Jazz Artist Finalists
Barry Leach / Vibe Doctors Jazz Project / Pam Confer / Alvin Fielder
Best Bar; Best College Hangout; Best Local Beer Selection: Fondren Public
2765 Old Canton Road, 769-216-2589
While Fondren Public has only been around since fall 2013, it's quickly become one of Jackson's most beloved hangouts. It boasts 24 taps and more than 40 bottle and can options, including local and regional brews, such as Crooked Letter, Lazy Magnolia and Lucky Town, along with a premium wine selection. When it comes to food, the bar strays from the basic "battered and deep-fried" fare, instead offering items such as a variety of sliders and a Cajun corndog with jalapeno beer batter.
One of Fondren Public's best features is its interior. The walls, tabletops and bar are covered with wood salvaged from an 1800s-era farmhouse. Church pews and other decorations from the renovation of First Presbyterian Church can also be found throughout. Fondren Public may be the new pub on the block, but it's poised to be one of the best for years to come. —Shameka Hayes
CORRECTION: This story had a factual error about the time when Fondren Public was founded. The business started in fall 2013, not fall 2014.
Best Bar Finalists
Capitol Grill (5050 Interstate 55 N., Suite F, 601-899-8845) / Fenian's Pub (901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055) / The Apothecary at Brent's Drugs (655 Dulng Ave., 769-257-3517) / Hal & Mal's (200 S. Commerce St., 601-948-0888)
Best College Student Hangout Finalists
Cups Espresso Cafe, Fondren (2757 Old Canton Road, 601-362-7422) / Fenian's Pub (901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055) / Sneaky Beans (2914 N. State St., 601-487-6349) / Ole Tavern on George Street (416 George St., 601-960-2700)
Best Local Beer Selection Finalists
The Pig & Pint (3139 N. State St., 601-326-6070) / Saltine Oyster Bar (622 Duling Ave., Suite 201, 601-982-2899) / Burgers & Blues (960 N. State St., 601-709-5171; 1060 E. County Line Road, Suite 22, Ridgeland, 601-899-0038, burgersblues.com) / The Iron Horse Grill (320 W. Pearl St., 601-398-0151)
Best Club DJ; Best Hip-Hop Artist: DJ Young Venom
Phillip "DJ Young Venom" Rollins has been rocking Jackson events for 10 years, ever since Ezra Brown invited him to deejay at poetry nights at Seven*Studioz. Taking his name from Venom, the archenemy of Marvel superhero Spider-Man, Rollins has performed in nearly every venue in the city, played the deejay booth at Jubilee Jam and opened for the Flaming Lips and Snoop Dogg.
In May 2014, Rollins opened Offbeat (151 Wesley Ave., offbeatjxn.com), which serves as an incubator for Mississippi subcultures such as alternative-music lovers, comic-book readers, and toy and record collectors. "I opened the store to help build artistic movement in the community," he says. It's not unusual to find Rollins behind his turntable beside the checkout counter, mixing music on the spot.
Rollins' penchant for improvised live performance earns him plenty of fans and high praise in Jackson's burgeoning hip-hop community. He's currently working with fellow deejay Loki Antiphony on a beat tape, which will be released through Homework Town later this year. —Shameka Hayes
Best Club DJ Finalists
DJ T. Lewis / DJ Phingaprint / Spre Beats
Best Hip-Hop Artist Finalists
5th Child / Tricky LT 45 / James Crow / Skipp Coon
Best Gospel Artist: Laurie Walker
Jacksonians may have voted Laurie Walker as the city's best gospel singer, but that label isn't the only way that she describes her music.
"I am a gospel artist, although I usually go by the title 'inspirational artist,'" she says. "I'm aware that many listeners I'm reaching out to or would like to inspire don't listen to gospel."
Though she once performed around Jackson in neo-soul bands, Walker struck out on her own in 2005 when she felt a calling. She also became involved with the youth ministry at New Horizon Church International. "During that time, I learned what ministry is, what praise and worship (are), and I carry that in my music today," she says. In November 2012, Walker released her debut EP, "Free in Him: Excerpts of Life." Walker is currently working on her sophomore album, which she hopes to release in the fall of 2015. —Shameka Hayes
Best Gospel Artist Finalists
Chandra Wise / Dathan Thigpen / Benjamin Cone III & Worship / Alisa Patrick McDonald
Best Blues Artist: Bobby Rush
Most Jacksonians are quite familiar with the self-described "folk-funk" sounds that Homer, La., native Bobby Rush pioneered in the late 1960s with his song, "Chicken Heads," which worked its way to No. 34 on the Billboard R&B chart. If Rush somehow managed to escape your playlist all these years, though, you should know that he's just as relevant now as he was when he first pulled into Jackson in the '80s. Rush received two Grammy Award nominations for best blues album, with his first nod in 2000 for "Hoochie Man" and a second for his most recent release, "Down in Louisiana," in 2013.
While plenty of Jackson artists are keeping the blues alive, it's impossible not to acknowledge Rush's impressive four-decade career, which is still picking up steam in the international blues community. Jackson blues lovers will have a chance to check out Rush in all his glory when he serves as grand marshal for Mal's St. Paddy's Parade this year. —Jake Sund
Best Blues Artist Finalists
Jarekus Singleton / Jesse Robinson (jesseguitarrobinson.com) / Scott Albert Johnson (scottalbertjohnson.com) / Arthur Jones
Best Dive Bar: Cherokee Drive Inn
1410 Old Square Road, 601-362-6388, cherokeedriveinn.com
Though dive bar might sounds derogatory to some, it's the perfect term for your neighborhood hangout. It's not as formal as some places, but when you walk in, you feel at home. This year, the Cherokee Inn earned that the title for Jacksonians.
While it's only been in its current location since 2003, Cherokee Inn has earned its way into the stomachs and hearts of many in Jackson with affordable drink options and great-tasting food.
The restaurant has established itself as a venue and juke joint with some of the best plate lunches in town. Whether it's the Monday chicken and dumplings or Thursday roast beef, Cherokee Inn offers home cooking, served with a side of pool tables, arcade games and plated in a much loved location. —Zachary Oren Smith
Best Dive Bar Finalists
Shucker's on the Rez (116 Conestoga Road, Ridgeland, 601-853-0105, shuckersontherez.com) / Martin's Restaurant & Lounge (214 S. State St., 601-354-9712, martinslounge.net) / Fenian's Pub (901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055, fenianspub.happytables.com) / Sam's Lounge (5035 Interstate 55 N., 601-983-2526) / One Block East (642 Tombigbee St., 601-944-0203, oneblockeast.com)
In the original version of this story, we left off Sam's Lounge and One Block East as finalists for Best Dive Bar. Jackson Free Press apologizes for these errors.
Best LGBT Hangout: Bottoms Up
3911 Northview Drive, now closed
From drag artistry to upbeat Top 40 radio bangers, Bottoms Up was the true essence of southern LGBT life. Though it closed in December 2014, the club once provided a place for outcasts to dance and socialize with like-minded people.
On Saturday nights, drag queens graced the stage, lip-syncing to songs from pop divas. You always knew you were in the right place if you heard the occasional "Yasssss" on the dance floor if someone dropped it like it was hot. Bottoms Up was a place where members of the LGBT community could fully express themselves without fear of judgment. While it's closing is a major loss to Jackson, finalists Fenian's Pub, JC's Construction and Soul Wired Cafe are still there for those seeking a great place to hang out where they're welcome as an LGBT person. —Zachary Orsborn
Best LGBT Hangout Finalists
Fenian's Pub (901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055, fenianspub.happytables.com) / JC's Construction (425 N. Mart Plaza, 601-362-3108) / Soul Wired Cafe (111 Millsaps Ave., 601-863-6378, soulwiredcafe.com)
Best Jukebox: Ole Tavern on George Street
416 George St., 601-960-2700
Since reopening in 2008, Ole Tavern on George Street has become one of the top places to knock back a few brews. Owners Jason and Shannon Cockrell attribute the welcoming quality to the building's history, as well as the southern music that sets the tone for the bar. That doesn't end with live bands on Fridays and Saturdays, though. Ole Tavern's Internet jukebox allows visitors to pick from a vast number of classic and current songs, whether they're craving country, rock, hip-hop or blues. You can order po-boys, seafood or pasta, sip on the bar's signature drink, the Ole Tavern Mule, and dance to the latest and greatest hits. —Maya Miller
Best Jukebox Finalists
Last Call Sports Grill (1428 Old Square Road, 601-713-2700) / Sam's Lounge (5035 Interstate 55 N., 601-983-2526) / One Block East (642 Tombigbee St., 601-944-0203, oneblockeast.com) / JC's Construction (425 N. Mart Plaza, 601-362-3108) / Sylvia's Restaurant & Lounge (3060 Medgar Evers Blvd., 601-366-5809)
Best Karaoke DJ: Matt Collette
Multiple Best of Jackson winner Matt Collette hasn't changed much in his 10 years as the Capital City Karaoke King. He's always the one to bring out the best in a crowd.
"I really get a kick out of seeing people get out of their comfort zone," Collette says. "It's fun to watch." With a song list of all genres that anyone can find a good groove with, Collette says that "even just coming and watching can introduce you to great music that you may really like. Even if you don't listen to country or rap a lot, if you come out to karaoke and hear a song you like, you expand your musical tastes just by going out and enjoying yourself."
Join Matt Collette at Fenian's Pub on Monday nights and at Kemistry Sports Bar and Hookah Lounge on Saturday nights for karaoke. He is also available for private parties. For more information, check him out on Facebook. —Greg Pigott
Best Karaoke DJ Finalists
DJ Stache / D-Day (Last Call Sports Grill, 1428 Old Square Road, 601-713-2700) / Casey Hardigree / Angela Pittman (Krazy Karaoke)
Best Country Artist: South of 20
When "rockin' country" band South of 20 formed in Jackson in 2010, it had one aspiration, which hasn't steered the band wrong, yet.
"We all met when I was running a studio in Flowood out of a desire to just play solid country music for people, and that's what we've been doing since," guitarist Chris Sanders says.
South of 20 tries to keep the crowd in mind when choosing sets for live performances. "We play a lot of Top 40 songs that people want to hear along with our original stuff," Sanders says.
The lineup has changed since the band's formation, but each member has a wealth of musical experience. For instance, bassist Robbie Pigg took lessons at a music camp from legendary bassist Victor Wooten, and lead guitarist James Beau Edwards was a session player in Nashville. Whether the band is tearing up the stage at Jackson's The Hideaway or bringing big crowds to Silverstar Hotel & Casino, South of 20 is sure to put on a show. —Jake Sund
Best Country Artist/Band Finalists
Young Valley / Shaun Patterson / TJ Burnham (Burnham Road)
Best Live Music Venue: Duling Hall
(622 Duling Ave., 601-292-7121, dulinghall.com)
It's been three years since show promoter Arden Barnett first started leasing Duling Hall, the stomping grounds of his entertainment company, Ardenland, from Mike Peters of Peters Development. The deal brought a surge of enthusiasm for live music into Jackson's Fondren area that keeps audiences coming.
Within the cozy music-and-special-events venue, which boasts one of the best sound systems in Jackson, Barnett and his team have not only provided a crucial space for local bands to promote their music, but also a worthwhile destination for national acts—including the Flaming Lips, Shovels & Rope, Lettuce and Justin Townes Earle—to bank on when their tours take them through the Deep South.
"We're in a place now where not only people, but the bands want to come back again and again, and that's the important thing," Barnett says. "You don't just come see a show and never come back." —Jake Sund
Best Live Music Venue Finalist
Underground 119 (119 S. President St., 601-352-2322, underground119.com) / Martin's Restaurant & Lounge (214 S. State St., 601-354-9712, martinslounge.net) / The Iron Horse Grill (320 W. Pearl St., 601-398-0151, theironhorsegrill.com) / Hal & Mal's (200 S. Commerce St., 601-948-0888, halandmals.com)
In the original version of this story, we left off Hal & Mal's as a finalist for Best Live Music Venue. Jackson Free Press apologizes for this error.
Best Place to Drink Cheap; Best Open-Mic Night: Fenian's Pub
901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055, fenianspub.happytables.com
As Jackson's only authentic Irish pub, Fenian's Pub celebrates its Celtic heritage and history in fantastic fashion. Established in November 1996, the restaurant and bar operates on the slogan, "We do not just serve food and drinks; we serve friends." And nothing draws friends together like solid drink specials and live music.
In addition to regular offerings from local musicians, Fenian's hosts a normally star-studded open-mic night every Tuesday night. The pub's laid-back, worn-with-love atmosphere makes it the perfect spot for Jackson singer-songwriters to test new material on happily buzzing bar-goers.
In past years, Jacksonians have chosen Fenian's for almost every nightlife category from "Best Bar" to "Best LGBT Hangout," which is a testament to the power of a solid open-mic night and a reasonably priced drink. While it isn't the only place in Jackson serving up entertainment, drinks and fun with friends, Fenian's Pub is certainly one of the most beloved. —Shameka Hayes
Best Place to Drink Cheap Finalists
Martin's Restaurant & Lounge (214 S. State St., 601-354-9712, martinslounge.net) / Shucker's on the Rez (116 Conestoga Road, Ridgeland, 601-853-0105, shuckersontherez.com) / Capitol Grill (5050 Interstate 55 N., Suite F, 601-899-8845, capitolgrillofjackson.com) / One Block East (642 Tombigbee St., 601-944-0203, oneblockeast.com)
Best Open-Mic Night Finalists
McB's Bar & Grill (815 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-956-8362) / Ole Tavern on George Street (416 George St., 601-960-2700) / Synergy Nights at Mediterranean Fish and Grill (6550 Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-956-0082)
In the original version of this story, we left off the finalists for Best Open-Mic Night. Jackson Free Press apologizes for this error.
Best Pub Quiz: Hal & Mal's
200 S. Commerce St., 601-948-0888, halandmals.com
There's no need for guessing when it comes to Hal & Mal's pub quiz. The restaurant holds the record for the longest running trivia night in Jackson, with more than 15 years of quirky questions.
"Because it's hosted by different people, our trivia isn't repetitive," says Assistant Manager Erin Bronson. "With most trivia nights being generic, our hosts put their personalities into it." Hal & Mal's asks hosts come up with their own head-scratchers from a wide range of genres, such as '80s soft rock, American geography and superhero secret identities, to stump the pub quiz's loyal leagues and regular players. You can stop for a nightcap and test your thinking cap, all in one. —Arcadia Smith
Best Pub Quiz Finalists
Fenian's Pub (901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055, fenianspub.happytables.com) / The Pig & Pint (3139 N. State St., 601-326-6070, pigandpint.com) / Bonny Blair's Irish Pub (1149 Old Fannin Road, Brandon, 769-251-0693)
Best Place to Dance: Club Magoo's
824 S. State St., 601-487-8710, now Club Mirage
While Club Magoo's closed its doors after a final New Year's Eve blowout, for the entirety of 2014, it was Jackson's premier dance club. Magoo's was a favorite among local college students looking for drink specials and a great dancing experience. The club's pounding rhythms and pulsing lights provided enough energy for an instant party.
Open Wednesday through Saturday, Club Magoo's hosted several memorable events, such as Ladies Night, concerts, foam parties, and recently, Glow Time, billed as the ultimate glow-paint party. Meanwhile, top-notch deejays definitely kept patrons moving.
Don't be too sad about Club Magoo's closing, though. The location reopened under new management as Club Mirage on Thursday, Jan. 15, and hopes to keep the spirit of Jackson's Best Place to Dance. —Pamela Hosey
Best Place to Dance Finalists
Ole Tavern on George Street (416 George St., 601-960-2700) / Shucker's on the Rez (116 Conestoga Road, Ridgeland, 601-853-0105, shuckersontherez.com) / Bottoms Up (3911 Northview Drive, 601-981-2188, now closed) / Duling Hall (622 Duling Ave., 601-292-7121, dulinghall.com)
Best R&B Artist: Jarekus Singleton
From a University of Southern Mississippi basketball star to a master of blues guitar, Jarekus Singleton always seems to end up center stage. Even so, he doesn't seem like the most obvious choice for Best R&B Artist. That is, until you listen to his music.
Singleton's memorable vocal melodies are textbook rhythm and blues. Songs such as "Gonna Let Go" and "Crime Scene" from his 2014 album, "Refuse to Lose," showcase the best of his guitar chops, sure, but more than that, they put his smooth, soulful voice front and center. The Alligator Records artist's ability to put each element to work in unexpected ways has made him a well-known commodity in Jackson's music scene.
"I'm constantly trying to improve my technique while developing a brand that fans can readily identify," Singleton told the JFP in 2014. "... Songwriting comes easy when you have a story to tell." —Micah Smith
Best R&B Artist Finalists
Kerry Thomas / Akami Graham / AJC
Best Place to Play Pool: The Green Room
444 Bounds St., 601-713-3444
The Green Room knows pool. While its specialty drinks, such as "liquid marijuana," are a draw, Jackson's premier billiards hall is best known for its tournaments and hunting-lodge decor. One side of the room is themed after the bar's signature table-sport, and the other side is decorated with mounted animal heads. The Green Room's pool tables, which are covered in ocean-blue felt, are equally distinctive.
For those who want to test their skills with a cue, tournaments are conducted for 22 weeks, with 16 teams competing for an eventual cash prize of $13,000.
The Green Room isn't all about competition, though. Manager Dwight Anderson says the bar creates a safe, fun environment for players to enjoy themselves.
"Our pool makes us special, but we pride ourselves on being multicultural, providing reliable security, maintaining a clean property, treating everyone like family and doing a good job overall," he says. —Mike McDonald
Best Place to Play Pool Finalists
Cherokee Inn (1410 Old Square Road, 601-362-6388, cherokeedriveinn.com) / One Block East (642 Tombigbee St., 601-944-0203, oneblockeast.com) / Last Call Sports Grill (1428 Old Square Road, 601-713-2700) / Pop's Saloon (2636 S. Gallatin St., 601-961-4747)
*Best Dive Bar and Best Live Music Venue have edited to reflect finalist additions. Jackson Free Press apologizes for these omissions and says congratulations to the winners and finalists.