For our season premiere of The Thacker Mountain Radio Hour, we’re honored to welcome two bona fide legends: Poet-essayist Nikki Giovanni and bluesman Bobby Rush! Plus we’ll hear a fine singer-songwriter from Colorado, Xanthe Alexis. Welcome to our new season!
Hosts: Jim Dees and our house band, the Yalobushwhackers
Saturday, Jan. 23– 7pm (CT) Mississippi Public Broadcasting
9pm (CT) Alabama Public Radio
Thursdays 6pm (CT) WUMS – University of Mississippi
Fridays 9am (CT) WYXR Memphis Community Radio
Nikki Giovanni, poet, activist, mother, and professor, is a seven-time NAACP Image Award winner and the first recipient of the Rosa Parks Woman of Courage Award, and holds the Langston Hughes Medal for Outstanding Poetry, among many other honors. The author of twenty-eight books and a Grammy nominee for The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection, she is the University Distinguished Professor of English at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia.
In Make Me Rain, she celebrates her loved ones and unapologetically declares her pride in her Black heritage, while exploring the enduring impact of the twin sins of racism and white nationalism. Giovanni reaffirms her place as a uniquely vibrant and relevant American voice with poems such as “I Come from Athletes” and “Rainy Days”—calling out segregation and Donald Trump; as well as “Unloved (for Aunt Cleota)” and “”When I Could No Longer”—her personal elegy for the relatives who saved her from an abusive home life.
Excellent New York Times profile here.
Grammy-winner Bobby Rush’s latest release is Rawer Than Raw, a stripped-down, acoustic tribute to the rich blues history of Mississippi, his adopted home state.
“Although I was born in Louisiana, I’m proud to call Mississippi home,” Rush says. He moved to Jackson, Mississippi, in the 1980s and traces his family connections back to his great-grandparents. “I’m saluting Mississippi guys because they, to me, stayed truest to their roots.”
Rush won his first Grammy in 2017 for Best Traditional Blues Album for Porcupine Meat, produced by Scott Billington. His next album, Sitting on Top of the Blues, received a Grammy nomination bringing a total of four for Rush, along with his 51 Blues Music Award nominations and 13 wins. Rush ended 2020 with a cameo role in the Golden Globe-nominated Eddie Murphy film hit, Dolemite Is My Name.
In 2015, Omnivore Recordings released the 4-CD, 74 song-box set, Chicken Heads: A 50-Year History of Bobby Rush, which earned a Blues Music Award for Best Historical Release.
Long considered one of the blues’ preeminent raconteurs, Rush has always placed a premium on stories in his music. In the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, his risqué, humor-filled chitlin’ circuit shows often featured long, drawn-out narratives of romantic misadventures.
In recent years, the 86-year-old (!) Rush has performed an acoustic show, Bobby Rush: An Intimate Evening of Stories and Songs. His latest album is inspired by that show.
Songwriter Xanthe Alexis’ latest single is Compass, a sneak peek of her forthcoming album, The Offering, scheduled for release this summer. Recorded in Alexis’s adopted hometown of Colorado Springs, the record pairs soaring melodies with lush, hypnotic soundscapes as it grapples with anxiety and strength, worry and comfort, heartbreak and hope.
Alexis also works as a trauma therapist and brings that healing knowledge to her songs and live performances. Her previous album was 2016’s Time of War.