November 13, 2017 11:19:40 AM
Shannon Bardwell - [email protected]
"Did you see the sunrise this morning, did you hear the mockingbird sing, did you touch the hand of a good friend, well that's a beautiful thing. Did you taste a strong cup of coffee, did you smell the freshly cut hay, did you sing I'm alive, I'm alive, what a wonderful day."
-- Tricia Walker, singer-songwriter
In the dark of night, I walked toward my room at the Eola Hotel in Natchez. My brother, his wife and I had just dined with a multitude of kinfolk when a vivacious cousin, actually first cousin once removed, hollered out, "Hey y'all. There's a singer playing at the bar 'round the corner; I heard her last night. Let's go."
"Not me, I'm tired and my bar days are long over."
Vivacious people can exert extraordinary peer pressure, and not wanting to be a party-pooper, I reluctantly went.
The four of us squeezed in the door and maneuvered through the beautiful people pressed close as asparagus stalks. The room was so loud you couldn't hear thunder as we inched our way toward the upstairs room where the band was setting up.
It was quieter there and fewer people. We grabbed a table and ordered Cokes all around. The band's equipment was at my left elbow where a sweet, smoky aroma drifted over. Tricia Walker sat on a stool and began to play the guitar and sing. She sang about the South, the deep-down gritty South. She was good, really good. She wrote songs -- some soulful, some humorous, but there was more. I felt it, but I couldn't put my finger on it. I eased over to the table holding her CDs. It was dark, but I saw it. I pointed. The man mouthed, "This one? It's gospel." I nodded.
In Fayette, Mississippi, Tricia grew up sitting on her country porch and attending a small Methodist church steeped in gospel hymns. On Sunday afternoons she could hear the singing from an African-American church down the road. It's in her blood.
Some 30 years ago the singer-songwriter left for Nashville. She became a Grammy winner who wrote for and sang with all the biggies whose names you'd recognize. Then she came home, still writing and singing, but as director of the Delta Music Institute where she gives back by helping young musicians in all musical genres.
I've had the chance to run into Tricia a couple of times at writer/songwriter conferences where I saw her fold her hands, clasp them to her mouth, and sound all the world like a harmonica.
"So, Tricia," I asked, "Tell me what happened when you showed your momma and said, 'I think I can make a living doing this?'" Tricia laughed and proceeded to make a living.
Tricia wrote "What a Wonderful Day," requested by a friend for a breast cancer luncheon. She gave me about a dozen CDs to share with a support group I was a part of. She'll make you laugh, she'll make you cry; she'll make you hold on. She's got that kind of soul.
Tricia and Kate Campbell, a Delta native and "world-class singer-songwriter," are in concert at the Columbus Arts Council's Rosenzweig Arts Center this Thursday. No peer pressure, but you might want to be there.
Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.