NORMAN — Album name: Tough Times Don’t Last (2013, Grady Shady Music)
Musician: Grady Champion
Why you should listen: Grady Champion is proud of his home state Mississippi and they’re proud of him. Track three on his new disc is titled “Mississippi Pride” and in 2012 the Mississippi Arts Commission granted the bluesman a Folk Arts Fellowship.
This Canton, Miss., native is a strong representative for a state whose contribution to delta blues is without question. All 12 of these new songs are his original compositions with a few writing collaborations including notably with Magic City Kid on “Broken Down Cadillac.” The disc’s strongest and most soulful track is titled “Ghetto” where he name-checks his home town. Now hosting a big Japanese auto manufacturing plant, Canton probably isn’t as tough and impoverished as it once was. But Champion’s gritty lyrical recollection is heartfelt and genuine as any modern blues song around. It’s about survival and getting out of the ghetto only to learn the world is full of them.
As executive producer of his own album, one of the best decisions Champion made was to include Thomasine Anderson’s backing vocals. She puts a sweet aural kiss on every track. Overall Champion has epitomized what the blues are all about in “Tough Times,” taking life’s despair and turning it in to a joyful sound.