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Iuka, Mississippi  
Tishomingo County News (3-24-2011)

A Review

“Maggie’s House” is a Soundtrack of Small-Town Memories

By Pamela McRae


Local artists Frank and Eddie Thomas are releasing a new album that sounds like the soundtrack for a movie about life in small-town Mississippi.

“Maggie’s House” is a collection of just a few of the dozens of songs that Eddie Thomas has written in the past 35 years, and it offers a timelessly classic sound throughout the ten-song collection. Recorded, engineered and mixed by Frank, it’s at times country, and sometimes a little jazzy. But the album always manages to sound like what you’d hear coming from inside the screen door, as you sit on a porch swing in the country.

The talented Thomas brothers are nationally known for projects like “Angels on the Backroads” a collection of celebrated blues songs played and recorded in historic landmarks throughout the Mississippi Delta, and “The Natchez Trace: A Road Through the Wilderness,” a narrative and musical accompaniment designed to listen to during a drive down (or up) the Trace.

Most recently, the brothers Thomas enjoyed internet acclaim with a Telly award for their “Pennyland” video project in June of 2010. But this album, which Frank says is named after “Maggie’s House – a real place in an imaginary sort of way,” is purely Eddie’s poetic words with his own accompaniment, often on acoustic guitar. Recorded right here in Iuka, the world class, folk-inspired music is combined with lyrics that could easily stand as sweet poetry on their own. The melodies evoke images of life; of family times, party times, private and public times.

“Marie” and “You and Me” make you feel like you are dancing close with your sweetheart – maybe wearing one of those full-skirted dresses of the fifties and sixties, on a gymnasium floor. But lyrics like “my heart fell away right from the start, the very first time I danced with you in the dark” and “My life began with you,” from “You and Me” have a timeless ability to melt a romantic’s heart.

The music is overflowing with references to hill country life like evenings at the drive-in, grabbing nabs and NuGrape, 4-H clubs, coon dogs howling, and whippoorwills. There’s even a lenient sheriff at the door who offers more ice (for the party) from the machine down at the station, and the troublesome process of trying to remember where you hid your jar of White Lightning. Eddie includes just ‘nough conversational abbreviations, soft drawl to his words, and poor subject/verb agreement (that we accept as perfectly fine ‘round here, even from learned folks like school teachers) that we feel right at home.

Most disturbingly, Thomas paints pictures of dancing around the kitchen to the radio or a jug band that I personally wonder if he’s been driving down my own little country road on Saturday night during the bluegrass show on public radio! He assures me he has not, but that is how realistic it seems, even to my limited experience in Tishomingo County.

The Release -- “Maggie’s House” will officially be released Monday, April 11th at a very special Friends of the Iuka Library Lunch Break, from 11 to 1PM. Albums will be available at a special price of $12, and Frank and Eddie will be available to sign copies. At 12:15, Frank and Eddie will perform songs from the album live, for free. More information available at www.eddieandfrank.com.

Lunch is $2.

- Pamela McRae