By the Way

Wynonna pays tribute to Leonard Cohen with ‘Hallelujah’ in Biloxi

I love Christmas shows.

I’ve seen the Oak Ridge Boys Christmas show several times, as well as the Kenny Rogers holiday show.

On Friday, I had the chance to see Wynonna and The Big Noise bring the Christmas hits to the IP Casino Resort in Biloxi. And it was pretty awesome.

First things first — if you haven’t heard the debut album from Wynonna and The Big Noise, you’re missing out on one of my favorite records of 2016. The production and sound are great and it features songs written by Chris Stapleton, Julie Miller and Raphael Saddiq, with appearances by Timothy B. Schmidt, Jason Isbell, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks.

As Wynonna told me in a recent interview, The Big Noise is a band and Wynonna is the singer in that band, which features her husband Cactus Moser on drums.

The show

The show was a mix of Christmas songs, both sacred and secular, a few hits and a song or two from the new album. The band used a lot of vintage instruments and sweet guitar tones, giving the show more of a “roots rock” vibe than the country for which Wynonna is famous. New arrangements of Judds classics like “Love is Alive” and “Why Not Me” sounded both familiar and fresh.

And then there’s Wynonna, who was wearing enough glitter on her hair and face that she shined like a diamond, even for the people sitting far from the stage. Her marriage to Moser and her new band have made her a very happy woman and it showed in every move she made Friday night. She’s so charismatic that she could charm the pants off of a bobcat, as the old country saying goes.

She’s probably the most underrated singer in the business. Seriously. If you need proof of that, watch her haunting rendition of the late Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” It was the most magical moment I’ve seen in Biloxi since Paul Anka played “Purple Rain” a few weeks after Prince died or when Stapleton played “Amanda” in October.

Friday was my first time to see Wynonna, although we have mutual friends in makeup expert Billy B. and stylist to the stars Syd Curry. I remember a few years ago when Billy B. was shooting his “reality” show for HGTV and he brought Wynonna to Aberdeen for a fundraiser.

Tales of Aberdeen

Aberdeen is a small town in northeast Mississippi. It’s sister town, Amory, is Sam Haskill’s hometown, and Haskill was always bringing Dolly Parton or Sela Ward to Amory for benefits.

This year, Amory made the headlines as being the hometown of “American Idol” winner Trent Harmon.

But Aberdeen didn’t fare as well.

I remember when Tammy Wynette played at the high school when I was a kid. It was a benefit for a local DJ, but I think somebody stole the money after the show.

There was also the time that George Jones crashed his Lincoln Town Car outside of Aberdeen, and he had to go to the Aberdeen hospital. His car was at James L. Smith’s body shop and my daddy took me to see it.

Wynonna was the biggest thing to hit Aberdeen since George Jones’ wreck. Her appearance at the IP on Friday was just as memorable for me.