If the opening night of the Double Decker Arts Festival seems like a Sunday service and you’re feeling the Holy Spirit – well, it should. <>
Reverend John Wilkins will close out the festivities on April 24 by bringing his blend of gospel and blues to The Graduate Hotel Stage around 8.
Before having the stage to himself, Wilkins will be a guest on Thacker Mountain Radio Hour along with authors Greg Iles and Jamie Brickhouse, and fellow Fat Possum/Big Legal Mess artists Water Liars at 7.
“I can’t wait,” Wilkins said with laugh.
No stranger to the LOU community, Wilkins has performed in Oxford throughout the years — even opening for the Alabama Shakes at Proud Larry’s in 2011, and has taken part in the North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic.
Wilkins released “You Can’t Hurry God” in 2011 through Big Legal Mess Records.
His debut-full length album features nine songs, including the moving title track and two songs that landed on the Rolling Stones’ albums — “You Gotta Move” and “Prodigal Son.”
The Stones’ recordings were not by coincidence.
The rendition of “You Gotta Move” is partially credited to Mississippi Fred McDowell, a Hill Country bluesman who was a member of Hunter’s Chapel Missionary Baptist Church during the mid-1960s.
Robert Wilkins, John’s father (who was also a pastor), had made a series of recordings in the 1930s that included the original “Prodigal Son.” The track was initially recorded as a secular song called “That’s No Way To Get Along.”
His father’s influence is easily heard in his gospel and country blues style.
In the early-1980s Wilkins began serving as pastor at Hunter’s Chapel, once again following in his father’s footsteps.
Sunday will mark Wilkins’ 30th anniversary of leading the church in Como.
“This Sunday I won’t be preaching. They’re celebrating my day,” Wilkins said.
Prior to leading a congregation, the younger Wilkins played guitar on O.V. Wright’s famous 1965 single “You’re Gonna Make Me Cry” and later in the early 1970s recorded as a member of the M & N Gospel Singers for Style Wooten’s Designer Records.
Wilkins hopes to get back in the recording studio soon to work on his second album.
“I got some stuff I need to try to get out there,” Wilkins said. “I do gospel, but I got some stuff I want to rearrange. I want to rearrange something on Muddy Waters. I got some stuff I want to rearrange Bobby Bland-style. I try to rearrange that stuff and put a good beat to it.”
Whether he is at the pulpit delivering a sermon or behind a microphone strapped with a guitar Wilkins enjoys moving a crowd.
“It’s just in me. I just get joy out of it,” he said.