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Opening Remarks

The Power of Song

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The day after our Dec. 14, 2017 issue hit the stands, Jim Hilton—patriarch of Editor Manson’s extended family and one helluva domino player—passed away. In January 2010, we published this photo of Mr. Hilton (left) from a W.E.B. Griffin book signing event at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Pensacola. He will be greatly missed.

I’m excited that Beachcomber is back in bed with the 30A Songwriters Festival, despite all those nasty things I wrote about them a couple years back. This is an event that gets bigger every year. There are more gasp-worthy names in the lineup than the 2009 inaugural event, though for me, first-year performer Rodney Crowell was about as big as you can get—four number-one singles from his album Diamond and Dirt back in 1989, damn.


Among the performers I’m looking forward to seeing this time around—songwriting great Mike Reid (Bonnie Raitt’s hit “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” tons of Ronnie Milsap hits), country music legend Kathy Mattea (these days, her Coal album seems more relevant than ever), Rita Wilson (whose appearance in the film Mixed Nuts has made her a staple in the Manson-Hilton household every Christmas for the past decade), and renaissance man Steve Earle.


Then there are old favorites like Gretchen Peters, Mary Gauthier, Tommy Womack, Chas Sandford, Grayson Capps, Daphne Willis… major talents whose gifts to the music world shouldn’t be overlooked while you’re shuttling from Grand Boulevard to 30A trying to find a parking spot.


And it’s great that the festival still finds room for our local musicmakers, folks like Donnie Sundal, I’MAGENE (formerly Continuum), Chris Alvarado, the Wildlife Specials, Kyle LaMonica, and The Wide Open, whose new album Long Road Home drops Jan. 13. Season Ammons and Allen Rayfield were kind enough to stop by the office and drop off a copy of the CD, and you simply must hear it.

I’m looking forward to discovering new favorites this year—I’ve already sampled fine work from Carly Burruss and Peter Bradley Adams on Spotify and can’t wait to hear these kids in person.


And then there’s Becky Warren, whose album War Surplus is a must—a first-rate collection of songs from the perspective of battle-hardened veterans, written and sung by someone who lives in her characters’ skins and sounds like she’s been there. If you catch one of her shows during the festival, come say hello—I’ll be the guy singing along to all of Ms. Warren’s songs.


“I’m thrilled to be heading back to 30A this year for the festival,” Ms. Warren writes. “It’s a dream vacation for a songwriter. Lots of my friends go, and many of my musical heroes perform. It’s a gathering of many of my favorite people and lots of my favorite music in one of the most beautiful spots I’ve visited.”



Beachcomber Music Awards X, originally set for the first Monday in March, has been postponed until sometime between after Spring Break and Memorial Day weekend. We’ll keep you posted. Keep an eye on our Facebook page, because the nominating ballot will be posted online very, very soon. We hope.

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