Thacker News – ‘Odd ball rock and roll’ is art too

When the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters (MIAL) gave out their 45th annual awards this June, Thacker Mountain Radio Hour was well represented.

Tim Lee, who serves as Thacker’s production director, shared the Music Composition (Contemporary) Award with his wife – and bandmate – Susan. The couple, who record and tour under the name, Bark – Tim on guitar, Susan on drums – won for their album, LOUD.

Other 2024 MIAL awardees with ties to the radio show include past guests Charles Reagan Wilson (Nonfiction); Lee Durkee (Life Writing); and Curtis Wilkie (Lifetime Achievement).

Upcoming Thacker guests, Jesmyn Ward (Fiction) and Kate Medley (Photography), were also honored.

The awards banquet was held June 8 at the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson, Mississippi.

The 2024 award is the second for Bark. The duo won in the same category in 2020 for their album, Terminal Everything.

“The first time we received the MIAL we were dumbfounded,” Tim said in his recipients’ remarks. “Odd ball rock and roll bands like ours don’t usually get attention from organizations with “Arts and Letters” in the title.”

In choosing LOUD for the 2024 award, the judges said the album displayed “a uniqueness of lyrics, a variety of textures and vocals while still maintaining a rock and roll stance and sound.”

The judges also took note of Susan’s album cover design (she’s a graphic artist by day) in declaring “the project overall the most engaging and interesting in the field of candidates.”

Since 1978, the MIAL has given awards in musical composition, (contemporary and classical), fiction, non-fiction, poetry, photography, visual art, and (in recent years) Youth Literature.

Judges are selected annually and must reside out of state without ties to the nominees.

LOUD was made with producers Matt Patton and Bronson Tew at Dial Back Sound in Water Valley, MS.

Susan Lee puts the award in perspective of the couple’s personal upheavals.

“Between 2019 and 2022, we’ve dealt with a pandemic, recording in an unfamiliar space, and a giant move back home,” she recalls. The couple moved back to Mississippi in 2022 after 20 years in Knoxville, TN.

Like so many, the Lees have dealt with a variety of family issues including the loss of close relatives, friends and even beloved family pets.

And yet, the beat goes on.

In addition to Bark (Motto: “Shake that thang ‘till our heads explode”), the radio show and Susan’s graphic design, the Lees also work with an arts organization, This Is Noteworthy. The group produces an ongoing live music series in the Lees’ adopted town of Water Valley.

“We’ve enjoyed being back in Mississippi,” Tim concludes. “Despite the pandemic and various family issues, working with musicians and producing a weekly show is something I enjoy doing and know how to do.

“The MIAL awards have been a cool validation.”

Susan Lee agrees. “We’re grateful for the awards and the way the North Mississippi arts community has embraced us. It’s good to be home.”

Look for Bark and Thacker Mountain Hour on the road this summer/fall and Thacker’s fall season opener in Oxford, MS on Thursday, Sept. 5!

In the meantime, Bark Loud!

Visit Bark:

Visit Thacker Mountain Radio Hour:

Bark photo: Kyle Hislip