The Southern Coterie website recently posted about a new-to-me music duo called The Secret Sisters, a lovely harmonizing pair that hail from Alabama. Which made me think about all the good music that comes from the yellowhammer state. Hello Muscle Shoooaals? (I don’t have time to hold your hand on this, if you don’t know about Muscle Shoals wikipedia is waiting for you.) Now we all know my soul lives deep in the heart of Texas music, but I am very passionate about music from my New & Other Home State of Alabama…and there is a lot of rich stuff to choose from. So I thought I would rattle off some of my favorite Alabama acts, some old and some new, with my wildly subjective liner notes. (You didn’t think I was just going to list them without commentary did you? Pshaw.) Here we go, musical acts with ties to bama…
Jason Isbell – we saw him at Springfest last year and I love his song ‘Alabama Pines’. Somewhat creepily I follow him and his fiddle prodigy fiancée Amanda Shires on twitter so I feel like we are all the best of friends. I plan to live tweet updates from their wedding as I’m sure I’ll be invited.
<Okay, it’s already time for a short break. This is a good list and I believe down to my toes yall should read the whole thing but if you’re in a rush and need a good tunage fix STAT, scroll down. I have some videos waiting for you. Now let’s get back to my list.>
The Secret Sisters – love their covers of old honkytonk like ‘My Heart Skips A Beat’ and ‘Why Baby Why’ plus their original ‘Tennessee Me’ is simply lovely. Great new find. I am going to ignore the fact they sang on the Hunger Games soundtrack. Whaat?
Alabama Shakes – all the talk after SXSW this year. They are hot hot hot right now.
Drive by Truckers – ah, my favorite Truckers show was at Tipitina’s in New Orleans 2006. I wore a red wig. I have no further explanation.
Hank Williams – I am hoping to roadtrip up to the Hank Williams museum soon as research for my next book which will be about…honkytonk music. More on that another day.
Maddox Brothers and Rose – an old school honkytonk family band from Boaz AL that made it big out in CA in the 50s. Essentially the godparents of rockabilly.
Jody Payne – Willie Nelson’s long time guitarist who currently lives in Stapleton AL. He came out of retirement last August and we saw him play once again with Willie and The Family in Attmore AL. (The video I have down below of Jody Payne & Willie is topnotch vintage stuff!)
Tammy Wynette – technically she was born in MS but so close to the MS-AL line that Alabama claims her as well. I’m a TX-AL blend now too so I can relate. But then again, I have always related to Tammy. Lately I’ve been playing ‘My Elusive Dreams’ on repeat. Soooo good. Heartstrings good.
Louvin Brothers – more vintage honkytonk. I love their song ‘My Baby’s Gone’ which is on the Crazy Heart soundtrack. Go download.
Emmylou Harris – born in Birmingham. Need I detail her fabulousness? ‘Two More Bottles of Wine’… run don’t walk.
Hank Locklin — “Please Help Me I’m Falling” is one of my all time favs.
Jimmie Rodgers – the father of country music. Known for a little old, much-covered hit “In The Jailhouse Now” as well as using the Hawaiian steel guitar sound.
Wet Willie – classic 70’s southern rock band from Mobile no less! I can’t get enough of their signature hit ‘Keep On Smilin’. It just works.
ISLAND ESCAPISM (what a stupid term. I blame wikipedia.)
Jimmy Buffet – I like the old stuff from the White Sportcoat and a Pink Crustacean album like ‘Why Don’t We Get Drunk And Screw’. A family roadtrip favorite in the early 80s. Family folklore also has it that we ran into Jimmy Buffet in a little dive in Snowmass in the 70s, sitting on a barstool playing to a handful of hippies. I was a mere tot so I have to trust that my parents are telling the truth.
Wilson Picket – hello romance.
Percy Sledge – a late nite jukebox favorite.
Blind Boys of Alabama – they’ve been around since 1939! That’s staying power. (of course they get new members, duh.)
ALT (I do not mean Atlanta. I mean alternative because I don’t know where else to put him.)
Will Kimbrough – Mobile native and former front man for Will & The Bushman. Now solo and based in Nashville churning out quality tunes for himself and others. He’s a real musician’s musician. (I always find that term is so pompous but I kinda see how it’s useful. Like with Will Kimbrough for example.)
Nat King Cole – I can’t be the first person to say Nat’s voice is like velvet. And when I say velvet, I mean velvet coated in molasses. He was born in Montgomery, but moved to Chicago and truthfully had some dicey times playing in the South due to racial tensions. He was a groundbreaker on a number of levels, although progressive mental health messages in his lyrics might not be one of them. I do love “pretend you’re happy when you’re blue” despite the fact that it pretty much advocates a 1950s stuff-it-all-down-and-just-smile stepford wife approach to life.
Excelsior Band – Playing since 1883, they are the oldest Mobile Mardi Gras brass band and as far as I am concerned a state treasure. We love them so much we had them play at our wedding. They played ‘Stars Fell On Alabama’ and ‘The Yellow Rose of Texas’ back to back, just for us.
Of course I should mention Allison Moorer, sister of Shelby Lynne and wife of Steve Earle, who sang ‘Soft Place To Fall’ so beautifully on The Horse Whisperer soundtrack. Not to mention Beth Nielsen Chapman, The Commodores, Clarence Carter, Dinah Washington, and The Temptations. But I am running out of steam.
So that’s it off the top of my head. What did I miss? I’m good, but I’m not perfect. Feel free to scroll down and leave a comment with more good AL music!
Here are some music videos to inspire you. If you have trouble viewing them on email or iphone or ipad, cuss YouTube and spare me the customer complaints. Just click through to my actual website to view them. Pesky YouYube, can’t live with it, can’t live without it. Enjoy!
(Copyright 2012 by Christine Warren)