Sylvia Novak has her fifth record finished, and it doesn’t sound like anything that she has done before. She’s given in to her rock sensibilities; her first love. Novak cautions that she may never play violin again.
She’s been very prolific. When this record is formally released, it will be her fifth full length, and she’s still just 31. Most of the new project was recorded in Birmingham at Boutwell Studios.
Later this month, Morgan Wade will join a lineup at Mile 0 Fest in Key West, Florida that is traditionally heavy on the Red Dirt sounds of Oklahoma and Texas. Wade is from Floyd, Virginia.
But she’s heard nothing but the best about Mile 0 Fest from BJ Barham of American Aquarium, a mainstay at the festival returning for the third straight year. The two were scheduled to tour together before the pandemic abruptly canceled everyone’s plans in 2020.
In March, the 26-year-old Wade released Reckless, a perfect collection of ten songs about love and loss; addiction and mental health. The record has been years in the making. She first met Sadler Vaden when the two shared a festival bill in her hometown of Floyd, a town renowned for its’ country and bluegrass. But Vaden and his co-producer Paul Ebersold saw something else within her.
Alvin Garrett is a Birmingham fixture. You may be most familiar with his work with Just a Few Cats, a group that he co-founded with Ruben Studdard. Now, Garrett isn’t just “a part” of Just a Few Cats; he is Just a Few Cats. The 43-year-old Tuscaloosa native has been the group’s only continuous member since its’ inception. A 1996 graduate of Central High School of Tuscaloosa, he continued his education at Samford University, and he has remained in Birmingham since making the move.
He grew up in the church; his father was a minister, and he fell in love with gospel music at an early age. But when he first dove in, it wasn’t singing that attracted him; it was bass guitar. His father gifted his first bass when he was just 11-years-old, an age when Garrett jokes that his hands were too small to play.
Since, he’s written songs for Noel Gourdin, Joe and Kelly Rowland.
For most of us, there hasn’t been much to do for a year. Touring was put on hold. Travel was put on hold. Life was put on hold.
But Will Stewart figured out things to do. He made records with half of the musicians in Birmingham and now he’s releasing a new one at what seems like a weekly rate. He played on Janet Simpson’s debut solo effort, Safe Distance, which was released in March. He recorded an EP with Slack Times. And now at long last, the full length debut from The Blips has arrived. If ever there was a Birmingham supergroup, The Blips is it.
Carver Commodore began at the dissolution of The Bear and the Bride. Lead singer and guitarist Payton Pruitt and guitarist Phil Blevins had performed together in the latter as its members swapped spaced between Florence and Nashville. Around 2017, Pruitt and Blevins decided to chase the thing they had always wanted: “just being a rock and roll band.”
Janet Simpson is a Birmingham legend. She was part of Delicate Cutters, Teen Getaway and Wooden Wand. She’s collaborated on projects like Timber. She’s been a part of Birmingham’s DIY rock scene for 30 years.
Lindsay Ell’s 2020 release heart theory explores the stages of grief. For it, she called on a lot of her friends to help craft 12 fantastic pop songs; folks like Tyler Hubbard or Florida-Georgia Line, Kane Brown, Adam Hambrick and Brandy Clark. “wAnt me back” was the collaboration with Brown (along with Matt McGinn and Lindsay Rimes), and it became her second number one song on country charts in her native Canada. Continue reading →
Courtney Jaye is a longtime friend of Birmingham. Since her days in Nashville, she’s regularly performed in the Magic City and gotten frequent airplay from Scott Register at Birmingham Mountain Radio.
She has an amazing new record on the way. It’s a bit of a spiritual journey, and one that she began writing years ago–nearly a decade now. I feel certain that even by year’s end, it will be one of the best things that I heard in 2021.
Courtney and I spoke about her own spirituality and how that has been shaped by the state of the world around us and the places across America that she has lived during that time. We talked about mental health and the battle many–especially musicians–have had with it over the course of a pandemic. Since May of 2019, she has called Hawaii home, and that has given her the same kind of peace that her new record gives me. Maybe that was the secret. Continue reading →
On Sunday, Tuscaloosa native Alvin Garrett will perform his poignant and powerful, self-penned song “It Starts In The Heart,” as the opening to the 56th annual Selma Bridge Crossing at 2 p.m.The ceremony will happen virtually this year, and you can register to watch for free by visiting SelmaJubilee.com. Continue reading →
Dave Chappelle and John Mulaney are the two best active standup comedians. I realize Rock is still doing it; Jerry is still doing it. But we’re not overthinking it here. Chappelle and Mulaney are the two best active standup comedians.