For the first time in 11 years, Birmingham natives Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink have come together to release a new record as Azure Ray. Well, they didn’t quite “come together,” but Remedy will nonetheless be the band’s first release as one in more than a decade.
At the beginning of the pandemic last March, Adam Hood and a group of Red Dirt artists began a weekly tradition that became known as Sequestered Songwriters. What began as a one-time thing became a livestream every week that spawned a non-profit that helped provide relief to artists that were struggling through 2020. Jason Eady and Courtney Patton kind of took the reins and the shows kept going for an entire year.
Hood, an Opelika native now based in Northport, is now finding his way back out on the road. He’s on a run of shows throughout the southeast with Eady and they are treating the shows much like they treated the weekly gathering; and making sure to pay homage to the thing that helped bring a lot of people together during a difficult time.
There isn’t much of the past year for anyone to be positive about. It sucked. Touring came to a screeching halt, and for a band like American Aquarium, that was killer. They put out their eighth studio album, Lamentations, anyway. Against all odds and better judgement. And it was one of their best. Continue reading →
Bri Bagwell is an old pro at Mile 0 Fest; she hasn’t missed one yet. Last year, she came solo and played acoustic. This year, she’s especially excited to be bringing her full band.
Bri moved to Austin for school at 18-years-old, and she liked it so much, she never left. She quickly paved her path within the Red Dirt scene. A native of Las Cruces, New Mexico, she had long admired the artists that she now calls friends, as her older brothers would drive over for shows and let her tag along.
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.
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 →