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 →
In January, Mile 0 Fest in Key West celebrated its biggest year to date. Headlined by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit and a hard sell out, the festival stepped into the elite class of “boutique” festivals that Fyre dreamed of and couldn’t execute. It wasn’t without pitfalls. On Saturday, just moments after Randy Rogers had taken the stage, torrential rains forced the amphitheater to be evacuated and literally dampened most of the weekend’s remaining schedule. Continue reading →
Between Independence Day and Labor Day, I ate at Niki’s West each Friday. In a pandemic world, it was the smallest future trip that I could take. An argument that has been made for a return to our normal lives is “personal responsibility,” and I largely agree with the notion. I don’t believe that many are capable of living within a “personal responsibility” that accounts for the lives of others. Continue reading →
Abraham Smith is the poet laureate of Ogden, Utah, and he’s one fourth of The Snarlin’ Yarns. His poetry collections have been published by Action Books and Third Man Books. With his band, he inserts a unique freestyle that complements the songwriting of fiddler Mara Brown, guitarist William Pollett and string specialist Jason Barrett-Fox.
Smith honed those skills—among other places—at The Chukker in Tuscaloosa. Now, he and his band are set to release their debut, Break Your Heart. It was recorded in Water Valley, Mississippi at Dial Back Sound, the studio owned by Drive-By Truckers bassist and Jasper, Alabama native Matt Patton. Patton’s studio is fast becoming a destination for a diverse collection of independent artists that all find themselves pumped into “Americana.” Continue reading →
I saw one show this year that caught me completely off guard, another show that I am redacting every detail about and a band of punk rock heroes. I saw intimate living room style shows and I went to Red Rocks. I even managed to see Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit a time or two (Red Rocks, the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, Chicago, Brooklyn, Providence, Indianapolis, Nashville, Portland, down the street). Continue reading →