I didn’t mean to see Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit 99 times.
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).
Write Me a Birmingham
I’m really happy to share that work on book two begins today. This time, I’m going to share the history of Birmingham music.
Best of 2015: Alabama Records
Call it a cop out or a crutch or cheating – I don’t particularly care. It’s my blog and I do what I want.
I wrote a book this year – The Muscle Shoals Legacy of FAME – which focused on how my hometown evolved from a studio town to a songwriting town to a town that bred some of the best music that is being created in the South. So if I were ever going to take the opportunity to “cheat,” this year allowed me a valid excuse. And that’s great because folks from Alabama made amazing records this year. There are three records on this list that could and have appeared in top tens from the most respected music publications in the country.
“There really ain’t no difference
in Michigan and Maine
If you ain’t here to see this I’m missing just the same.” – Jason Isbell, ‘The Blue.’
I realize the absurdity of the notion, but there really ain’t no difference in Boston and Birmingham.
The former is the sixth-largest media market in America, while our Magic City is the 43rd. The former saw the American Revolution play out in its’ streets, while the latter was one of the largest stages of the Civil Rights struggle of the 1960’s. The former is home to the Red Sox, the Patriots, the Celtics, the Bruins. The latter just moved its’ AA baseball team back downtown three years ago.
Boston counts John Adams, Samuel Adams, Aerosmith, Louisa May Alcott and Ben Affleck among its most famous natives, and that’s just among things that begin with the letter “A.” The most notable people from Birmingham are all athletes, but its’ at least an impressive list that includes Willie Mays, Charles Barkley, Bo Jackson and Vonetta Flowers.
The Muscle Shoals Legacy of FAME: In-Store performance and signing at Pegasus Records
On Saturday, July 18, I was joined by Jay Burgess of The Pollies, Russell Mefford of Fiddleworms and Hannah Aldridge for a discussion and performance to celebrate the release of “The Muscle Shoals Legacy of FAME.” Each had a big hand in the book’s story, and each was gracious enough to join me for the chat. Hear the audio from the event below:
“The Muscle Shoals Legacy of FAME” isn’t the same telling of the FAME story you know. Rather, this story is about the impact Florence Alabama Music Enterprises, the recording studio and publishing company, had on the community that surrounded it and how it changed the next fifty years of music in Muscle Shoals. I couldn’t make all of the photos that I had at my disposal work in the book, and over the next couple of weeks, I’ll try to provide a little more context for this story with some of the photos that I couldn’t use.
The Shooters were a country songwriting supergroup, bridging the period most known for sessions through the glory days of Muscle Shoals songwriting to the current live scene which has evolved in the last decade. Walt Aldridge, Gary Baker, Barry Billings, Chalmers Davis and Mike Dillon – the first two wrote a pile of country hits you’re unaware that you know, while Billings mentored kids like Chris Tompkins, Shonna Tucker, Bo Bice and Jason Isbell at La Fonda’s Mexican Restaurant on Highway 72. During a dark period when the Shoals doesn’t receive a lot of credit for the music it was creating, The Shooters gave the community life.
I’ll be signing copies of “The Muscle Shoals Legacy of FAME” at Alabama Booksmith on June 29. They will have an exclusive hardcover edition of the book for sale, which you can reserve here. You can also preorder on Amazon here. I have also created a Spotify playlist that offers a little more context for the time period the book covers. Subscribe to it here.