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
Category Archives: Places.
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).
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.
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.
The Best of Bonnaroo 2015.
It’s impossible to see everything at Bonnaroo. Further, it’s impossible to see everything that you want to see at Bonnaroo. The lineup is expansive and the grounds are sprawling. At some point in my five years of attending the festival, I realized that, and I made peace with selecting performances that I couldn’t often see, smaller stages and with absorbing more complete representations of a performance, rather than bouncing around, stage to stage, and catching 15 minutes of many different acts.
So I didn’t watch Alabama Shakes. Or My Morning Jacket. Because I have gotten and will likely get plenty of Alabama Shakes and My Morning Jacket. Both just released terrific new records that I love, but there were opportunities to see new and interesting things while their sets were going on, and I took advantage.
It’s objective, and no two experiences at this or any other festival can be the same. I repeat that every year, but there are music “critics” out there that seem to believe that their opinion is subjective and authoritative, so I feel like I have to keep repeating myself. I think I have pretty good taste, and if I have given you a track record to back that up, maybe you’ll continue to agree with my opinions and trust that my taste won’t steer yours wrong.