Southern Sounds

Patty Griffin on Her New Album, Turning 50, and Dirty Jokes

By Matt HendricksonSouthern SoundsSeptember 24, 2015

In her dressing room back stage at Nashville’s City Winery, Americana superstar Patty Griffin sits at a table with legs crossed and hands clasped. She speaks softly, in careful, measured tones about her new record, Servant of Love (out now). It’s her tenth album—an existential masterpiece fueled by cascades of fury and pain, with a sharply honed fierceness the depth of which she’s never plumbed before.

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A Big Night for Americana

By Matt HendricksonSouthern SoundsSeptember 17, 2015

There is nothing Nashville loves more than an award show. But while mainstream country goes for the glitzy spectacle in a soulless arena, the Americana Music Awards is a showcase the best in alt country and roots music, with nary a mention of pick up trucks or flip flops. Hosted by Jim Lauderdale and backed by a killer house band led by Buddy Miller, the event showcased live performances from more than two dozen artists, including Jason Isbell, the Mavericks, the Lone Bellow, among others, and featured a special tribute to the late B. B. King (yesterday would have been his 90th birthday).

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Weekend Agenda: See Mavis Staples Live in North Carolina

By Jessica MischnerSouthern SoundsSeptember 11, 2015

If you’ve ever been entranced by the soulful rendition of “The Weight” in The Last Waltz, Martin Scorcese’s iconic documentary about The Band’s final concert, then you’ve felt the sway of Mavis Staples’ genre-crossing musical genius.

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Gregg Allman is Back and Better Than Ever

By Matt HendricksonSouthern SoundsAugust 24, 2015

“Garden. And. Gun. How ya doing, man?” Gregg Allman sounds just plain giddy, giving a little extra oomph for each word. The last time G&G talked with the rock and roll icon, he was recovering from a liver transplant and the post-op medication he was on had zapped much of his energy. But today, he’s on the good foot: joking and laughing with a sizzle in his voice that is as infectious as it is gravelly from nearly 50 years of being a rock God.

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The Story Behind "Sweet Home Alabama"

By CJ LotzSouthern SoundsAugust 13, 2015

In the late 1960s, in Jacksonville, Florida, a clean-cut gym teacher named Leonard Skinner sent student Gary Rossington to the principal’s office because his hair touched his collar. The teenager’s shaggy mop was a brazen violation of Robert E. Lee High School’s dress code. When Rossington and some of his friends and schoolmates—singer Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Allen Collins, drummer Bob Burns, and bassist Larry Junstrom—were searching for a new name for their fledgling rock group—they drew on memories of the incident. Lynyrd Skynyrd (vowels changed  “to protect the guilty”) was born.

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First Listen: Forty Years Later, a Blues Legend Finally Gets His Due

By Jessica MischnerSouthern SoundsJuly 30, 2015

“You may never have heard of Spooner Oldham, but you’ve definitely heard his music. His keyboard buoyed Percy Sledge’s plaintive “When A Man Loves a Woman,” kept tempo for Wilson Pickett’s “Mustang Sally,” and lent churchy soul to countless other hits by stars such as Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, even the Drive-By Truckers. Though the Alabama musician gained industry acclaim in the 1960s as a rhythm and blues pioneer while recording in Muscle Shoals and later in Memphis, his fame has been largely limited to a cult fan following. That’s about to change.

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A Music Festival Like No Other

By Elizabeth HutchisonSouthern SoundsJuly 24, 2015

More of an old-fashioned backyard barbecue or laid-back house party than a sprawling, sweaty Coachella-style rager, Wildwood Revival (August 29-30), offers a boutique music festival experience. “It’s a festival for people who don’t like festivals,” says founder Libby Rose. “It’s an anti-festival.”

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Why Traveling Musicians Love Asheville

By CJ LotzSouthern SoundsJuly 15, 2015

For the past twenty years, a musical movement has been growing in Asheville, North Carolina. While famous cities like Nashville, Tennessee, and Muscle Shoals, Alabama, are known for their legendary recording studios, Asheville has emphasized something more pedestrian—quite literally. Traveling street performers—called “buskers,” who play everything from guitars to banjos, washboards, and spoons for a living—are pulled toward this Southern city and can be found everywhere from the corners of Pack Square to the sidewalk in front of Woolworth Walk.

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Rising Stars’ Lesser-Known Hits: A Playlist

By Jessica MischnerSouthern SoundsJune 30, 2015

There’s no shortage of big time musicians who have gotten their start at Eddie’s Attic, an old-school listening room in Decatur, Georgia. The Indigo Girls, the Civil Wars, Jennifer Nettles, and John Mayer have all proven their singing and songwriting mettle on the venue’s small stage.

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First Listen: Indigo Girls

By Jessica MischnerSouthern SoundsMay 26, 2015

It’s been four years since the Indigo Girls released an album. Happily for their fans, the wait for a follow-up is over. On June 2, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers will release One Lost Day, a 13-track record filled with the harmonies and emotionally crafted lyrics for which the Girls have become famous. There’s “Happy in the Sorrow Key,” a sonically resplendent meditation on life and loss. “With the death of my dad in late 2013, my whole world shifted and many songs I had started took on a different feel and urgency,” Ray says. “This is one of them. Musically, I was inspired by the feel of Paul Weller and The Jam, but then I also wanted this big orchestral bridge to mirror the feeling of laying in my bunk at night on the tour bus and drifting off to sleep scared but in awe of the process of life.” “The Rise of the Black Messiah” marries rhythms of mandolin, drums, and bass with lyrics inspired by the story of a man wrongfully convicted and put to death in prison to create a narrative tour de force (imagine Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane” as an even angrier protest anthem). But the album—the girls’ 14th—has lighter moments, too. “Elizabeth,” a sweet old-fashioned love song, “is the story of kinship and music and whiskey,” Saliers says. “It’s an homage to New Orleans and a distant love that began there.”

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