Ask G&G

What’s Shakin’?

Earthquakes, equinercising, and Muscle Shoals

Photo: Britt Spencer

Q: Thank God, we don’t have to worry about earthquakes, too. Or do we?

You’d think the Appalachians being 480 million years old would mean the Southland would be spared the tectonic slippage, mudslides, and the like that our California brethren so grittily endure. But it seems the bottom of the North American plate that underlies the South is literally falling away, in super slo-mo, and, in addition to enlivening the seismic activity of the Piedmont, the destination of that rock is resolutely down to the molten core. The upside: This wholly natural process provides much-needed doomsday fodder to the South’s fire-and-brimstone preachers for their scary-ass visions of us all inevitably falling into the fiery abyss. Because we’re actually doing that, albeit in million-year geophysical increments. Those preachers clustered around the recent quake epicenter in North Carolina and Virginia can now rally their congregations with real Revelation-level hellfire, at least until climate change beats that vision of Armageddon by moving the Atlantic Seaboard to, you know, Cashiers. At that point, they’ll have to swap the narrative with that of Noah, but by all means, until you see shrimp boats working out of Asheville, feel free to fret about quakes.

Q: Tips for exercising your horse in winter?

Maintaining the fitness of any damn thing—dog, boat, the Constitution—takes immense work. Our equine companions require close care in the colder months, as they can fall into the same layabout holiday rut so tempting for their riders, minus the endless Macaulay Culkin vs. the robbers reruns, the parade of cakes, and whatnot. You may be down from working your quar-ter horse, foxhunter, whatever—anything but a racing Thoroughbred, which requires other methods—four or five times per week to twice now? Up that. Now: Did you clip the winter coat or let its freak flag fly? If the former, you’ll need blankets for the postworkout hot-walking. If you don’t clip, you’ll be doing beaucoup hot-walking to dry out sweat lying under the coat. You know this, but your drills should bring vigor, changing leads and patterns, but for God’s sake, start slowly and taper off that way. You want your athletes to engage their toplines, the muscles that run down the spine from the withers and fan out over the hips to the croup. They don’t have to pick up and prance like Lipizzans; rather, you want to keep them entertained—bringing wit in their lingua franca will help them want to do things with you. That’ll turn any hard, cold workout into a breeze.

Q: What is it about songs recorded in Muscle Shoals?

Nestled in Alabama’s cotton country in a bend of the Tennessee River, Muscle Shoals has long served as a white-hot crucible of the American songbook. The town is six hundred times smaller than New York City, yet its studios Florence Alabama Music Enterprises, a.k.a. FAME Studios, and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio have laid down some of the most important tracks of the last six decades from a most eclectic artistic roster: Wilson Pickett, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Bob Seger, Percy Sledge, Rod Stewart, Etta James, Joe Cocker, the Oak Ridge Boys, the Tams, Duane and Gregg Allman, John Prine, and not least, the Rolling Stones, who recorded “Brown Sugar,” “Wild Horses,” and “You Gotta Move” there in three days in 1969. Producer Rick Hall cofounded FAME Publishing in 1959; the Swampers, his former session musicians, opened Muscle Shoals Sound Studio a decade later. Duane Allman, a 1960s session guitarist for Hall, backed up Pickett and Franklin. The singers’ record company, Atlantic, asked Hall who the guitarist was. Hall said: “Some hippie cat who’s been living in our parking lot,” which Allman had in fact been doing, in a tent. Keith Richards best summed up Muscle Shoals’ soulful oasis: “Those sessions were as vital to me as any I’ve ever done. I mean, all the other stuff we did—Beggars Banquet, ‘Gimme Shelter,’ ‘Street Fighting Man,’ ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’—I’ve always wondered that if we had cut them at Muscle Shoals, if they might have been a little bit funkier.”