Lyric of the Week: Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Sweet Home Alabama”
In the summer of 1973, Ed King, Skynyrd’s guitarist at the time, came up with a riff (it came to him in a dream, of course), Van Zant hashed out a few verses, and a couple of days later, Lynyrd Skynyrd had written its most enduring song.
As the story goes, “Sweet Home Alabama” was originally intended as a response to Neil Young. Ronnie Van Zant, the lead singer of Lynyrd Skynyrd, was a big fan of Young’s music, but he was taken aback by Young’s early 70′s songs “Southern Man” and “Alabama,” which attacked the south for its backwards, racist past.
Photos: Grayson Capps And Dylan LeBlanc At Callaghan’s Irish Social Club, Mobile, AL
Rising southern songwriters Grayson Capps and Dylan LeBlanc took over Callaghan’s Irish Social Club in Mobile, Alabama on January 13, for a show sponsored by American Songwriter. First two photos by Chad Edwards.
When Alabama arrived on the scene in the late ’70s, they converted the slim gates of Music Row into saloon doors and blew through with guitars and fiddles cocked at their hips. They sported generous amounts of facial hair, and had magazines full of songs as ammunition. It wasn’t a quick and dirty takeover by any means – any proper holdup takes time, persistence, a little strong-arming – but after the dust had settled, Alabama had sold over 75 million records and seen 43 singles rise to number one, changing the definition of what sells in country music forever.
And though it’s hard to believe it now in the era of Taylor Swift, Lady Antebellum and Rascal Flatts, what sells wasn’t the crossover pop anthems, flashy stage sets or idea of a country group in general (as opposed to a solo vocalist) that three boys from Fort Payne, Alabama – Randy Owen, Jeff Cook and Teddy Gentry – proudly brought. Alabama’s music merged a sense of rock-driven fun with a firm base in southern roots – the fiddle was a permanent resident on their records, not just a trend-induced guest – and they sang about the lives they knew, the places where they grew up and learned to be men, the strange plight of being a steadfast American who loves, loses and plays the circle game. They went from being rule-breakers to one of the best selling acts of all time, a dichotomy that only adds to their undying appeal and unique niche in the evolving tale of country music.
On Saturday, 9/21, fans gathered at Grimey’s New and Preloved Music in Nashville, TN to watch a handful of bands play during the Americana Music Festival. T. Hardy Morris and Amanda Shires were on hand to perform their contributions from High Cotton: A Tribute To Alabama.
Song Premiere: Lucero Cover Alabama’s “The Closer You Get”
Alabama, the best-selling band in country music, gets a thumbs up from the Americana crowd withHigh Cotton, a tribute album filled with performances by alt-country A-listers like Jason Isbell, Old Crow Medicine Show, Jessica Lea Mayfield and John Paul White. Luceroeven stops by for a rusty-throated version of “The Closer You Get,” using the opportunity to show off their new horn section’s chops.
Various Artists: High Cotton – A Tribute To Alabama
High Cotton – A Tribute To Alabama (Lightning Rod) Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Back in the day, Alabama were never taken very seriously by the rock crowd, even though their massive accumulation of country chart toppers won them some credence with pop purists. So with the band’s comeback tour underway, it’s appropriate — and hell, about time really — that the alt-country contingent give the group their due. With High Cotton, they finally do.
Because only a few of the participants in this timely tribute qualify as A-listers (the most notable being the Blind Boys of Alabama, Old Crow Medicine Show and John Paul White of the Civil Wars pairing with Jason Isbell) there’s little chance for any stars to overshadow the songs. Still, recruiting Jason Boland and the Stragglers for a cover of “Mountain Music” and the Turnpike Troubadours to tackle a rousing read of “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta have a Fiddle in the Band)” would seem something of a no-brainer. Likewise, JD McPherson, Lucero and T. Hardy Morris serve up admirable takes of “Why Lady Why,” “The Closer You Get” and “High Cotton,” respectively, providing the same mix of reverence and revery along with the singular spirit of the originals. Even with Amanda Shires infusing some tearstained sentiment in her read of the bittersweet ballad “I Can’t Love You Any Less,” her feminine perspective helps broaden its appeal.
Jason Isbell, Old Crow Medicine Show and More Pay Tribute to Alabama on High Cotton
2013 marks the 40th anniversary for Alabama, the legendary country music group, and to celebrate, Lightning Rod Records is releasing High Cotton: A Tribute to Alabama on September 17. Including everything from hits to deep cuts and featuring artists like Jason Isbell and Old Crow Medicine Show, the compilation was recorded appropriately in the South, between Muscle Shoals, Athens and Nashville.
Beer drinking, butt-kicking TNA IMPACT wrestling superstar “Cowboy” James Storm will head to Nashville this weekend for Lockdown, where he has his heart set on winning the heavyweight championship. Storm, who likes his music twangy and true, shared with us his top five favorite country songs.