Muscle Shoals Celebration – Percy Sledge, Brittany Howard and John Paul White and More

Muscle Shoals

An all-Star Concert in support of the film “Muscle Shoals” was held on February 27th, 2013 at the Marriott Shoals Hotel and Conference Center.

On hand was John Paul White (The Civil Wars), Candi Staton, Delbert McClinton, Ed King (Lynyrd Skynyrd), Brittany Howard (Alabama Shakes), Christine Ohlman (Saturday Night Live Band), Donna Jean Godchaux (Grateful Dead) and many other legendary Muscle Shoals Musicians joined together to celebrate the great music that came from the area and specifically from Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.

Here’s some video of the event. Special thanks to @johnamacie for bringing the White videos to my attention.

Learn more about muscle Shoals the movie, dates and locations here.

Percy Sledge – Dark End of the Street

“Wild Horses” Brittany Howard of the Alabama Shakes with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section

John Paul White – “Outfit” – Drive-By Trucker’s

John Paul White “No One Will Ever Love You”

John Paul performing “I’ll Be There” co-written by him and The SteelDrivers –

Twang Nation: Secret Sisters Interview – Sharing Sincerity

As I said in an earlier post the first time I saw the Muscle Shoals, Alabama’s Secret Sisters ( Laura Rogers Lydia Rogers) was at a GRAMMY event for the Recording Academy Producers & Engineers honoring T Bone Burnett. Burnett’s then recent protégés had just released their self-titled debut album which featured him at the production helm. The Sisters opened the event and I saw what he perhaps saw while watching their performance as did the jaded industry folks who stopped hobnobbing and stood entranced by the delicate harmony and winning personalities on stage. I was a fan.

The duo recently released a 7 inch released by Jack White’s Third Man Records and had their song “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder”, inspired by the Alabama tornado outbreak, featured on the T Bone produced soundtrack for The Hunger Games.

The duo were kind enough to give thoughtful l answers to emailed questions submitted by me and some of my twitter followers.

Twang Nation: What was your first experience with music?
The Secret Sisters: The two of us have been completely surrounded by music since we were babies. We spent many summers attending bluegrass festivals with our dad, who is a bluegrass musician. Though we can’t remember that far back, it’s very likely that the first concert we ever attended was a bluegrass festival somewhere in the South. We really believe that bluegrass musicians are some of the most incredible, skilled artists in the music world, and growing up in those circles helped us appreciate a time-honored musical genre and tradition that still finds its way into our music on a regular basis. We are very influenced by certain aspects of the bluegrass world, and that sound has been ingrained in us since we were very young.

TN: Alabama musicians seem to look after one another – from the Drive-By Truckers , John Paul White from the Civil Wars and Doc Daily – what is the source of that camaraderie and how has it helped you?
TSS: We believe that the camaraderie comes from the desire to see Alabama be well represented again. Alabama is known for producing some of the most legendary artists, musicians, and songwriters in all of music history. It seems to us that all Alabama musicians are proud of the heritage we have, and we just really cheer for one another when big things happen, when our fellow Alabama artists get recognized for their talent. We’ve had countless compliments and expressions of support from other artists in Alabama, and knowing that those people are supporting us helps us keep going. It’s almost as though we’ve all subconsciously joined a movement to put Alabama back in the musical spotlight. That movement also requires a bit of a responsibility-we don’t want to do anything to tarnish the reputation of great music in our state, and we believe that all the artists in Alabama help to hold each other accountable for always putting out quality music.

TN:What is your songwriting process like? Do you walk into the studio with ideas fully formed or do you work it out in the studio?
TSS: All of our songs come about in unique ways. Sometimes they come to us quickly, other times we struggle with them for hours and hours. We’ve spent a lot of time this year working together on our songs, and also exploring songwriting with some of our very favorite cowriters. It has been a wonderful learning experience and we still have so much to figure out. For the second record, we’ve chosen to have our songs mostly complete when we go into the studio. It saves time, and having a real grasp of the song ahead of time gives everything a good direction to work from. Of course some changes will be made once we get into the studio, but for the most part our songs are all ironed out and ready to be put to tape.

TN:Your self-titled debut album album was executive produced by one of the godfather’s of Americana, T-Bone Burnett. How was working with him and how did it open doors for you. Did his association hamper you in any way?
TSS: Working with T bone has been very advantageous for us. He has been very kind and protective towards us, and we truly believe that much of our progress can be attributed to his involvement in our career. His knowledge of music history and sound quality is absolutely incredible, and he has taught us so much, in a very short amount of time. Having him in our corner helped us be involved in the Hunger Games soundtrack, which was a huge boost to our career. He’s constantly fighting for us and involving us in the cool projects that he undertakes, and it’s very nice to know that someone so well-respected is looking out for us.

TN:What compels young performers to create or cover music that is, or sounds like it’s, from generations before they were born?
TSS: For the two of us, we choose to cover songs only if we love them. We obviously tend to love music from the early years of the 20th century, but we will cover any song that really touches us. The kind of songs we gravitate towards reminds us of home, our family, the South, God and faith, and all the other things that are most important to us. We think that young performers like us get tired of being surrounded by music that is fleeting. We want to cover and create music that can withstand the test of time. For the two of us, there’s also a sense of preservation in the music we play. We value early American roots music so much, and to think of that music fading into obscurity breaks our hearts. So we use our voices and our platform, no matter how big or small it may be, to remind everyone of how sincere and special the music from long ago is.

TN:You recorded the song “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder” for the The Hunger Games soundtrack. Did you read the books? If so did you imagine your music as a backdrop while you reading it?
TSS: Honestly, we had written the song “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder” before we read the books. When we were approached about being on the soundtrack, we knew that we had a song in our pockets that would work very well in light of the subject matter of the books. So we submitted the song for consideration, and everyone involved agreed that though the song was begun previously, it was truly meant to be associated with that film. When we finally read the books, we were stunned at how perfectly our song fit with the emotional themes in the stories. It reminded us that music has its own way of getting to where it’s supposed to be.

TN:In a period of music industry turbulence and self-reflection how have you shaped the direction of your careers?
TSS: We don’t let our career define us. We’ve focused on staying true to our beliefs and morals, and we both believe that we can be happy no matter what happens in our career, so long as we choose to be happy and grateful for whatever comes our way. We try not to get too worried about music business ups and downs. We simply make the kind of music we want to make, and if at any point we are pushed to be something other than what we want to be, we will walk away. Luckily, we are surrounded by people who help us preserve our true identities and the music that moves us, and we just let that music do what it will. Ultimately, our faith reassures us that we’re so blessed, in every moment, and that everything will pan out exactly as it should.

TN: How was it to play Jack White’s divorce party? Was it at all awkward?
TSS: We actually did not play at Jack White’s divorce party. Not exactly sure how that rumor got started, but we are friends and fans of both Jack and Karen, and we love them both dearly and treasure their sweet family.

TN: How is your new album coming? Who’s playing on it and does it have a title yet?
TSS: As of right now, we haven’t started tracking the record yet. We focused most of our time this year on writing the entirety of our record, and hope to go into the studio in October to start cutting songs. We did some of the songwriting with our good friend, Brandi Carlile, and that experience was absolutely priceless for us. We feel that Brandi really understands our musical inspiration, and she helped us develop our songs into something we are very proud of. We don’t know quite yet who will be playing on our record, but we can promise that some of the friends we’ve made in the past will be making appearances. We toured with so many incredible people last year, and several of them have offered to make a contribution to our second record. So be on the lookout for some awesome collaborating!

TN: John Paul White (The Civil Wars) mentioned be collaborated with you for a song on the album, who else has had a hand in writing songs for it?
TSS: We did write a song with John Paul, and he was so great to work with. He really taught us so much, and we are proud for him and Joy and the success they’ve had. As mentioned before, we’ve worked with Brandi Carlile quite a bit on our songs, as well as Dan Wilson, Kevin Griffin, and other Nashville writers that we love and respect. At the end of the day, we really love the moments when just the two of us get together to write a song, mainly because we feel that those moments help us grow exponentially as writers. As we spend time writing together, our respect for one another grows, and the songs that come out of those sessions surprise us every time. Like maybe we are supposed to be doing this after all.

Official Site

Here’s “Black And Blue,” a new song from the The Secret Sister’s upcoming album live from the stage at Wakarusa

Music Review: The Drive-By Truckers – The Big To-Do [ATO Records]

First off; cards on the table, the Drive By Truckers are a one of the reasons I started an Americana/roots blog. They and a handful of other bands crossed my path while living in New york City and coming to grips with my Southwestern roots. The mighty DBTs embraced what Patterson Hood brilliantly coined the “duality of the Southern thing” (from the Southern Rock Opera song Southern Thing):

You think I’m dumb, maybe not too bright
You wonder how I sleep at night
Proud of the glory, stare down the shame
Duality of the southern thing

In the South we call it the ugly sister exception – I can call my sister ugly, but if you do it’s out of line and you’ll probably get your ass handed to you. It really just boils down to the attitude shared by many disenfranchised tribal-like cultures – we can take care of our own, thank you – no outside help is wanted or appreciated. This attitude spoke to me and my upbringing and it opened up a world of familiar yet new, interesting and exciting musical narratives and sounds that was part Cormac McCarthy and part Lynyrd Skynyrd Southern-swagger meets the Replacements punk pop smarts. it was like the Drive By Truckers took the current genre replaced the engine and floored it.

It’s a common Catch-22 many of us apply to bands. We want our precious, unearthed gems to stay our little special secret and to achieve only enough success so they can continue to make music but not enough where they achieve the dreaded “sell out.” The Drive By Truckers haven’t reached the mega-fame of U2 or Radiohead, but they are far from  from their humble Alabama beginnings. And as they say the band have done good for themselves.  Rave reviews and relentless touring and sizzling live shows led to divorces, band changes (both encompassed by singer/songwriter Jason Isbell’s divorce from bass player/singer Shonna Tucker leading to his subsequent departure from the band) kids, marriages, playing back-up and for legends Bettye LaVette and Booker T Jones, Austin City Limits, David Letterman etc. etc. This special secret was getting progressively less secret. Patterson Hood even took to wearing thick hipster classes and drinking wine instead of Jack Daniels!
As success has come the narratives from A Blessing and A Curse, Brighter Than Creation’s Dark as well as The Big To-Do are less abut the cultural landscape of the South and more about the emotional landscape of middle-age which, By the nature, is going to be less interesting and more self-indulgent.

The “rocking” moments are here but they are few and more subdued than in the band’s piss-and-vinegar past. Patterson Hood’s Daddy Learned To Fly and After the Scene Dies both carry shades of past rock greatness. The Fourth Night of My Drinking follows the Groundhog Day-like binging of some poor schmuck, full of boozy minutia  like “There was a taste in my mouth, I wasn’t liking it.” The tune grooves more than actually rocks, but it picks up the tempo near the just to crest into a peculiar Pink Floyd finale. This Fucking Job has a great title, but that’s where the vitriol ends. It’s a blue-coller bitch-and-moan counterpoint to David Allen Coe’s  hillbilly au revoir Take This Job and Shove It, with riffs cribbed from The who’s Can’t Explain. Hood’s Santa Fe is not groundbreaking but has a nicely satisfying sorry of lost love and twang. Even when Hood covers familiar dark backwoods of the human soul. like in The Wig He Made Her Wear, the menace is cut buy the arrangements. it just sounds so damn…peppy. With The Wig He Made Her Wear hand claps just ladles cheese on an otherwise great song.

Mike Cooley, who continues to be criminally unrepresented, only has three cuts. Get Downtown is a rollicking boogie-woogie tune that would tickle The Killer and a bittersweet ballad for his son Eyes Like Glue closes the album. Though Cooley showed on The Dirty South‘s Where the Devil Don’t Stay and Daddy’s Cup that he can speak with dignity and bravado from even the most pitiful and poor white trash’s POV,  the jaded stripper in Birthday Boy seems to have no redeeming value and comes off as more pathetic than sympathetic.

Shonna Tucker’s weighs in again as the newest singer/songwriter in the band  (she’s played bass for the band since 2003.)  The atmospheric weeper, You Got Another, and the doo-wap girl-group-style cut (It’s Gonna Be) I Told You So, seem like oddities on a DBT album but come as a nice surprise and allows Tucker to put her stamp on the group. I’ve said it before, to me Tucker has the charm of the drunk girl who sings passably at karaoke but does it will such passion that you have to admire her nerve.

Wes Freed continues, with his fantastic outsider art style, to portray the DBT brand as hand-crafted, epic and menacing.

Ex-Trucker Jason isbell sang “So don’t try to change who you are boy, and don’t try to be who you ain’t” on the Dirty South’s Decoration Day’s fantastic Outfit. On the Big To-do the mighty Drive-By Truckers aren’t necessarily being what they aint, they certainly aren’t what they used to be.

Official Site | Buy

This Fucking Job

Eyes Like Glue

News Round Up: New Releases by Elizabeth Cook, Jim Lauderdale and The Sadies

  • The Hangover & Daily Show star (and amateur banjo player) Ed Helms is launching the LA Bluegrass Situation festival  (March 18th – 22nd) featuring Steve Martin, Emmylou Harris, The Steep Canyon Rangers, Nickel Creek. See the somewhat silly video introduction of the festival from Helms.
  • Canadian roots/surf rockers The Sadies will release their new album, Darker Circles, on May 18, 2010 on Yep Roc Records. The album will be produced by the Jayhawk’s Gary Louris.
  • Honky-tonk angel Elizabeth Cook will release her new album, Welder, on May 11th on 31 Tigers. Produced by Don Was (Rolling Stones, Kris Kristofferson), Welder will feature guest appearances by Dwight Yoakam, Rodney Crowell and Buddy Miller.
  • See the new video by Peter Wolf working on his new Americana-tinged album, Midnight Souvenirs, (UMe/Verve / April 6). Tragedy features duets with country music legend Merle Haggard, Neko Case and Shelby Lynne.
  • Mr. Americana, Jim Lauderdale, will release his new album Patchwork River, on Thirty Tigers May 11. He co-wrote the album–filled with such highlights as “Alligator Alley,” “Louisville Roll” and “Patchwork River”–with longtime Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter whom Lauderdale has praised as “one of the greatest writers that has ever lived in my book.
  • The mighty Drive By Truckers’ new release, The Big To-Do, will be released on March 16th. Partnering with Ghost Town Media, the band will release a series of webisodes that tell the behind the scenes story of each song from the record.  You will see footage of the band working on The Big To-Do  in the studio in Athens, Georgia, clips of the band performing the new songs at sound check and in concert, and in depth interviews with the band members telling the stories behind the songs.  The first of these websiodes will feature Mike Cooley’s Birthday Boy, the final song recorded for the album.

Merle Haggard Signs With Vanguard Records, Drive By Truckers Announce Dates

  • Merle Haggard has penned a deal with independent label Vanguard Records- home pf Levon Helm – ans will release hos label debut I Am What I Am, his first album on April 20. The project, featuring 12 new songs he has written, was co-produced by Haggard and Lou Bradley.
  • Six members of Willie Nelson’s band and crew were cited for misdemeanor possession offenses after of marijuana wafting from the window of a The Texas Yoda’s tour bus led to six members of the country singer’s entourage getting busted in Duplin County for possession of marijuana and three-fourths of a quart of moonshine. Nelson later that day canceled a North Carolina concert due to a hand that was husrting him – what may be a result from carpal tunnel surgery in 2004 – according to a posting on his Web site.
  • The mighty Drive By Truckers have announced tour dates to suppert their upcoming release The Big To-Do (March 16, 2010 – ATO Records) DBT and ATO Records are also offering up the first single, “This Fucking Job”, from The Big To-Do for free: Drive By Truckers – This Fucking Job

News Round Up: New Roky Erickson/Okkervil River in April

  • The Rick Rubin produced American recording done by Johnny Cash near the end of his life featured some inspired covers (most famous being the cover of Trent Reznor’s Hurt on 2002’s album, American IV: The Man Comes Around) lists 10 songs they wished  Cash had lived to cover featuring works by Joe Strummer, The Silver Jews and  Ryan Adams. Though I’m sure a list like this could go on and on I have to take exception to a couple of the entries on the Paste list; Bob by the Drive By Truckers could be their worst song and I doubt that the mighty Cash could make it better (and there are tons of better DBT songs for him to cover; Cottonseed perhaps?)  and Death Cab For Cutie?! Really?! (via the
  • Aquarium Drunkard posts a fine ode to the greatness that is Jerry Jeff  Walker.
  • Legendary Austin musician Roky Erickson returns on April 20th with his Anti Record’s release True Love Cast Out All Evil, his first new album in fourteen years. Producing the release is Will Sheff and his band, Okkervil River, backs Erickson.

News Round Up: Emmylou Harris , Miranda Lambert and Brandi Carlile Join Lilith Fair Line-Up

  • Longtime member of Ralph Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Boys passed away at the age of 72. (Billboard)
  • The End Times Opry stops into New York City’s Lower East Side cozy Living Room on December 20th 7-10PM. The End Times Opry is a result of a group of artists who performed at the Pumpkintown Opry, in Pumpkintown South Carolina, for aging church groups. The End Times Opry fuses comedy, spoken word, and music for a collective entertainment experience. Performers include singer/songwriter Alexa Woodward , sonwriter/puppeteer Phoebe Kreutz, singer/songwriter Annie Crane , singer/songwriter Dan Costello, the band BoomChick, singer/songwriter Jack Hardy, singer/songwriter Frank Hoier and comic relief by Michael Robinette and Charles Massey of No Expectations Comedy.
  • Emmylou Harris , Miranda Lambert and Brandi Carlile will join Sugarland, Indigo Girls and Sheryl Crow performing with the newly reestablished Lilith Fair created by Sarah McLachlan. Some of first-round 18 cities already announced for this traveling tour are Atlanta, New York, Dallas, Seattle, Portland, Ore., Denver, San Francisco, Montreal and London.
  • Ranch Twang favorite, The Mighty Drive By Truckers, have left New West records and signed with Dave Matthew’s ATO Records (yes, THAT Dave Matthews.) Thier ATO Records debut record and the band’s 10th, The Big To-Do, is scheduled to be released March 16, 2010. The Big To-Do features thirteen new tracks from the Drive-By Truckers and was produced by their long time producer, David Barbe (Sugar, Bettye LaVette). “It’s very much a rock album,” says Patterson Hood of the Trucker’s upcoming release. “Very melodic and more rocking than anything we’ve done since disc 2 of Southern Rock Opera.” The Drive-By Truckers will be hitting the road at the beginning of the new year and a full tour supporting The Big To-Do will be announced in early 2010.
  • St. Luis based root-rock stalwarts The Bottle Rockets will release a new live 7-inch single through Euclid Records store on Dec. 15. Recorded during the band’s in-store performance on Record Store Day this past April 18, the release will be strictly limited to 300 copies. The 45s are sold exclusively at Euclid Records ( for $9.99. For each sold a dollar will be donated to the New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund (NOMRF) to benefit musicians displaced or suffering loss of equipment in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Euclid Records is located at 601 East Lockwood in Webster Groves, Mo. (Country Standard Time)
  • Fox Searchlight’s fading country singer comeback move, Crazy Heart,starring Jeff Bridges, Robert Duvall, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Lost Highway’s Texas singer/songwriter Ryan Bingham, looks like a great movie. It seems that it was lucky to make it to the theaters at all.

News Round Up: Taylor Swift Attends Miranda Lambert’s Revolution

  • Vince Vaughn is not only hilarious, and tall, but he loves country music. Or is it Americana music…hell I can’ keep up.
  • The Americana extravaganza that is Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is next weekend people. John Prine, Lyle Lovett, Boz Scaggs, Steve Earle, Ricky Scaggs, Gillian Welch, Booker T and the Drive By Truckers as his backing band, Mavis Staples, Emmylou Harris, Doc Watson, Aimee Mann and Little Feat. And it’s FREE!
  • Taylor Swift showed up at the Ryman last night to watch Texas’ own Miranda Lambert play her new release Revolution (I wonder if she has to pay Steve Earle royalties on that too?) That’s right Taylor, that’s how it’s done! During her performance Lambert knelt down and kissed the historic wooden stage of the hallowed Mother Church of Country Music. No mics where taken from any performers as far as I know…

Music Review: The Drive By Truckers – The Fine Print (A Collection Of Oddities and Rarities 2003-2008) [New West]


I discovered the Drive By Truckers while an ex-pat Texan living in New York City. The environment that I has always known, and taken for granted, was replaced by something foreign and I was looking for cultural footing to make me feel “at home” but also to reflect my learned redneck attitude, a new framework look back over my home and its history. That’s when I came across a review for the Drive By Truckers’ 2004 Southern rock masterpiece The Dirty South. Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley, and Jason Isbell proved to the reincarnation of Lynyrd Skynyrd cut with the  Replacementsthat I needed at the time. Blue collar, backwoods gems like Where the Devil Don’t Stay, Danko/Manuel and Daddy’s Cup revived my faith in the Southern magic of storytelling and the band’s triple guitar attack revived my faith in rock and roll .

The Fine Print (A Collection Of Oddities and Rarities 2003-2008) is an odds & sods largely culled from that fruitful period in the DBTs career. Along with Live from Austin, TX album, The Fine Print fulfills the DBT’s obligation with New West Records and allows them to move on to their own label, Ruth Street Records. The dozen songs on contained here is a bumper crop from a fertile period underscoring the power and focus of that time and that line up. The bitter-sweetness from listening to the album is that as good as the consecutive albums have been, the band has not met this level of intensity or focus since the departure of the youngster Jason Isbell after 2006’s middling A Blessing and a Curse.

The album kicks off with the jaunty George Jones Talkin’ Cell Phone Blues featuring John Neff’s sweet pedal-steel. The song deals the Possum’s 1999 car wreck while he was driving drunk and talking to his daughter on a cell phone. It shows love to Jone’s hopes it’s a while before he joins the legions of legendary country stars cluttering the afterlife.

The Trucker’s have never been shy about their influences and the four covers contained here are tackled with heart and reverence. Tom Petty’s Rebels is elevated to a Springsteen-like anthem and Tom T. Hall’s Mama Bake a Pie (Daddy Kill a Chicken) details the everyday cost of war without mounting a soap box. Warren Zevon’s Play It All Night Long fits right in with the The Dirty South‘s dark swampy groove and the cover of Bob Dylan Like a Rolling Stone is woozy fun and features a Shanna Tucker debut as a front and center vocalist.

The Alternate Versions of Uncle Frank, from 1999’s Pizza Deliverance and Goode’s Field Road from 2008’s Brighter Than Creation’s Dark are great but hardly improve on the originals. The gangstabilly mythos of The Dirty South‘s Where the Devil Don’t Stay and The Boys From Alabama has their dark reflection in The Great Car Dealer War, but to lesser narrative affect and Little Pony And The Great Big Horse highlights Mike Cooley’s subtle greatness in songwriting and storytelling. The creepy Christmas blues cut Mrs. Claus’ Kimono should have been the song behind the closing credits of Billy Bob Thornton’s black comedy Bad Santa.

Like most outtakes and rarities collections, The Fine Print is a bit of a mish-mash and overall doesn’t stand up as consistently as the DBT’s best work, but almost all the cuts are hands down better than most of what passes as rock these days. Besides it’s great that these songs (featuring another excellent cover by their long-time cover/poster/t-shirt illustrator Wes Freed) have seen the light of day at all I hope the release points the way to a revitalized and impassioned future for the mighty Drive-By Truckers.

Official Site | MySpace | Buy