Tag Archives: Aretha Franklin

Sturgill Simpson

Sturgill Simpson

On a trip to the Outer Banks weekend before last, Mrs. YHT and I managed to HBO Go our way through the entire first season of True Detective. Have you seen it? Parts are hard to stomach, but overall it’s pretty damn fantastic, thanks in no small part to Matthew McConaughey’s character — a brilliant-but-damaged fish-out-of-water detective nicknamed “Rust” with a penchant for philosophical self-torture and a belief that “human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution.” He’s part deep South and part deep end, somehow managing to feel authentically in the dirt and in the clouds at the same time. I can’t remember a character like him, nor can I imagine a better spirit animal for the album I became enamored with a few days after Mrs. YHT and I got back from the beach.

This is the first I’ve heard of Sturgill Simpson, and I might not have taken notice had it not been for NPR’s First Listen and the album’s name (which I love): Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. Ray Charles’ classic Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music is one of the more frequently spun records at YHT headquarters, and Simpson’s twist was intriguing: Country music about country music. Now, I didn’t grow up listening to country, and the listening I’ve done in recent years hasn’t been comprehensive enough to chase away the feeling that there are allusions and in-jokes lurking in these 10 tracks that I’m not wise to — details that would lend additional credence to the “meta” piece of the title. The genre-bending aspects of the album — nuggets of psychedelia like fuzz, drug references, heavy reverb and panning sounds so they travel from your left headphone to your right and back again — feel plenty meta though, showing a desire to poke holes in the membrane that separates country from other styles. That said, there’s a meta moment that hits even closer to home for me, and while it comes and goes quickly, it shows how one tiny detail can open a whole other set of considerations, like a wormhole leading to another universe.

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You Watch That?!?

Muscle Shoals

“Give credit where credit is due.”

It’s the kind of idiomatic expression that any non-sociopath can cosign without thinking too hard about it. Like “Treat others the way you’d like to be treated,” or “Let’s order a pizza when we get back from the bar.” But GCWCID’s promise often goes unfulfilled, and there doesn’t even have to be a good reason why. No villain, no deliberate deception or cover-up. Sometimes credit is hiding in plain sight. Or in a Lynyrd Skynyrd song everyone in the country has heard between five and 500 times:

Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers
And they’ve been known to pick a song or two
Lord they get me off so much
They pick me up when I’m feeling blue
Now how about you?

“The Swampers” is another name for the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, a handful of session musicians who provided the backbone for a string of huge hits in the 60’s and 70’s. Whether you’ve heard of the Swampers or not, Muscle Shoals, the new documentary about their work, the town they hail from and the producer/studio owner who gave them an opportunity to record with some of music’s most legendary artists, is an absolute must-see.

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brb

My family’s annual beach week starts tomorrow, and my sister’s husband emailed the video above to us soon-to-be attendees to illustrate his pre-OBX mindset, saying “This pretty much sums up how excited I am for beach week.”

Right there with ya, Brian.

I’m not sure what’ll happen YHT-wise next week. Maybe I won’t post. Maybe I’ll post twice a day. Haven’t decided. What I do know is that I’m ’bout to drive to North Carolina, drink a bunch of Yuenglings, put on Aretha Franklin’s “Chain Of Fools” and find a raccoon to dance with.

Hope y’all have a wonderful weekend.

Aretha Franklin — “Chain Of Fools” [Spotify/iTunes]

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Tournament Album Coverage, Vol. 1

couch cat

Oh man, what a weekend. So much couch. So much tournament. You know how astronauts used to splash down in the ocean after a mission? And they’d have to be carried out of their capsule things because their muscles were too weak to function normally? That was me trying to walk out of my front door this morning. Awwww yeah!

One fun byproduct of sitting in my living room and watching basketball all weekend was that the level of my own physical activity proved to be inversely proportional to the workout my record player got. My friends and I listened to some really great stuff, so I thought I’d do a pair of album cover photo posts, establishing what I hope becomes a new tradition — Tournament Album Coverage. Here’s the art for everything that hit the turntable on Friday night, along with a sample song and a context-free quote from someone in the room about the record pictured above it.

Hope you enjoy, and I apologize (to you and to the people who were at my house at the time) for busting out every version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” that I own. Won’t happen again. But it probably will.

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American Aquarium

Small Town Hymns

Are you ready to play a kickass game of connect the dots? Since today’s edition largely takes place in the south, we’ll call it, affectionately of course, co-redneck-t the dots. I really think you’re going to like what we find, so let’s get started with the fine gents of Raleigh, North Carolina-based American Aquarium, who, on Friday at the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville, Virginia, country-rocked their way through an amazing set opening for Jason Isbell, who hails from northern Alabama, just like former Drive-By Truckers bandmate Patterson Hood, whose father, David Hood, was the bass player for the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (also known as “the Swampers” — ya know, “They’ve been known to pick a song or two”), the legendary band that recorded with some of music’s most recognizable names, like Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, John Prine and many, many more, all of whom, in order to record with the Swampers, had to to make pilgrimages to one of two studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, which is where American Aquarium just finished recording their new album, which was produced and recorded with the help of Jason Isbell, with additional contributions from the lovely Amanda Shires, Isbell’s girlfriend, who appeared on stage with both Isbell and American Aquarium last Friday night at the Jefferson Theater. Whew. Crazy, eh? And that run-on sentence doesn’t begin to cover how entertaining American Aquarium’s set was (a real-life love-at-first-listen experience) or the remarkable impact that Muscle Shoals has had on popular music. A few weeks back, I wrote about the idea of musical centers of energy, and Muscle Shoals most assuredly qualifies. Though the town’s population is just 13,000 or so, the area still has a tremendous amount of musical history. So many canonical musicians have been drawn to Muscle Shoals, and it’s wild to think about how the Swampers insisted on recording on their own turf. And Grammy wins for albums like the Black Keys’ Brothers go to show that the town maintains that gravitational pull to this day. Judging by the songs I heard at the Jefferson Theater, American Aquarium’s upcoming album is sure to be a hit as well, so to whet your appetite, I’m posting “Reidsville,” a song from their 2010 album Small Town Hymns that tells the story of a southern town with a very different legacy than that of Muscle Shoals. Listen below and snag  the album on iTunes here.

American Aquarium — “Reidsville

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Alabama Shakes

Alabama Shakes EP

Alabama Shakes, Part 1
(Editor’s note: I’m so excited about last night’s Alabama Shakes show that I’m splitting my reaction up into two parts, one offering a macro view of the experience, and one that gives a little more detail. Hope you enjoy!)

“Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about a science book
Don’t know much about the french I took
But I do know that I love you”
— Sam Cooke

Over the course of 28 years, I’ve become an expert at certain things. Choosing which tunnel to use when traveling from Richmond to Norfolk is one. Choosing non-mealy apples at the grocery store is another. And I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I consider myself the Michael Jordan of choosing the wrong checkout lane at Costco. Soul music, however, is not one of my (apologies to John Hodgman) areas of expertise. Soul is such an influential, historically rich and culturally significant force that I’ve always approached it with a sense of cautious reverence. And while I’m somewhat familiar with greats like Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke and Mavis Staples, it’s always seemed like a broader understanding of the genre’s history and icons is just too steep a hill to climb, and that I’m destined to remain on the outside looking in. Lately though, a number of bands that have caught my attention are making it more and more difficult to stay on the soul music sidelines. Last night, I had the pleasure of seeing one of these bands in person, a group called Alabama Shakes. I’d been hearing this 5-piece outfit’s name everywhere, often lumped in with the present wave of so-called soul revivalists, so I came to the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville, VA prepared to find out firsthand where they stood within this movement. But as they worked their way through a powerful, confident and wildly entertaining set, it became clear that they weren’t reviving anything. What I saw felt like an authentic act of creation, not one of imitation or recreation. It felt like something totally new. Maybe I’m inclined to think this way because I lack the baseline of knowledge to make proper comparisons, but to say that frontwoman-extraoridnairre Brittany Howard has pipes like Aretha, or a 5th gear like Janis Joplin, or moo-oo-oo-OO-OO-ooves like Jagger (sorry, I really tried to stop myself from typing that) would, as accurate and complimentary as those comparisons might be, situate Alabama Shakes in the past, which is not where they belong. Sure, you can call them neo-soul, or something like that, but it really doesn’t matter, because you don’t need to be a soul savant, or an expert in musical taxonomy, to enjoy Alabama Shakes. And the proof was standing all around me last night. The crowd was as diverse as I’ve seen — black, white, young, old, hip, unhip — and while that could be a side effect of being relatively new and not having been pigeonholed yet, I’d like to think it’s because there’s so much to enjoy in their music that almost everyone can connect with it. See what I mean by listening below to “Hold On,” the first track off their eponymous EP, which you can snag here.

Alabama Shakes — “Hold On

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