musicthe sound of your morning

the sound of your morning: southern roots

by Grace Bonney

Photograph of Wormsloe Plantation (on vintage tin tile) by Meryl Truett

Last week’s trip to Birmingham, Alabama still has its claws in me. Whenever I touch down on southern soil it’s as if some stubborn weed wraps a tendril around me and it makes it harder and harder to leave each time. This trip was especially difficult because the weather was so beautiful and the dogwoods were in full bloom. So the sights and sounds of the South have been on mind ever since.

For today’s music mix it seemed like a natural choice to focus on music that reminds me of the South and artists that call southern states their home. If this doesn’t inspire you to visit amazing cities like Savannah, Memphis, Charleston, Nashville, Atlanta, and New Orleans I don’t know what will. Bonus? This time of year the deep south is gorgeous. If you’ve ever wanted to travel there grab a plane ticket before the humidity becomes so intense you feel like you’ll melt into the sidewalks.

People seem to have strong memories and experiences from trips to the South so if you have one please feel free to share it. And of course I’d love to hear your favorite southern artists as well as songs about the South or that remind you of the people or cities south of the Mason-Dixon. I have friends who’ve never touched a foot south of Pennsylvania so I’d love to send them links to your playlists to lure them down…xo, grace

CCR “Fortunate Son”- Beyond the obvious anti-war messages here (good luck finding a video of this song on YouTube without Vietnam War imagery behind it) this song always reminds me of the South. It has the added bonus of being vernacular used in my family every now and then. Describing someone who came from a wealthy background in the South my Dad actually said “He’s a real fortunate son type” the other day. It’s a perfect description, though it probably describes my least favorite part of Southern culture (the boys who went to prep schools and wear khaki pants and Docksiders)

Kings of Leon “Molly’s Chambers”- I’m going to start by saying I’m not a huge KOL fan right now. I’m not in love with the direction of their music and that doesn’t even begin to touch on them endorsing a line of jeans (what?). But all that aside, this album clicked with me in such a major way when it came out. I’d just moved back to NYC from Virginia and was missing Southern rock in a big way. I was working for a record label full of people that had little to no appreciation for anything not from California or the Northeast so I dove into this band with reckless abandon and played this album (and this track) on an endless loop.

CLICK HERE for the rest of the music mix and to add your favorites after the jump!

Dolly Parton “Jolene”- Is there a sadder song than this? If so, I don’t want to hear it. But it’s Dolly. And it’s “Jolene”. Heartbreakingly beautiful voice and sentiment. As much as I love Dolly this song always makes me glad I didn’t grow up in a part of the South where big hair and bad relationships were the norm.

Punch Brothers “Reptilia” (cover)- Ok, this song is cheating (sort of), but I didn’t feel quite right leaving it in or out. Chris Thile has been a mandolin idol of mine (and many, many others) for a while and I really love what he and the Punch Brothers are doing for contemporary bluegrass. I’ve met so many people who were inspired to play a new instrument after hearing them and that’s always a good thing for me. This video is actually a cover of a Strokes song, but I love their spin on it. The do a lot of covers at their live shows and I think (in moderation) it’s a fun spin on instruments that often have a somewhat “older” sound to them. Hearing a banjo in this track always makes me happy. The banjo is an instrument that sends some people running for the hills, but I’m in the “more cowbell” camp when it comes to this instrument. More banjo, please.

Outkast “B.O.B.”- This song is one of my favorites of all time. It’s physically impossible for me to listen to this and not jump around the living room like a complete idiot. It reminds me of countless crappy frat parties at Southern colleges but also reminds me of how amazing the music scene in and around Atlanta is. Southern music isn’t all banjos and guys with tight jeans and feathered hair, and Outkast is a great reminder of other music genres the South does so well.

AARON’S PICKS (in his words)

Skip James – “Devil Got my Woman” – I think one thing I love about the South is the sense of history and tradition. Growing up in the Boston area, we had a lot of history – mostly Revolutionary War type stuff). But the South always feels somehow older to me. This Skip James song just grabs ahold of you and makes you listen. It was well used in the movie “Ghost World” – and it’s perfectly written – when the girl character asks, “Do you have any other records like that?”, Seymour answers: “There are no other records like that.” It’s true.

Alison Krauss – “Down in the River to Pray” – I’m not a religious person, but if they played music like this at a church near my I’d certainly consider going if only for the beautiful music. This song was featured on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack (along with a million other amazing southern songs) – but this one is my favorite.

Johnny Cash – “Rowboat”

Wow. Johnny Cash was a BEAST. The guy really did it for his whole life, and did it his way. He produced hits when my mom was in college, and was still making great songs when I was in college. How many musicians can say that? It’s a small club. Here he is covering Beck, because he never stopped finding great songs to record.

Spoon – “Sister Jack”

When I mentioned I might be using Spoon for one of my picks, she half-sneered “Oh, Texas south…” – basically, according to her, Texas isn’t the South. Well tough. I’m from New England, and to me anything below the Mason-Dixon line counts as Southern. In fact, maybe she’s lucky I didn’t pick one of those Florida-based boy-bands just for spite… (PS – this song rules.)

Sam Cooke – “Bring it on Home”

Is Mississippi southern enough for you? I remember finding a Sam Cooke Greatest Hits tape in my Dad’s collection as a kid and just being fascinated by the voice that came through my little two-deck boom box. It wasn’t the kind of music I usually listened to but I couldn’t get over the sound. It just had so much emotion and really resonated with me in a way I never really understood. This was the song Grace and I had our first dance to at our wedding, which just cemented it as always having a place in my heart. (awwwww…)

Suggested For You


  • I’m not from the south but I sure love the music! Many fav’s have already been listed, Old Crow Medicine Show, The Avett Brothers, Drive By Truckers, etc.

    What about My Morning Jacket?

    Loretta Lynn

    Lucinda Williams

    Emmylou Harris

    or basically anyone else at Bonnaroo during the early years.

  • What a fantastic post!
    We Southerners tend to have very strong feelings, and an immense sense of pride for where we live. I know I do, especially since I’m lucky enough to live in Savannah. I’ve been a southerner my whole life. I grew up in Memphis & Arkansas, and I’ve been a Georgian for 9 years. We frequently visit the Northeast to see friends, but I belong below the Mason-Dixon line.
    And it IS gorgeous this time of year!

    I for one have always loved the Allman Brothers.

    Iron & Wine is from SC. Many of his songs speak of the south to me. Resurrection Fern is one that comes to mind.

  • My husband and I will be roadtripping throught the US for our upcoming 1 year anniversary — I cant even begin to describe how PSYCHED I AM to begin downloading some great tunes, D*S City Guides and get on the open road! Any suggestions????

  • Great list! Just wanted to point out that although CCR is classified as southern/swamp rock, they were actually from the San Francisco Bay Area! They were great fakers :). Wish they had stayed together longer.

  • I’m a perpetual D*S stalker, but this post has lured me into comment-town. I love that it’s a Mississippi girl kind of day! Zac Brown’s “Colder Weather” and anything by Dave Barnes feel like home to me right now.

  • Looks like somebody beat me to mentioning My Morning Jacket, but they are pretty crazy proud of them around here. I don’t know much else of the local music scene in Kentucky, but I’m loving your posts on the south. I’m a midwesterner by birth but I’ve been in Louisville for over half my life and I’m just now starting to appreciate this city for what it is.

    One of us around here really ought to do a city guide, I think.

  • Agreed with Danielle! Though I’m in Charlottesville, VA (a different Ville!) Wagon Wheel is a weekend staple.

  • Great post! I’m a northerner who has lived in Tennessee for 15 years now and have completely fallen in love with the south! I am way into the Civil Wars lately, and here’s another artist to check out…

    Trent Dabbs’ Album “Southerner”

    Perfect album title for this post!

  • I just read all the comments and don’t think I saw our local boys, The Marshall Tucker Band added to the list yet! “Can’t You See” is a must have :)

  • These “the sound of your morning” posts have become my favorite thing about Mondays. Another great line-up!

  • Ok, I know I have posted twice already but this has been running through my head all day so here are some that I haven’t seen. Some of these might be cheesy to some but they are from the South: The Dave Matthews Band (VA), Hootie and The Blowfish (SC), Three 6 Mafia, Jerry Lee Lewis, Al Green, Issac Hayes, Big Star, Lucero, Alex Chilton, The Gentries, Johnnie Guitar Taylor, Sam & Dave, Otis Redding, Aretha, Tina and Ike Taylor, The Staple Singers, The Bar Kays, Justin Timberlake, North Mississippi Allstars, Al Kapone, 8 Ball MJG (Memphis), Ani Defranco Dr. John, Louis Armstrong, Harry Connick Jr, The Subdudes, The Neville Brothers (NOLA) Athens/ATL GA: James “Freakin” Brown, Widespread Panic, REM, The Black Crows, Lil John, Drivin ‘N’ Cryin, Outkast, Goodie Mob, Guadalcanel Diary, Ceelo Green. (TX): ZZ Top, Stevie Ray Vaughn, The Fabulous T-Birds, Robert Earl Keen, Pat Green, Willie, Glen Campbell, Janis Joplin, Kris Kristofferson, Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys. This should add to a comprehensive list

  • Great collection of southern music! Being a west coast Louisiana transplant, it reminds me of home….I do however, second Kim’s above comment that CCR was actually a band of pretty excellent posers as they were all from the SF Bay Area :)

  • haha! grace, my husband and his family are from texas, and they too agree that texas isn’t the south, as much as i try to convince them otherwise!

  • Okay, I am going to weigh in on the TX thang. I am from Oklahoma, currently living in Texas and let me tell you I have never in my life not considered myself anything other than from the south. Here it is… PLAIN AND SIMPLE. If you go to a person’s house and they offer you sweet tea then your in a southern home.
    Oh yeah and Texas is a whole ‘nother country.
    There is also some great TX country. Try Zane Williams on for some Texas country. Love “river girl” but “pablo and maria” is a close second. http://www.zanewilliamsmusic.com

  • Finally, thank you for speaking out on the Kings of Leon. I’m from Texas and cannot remember how many times we sat in tha back of a truck enjoying some adult beverages, listening to Molly’s Chambers. I don’t think it would work with anything they’ve done in a looong time :) Great post!

  • As a life long Southern, I say the South has the best music hands down! I think your play list proves it. :) Thanks for including Dolly, she’s one of my faves. And definitely check out all the great Knoxville bands previously mentioned–another one to add to the list of Knoxville peeps is Jill Andrews (http://www.jillandrews.com/)–so hauntingly beautiful!

  • I second a Louisville city guide Katie Bee! I love this city! Good to see some other Kentuckians on here :)

  • I’m SO homesick now. Although I’ve been living in SoCal now for 11 years it has never quite felt like the right fit for me. My heart will always be in Charleston. Uncle Mingo’s “Bottle of Moonlight” always brings me back home.
    I used to live in Austin, and any Townes Van Zandt makes me long for lazy afternoons at Barton Creek.

  • I loved the post about the sweet tea!! NH, you are sooooo right, as a Marine wife, we have been all over the country, but you know you are HOME when at a restaurant they don’t even ask if you want sweet or unsweet tea!! To me the south is Sweet Tea, the Allman Brothers with a little Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys thrown in! And lest we forget about the peaches:) Well there could be tons of posts just on the food alone:)
    Grace, I love all the music!!! I love that this blog is so informative and fun!! Thank you for all your hard work!!! I think this GA girl will just get another glass of iced tea with a little mint sprig in it and listen to all your music all over again!!

  • 8th generation Texan here: we don’t think Texas is part of the south. It’s not actually part of the west, either. You know how Texans are — we’re just our own thing. Of course, technically, Texas is in the southern US so it’s in the south. But it’s not deep south, which has it’s own quite different vibe.

    I live in NYC and people often comment on my “cute southern accent” (which makes me whisper to myself: oh no it’s not!!) but I do understand how hard it is to differentiate. Texans recognize my accent specifically as the northern plains twangy accent. But shoot, I can’t differentiate Brooklyn vs Bronx vs Long Island vs New Jersey, so I’m definitely not pointing fingers. :)

  • I’ve lived in the DFW Texas area my whole life. My family is from the north so I don’t have that Texas twang that most have around here, but I married a true blood Texan.

    Alan Jackson
    So many memories from growing up here.

    Ben Kweller
    A Texan from a small-town called Commerce I believe. He’s made his rounds through the country but his last album is super southern rock/bluegrass and awesome! Perfect for road trips through the woods or plains of Texas!

    Agreed on the Texas/Southern argument. We aren’t deep south. But we definately aren’t like the western states like New Mexico or Utah. Texas and Oklahoma are clumped together in my mind in our own region!

  • Oh my, Old Crow Medicine Show anything….love the Wagon Wheel song! (…picking me a bouquet of dogwood flowers)

    You missed James Taylor! Can’t have Southern music without some JT! =)

    The Connells…anything from their ‘Ring’ album. Gosh, they’re old, ha!

    Memories: Sipping Cheerwine on the way down to the beach, passing South of the Border going from NC to SC, eating some Calabash shrimp, sweating in the humidity and hearing the cicadas scream, reel dancing in the mountains, and eating hushpuppies, grits and BBQ. Gosh, it’s as much about the food as it is about the music! ha!

    You should totally do a Part II to this post! (although Part I was pretty sweet!) –wait, sweet tea! =P

  • Completely agree with you on Kings of Leon. Really dug their first two albums, and as they sobered up… I lost interest…

    How about some lynyrd skynyrd? “Miss you” and “The Ballad of Curtis Lowe” are severely overlooked.

  • Yes, these are great southern songs.
    I am lucky to have many of them.
    Anyone can obtain them from “ripete records.com /877-864-6821. Here in Charleston, SC we love the shag.
    Originally shag was started in Myrtle Beach, SC, but we were lucky enough to let it drift our way.

  • I am a Southern girl, born, bred, and still!
    In a totally different style, I can offer two artists who’ve not been mentioned here.
    The first of these is Mac
    McAnally, who now plays with the second artist I name, but has a significant solo career, too. Utube has mix here:
    Mac McAnally Mix
    My favorite is still Back Where I Came From – which he cut in 1989. I always knew him as a Mississippi artist, but Wikipedia says he was actually born in Alabama, and then moved to Mississippi and grew up here.
    The second Southern artist I think of is Jimmy Buffett. You may consider him more tropical than Southern, but I cut my teeth on his music (literally!). He was born in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and grew up in Mobile. He graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi, and started working in Nashville, playing music on the side. He played music in New Orleans, and in the Keys. My favorite Buffett song is Chanson Pour Les Petites Enfants, and my second favorite:
    Come Monday. There are, of course, scads more, but those two are striking to me. I offer one more, Biloxi, but NOT because this is where I live now!
    Lastly, a few I didn’t see mentioned who are from the South, Faith Hill, Leann Rimes, Charlie Pride, Conway Twitty, Tammy Wynette, Matt Murphy, Bones Malone, Denise LaSalle, Robert Johnson …
    It’s so interesting to see all of the lovely comments about my homeplace, and the feelings it evokes in others. Thanks so much for sharing your generous thoughts. Y’all come visit anytime.

  • ok, have to chime in too. born and raised in Alabama, (now living in Louisiana by way of Montana), you can’t beat Drive by Truckers, http://drivebytruckers.com/. They are the quintessential southern band. If you like Alabama, you gotta check them out. a mix of southern noir and civil rights, poverty and the space program. Just the best! Also if you want a little old time punk country, check out The Pine Hill Haints. Another good Alabama band that can’t beat.

  • killer post! reminded of some good ones I han’t listened to in some time. I’ll be adding them to my summertime rotation. thanks!

  • So glad others have mentioned Curtis Lowe (Loew?) by Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Copperhead Road by Steve Earle (which is a nighttime lullaby for my daughter if daddy puts her to bed).

    Avett Brothers – yeah.

    I believe there is hagiography of Jerry Jeff Walker to be found in parts of TX.

    Little Big Town?

  • From Winston-Salem, NC …

    The Avett Brothers are excellent! Their lyrics are heartfelt and deep. The tunes rock!

  • I was born and raised in Charleston and in 20 days I am packing up and moving to Massachusetts with my adorable yankee boyfriend. I made a southern music playlist for his siblings as a half joke/ half thank you present for helping us move. Here is my list (I will certainly be adding some of yalls suggestions)

    Song of the South- Alabama
    Gimme Just A Little More Time- Chairmen Of The Board
    Carolina- Corey Smith
    If I Could Do It Again- Corey Smith
    Two Pina Coladas- Garth Brooks
    Southern Hospitality-Ludacris
    Sweet Home Alabama- Lynyrd Skynyrd
    Free Bird- Lynyrd Skynyrd
    Wagon Wheel -Old Crow Medicine Show
    Possum Kingdom- The Toadies
    BBQ Stain- Tim McGraw
    I Love Beach Music- Embers
    Carolina On My Mind – James Taylor
    Fire and Rain- James Taylor

  • I am definitely with you on the more cowbell thought going with the banjos. Grew up listening to my grandfather and great uncles playing banjos and singing every song from way back when to what was current on the radio. It is definitely something that speaks to my soul. I really enjoyed the music you shared on this blog! Thanks.

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