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…)