Birmingham Mountain Radio crosses a milestone.

Drew Holcombe and the Neighbors

The album you should be listening to: Patterson Hood’s “Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance” (ATO Records). Former (?) Drive By Trucker (the question mark is because the band has announced a hiatus but no one knows if they will get back together again). Hood releases a solo album that is just phenomenal. Altcountry, country tinged with rock, call it what you will, it is just a good album. Solid from beginning to end, the album deals with addiction, heartbreak, family, and does so while feeling distinctly … Alabama. The album’s jangling guitar, crashing piano, and even strings make it seem like it could be too much, but it works.

December is upon us, and now the mad dash to Christmas and the New Year is in the final stretch. The concert calendar is a little thinner at this time of year, and it is time to be a little self-indulgent and self-congratulatory when it comes to my day job.

On December 13th, Birmingham Mountain Radio will celebrate two years of being the only Triple AAA/Alternative “radio station” in Birmingham. Notice that radio station is in parentheses because we are not a traditional radio station and can not be found on the traditional airwaves. No FM or AM (yes, stations still broadcast over AM) signal for us. We can only be found on the internet ( Two years is a milestone for us, especially when everyone said we would not last (keep in mind Live 100.5 lasted only 10 months when it was brought about to fill the void left by the scrapping of 107.7 The X).

The original idea for BMR was created when a few good friends lamented that there was no local station radio for people to listen to, unless they wanted talk, country, or urban. Over a few beers we hashed out an idea to do it ourselves, and the least expensive way to do it was by using the internet. There were internet stations already in existence. There were the internet jukeboxes (Pandora, Jango, etc.) and FM stations in other cities that had started providing internet streams for their listeners, but these were all square pegs for round holes. We wanted a station with local DJs discussing local shows, the local music scene, and most importantly, playing music for a demographic that had been discounted by the radio conglomerates that controlled the Birmingham market.

So on a shoe string budget (make that a broken shoe string) we forged ahead. Not to say that we were throwing caution to the wind, but we had no idea if people would listen, or if they wanted to listen could they even find us. (To this day people still ask exactly where we are on the FM dial). What happened next surprised us. Birmingham embraced us. People began to talk and spread the word. Our supporters not only embraced us but became our best marketing tool. Keep in mind that we had no budget whatsoever for marketing. We barely had enough money to buy the minimum of equipment and keep our lights on, much less pay the licensing and associated costs with internet streaming. It was truly, and still is, a labor of love. Late nights spent trouble shooting, upgrading systems (software and hardware), and thinking unconventionally kept us on “the air.”

I could go on for pages and pages about the changing medium of radio and all of the boring stuff associated with that but most importantly I just need to say: Thank you Birmingham, we truly could not do this with out you.

-John D and the ENTIRE crew at Birmingham Mountain Radio.

Shows to See:

Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors (12/7 at WorkPlay): Drew and wife Ellie (plus the Neighbors) have made a December tour date in Birmingham something of a ritual. Holcomb is essentially a singer songwriter (maybe Americana?) backed vocally by Ellie and the solid musicians who make up The Neighbors. Expect some holiday classics. (Their cover of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is one of the best I have heard)

Rachael Yamagata (12/13 at The Bottletree): Singer songwriter and pianist Yamagata makes it back to Birmingham and, by the time you read this, will have just released a new EP (:Heavyweight”) which might mean she is working on a new album.

Christmas at The Alabama (Alabama Theater 12/10 -12/22): No, this isn’t music but nothing says Christmas in Birmingham like seeing a classic (old or new; “Miracle on 34th Street,” “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Story”) on the big screen in “The Show Place of the South”. Throw in singing Christmas carols and The Mighty Wurlitzer and it doesn’t get any better.

The Black Jacket Symphony presents The Police’s “Synchronicity” (12/28, 12/29, 12/31 at WorkPlay): Cover bands are the norm in Birmingham but no one does it like the Black Jacket Symphony, as they reproduce an entire album with all of the original instruments, staying as true to the original recording as possible.

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