Alabama Music News

Playing on a bigger stage.

by John D

Normally I write this column while listening to a particular album, a way to let the music set my mood, but there is so much just released, or soon to be released, new music that I have been bouncing from track to track. Here are some things to look forward to: I Bet on Sky (out now) by Dinosaur Jr. The original DJ line-up is back together and crank out an album that just rocks. The track to check out is “Watch the Corners.” Shields (out now) by Brooklyn-based experimental rockers Grizzly Bear is more harmony-driven rock from a group that is one of the best right now. The track to check out is “Speak In Rounds.” Gary Clark Jr.’s Black and Blu is out October 22. Austin, Texas-based Clark was playing in clubs in his early teens, and many are calling him the savior of the blues. That is certainly a lot of hype to live up to, but if the album has more cuts like “Bright Lights” and “Things Are Changin’,” Clark should be just fine. Beth Orton’s lead single from Sugaring Season is “Magpie.” British singer-songwriter Orton steps away from the electronic side of her music and offers stripped-down arrangements that allow her amazing voice to shine (out mid-October).

In Alabama music news, two artists won big at The Americana Honors and Awards in Nashville. The Alabama Shakes took home “Best New/Emerging Artist.” The Shakes, from Athens, have experienced a meteoric rise with the release of an EP and then the debut album Boys and Girls in April. Lead singer Britney Howard belts it out, and the 60’s feel (rhythmic twangy bass and pocket drumming) makes for a fantastic sound, and we hope to see big things from them. In a shameless plug, Birmingham Mountain Radio was one of the first outlets to play The Alabama Shakes, so we, of course, get all of the credit. If you haven’t seen them live, check into tickets for their October 25 show at The Tuscaloosa Amphitheater (opening for Neil Young).

Former Drive By Trucker Jason Isbell took home the “Song of the Year” award for his single “Alabama Pines.” Isbell, an accomplished singer-songwriter, has been touring solo and with his band, The 400 Unit (the supposed nickname of the psychiatric ward of the hospital in Florence, near his hometown of Greenhill), and invariably sells out his shows. Isbell will be performing in Birmingham on October 21 as part of the Vulcan Aftertunes Series. Can you think of a better venue to catch him than with Birmingham as the backdrop?

Now that you have been filled in on new music and what Alabama musicians are doing on a national scene, it’s time to take a look at shows coming to Birmingham soon.

J D McPherson

The Japandroids (11/13 at Bottletree). The Canadian duo is touring to support their sophomore album, Celebration Rock, and that is just what it is. Fast paced, loud and fun, the album is one of the most cohesive, from beginning to end, of the year. The band even starts and ends the album with the sound of fireworks just to drive home that it is a celebration. Keep in mind that you should not wait to buy tickets to this show, as Bottletree is a smaller venue and will sell out quickly.

JD Mcpherson (11/9 at WorkPlay): McPherson’s album Signs and Signifiers was released back in 2010 on a small independent label and, unfortunately, got lost in the shuffle. The album was re-released in 2012 by a bigger label that was able to get this album the attention it deserved. McPherson’s love of 50’s rock and roll is obvious, but the rhythm and blues and rockabilly tones push this album over the top. Cuffed blue jeans, white t shirts with rolled up sleeves, and pompadours aren’t required for this show, but expect to see a few.

Kathleen Edwards (10/24 at WorkPlay). The Canadian singer-songwriter debuted in 2003 and has matured into a solid performer. Her most recent album, Voyageur, proves this. These are the kinds of songs that you hear once and then the next time around you are singing along (“Change the Sheets” comes to mind here). This album, co-written and produced by Edward’s boyfriend, Justin Vernon (a.k.a. Bon Iver), is not necessarily better than previous efforts, it is just “grown up.” Don’t miss the chance to see her in the intimate setting of the Theater at WorkPlay.

Gregg Allman (11/7 at Alabama Theatre). As a founding member of the Allman Brothers Band and in his own storied
solo career, Gregg Allman has been a gifted natural  interpreter of the blues, his soulful and distinctive voice one of the defining sounds in the history of 
American music. Low Country Blues marks the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer’s seventh solo recording and first in more than 13 years. Produced by T Bone Burnett, the album finds Allman putting his own stamp on songs by some of  blues giants. Allman will appear live in concert on Wednesday, November 7, at the Alabama Theatre. Tickets: $49.50, $35.00, $25.00 via or  800-745-3000.

Gregg Allman

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