Hood – Isbell – Cooley reunite at the Shoals Theater

Another fabulous show review from Blake Ells! –SS

When I saw Jasper native and Drive-By Truckers bassist Matt Patton milling around the lobby at the Shoals Theater at 6:45 p.m. on Sunday, I knew this reunion would not be a full band show. And when, shortly after, I saw David Hood doing the same, I knew that it was just another night in Muscle Shoals. Both were among a collection of recognizable faces and smiles which also included Alabama Shakes lead singer Brittany Howard on hand for the Terry Pace benefit concert in Florence, an event which saw a rare gathering of Patterson Hood, Jason Isbell and Mike Cooley.

The Shoals Theater is on Seminary Street, a block away from Court, and it has stood through the most significant changes that the city has seen over the last half century. While there was Florence Alabama Music Enterprises churning out hit records, the Theater was, as Hood joked, across town showing “Pinocchio and every single Disney movie that was made.” And at some point, it was boarded up, and Hood “dreamed of making it the day he could play at the Shoals Theater.” Over the last 10 years or so, the area has been revitalized, and even though he’s already accomplished the dream, he returned for another intimate set for a worthy cause.

Just after 7 p.m., the trio took the stage while Hood shared that setup. Quickly, the “Hood – Isbell – Cooley” benefit before a room of 700 had become “Storytellers.” Hood opened by sharing stories about his first band with Cooley, Adam’s House Cat, before his first tune, “Tornadoes.” Tuscumbia native Cooley took his turn with “Carl Perkins’ Cadillac” before Greenhill native and later addition to the band Isbell performed “Decoration Day.”

“When I joined this band, I was really young,” he began. “And when you’re that young you’re not that interesting. You don’t have stories to tell. So when your parents would tell you, ‘Now, I’ll tell you this story, but you can’t tell anyone,’ those were the interesting things you wrote about. I guess I could have changed the names,” he laughed.

The rotation continued for the duration. For nearly three hours, the trio swapped stories and shared their songs. Isbell dedicated “Outfit” to his father, in attendance, on Father’s Day, and Hood followed with the admission, “I’m sorry, dad. I love you as much as he loves his dad, but I never could write something to stand up to that.” He then introduced his own “Daddy Needs a Drink,” co-written by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Spooner Oldham.

The first deviation from Drive-By Truckers tunes came with “Cover Me Up,” the lead track from Isbell’s critically acclaimed 2013 release Southeastern. Hood performed “Grand Canyon,” a tune written in memory of close friend Craig Lieske and recorded on 2014’s English Oceans. And the trio closed its regular set with Isbell’s “Alabama Pines.”

Isbell once quipped of the trio’s sad songwriting, “I don’t want to write happy songs. This is an outlet. The guys writing happy songs have problems – like that nah nah nah nah HEY guy.” It was a pretty perfect summation of the band and the intimate evening, as the audience erupted in laughter.

The trio encored with, respectively, their most personal songs about the Shoals: Cooley with “Zip City,” Isbell with “Never Gonna Change” and Hood with “Let There Be Rock” before closing the evening with a cover of Wet Willie’s “Keep on Smilin.'” While it was all perfect, and while people that I had spoken to had traveled from as far as Colorado and West Virginia, everyone left with a barrier broken down. These three men are three of the South’s most talented song writers, but on this night, it was just another night in the Shoals.

SETLIST: Tornadoes – Carl Perkins’ Cadillac – Decoration Day – Heathens – Eyes Like Glue – TVA – Putting People on the Moon – Goddamn Lonely Love – My Sweet Annette – Women Without Whiskey – Outfit – Daddy Needs a Drink – Self Destructive Zone – Cover Me Up – The Living Bubba – Space City – Danko/Manuel – Grand Canyon – Cartoon Gold – Alabama Pines – ENCORE – Zip City – Never Gonna Change – Let There Be Rock – Keep on Smilin’ (Wet Willie cover)

Matthew Ryan Helps His Friend, John Anderson

I don’t know Matthew Ryan or John Anderson, but one of their friends sent me a wonderful assessment of who they are as people:

Matthew Ryan is releasing a new song called “An Anthem for the Broken” to raise funds for John Anderson, who has been waging a three year battle with ALS. John is a special person, one of the most genuine and wonderful people that I know. More to the point, he’s one of us – a passionate, make that a fanatical, lover of music.

Ryan describes John this way: “He’s one of those guys you just love to have in your life. Always grinning. A lover of great music, smart and generous. Talented and committed. Warm and inspiring.”

He continues, “When visiting them a weekend ago I was shook by the toll the disease is taking on both of them. Not only via the obvious sad and hard health changes a diagnosis like this brings, but also via the emotional stress and real-world complications (and obstacles) of the financial weight of this disease. “

“An Anthem for the Broken” is the perfect embodiment of my friend John. Says Ryan, “The song we chose is not a sublime lament, but a noisy and pounding rallying to the better parts of our nature and perseverance with gang vocals, poetry and some giant propulsive electric guitars. John being a true believer in the ability of Rock N Roll to throw fists in the air and inspire hope against odds and wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Please purchase this song on Bandcamp to benefit John Anderson.

The Blackwing Foundation

Yep, the pencil people, Blackwing, not only make cool pencils that do not smear from this lefty, but they also have great taste in music and some cool events to benefit music in public schools through The Blackwing Foundation.

Grab tickets for their benefit in-the-round acoustic performance with Willie Watson (Old Crow Medicine Show), Willie Tea Taylor (Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit), and Andrew Combs HERE.

Here’s more about the musicians and the event:
On Thursday, June 27th, Nashville recording artist Andrew Combs, Old Crow Medicine Show co-founder Willie Watson and Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit frontman Willy Tea Taylor will take part in a special acoustic concert at the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity in Costa Mesa, CA.
Along with individual sets, the evening will feature an “in the round” session where all three musicians and other special guests will perform original compositions while discussing the songwriting process.
The performance will be part of the “Blackwing Sessions” music series. Proceeds from the show will benefit the Blackwing Foundation and its efforts to further arts and music education in schools.
Taylor was named by No Depression Magazine as “one of the most important American singer/songwriters of our time.” Saving Country Music compared Taylor’s songwriting to “those now legendary recordings of Paul Simon in his post-Garfunkel days.”
Watson spent 13 years as lead vocalist and songwriter for Old Crow Medicine Show. Paving the way for other roots bands like Mumford and Sons and the Lumineers, OCMS is best known for taking an unfinished Bob Dylan song (“Wagon Wheel”) and turning it into a cult classic. Watson partook in the historic “Railroad Revival Tour”, traveling to concerts throughout the Southwest exclusively by vintage trains, capturing every moment for the “Big Easy Express,” winner of the 2013 Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video.
Combs’ “Worried Man” ranked as the highest debut album on American Songwriter Magazine’s annual list of 50 Best Albums of the Year in 2012. Said American Songwriter: “In a world full of pretenders, the Texas bred, Nashville based Combs is the genuine article.”

Texas Thunder

Texas Thunder May 17-19, 2013 will benefit the people of West, TX this year. Details here:

Lineup includes:  Mickey & The Motorcars, Josh Abbott Band, Whiskey Myers, Turnpike Troubadors, Wade Bowen, Randy Rogers Band, Stoney LaRue, & many more.

“Last week, the Texas Thunder Music Festival announced all net proceeds will be donated to the first responders and schools of West, Texas. The Odessa based firm of Johnson, Miller & Co. will oversee all the accounting and distribution of funds.“As a fellow Texan, my heart went out to all those that were affected by the explosion,” says festival landowner Herb Graham. “We could not sit around and do nothing, so my partners and I quickly decided to donate all the net proceeds from this festival to rebuild the school and get first responders equipment.”

Weekend passes are available for a discounted price of $65 with camping starting at $110. A very limited number of single-day tickets are available for $35.

Texas Thunder tickets are now available for purchase at Graham Central Station in Odessa, Rockin’ Rodeo Midland and Arriba Midland. For more information or to purchase tickets and camping, please visit or call 855-362-0535.”

Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section Album Re-Issued

Holy shamoly! This is super cool!

The original Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section album re-issued for the benefit of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame!

Please support this cause.

Country Fried Rock Curates Charity Compilation

The Country Fried Rock Collection Volume One, To Benefit Nuci’s Space

Country Fried Rock is a one-hour, weekly radio road trip that features some of the most exciting off-the-radar artists from legendary veterans like James McMurtry to up-and-comers Ha Ha Tonka. Host and producer, Sloane Spencer is an unapologetic lover of all things “musically real” Read More