WORDS Katie Vega
The Tennessee River--a rich source of history for The Shoals--seems to be the heartbeat, the pulse, of the area. The Yuchi Indian tribe, who claimed the land around The Shoals, once called it The Singing River. They believed a lady lived in the river and sang to them, her sounds coming straight from the currents. When they were forced out of the southeast and into Oklahoma, the Yuchi Tribe said the streams didn't sing to them on the Great Plains. Sad and depressed, they did the only logical thing. They took the little hike back to Alabama and finally reached their home--after five years of walking.
The deep down, gritty, spine-tingling sound that comes out of Muscle Shoals' music seems to be unexplainable. Bono (yes, that really famous guy from U2) believes the sounds come right up out of the mud. Artists like Alicia Keys, Aretha Franklin, and Gregg Allman try to pinpoint exactly where it comes from, but no one seems to really know.
But here's what I think. I think it comes from the spirit of the people. People like Rick Hall and The Swampers. The ones whose roots are deeply sewn into makeup of The Shoals. The ones who heard the tales of the Yuchi Tribe growing up. It's them--the people and their spirits. The ones who come from that special Tennessee River mud.
Muscle Shoals is the depiction of Alabama that we want outsiders to see. It represents the way WE see Alabama--full of world-class makers, just doin' their thing. We are used to seeing our state on reality shows--plagued with visions of rebel flags and bikini-clad women wrestling in mud.
But this. This is a straight up, gives you chill bumps, face hurts from smiling kind of thing. The kind of thing that makes us proud--not embarrassed--of how we are depicted and who we REALLY are. The contributors, including Mick Jagger, Aretha Franklin, and Keith Richards, will really make you smile when you hear them talk about the place we call home.
If this isn't enough to excite you, here's a list of a few little songs recorded in Muscle Shoals....
- Wilson Pickett's Mustang Sally
- Lynard Skynard's Freebird
- Aretha Franklin's RESPECT
- The Rolling Stones' Brown Sugar
- Staple Singers' I'll Take You There
And if that's not enough, these artists recorded in The Shoals to get that unique, one-of-a-kind sound...
- Bob Dylan
- Joan Baez
- Rod Stewart
- Bob Seger
- Etta James
- Eric Clapton
- Carlos Santana
I cannot begin to tell you how life-changing this film was. The stories. The people. The simple fact that this amazing music came out of our state. So go and see for yourself. Become engulfed in Rick Hall's story. See why artists like Clarence Carter and Percy Sledge were confused when they saw The Swampers. Plant yourself in FAME and Muscle Shoals Sound Studios as you hear tales from the people that were actually there, the ones who witnessed it all.
P.S. This isn't even scratching the surface...