High Cotton: A (Worthy) Tribute to Alabama…the band

In 1976, when I was a bit more than four years old, my family packed up the car and headed west to California.  My father had been reassigned to Edwards Air Force Base, nestled in the barren Mojave Desert, and we would remain there for the next five years.

During our time in California, we made two cross-country trips to visit family in Mississippi and Virginia.  The first, southern most leg of the trip – from California to Mississippi – took about three days, and I still have vivid memories of the homemade barbeque and baked beans that were packed to eat, our onboard portapotty (so we could keep on truckin’, even when nature called), and my mom and dad switching drivers while the our van was cruising down the highway.  They had this intricate system where the cruise control was set, the new driver perched between the two front seats and holding the wheel while the retiring driver slipped out.  In retrospect, this was highly dangerous.  At the time, though, I thought my folks were bad ass.

The soundtrack to at least one of those trips was the legendary country band Alabama.  My folks were – and still are – pretty big country fans.  I can remember my dad feeding the cassette deck in the van those early Alabama tapes – records like  Feels So Right and Mountain Music – and, over the course of a couple thousand miles, I ended up knowing those songs frontwards and backwards.

Over the ensuing 30 years or so, my interest in Alabama – and country music in general – waned.  I don’t think I have purposefully played an Alabama tune since I was in the fifth grade – 1982 – and Roll On was one of my favorite records.

So, you can imagine that at the excitement I felt was somewhat surprising when I received High Cotton: A Tribute to Alabama in the mail last week.

High Cotton is a collection of some of Alabama’s signature tunes, recorded by some of Americana’s biggest names.  As I perused the track listing, I entered this bizarre nexus of time; my ten year old Alabama fan self met with my forty year old music junkie self and came to this conclusion: This is an amazing selection of songs from an amazing band redone by an amazing collection of artists.

JD McPherson kicks off the record with “Why Lady Why,” and – on my first listen – I’ll be damned if I didn’t remember every word.  I ended up singing along with most every track, from Old Crow Medicine Show’s take on “Dixieland Delight” to Shonna Tucker’s “Roll On (Eighteen Wheeler),” Lucero’s “The Closer You Get,” and even Todd Snider and Elizabeth Cook’s “Love In The First Degree.”

Other contributors include Blind Boys Of Alabama, Amanda Shires, T Hardy Morris, Jessica Lea Mayfield, and more.

High Cotton shakes up the nostalgia in me.  I am taken back in time to a beige Ford Econoline van, cruising across the deserts of Arizona and Texas, across the wide Mississippi River and the red clay of the Deep South, deep into the mountains of Virginia, all with tight country harmonies in my ears.

Apparently, I am still an Alabama fan.

I want you to have the chance to add this record to your collection.  Take a shot at the trivia question below and email your answer to [email protected].  A winner will be chosen from all of the correct answers I receive by noon tomorrow (Thursday, August 8th).

In the meantime, check out Jason Isbell and John Paul White’s rendition of “Old Flame” on this month’s Trail Mix.

Good luck!!

Trivia question . . .

According to the boys in Alabama, what do you have to have in the band if you are going to play in Texas? 

Remember to EMAIL your answers in!  No comments here!



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