Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Road Trip Music in Alabama: bluegrass, faith, & architecture

Fishing boats on Mobile bay, the home of the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa. rocket scientists in Huntsville, farmers in the wiregrass, civil rights history and civil war history: all this is Alabama. The state has a top country group as namesake, as well as a classic rock song. For this part of the journey of the Great American Road Trip: Music, the soundtrack features two artists with Alabama in their personal histories, Claire Lynch and Emmylou Harris.

album cover claire lynch

Claire Lynch’s base is in bluegrass -- she’s been nominated for Grammys and won a number of top bluegrass awards for her work -- but it is a solid starting point, not a limit, for her musical taste and imagination. Her most recent recording, Whatcha Gonna Do, makes that point clearly. The range of her art includes traditional bluegrass, progressive bluegrass, a couple of contemporary faith based songs, some swing, and a touch of country. Lynch chooses from all these genres and writes her own material as well. Lynch lived for some years in north Alabama, and among other things wrote a really nice homecoming from the road song called Hills Of Alabam which country star Kathy Mattea recorded some years back. Whatcha Gonna Do makes a fine companion for the winding roads of Alabama, but you won’t go wrong with any of Claire Lynch’s recordings.

The same could be said of Emmylou Harris. Through her career as a pioneer of Americana music and contemporary folk, Harris has been most associated with California and with Nashville. She was born in Birmingham, though, and that deep south background comes through in her work. Her album Red Dirt Girl is anchored in thoughts of Alabama, both in songs she’s written, and songs she’s covered. Another fine Alabama road trip companion from Harris is her often overlooked recording of gospel songs and hymns, Angel Band
emmylou harris copyright kerry dexter
album cover emmylou harris angel band

While you are thinking about or traveling though Alabama, you may also like to listen to An Architecture of Decency, a podcast from Speaking of Faith. It tells about an innovative project at Auburn University which involves love, compassion, architecture, and rural Alabama. Close to the end of the program, they play a bit of Harris's song Red Dirt Girl, too, quite an inspired connection of narrative and lyric.

photograph of Emmylou Harris on left copyright Kerry Dexter

you may also wish to see
Music Road: Claire Lynch: Crowd Favorites
Music Road: Music Road trip in West Virginia
Emmylou Harris: Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town
more music from the road trip

This is part of The Great American Road Trip, in which I’m partnering up with A Traveler’s Library to add musical ideas to the book and film suggestions for journeys through the regions of the United States which you’ll find there. Stop by and see what the Library has in mind to inspire travels through the heart of the deep south.
For more about the road trip (and a look at some great road songs) see Great American Road Trip: Music begins

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


Anonymous Vera Marie Badertscher` said...

What a terrific accompaniment to the Road Trip to Alabama. I really like bluegrass, which is odd, since I don't like country Western, but I'm sure you can explain that to me some time. I think the addition of the public radio broadcast about the religion/architecture project is terrific. I'll be listening to it on my I Pod as I take a road trip this weekend. Thanks, Kerry.

4:41 PM  

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