If I were obnoxious, I would mention that Muscle Shoals has one of the secretly great music histories in the United States. I would say bands like the Rolling Stones would sneak into town to record great records — parts of “Sticky Fingers” were recorded there — even as the rest of the state was more concerned with ideas like re-electing George Wallace as governor multiple times and generally falling into being the joke state for southern stereotypes.
The legacy of Muscle Shoals, however, is more obvious than ever before to those who know music. That legacy even attracts a new generation and a potential new birth of talent in the Shoals. On Saturday night, Shoals-based bands The Bear and Doc Dailey & Magnolia Devil will come to Tuscaloosa’s Green Bar, where this new Shoals sound differs is in the community. Members of both bands work with other artists, such as the Pollies, and generally have a great working relationship with other bands from the area.
“Scheduling is difficult, but I imagine it’s more difficult for the other bands than for us,” said Louisa Murray, lead vocalist of The Bear. “We purposely don’t play too many shows because we’re all fairly busy with other things. I think each member of the band decides what project needs them more on a show-by-show basis.”
The members of The Bear are in that nebulous age of being able to remember the past of the Shoals and Tuscaloosa, but still young enough to perform and actively attempt to contribute to the state’s musical present and future. The Bear played in the Oxford American’s showcase in Tuscaloosa back in September of last year.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” said Bear vocalist/guitarist Nathan Pitts. “Tuscaloosa was my home for a couple of years, and I have a lot of great memories from my time there. My friends and I would walk down to the Tusk or drive over to the Chukker occasionally to see a show. The bands, bars and people made a big impression on me. So now, whenever I get the chance to play in Tuscaloosa, it’s a real treat for me.”
Pitts holds a close friendship with headliner Blaine Duncan that goes back to days in their hometown of Sulligent, Ala.
“I met Blaine in high school,” Pitts said. “We both got into Bob Dylan at about the same time and would drive around listening to ‘The Basement Tapes,’ ‘Nashville Skyline’ and ‘Blood on the Tracks.’ We’ve been close ever since.”
The Bear’s sound is a nice blend of traditionally country-infused instruments, like the banjo, with a more sultry and rock-based sound. It’s hard to fully describe, but I can tell you that it is exceptionally good. Doc Dailey is also awesome, and I must say, without any grace, that this show is going to be amazing. I know a few of these guys, and they are nice and humble, but most of all, they are the real deal. Come to Green Bar on Saturday and indulge yourself in some Southern music that won’t make you cringe.
On a small aside, this will be my last column for the Crimson White, so I would like to thank the staffers I’ve gotten to know over the years, the readers who have told me that they liked the work and the musicians who took time out of their lives for some college kid’s silly questions. I’ve appreciated the experience, and I hope I get to cover this state’s awesome music somewhere else in the future.