Both culturally and geographically, Tuscaloosa is far from the wetlands of southeast Florida. But Walter Parks, vocalist and guitarist of Swamp Cabbage, plans on musically transporting his audience straight to the bayou during the band’s performance Sunday, Dec. 2, at the Bama Theatre.
Swamp Cabbage will be participating in Bama Theatre’s Acoustic Night series, an event showcasing local and out-of-town singer-songwriters to the Tuscaloosa community.
“I think of Swamp Cabbage as sort of the soundtrack that might go along with travels into [southeast Florida], especially into the marshes and the swamps,” Parks said.
Parks, along with bassist Jim DeVito and drummer Jagoda, formed Swamp Cabbage in 2001. Since then, the band has released three albums of original work. This June, the trio released an album full of swamp-ified 70s cover songs titled “Drum Roll Please.”
“What we wanted to do with the cover record was do these songs in way that they’d never been done before,” said Parks. “It’s essential that we interpret everything honestly through this trio format – guitar, bass and drums.”
Swamp Cabbage draws inspiration from a variety of Southern musical influences, including Texas blues, Southern rock, funk, soul and a wide variety of other genres. The band incorporates the beats of New Orleans parade music as well as the grooves of Appalachian fiddle music and the soul of Southern gospel music, tying all of these musical styles together to create their swampy, blues-rock sound.
Before Swamp Cabbage, Parks built his career playing guitar alongside Woodstock legend Richie Havens. Parks credits his background touring with Havens as being the one of the cornerstones for developing his gnarly, funky musical style that he would later incorporate into Swamp Cabbage.
Parks said Havens encouraged him to branch out and discover his own identity as a musician.
“Richie encouraged me to try to find my own voice,” he said. “He wanted to give me the space to play his music with my own influence. And what I’ve tried to do with Swamp Cabbage is to try to inspire the band members that we have in the group to have influence over the Swamp Cabbage sound, but in their own style as well.”
Through the band, Parks hopes to continually reinvent and revitalize the way he creates music.
“There’s nothing more boring to me than just listening to standard treatments of anything,” Parks said. “I feel like I was put on this earth to try to do something unique with my musical talents.”
Swamp Cabbage will be performing with special guests Have Mersey during Acoustic Night.
Kevin Ledgewood, publicity for the Bama Theatre, said Acoustic Night attracts a wide variety of music lovers due to its diverse performers, smoke-free environment and early starting time of 7:30 p.m.
“The fan base for Acoustic Night has grown steadily over the years to standing-room only crowds, including those with varied musical tastes and a wide variety of ages,” Ledgewood said.
Ledgewood said past Acoustic Nights have featured artists from all over the country, as well some European acts.
This Sunday won’t be Parks’ first time in Tuscaloosa, or even at the Bama Theatre. He has previously performed at the Bama Theatre with Havens and as a solo act, and he said he is excited to play there again.
“I feel like the people in Tuscaloosa really get me, I feel like they really get my music,” Parks said. “Every time we see Tuscaloosa on the calendar, it gives me a smile, and I just can’t wait to come back to town. We’re really looking forward to it.”
Acoustic Night will be on Sunday, Dec. 2 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. There will be a $5 cover charge that goes toward the bands, and the Bama Bar will be open. For more information, visit bamatheatre.org.