“From Muscle Shoals to Mistletoe, Merry Christmas, y’all.” So begins the wonderful Christmas CD, From Muscle Shoals to Mistletoe, produced by Will McFarlane & Fathers&Sons. It is Christmas Carols plus Southern Funk—a distinctly Alabama take on the traditional songs.
The Muscle Shoals/Florence, Alabama area is rich with song—a tradition that goes back many yars.
Wikipedia: “Both the city [of Muscle Shoals] and thee Florence-Muscle Shoals Metropolitan Area (including four cities in Colbert and Lauderdale counties) are commonly called “the Shoals.” Northwest Alabama Regional Airport serves the Shoals region, located in the northwest section of the state.
Since the 1960s, the city has been known for music—developing the “Muscle Shoals Sound,” as local recording studios (including FAME Studios in the late 1950s and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in 1969) produced hit records that shaped the history of popular music.
Due to its strategic location along the Tennessee River, Muscle Shoals played a key role in historic land disputes between Native Americans and Anglo-American settlers in the late 18thcentury and early 19th century…
A number of rock, R&B and country music celebrities have homes in the area surrounding Muscle Shoals (Tuscumbia), or riverside estates along the Tennessee River, and often perform in area nightclubs, typically rehearsing new material.
Muscle Shoals encouraged the cross-pollination of musical stuyles. Black artists from the area…used white country music styles in their work, and white artists from the Shoals frequently borrowed from the blues/gospel influences of their black contemporaries, creating a distinct sound…
Sister city Florence, Alabama, is frequently referred to as ‘the birthplace of the Blues.’ W.C. Handy was born in Florence and is generally regarded as the ‘Father of the Blues.’ Every year since 1982, the W.C. Handy Music Festival is held in the Florence/Sheffield/Muscle Shoals area, featuring blues, jazz, country, gospel, rock music and R&B. The roster of jazz musicians known as the ‘Festival All-Stars,’ or as the ‘W.C. Handy Jazz All-Stars,’ includes musicians from all over the United States….”
The New Yorker: “Muscle Shoals remains remarkable not just for the music made there but for tis unlikeliness as an epicenter of anything; that a tiny town in a quiet corner of Alabama became a hotbed of progressive, integrated rhythm and blues still feels inexplicable. Whatever [Rick Hall, founder of FAME] conjured there—whatever he dreamt, and made real—is essential to any recounting of American ingenuity. It is a testament to a certain kind of hope.”
From Muscle Shoals to Mistletoe gives us something old, something new, and, despite the European origin of the songs, something distinctly American.
Nick Tosches: “That ‘new fashion in American popular music’ that Handy spoke of…it was not born of anything pure. The true story of ‘The Memphis Blues’…is the story of American music itself: the story of the black stealing from the black, the white from the white, and the one from the other; of Tin Pan Alley songs culled from the air and taken into the pines and the fields, gone feral and misperceived as primitive folk expression, of ancient breezes from those pines and those fields drifting endless anew through the rhythms of generations…Blackface, white face, false face. ‘Originality is but high-born stealth.’ These may be the only words written by Edward Dahlberg that are worth remembering; and who knows where he got them” (Where Dead Voices Gather).