“You’re in rock and roll heaven, man.” That’s how Keith Richards describes Muscle Shoals, Alabama, the small town with the big sound and the subject of Greg “Freddy” Camalier’s recent documentary about the unlikely breeding ground for some of America’s most creative and defiant music.
Yes, Muscle Shoals has been out for months now. But if you haven’t seen it yet, consider this a strong recommendation — especially if you live in the south. We get a bad rap sometimes, pigeonholed by the rest of the country as simple-minded, country-music-lovin’ rednecks. Sometimes that’s true. But as this documentary so eloquently points out, sometimes things are not what they seem.
For example, take the fact that some of the most legendary hits came from the small Alabama town located alongside the Tennessee River: “I’ll Take You There,” “Brown Sugar,” “When a Man Loves a Woman,” “I Never Loved A Man the Way That I Loved You,” “Mustang Sally,” “Tell Mama,” “Kodachrome,” “Sitting in Limbo,” “Free Bird,” and “Mainstreet” are among them. Yeah. Who’d a thought? And then there are The Swampers, the FAME studio’s house band with so much soul, the three nerdy white guys were often mistaken for black musicians.
And at the heart of this film, there’s Rick Hall, the founder of FAME studios who created a haven for black and white musicians to come together through music. Doing so at the peak of racial hostilities, he shepherded the creation of songs and even genres that have become seminal while also giving birth to the unique “Muscle Shoals sound.” And that sound attracted the likes of legendary musicians such as The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Paul Simon, Wilson Pickett and too many others to list here. And many of these artists offer up raw and candid interviews about their experiences recording in such a musical, and even magical place.
As part of your new year’s resolution, learn about this little-known piece of rock and roll history and watch Muscle Shoals. It’s in select theaters across the country and also available to view via On Demand and iTunes.
Watch the trailer below: