My favorite things Alabama

1. Popular music.  Emmylou Harris is from Birmingham and I like her albums with Gram Parsons.  "The New Soft Shoe" is an excellent song.  While I appreciate Nat King Cole in the abstract I never choose to put it on.  Lionel Richie has a nice voice but the sound is too bland for my taste.

2. Painter: The early Howard Finster is excellent, although he churned out weak material for a long time later on.

3. Jazz: Lionel Hampton is the obvious choice, but I will pick Sun Ra, who is a musical god of sorts for me.  Jazz in Silhouette is the best place to start, although it does not communicate the overall diversity of his work.  He remains an underrated musical figure.

4. Country music: Hank Williams.  Even if you hate country music you should buy the two CDs of his collected works.  I also love Shelby Lynne; start with I am Shelby Lynne.

5. Bluegrass: The Louvin Brothers.  Tragic Songs of Life is one of my favorite albums as it has a deeply scary and tragic feel; again you can love it even if you hate country and bluegrass.  Do you know the song "The Great Atomic Power"?

6. Writer: I can't make my way through To Kill a Mockingbird.  Who else is there?  Wasn't one of Charles Barkley's books funny?  I've never finished a Tobias Wolff novel, too stilted.  Booker T. Washington and Martin Luther King were very good writers, though they don't quite fit the category.  Same for James Agee.  Truman Capote would be an easy pick except I don't enjoy his books.  Zora Neale Hurston was born in the state though I am inclined to classify her under "Florida."

7. Quilters: From Gee's Bend, Alabama, there is an entire tradition.  The traveling exhibits of these works are excellent.

8. Gospel: Blind Boys of Alabama.  They transfer better to disc than do a lot of gospel groups.

9. Song, about: Don't go there.

10. Movie, shot inClose Encounters of the Third Kind.  As for "Movie, set in" here is a worrying list.  Maybe I'll go with Fried Green Tomatoes, although the book is supposed to be better and more open about the sexuality of the main characters.

The bottom line: There are some major stars here and I haven't even mentioned the famous athletes.


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