Chris Stapleton, Steven Tyler + More Celebrate Muscle Shoals on New Tribute Album
Some of the biggest legends and contemporary artists from across all genres of music have joined together to pay tribute to the enduring legacy of Muscle Shoals on a new album titled Muscle Shoals ... Small Town, Big Sound.
Steven Tyler, Chris Stapleton, Willie Nelson, Vince Gill and more are among the musicians who've cut new recordings of some of the most famous songs to come out of Muscle Shoals in new performances. They've breathed new life into classic songs from the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Etta James and more that were originally cut in Muscle Shoals, Ala., in the '50s, '60s and '70s, reimagining them in new performances that saw most of them travel to FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals to record with local musicians.
One of the highlights of the project is Tyler's rendition of the Stones' "Brown Sugar," which features Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt shredding on electric guitar. Bettencourt found the experience magical.
"You don't get many chances in life, or in your career, to travel back in time like we just did in Muscle Shoals," he reflects. "Most historic places you visit, you can physically touch it. But while recording 'Brown Sugar' in Muscle Shoals, we were the ones being touched. You could feel the spirit, the ghosts, but more importantly, emotion... deep down."
See Inside the Sessions at FAME Studios!
That track is also special to Marie Lewey, one of the Shoals Sisters, who lend their soulful backing vocals to eight of the tracks.
"Steven Tyler, Nuno Bettencourt and his team were not what I would have expected," she admits. "They were so warm, fun and all in. They must have had their doubts about how soulful three pasty white chicks could be, but I will never forget their reaction in the control room when we rared back and sang the first chorus. Great memories."
Nelson, Stapleton, Jamey Johnson and Lee Ann Womack all teamed for Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody," another standout track on an album full of standout tracks. Alan Jackson re-interpreted another Stones song, "Wild Horses," while artists as diverse as Kid Rock, Michael McDonald, Grace Potter, Alison Krauss, Jason Isbell and John Paul White also lent their talents to the project.
Brent Smith has seen his share of success as the lead singer in Shinedown, but his rendition of "Mustang Sally" gave him the opportunity to experience a slice of music history.
"If you stop for a moment and think about the most influential songs of all time, I guarantee you a vast majority of those songs were recorded in Muscle Shoals," he states. "Whether it be rhythm and blues, soul or rock and roll. FAME Studios and Muscle Shoals was, and is, all about the artist, the songs, and the attitude."
Producer and publisher Rodney Hall co-owns FAME Studios, and he served as executive producer on Muscle Shoals…Small Town, Big Sound. He also curated the project along with Grammy, ACM and CMA Award-winning producer Keith Stegall. Hall's late father, Rick Hall, is widely known as the Father of the Muscle Shoals Sound, and the new album includes some of his final productions.
Rick Hall died in January after a battle with cancer, but his son says his legacy lives on in the rich musical heritage he helped create.
“The sound is one-of-a-kind,” Rodney Hall reflects. “When younger artists hear all of the music that came out of here over the past five decades, they want to check it out. This album is special because it brings together artists that have been inspired by the magic of the Muscle Shoals Sound.”
Muscle Shoals ... Small Town, Big Sound is dedicated to Rick Hall’s memory. A portion of the proceeds from the album will go to benefit the Grammy Foundation, the Muscle Shoals Music Association and the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation. The album is set for release through all digital music retailers on Sept. 28. It is currently available for pre-order.
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