Folk-rock-pop-country band continues Alabama’s musical legacy
Belle Adair is a folk-rock-pop-country band from a legendary American music locale, Muscle Shoals, Ala.
In the 1960s and ’70s, a searing run of soul hits came from Muscle Shoals, home of FAME Studios and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.
That golden discography includes Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman,” Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools” and Wilson Pickett’s remake of New Orleans singer-songwriter Chris Kenner’s “Land of 1,000 Dances.”
Wanting that Muscle Shoals sound, the Rolling Stones (“Wild Horses”) and Paul Simon (“Love Me Like a Rock”) went down to Alabama, too.
The legacy of Muscle Shoals’ music was still unavoidable when singer-songwriter Matt Green was a kid there in the 1980s and ’90s.
“Growing up here, you can’t really escape it,” Green said. “Everyone around here is very proud.”
As glorious as his hometown’s past was, there’s terrific music being made now by local talent in The Shoals, as the quad-city area of Muscle Shoals, Florence, Sheffield and Tuscumbia is known.
“There’s a resurgence and energy going on in the area,” Green said. “In the past three years, the number of good bands that I’ve seen in town has grown exponentially. I’m 30 years old. There are so many younger bands and kids who I don’t really know personally, but I’ve seen them play and they’re great.”
Green draws encouragement from his hometown’s history.
“Even though Belle Adair, for instance, is not an R&B or soul outfit, what the town is known for, what I can take from that is that you can be in a small town and still make music your life’s work. To me, that’s the most inspiring thing about the music that was made here in the past.”
Besides Green, Belle Adair features pedal steel guitarist Daniel Stoddard, bassist Chris James, drummer Patrick McDonald and, when he’s not working with the big-time Alabama Shakes, keyboard player Ben Tanner.
Green and Belle Adair’s songs owe more to folk-rock-poet Bob Dylan, the jangling guitar and poignant singing of the early Byrds members Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark and the British invasion-touched Memphis pop-rock band Big Star, featuring singer-songwriters Chris Bell and Alex Chilton.
“I’ll take any Alex Chilton comparisons I can get,” Green said. “He was a super-talented songwriter. The softness of his voice, I have that same sort of softness, but he could do it all. Sometimes he sounded like a gruff blues man but, a lot of the Big Star stuff, it’s pretty fragile, especially their last record. It always feels like everything is about to fall apart.
Louisiana singer-songwriter Bobby Charles, composer of “Walking to New Orleans” and “(I Don’t Know Why I Love You) But I Do,” is another of Green’s favorites.
“He’s my best reference point for Louisiana artists,” Green said. “Most of the artists I gravitate to, there’s some sort of limitation in what they do. They figure out a way to make the most out of that limitation.”
Belle Adair makes its Louisiana debut Saturday at Mud and Water.