As a band that so successfully blended elements of country with Southern rock, it should come as no surprise that Alabama’s influence runs wide. Helping to celebrate their 40 years of music, top Americana, roots and traditional artists pay homage to the Country Music Hall of Famers on High Cotton: A Tribute To Alabama.
Available now, High Cotton is the alt-country cousin to many of Alabama’s most well-known songs. From the opening pluck of an upright bass on JD McPherson’s “Why Lady Why,” it’s evident that this project is going to offer artists’ interpretations rather than note-for-note recreations. The stunning, stripped down version of “Old Flame,” performed by Jason Isbell and The Civil Wars’ John Paul White, illuminates the song’s sorrow with haunting harmonies, pained acoustic notes and fiddle. Jessica Lea Mayfield’s surreal, slow-mo version of “I’m In A Hurry (And Don’t Know Why)” delivers a totally different experience than the urgent original while T. Hardy Morris’ dreamy psychedelic take on the title track almost doubles the length of the song.
What is so interesting about High Cotton is what it reveals about Alabama’s writing. Alt-country/bluegrass legends Old Crow Medicine Show take on the classic “Dixieland Delight,” and when making it their own with rambling banjo and flying fiddle, show that Alabama’s songwriting transcends genres. Continuing along those lines, who would have thought Alabama had so much in common with Bob Seger? Well, Tennessee garage country band Lucero for starters as their cover of “The Closer You Get” ably injects the tune with a strong dose of “Night Moves.”
A diverse group of artists contribute to High Cotton and the project’s overall sound reflects that. Ranging from classic country on Amanda Shires’ “I Can’t Love You Any Less” through to Jason Boland & The Stragglers’ outlaw stomp on “Mountain Music” and The Blind Boys of Alabama’s jazzy strut on “Christmas In Dixie,” High Cotton delivers a unique experience with a fresh sound. When Todd Snider and Elizabeth Cook duet on “Feels So Right,” the intimacy of the recording is a pleasant contrast to the distortion of Lucero and the rising pulse of the Wade Bowen and Brandy Clark duet “Love In The First Degree.”
The 14-track High Cotton is a thoughtful tribute project that allows its performers to reinvent a hit list of Alabama classics. By recreating these songs in a new and unique way, High Cotton successfully delivers a new artistic vision while showcasing the timeless and universal nature of Alabama’s enduring legacy.
Key Track – “Dixieland Delight,” “Old Flame,” “Mountain Music,” “Why Lady Why”