The Muscle Shoals Sound
Music fans make pilgrimages to Muscle Shoals in northwest Alabama to see where some of the biggest hits of the 1960s and ’70s were recorded. That verse in Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” about the Swampers is a reference to a group of session musicians in Muscle Shoals who recorded with some of the biggest names in music, including Paul Simon, Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin. Many songs you know by heart were recorded in Muscle Shoals at FAME Recording Studios (603 E. Avalon Ave. Muscle Shoals, Ala. 256-381-0801, fame2.com) and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio (closed for renovations but you can still visit for outside photo ops: 3614 Jackson Highway, Sheffield, Ala. 256-394-3562, facebook.com/muscleshoalssound).
Callaghan’s Irish Social Club
In the quiet, shady Oakleigh Garden District of Mobile resides one of the best small music venues in all the South. Callaghan’s Irish Social Club (916 Charleston St., Mobile. 251-433-9374, callaghansirishsocialclub.com) was established in the 1940s and today features up-and-coming and established Americana acts and singer-songwriters performing in a tableside environment. Alabama Shakes performed there on their way up, as did many others, so if you want to see the next big act before they graduate to bigger venues, this is the place. Callaghan’s is also known for its burgers spiked with a local delicacy, Conecuh sausage.
The revitalized Avondale district east of downtown Birmingham is booming. Avondale Brewing Co. (201 41st St. S., Birmingham. 205-777-5456, avondalebrewing.com) has become a musical hotbed in the city. The brewery has a large courtyard with a permanent stage that plays host to a concert series and festivals throughout the year, including the popular Cask & Drum ($25-$35. caskanddrum.com) each October. Notable acts such as the Drive-By Truckers and local favorites Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires have performed at previous festivals.