They Come from Alabama?

270px-Alabama_in_United_States.svgLittle known fact, well, maybe not that little known, but a fact nonetheless, I was born in L.A., as in Lower Alabama.  Though to either my saving, or failing grace (depending on your personal biases) I was born on a military base, in a military hospital, which I believe qualifies as quasi neutral territory, and only my first 24 months of existence were spent there – so whatever memories I have there are spotty and vague.  That being said though, I did spend the vast majority of my life in the southeastern United States, and I have heard plenty of jokes about that region; hell, I’ve even made a few jokes about it myself.

One belief held by many, particularly many who believe that the universe rotates around a certain northeastern island, that was bartered away from the natives for a few trinkets, is that once you cross below Washington DC, then you have essentially entered the unchartered hinterlands of the third world.  That is to say that a not too insubstantial amount of people believe that the South is an uncouth backwater, and not too far from being populated by tobacco chewing Cro-Magnons.  A land where fire is still considered state of the art, and electricity is magic.

Sorry to disappoint everyone, but indoor plumbing, electricity, and even the internet, all do exist in the South; and I can assure you, as someone who has also lived north of Washington DC, as one who has been to that bartered island, and one who has seen most of the rest of this country (35 of the 50 states), that the South is NOT a back-water, lodged deep in the Dark Ages.  Are there hicks there?  Yep, you betcha; but you know what?  In my experience there are hicks everywhere.  Doesn’t everyone just listen to country music down there?  Um, no, and there are plenty of “sophisticated” northerners who love them some country music.  Plus, one town in the South was ground zero for one of the biggest, and culturally relevant bands of the last 20-30 years.  That town is Athens Georgia, and the band was R.E.M., and the B-52s, Widespread Panic, Drive By Truckers, as well as others hail from that small-ish southern town too.

Birthday IslandTo further my defense of the South, particularly music from the South, is the band below, called “Plains,” from the plains of my birth state, Alabama; and they have been kind enough to share their entire latest album, Birthday Island, with everyone, for free (see below).  The first thing I was expecting, was to hear some sort of “southern rock,” and/or, stereotypically, some sort of country inspired music – boy was I pleasantly surprised.  The music has that indie, “college band,” with a whiff of “surf guitar” sound in there; along with a tinge of electronic synth too.  Sure, the third track has a certain country – maybe rockabilly? – element to it, but to call it country music would be a mistake.  The college thing makes sense, as, I believe, they are based out of Auburn Alabama, which, like Athens Georgia, is home to a university, in Plains case it is Auburn University (Athens Georgia is home to The University of Georgia).  correction:  Plains actually hail from Montevallo, AL, home of the University of Montevallo; and located on the plains of Alabama -Ed.

I am now on the third rotation of listening to Birthday Island, and I have to say that it is REALLY growing on me – in fact just as I typed that last little bit there, something hit.  That something is the sound, there is a band that I have heard before which Plains does have a similar (not exact, but similar) sound as, and that band is Rooney; particularly Rooney’s first album – and Rooney is NOT from the South, they’re from L.A., the real one, in California.  Anyway, I encourage you guys to give Plains’ Birthday Island a listen to below.  I have a suspicion that many of you will enjoy it; even many above Washington DC, and heaven forbid, some on that bartered island might even like it too . . .