Like Hank Williams Jr. said in song, “I was one of the chosen few to be born in Alabam’.”
I came to Port Townsend from the land of Southern hospitality – a place that fills the belly and feeds the soul, where the only thing sweeter than the people is the tea.
As nice as it is in the Pacific Northwest, I sometimes miss the swelter of an unforgiving sun or the scent of a fast-approaching summer storm.
When I find myself aching for those missing parts of home, I turn to music – to the songs that mimic the subtle cadence of cicadas, the rusty pitch of a porch swing, the lonesome rumble of distant thunder – to remind me of where I’m from and to connect me to the familiar.
Even though nothing takes me back faster than that famous opening riff, Lynyrd Skynryd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” is more than a little obvious. To dirt roads with windows down, “Simple Man” and “Call Me The Breeze” transport me there just the same.
Songs like Little Milton’s “Grits Ain’t Groceries” and B.B. King’s “Sweet Thing,” their electric blues and soulful voices evoke the ruthless heat and sultry humidity of home. With every plucking guitar riff and gritty wailing word, I can almost feel the sticky sweat on my skin and smell the wild honeysuckle in the air.
With the banjo’s rolling twang in Bobbie Gentry’s “Rainmaker,” I’m immediately barefoot on a back porch, surrounded by spent rinds of watermelon.
Lines from Tom Petty’s “Southern Accents” like: “I got my own way of talkin’/But everything is done/With a southern accent/Where I come from” make me yearn for the wonderful melody of “y’alls” and “yonders” that flutter and spark in conversation like fireflies in the night.
The dancing piano keys of “Dixie Chicken” by Little Feat, the rollicking guitar strings of “Speedo” by The Youngbloods, the vocals that chug along in Ike and Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary” all erupt into a flurry of southern soul that makes my country heart beat a little faster. “Listen close to the guitar man/A native son in a foreign land” – accompanied by a similar southern sound, it’s the lyrics of Atlanta Rhythm Section’s “Homesick” that call me homeward.
From “Plain to See Plainsman” by Colter Wall, the words “Let me die in the country that I love the most” also make me daydream of Alabama the Beautiful.
Echoing after the first refrain and piercing my homesick soul are the lines: “I know when I’m gray and I know when I’m old/These bones will cry out for the place they were born.”
This isn’t a love letter to my home state and I’m not just here to say “Roll Tide.” This is Liner Notes, a column to talk about the thing that makes the world go ’round: music. I want this to be a way to connect the community through song.
I’ll be putting together a community-wide playlist and I need your input.
In my short time here, I’ve come to realize that almost everyone here is from somewhere else, so I want to know the songs that remind you of where you’re from.
Let’s talk about ’em – email me, call me, snail mail me, or whatever.