No'Ala Huntsville, July/August 2012

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July/August 2012

ON THE COVER: Each year, our Entertainment issue takes a look at rising stars in north Alabama to give you a glance at the amazing talent that this part of the world fosters. Ally Burnett, on the cover, and Rob Aldridge, on this page, are just two of them, all of whom you will meet up close in this issue.



inside HUN TSVILLE ••••• July/August 2012 Volume 1: Issue 2 ••• C. Allen Tomlinson Editor-In-Chief David Sims Managing Editor/Design Director Contributing Writers Amy Cruce, Sarah Gaede, Susan Guthrie, Evelyn Hurley, Laura Anders Lee, Matt Patrick, Erin Reid, Claire Stewart, Andy Thigpen, Allen Tomlinson, Margaret J. Vann Contributing Photographers Sarah Bloemker Brewer, Glass Jar Photography, David Higginbotham, Patrick Hood, Keri Klaus, Danny Mitchell

Features 14 A New Spin on Vinyl 20 End the Week on a High Note 24 North Alabama Musicians: Up Close 50 Mac McAnally: The Man Behind the Music 56 A Renovation of Historic Proportions 64 Poetry and Photography Showcase 68 A Theater With a Purpose Everything Else 10 Calendar 46 Market 74 Food for Thought 78 Twenty Questions 80 Bless Their Hearts 82 Parting Shot

Business Manager Roy Hall Marketing Coordinator/Advertising Sales Lyndsie McClure Graphic Designer Rowan Finnegan Editorial Assistant Claire Stewart Interns Andy Thigpen, Sara Kachelman ••• No’Ala is published six times annually by No’Ala Press PO Box 2530, Florence, AL 35630 Phone: 800-779-4222 | Fax: 256-766-4106 Web: Standard postage paid at Huntsville, AL. A one-year subscription is $19.95 for delivery in the United States. Signed articles reflect only the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors. Advertisers are solely responsible for the content of their advertisements. © 2008-2012 No’Ala Press, All rights reserved. Send all correspondence to Allen Tomlinson, Editor, at the postal address above, or by e-mail to Letters may be edited for space and style. To advertise, contact us at: 256-766-4222, or The editor will provide writer’s guidelines upon request. Prospective authors should not submit unsolicited manuscripts; please query the editor first.

No’Ala is printed with vegetable-based inks on 100% recycled paper.

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editor’s letter « David Sims « 7

“Thank you. Thank you very much.”

—The King

Welcome to the second issue of No’Ala for Huntsville, our annual Entertainment issue. We’ve been producing this look at up-and-coming talent in north Alabama for the past several years through our Shoals publication, and we’re delighted to help bring broader attention to some rather amazing entertainers, songwriters, artists and writers from across the state. For those of you who are subscribers to our magazine, there’s a bonus in this issue: Burritt on the Mountain, sponsors of the hugely popular City Lights and Stars summer concert series, have made it possible for you to actually hear the music from the artists you will read about by producing an audio CD which is included with your magazine. There are a limited number of additional CDs available for free, at Burritt, but it’s first come, first served—so get up there and ask for a copy, and while you’re there enjoy the attractions! Our premiere Huntsville issue was warmly received, and we were humbled and delighted by the comments you shared with us. In this issue, you’ll learn a little more about award-winning singer/songwriters Mac McAnally and John Paul White; hear about a remarkable dance program at Merrimack; travel back in time as we discuss the recent renovation of the Joe Wheeler Home in Courtland; and an in-depth look at thirteen musical artists whose names you might see in lights someday. (In the Shoals, for our first Entertainment issue four years ago we spotlighted a young man named John Paul White who later rose to fame as part of the singing duo The Civil Wars. You never know!) If you’re old enough to remember vinyl records, check out the feature about Vertical House Records. (If you aren’t old enough to remember vinyl records, you need to march down there and let someone tell you about this important part of our musical heritage. It’s what we all used before we got our MP-3 players.) We think of ourselves as cheerleaders here at No’Ala Press; we want to bring attention to the wonderful people, places and things that make north Alabama such a special place. You’ll find that we have a bias toward locally owned businesses, local people, and local organizations who are working hard to make a difference and make this place unique. We always want to hear from you, if you think there are stories out there to be told. Feel free to let us know what you’d like to see—or what you like that you see… and thank you for such a warm welcome to the Huntsville area!

No’Ala’s Shoals magazine was once again honored at the Southeastern Magazine Publisher’s Association Gamma Awards presentation with nine awards, including four Gold Gammas, the most of any publishing company in our category. A sincere and humble thank you to the writers, photographers and wonderful subjects in the Shoals who made it possible to gain these accolades from our peers.

We’re An Advertiser’s Best Friend We’re new to the Huntsville area, but we’re old pros when it comes to the publishing business. We’re a group of writers, designers, photographers, and business professionals who believe that people want to read interesting, informative, and entertaining journalism about their community and the people who live here. We are actively involved in the community, and we are cheerleaders for independent business owners, local talent, and the special things that make this the best spot on earth to live. Want us to help tell your story? Get in touch! We are looking for advertisers, partners and ideas for stories. We’d love to hear from you!


N O ’A L A H U N T S V I L L E ADV IS ORY B OAR D Jennifer Doss Huntsville Symphony Orchestra Leslie Ecklund Burritt on the Mountain Dan Halcomb Huntsville Symphony Orchestra Jeff Johnson Terramé Day Spa & Salon Elizabeth Jones Burritt on the Mountain Ginger Penney Liles Matthew Liles AIDS Action Coalition Patrick Robbins Alabama Pain Center Charles Vaughn Vaughn Lumber Company Anna Baker Warren Anna Baker Warren Interiors

But don’t take our word for it… “No’Ala readers are our audience: upscale, educated, with discretionary income. They produce a beautiful publication that our audience reads, and what more could we want our advertising to do? It’s a great partnership.” Dan Halcomb Huntsville Symphony Orchestra

800.779.4222 Post Office Box 2530 · Florence, Alabama 35630 · Photo by Danny Mitchell for No’Ala

About Event Photos We love to publish photos from your events— and our readers tell us they love to see them. However, in order to retain our sanity so that we can continue to bring you these pictures, we need to have a few rules. Please make a note, and we’ll all be happy! Event pictures are FREE. We publish them as space is available, but space is limited. We’ll try to squeeze you in, but we can’t promise. We need at least eight (for a half page) photos, a mixture of vertical and horizontal. They must be large! Photos that look great on Facebook aren’t large enough for print quality. High resolution, please. We need the name of the event, the location, and the date it was held. The people in the photos MUST be identified. This is our greatest cause of stress, because even though we know a lot of people, we don’t know everyone. If you are picturing large groups or crowd shots, this rule does not apply, but for anything else, if we don’t have names, the pictures won’t get printed. Spelling is your responsibility, too. You may mail a disc or thumb drive, or email the photos and the names of the people in them. Our physical address is 250 S. Poplar Street, Florence, AL 35630; our email address is Thanks!


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July 2 Concerts in the Park 6:30pm to 8:00pm; Free; Big Spring International Park, July 4 Spirit of America Festival and Fireworks All day; Free; Point Mallard Park in Decatur; July 4 Fourth of July Celebration and Fireworks Display 2:00pm–10:00pm; Free; Dublin Memorial Park at 8324 Madison Pike, (256) 772-9300. July 5 Greene Street Market 4:00pm–8:00pm; Free; 208 Eustis Avenue at Greene Street; July 5 Thursday Night Concert Series: Rocket City Brass 6:00pm; Free; Huntsville-Madison County Public Library, 915 Monroe St.; (256) 532-5975; July 6 Concert on the Docks 6:00pm; Free; Lowe Mill; 2211 Seminole Drive; (256) 533-0399; July 6 First Friday Free; 5:00pm; Huntsville Art League; 3005 L&N Drive; (256) 5343860; July 6 Jim Parker’s Songwriters Series 6:30pm; From $20; Von Braun Center Playhouse; 700 Monroe Street; (256) 533-1953; July 6 Monkey Speak Open mic night. 8:00pm; $5; Flying Monkey at Lowe Mill; July 7 Sci-Quest Parents’ Night Out 6:00pm–9:00pm; $20 for first child, $15 for additional children ages 4-12; 102 D Wynn Drive; (256) 837-0606; July 9 Concerts in the Park 6:30pm to 8;00pm; Free; Big Spring International Park;

July 12 BBQ and Bluegrass Free; 5:00pm; Huntsville Museum of Art; 300 Church Street; (256) 535-4350; July 12 Dine and Dash Trolley tour of downtown restaurants; 6:00pm; $30; Various locations; (256) 683-0966; July 13 Concert on the Docks 6:00pm; Free; Lowe Mill; July 13-15 Tennessee Valley Hunting and Fishing Expo Friday, 4:00pm–10:00pm; Saturday, 9:00am–9:00pm; Sunday, 10:00am–5:00pm $12; Von Braun Center; 700 Monroe Street; (256) 571-7355; July 13–14 Greater Tennessee Valley Antique Car Show Free; Point Mallard Park in Decatur; (800) 524-6181; July 13–15; July 20-22 North Alabama Community College Presents Second Samuel Friday–Saturday, 7:00pm; Sunday, 2:00pm; $5; 138 Alabama Highway 35, (218) 638-4418. July 13–15 Theatre Huntsville presents The Musical of Musicals Friday–Saturday, 7:30pm; Sunday, 2:00pm, $20 adults and $18 for students, military and seniors; Von Braun Center Playhouse; 700 Monroe Street Huntsville; (256) 536-0807; July 14 Jimmy Henderson blues concert 8:00pm; $5; Flying Monkey at Lowe Mill; July 15 Love Fest 4:00pm; Free with donation of school supplies; Lowe Mill; (256) 533-0399, July 15 Author Event: Wanda Vaughn 2:00pm; Free; Huntsville-Madison County Public Library; 915 Monroe St.; (256) 532-5940;

July 9 Bollywood Film Series: Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara 6:00pm; Free; Huntsville-Madison County Public Library; 915 Monroe St.; (256) 532-5975; July 10 The Boys and Girls Club Leaders and Legends Honor’s Dinner Featuring Coach Nick Saban 7:00pm; Tables of 8 at $2,000; Von Braun Civic Center; 700 Monroe Street; (256) 534-6060; July 12 Greene Street Market 4:00pm–8:00pm; Free; 208 Eustis Avenue at Greene Street;

July 15 Folk Music Festival at Burritt on the Mountain

July 15 Folk Music Festival at Burritt on the Mountain Noon to 5:00pm; Free; 3101 Burritt Drive; (256) 536-2882;

July 23 Concerts in the Park 6:30pm to 8:00pm; Free; Big Spring International Park;

July 16 Concerts in the Park 6:30pm to 8:00pm, Free; Big Spring International Park;

July 23 Bollywood Film Series: Om Shanti Om 6:00pm; Free; Huntsville-Madison County Public Library; 915 Monroe Street; (256) 532-5975;

July 16 Bollywood Film Series: Jab We Met 6:00pm; Free; Huntsville-Madison County Public Library; 915 Monroe St.; (256) 532-5975,

July 24 Huntsville-Madison County Public Library’s Paint the Night Away 6:30pm; $35; 5000 Whitesburg Drive, Suite 130; (256) 532-5940;

July 17 Neil White’s presentation of his memoir In the Sanctuary of Outcasts 11:45am; $25; Von Braun Center; 700 Monroe Street; (256) 5325975; July 19–21 Theatre Huntsville presents The Musical of Musicals 7:30pm three nights and a 2:00pm show Saturday; $20 adults and $18 for students, military and seniors; Von Braun Center Playhouse; 700 Monroe Street; (256) 536-0807; July 19 Sidewalk Arts Stroll: A Downtown Marketplace 4:30; Free; Courthouse Square; (256) 534-8376. July 19 Greene Street Market 4:00pm–8:00pm; Free; 208 Eustis Avenue at Greene Street; July 19 Thursday Night Concert Series: The Children’s Crusade 6:00pm; Free; Huntsville-Madison County Public Library; 915 Monroe Street; (256) 532-5940; July 20 Concert on the Docks 6:00pm; Free; Lowe Mill; July 20 Sitting Up with the Dead 6:00pm–11:00pm; $22.50 with meal; Huntsville-Madison County Public Library; 915 Monroe Street; (256) 532-5940; July 20 Sci-Quest Parents’ Night Out 6:00pm–9:00pm; $20 for first child; $15 for additional children ages 4-12; 102 D Wynn Drive; (256) 837-0606; July 20 Concert on the Docks: Christabel and the Jons 6:00pm; Free; Lowe Mill; (256) 533-0399; July 20 City Lights Concert Series at Burritt on the Mountain 7:30pm; $10/members; $12/in advance or $15/non-members; 3101 Burritt Drive; (256) 536-2882; July 20 Third Friday 5:00pm–8:00pm; Free; Bank Street and Second Avenue in Decatur; (256) 350-2028. July 21 Big Brothers Big Sisters Wet Dog Triathlon 7:00am; $40; Point Mallard Park in Decatur; (256) 533-0157;

July 26 Greene Street Market 4:00pm–8:00pm; Free; 208 Eustis Avenue at Greene Street; July 26 Huntsville Gallery Tour 5:00pm; Free; Flying Monkey at Lowe Mill; July 27 Concert on the Docks 6:00pm; Free; Lowe Mill; July 27 Epic Comedy Hour 8:00pm; $7; Flying Monkey at Lowe Mill; July 28–29 Rocket City Beach Bash 10:00am - 8:00pm; $5; EarlyWorks Children’s Museum; (256) 5648100. July 30 Concerts in the Park 6:30 - 8:00pm; Free; Big Spring International Park; July 30 Bollywood Film Series: I Hate Luv Storys 6:00pm; Free; Huntsville-Madison County Public Library; 915 Monroe Street; (256) 532-5975; August 2 Greene Street Market 4:00pm–8:00pm; Free; 208 Eustis Avenue at Greene Street; August 2 Thursday Night Concert Series: The Bear 6:00pm; Free; Huntsville-Madison County Public Library; 915 Monroe Street; (256) 532-5940; August 3 Concert on the Docks 6:00pm; Free; Lowe Mill; August 3 City Lights Concert Series at Burritt on the Mountain 7:30pm; $10/members; $12/in advance or $15/non-members; 3101 Burritt Drive; (256) 536-2882; August 3 First Friday 5:00pm; Free; Huntsville Art League; 3005 L&N Drive; (256) 5343860;

Continued page 12


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August 3 Monkey Speak Open mic night; 8:00pm; $5; Flying Monkey at Lowe Mill; August 4 Sci-Quest Parents’ Night Out 6:00pm–9:00pm; $20 for first child, $15 for additional children ages 4-12; 102 D Wynn Drive; (256) 837-0606; August 5 Author Event: Joe Martin 2:00pm–4:00pm; Free; Huntsville-Madison County Public Library; 915 Monroe Street; (256) 532-5940; August 6 Bollywood Film Series: Guzaarish 6:00pm; Free; Huntsville-Madison County Public Library; 915 Monroe Street; (256) 532-5975; August 6 Concerts in the Park 6:30pm - 8:00pm; Free; Big Spring International Park, August 9 Dine and Dash Trolley tour of downtown restaurants; 6:00pm; $30; Various locations; (256) 683-0966, August 9 Greene Street Market 4:00pm–8pm; Free; 208 Eustis Avenue at Greene Street; August 10 Concert on the Docks 6:00pm; Free; Lowe Mill; August 10 Huntsville Hospital Miracle Bash 6:30pm; $42; Von Braun Center; 700 Monroe Street; (256) 2658077. August 10 Jim Parker’s Songwriters Series 6:30pm; From $20; Von Braun Center Playhouse; 700 Monroe Street; (256) 533-1953; August 10–11 Madison County Cattlemen’s Rodeo 8:00pm; $12 adults and $10 children; 4925 Moores Mill Road; (256) 679-2949. August 16 Sidewalk Arts Stroll: A Downtown Marketplace 4:30pm; Free; Courthouse Square; (256) 534-8376. August 16 Greene Street Market 4:00pm–8:00pm; Free; 208 Eustis Avenue at Greene Street, August 16 Thursday Night Concert Series: Amy McCarley 6:00pm; Free; Huntsville-Madison County Public Library; 915 Monroe Street; (256) 532-5940,


August 17 Concert on the Docks 6:00pm; Free; Lowe Mill; August 17 Third Friday 5:00pm–8:00pm; Free; Bank Street and Second Avenue in Decatur; (256) 350-2028. August 17 Sci-Quest Parents’ Night Out 6:00pm–9:00pm; $20 for first child, $15 for additional children ages 4-12; 102 D Wynn Drive; (256) 837-0606; August 17–19 Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte Friday–Saturday, 7:30pm, Sunday, 2:30pm; Starting at $19.50; Von Braun Center Playhouse; 700 Monroe Street; (256) 883-1105; August 18 Under the Covers with Victoria Shaw with special guest Jim Brickman Singer/songwriters; 7:30pm; $30; Merrimack Hall; 3320 Triana Boulevard, Huntsville; (256) 534-6455; August 18 Rocket City Jazz Orchestra 7:00pm; $7 students/$10 adults; Flying Monkey at Lowe Mill; August 23 Greene Street Market 4:00pm–8:00pm; Free; 208 Eustis Avenue at Greene Street; August 24 Concert on the Docks 6:00pm; Free; Lowe Mill; August 25 Annual Music on the Mountain Bluegrass and Gospel Music Festival 6:30pm; Admission charged; Northeast Alabama Community College on Highway 35 West; (256) 638-4418. August 26 19th Annual Rocketman Triathlon 7:30am; $80; Carroll D. Hudson Recreational Area Redstone Arsenal, (256) 508-9116; August 30 Greene Street Market 4:00pm–8:00pm; Free; 208 Eustis Avenue at Greene Street; August 30 Thursday Night Concert Series: Ivy Joe Milan & Jim Cavender 6:00pm; Free; Huntsville-Madison County Public Library; 915 Monroe Street; (256) 532-5940; August 30–September 3 Northeast Alabama State Fair 6:00pm; $4 children and $6 adults; John Hunt Park; (256) 883-5252; August 31 Concert on the Docks: South Carolina Broadcasters 6:00pm; Free; Lowe Mill; (256) 533-0399;


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everybody’s business

While it’s true that most music lovers can’t resist the instant gratification of a $1.29 download, many are also finding there’s nothing like holding a record in their hand and relishing the high-quality sound. A local business benefitting from vinyl’s comeback is Vertical House, a record store at Lowe Mill owned by Andy and Ashley Vaughn. Since opening in 2007, shortly after getting married, Andy and Ashley have expanded their store four times and now have more than 20,000 new and used records at their hip Railroad Room space in Huntsville’s hub for art and entertainment. “Ever since we met, we wanted to open a record store,” said Andy. “We heard about Lowe Mill and started coming to the artist market to see if our stuff sold, and we kept growing from there. We moved into a 200 square-foot space of our own, moved four more times within the building, and now we’re in a 1,600 square-foot space.” Business has been good, as more and more people are returning to vinyl. Today’s artists are producing vinyl with their fans in mind. Records often come with a free digital download of the entire album and other added bonuses like CDs and posters. New records cost between $10 and $20, comparable to a CD.


“Vinyls are collectable and have resale value,” said Andy. “They’re more tangible, and people like to see the artwork. And many argue that the sound quality is better. A lot of people prefer the warm sound of vinyl.” Lowe Mill and Vertical House seem perfect for one another, both reaching an audience looking to experience music and art in a creative setting.

Ashley Vaughn helps a customer. Facing: Vertical House attracts customers across a wide spectrum of demographics, all united by their love of music.

Above: In their 1,600 square-foot space, Vertical House also sells CDs, DVDs, eight tracks and stereo equipment such as turntables, speakers and receivers. They even have a collection of comic books. They order new material from distributers every few weeks and do a lot of special orders.

“Over the past few years, Lowe Mill has really filled out,” said Andy. “There are more artists; painters; the Flying Monkey, which brings in musicians and comedians; restaurants…it’s good because there’s a builtin audience that comes here. There are like-minded people around here who are into music.” “Lowe Mill has family-friendly events, adults-only events and things that are edgy,” said Marcia Freeland, manager of Lowe Mill. “This is a place where not only patrons can feel comfortable but also the artists themselves. Lowe Mill is an open environment with people with open minds, and Andy and Ashley are open to all kinds of music. But they are so much more than records. When I think of Andy and Ashley, I think of all the things they contribute to our community. The people who are successful in this building have the mindset we are a collective community.” Andy and Ashley have many talents, and both work other jobs in order to pursue their passion. Andy is a freelance graphic designer and web designer, and Ashley is a realtor and a wedding photographer for White Rabbit Studios. Ashley is also the singer and keyboard player for local pop punk band The Porcharitas. Their hard work, commitment and love for music are the perfect combination for success. They aren’t just selling daddy’s old records, they’re selling the music scene by exposing their customers to new music from local and regional bands.

Andy and Ashley Vaughn


Andy and Ashley encourage their customers to listen to new material by providing record players throughout the store. They’ve even produced mixed CDs called Eargasms with a sampling of songs from a few dozen emerging artists. The ninth edition of Eargasms comes out this summer. Andy and Ashley also host in-store concerts to introduce bands to their customers. Their June 30 Happenin’ Fest featured Natural High, Tiger Child, the Porcharitas, Nowhere Squares, Drew Price’s Bermuda Triangle, Walter Yancey and Fur Coats, Piss Shivers, Real Frogs and Plains. The eight-hour concert was just $8 and included keg beer. “We handpick the shows we do,” said Andy. “We do a couple every month. It helps us and the artists. We pick up the records they have and sell a lot after the show.” The couple is planning more events for later this summer featuring musicians Dent May, Paperhead and D. Watusi. Vertical House has both hosted and sold records for Pinehill Haints from Florence, and the new record by Athens native band Alabama Shakes has sold like hotcakes.

Customers browse through the vast collection of new and used vinyl.


While Andy and Ashley support local and emerging artists, sales of classic albums like the Beatles and Rolling Stones remain strong. Vertical House also sells CDs, DVDs, eight tracks and stereo equipment such as turntables, speakers and receivers. They even have a collection of comic books. They order new material from distributers every few weeks and do a lot of special orders. Their products appeal to a vast audience ranging from students to professionals and retirees. “We have this one middle school kid who comes in here with his dad and always knows what he wants,” said Andy. “And we have a guy who’s around 70 who already owns a ton of stuff but comes to see what we’ve gotten in. Other people just come in and hang out and see what kind of music we’re playing.”

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Huntsvillians are getting their culture in an unexpected place these days. Once a turn-of-the-century cotton mill just a mile from downtown, Lowe Mill has undergone a renaissance as the home of original art, music and performances. And thanks to the popular free summer concert series, Concerts on the Dock, people are experiencing the city’s hip arts scene like never before. Lowe Mill Arts and Entertainment started as the vision of Huntsville businessman Jim Hudson. Credited with founding Alabama’s biotech industry, Hudson owned the firm Research Genetics and used the Lowe Mill facility for storage. He eventually sold the company, but he wasn’t ready to let the mill go. He had visited Alexandria, Virginia’s Torpedo Factory Art Center and wanted to replicate the concept in Huntsville by converting Lowe Mill into an arts destination. He started by reaching out to the newly-established Flying Monkey Arts Center to see if they’d be willing to move in, and the following year, in 2006, Lowe Mill Arts and Entertainment was born. Six years and three renovations later, the three-story space is now home to 100 vendors, from painters, photographers, glass blowers and sculptors to chefs and breadmakers. But it wasn’t until Concerts on the Dock that the people of Huntsville really discovered what went on beneath the landmark water tower. With a small marketing budget, the still-new organization A band member of Cajun-Zydeco Connection performs was struggling to get the word out. So in 2008, they decided to host a free, familyfriendly concert at the mill’s old loading dock to bring in a crowd. Their plan worked. Today, each Friday from 6:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m., from the first Friday in April to the first Friday in October, bands play anything from country to pop, swing to reggae, and bluegrass to blues, while hundreds of people end their week laid back with their lawn chairs, coolers and picnic suppers. “My main focus is to bring in as much original music as possible,” said Evan Billiter, music and events coordinator for Lowe Mill Arts and Entertainment. “There are not many venues in town that look for original music—they want covers. But our building is all about creating original art, whether sculpture or paintings, etc. We want our music to be original, too.”


There are not many venues in town that look for original music—they want covers. But our building is all about creating original art, whether sculpture or paintings, etc. We want our music to be original, too. —Evan Billiter, Lowe Mill Arts and Entertainment Evan’s sister Grace was the first manager at Lowe Mill Arts and Entertainment, and she brought him on board because of his extensive music background, booking bands and acting as a stage manager. Under Evan’s leadership, the concert series has expanded to include both local and traveling acts, and the public has responded well. South Carolina duo Shovels and Rope brought in nearly 700 people in June. North Carolina band Christabel and the Jons and New York singer-songwriter Bret Mosley are both booked for July. But local bands remain ever-popular as well. The June 15 show featuring Huntsville band Cajun-Zydeco Connection brought in a record-breaking 900 people. “We have expanded considerably,” said Evan. “When I started we were averaging 40 to 50 people. Then it jumped to 75 then 125 then 200, and now we’re up

to over 500 people. It’s been pretty overwhelming.” The concerts have been a great way for Lowe Mill Arts and Entertainment to bring in first-time visitors and encourage them to attend other events. Evan, along with Lowe Mill’s manager Marcia Freeland, work together to host other events onsite during the concerts to introduce people to everything Lowe Mill has to

offer, whether it’s to shop at Vertical House Records, grab a bite to eat at Happy Tummy and Chef Will’s Palate or peruse the three floors of art. “We found that people were coming on Friday nights but were never coming back to see the art,” said Evan. “So now we’re pairing up to come up with ideas to bring people inside on a Friday night, like having poetry readings, and having artists in their studios. It’s more than the concerts, it’s about celebrating and being part of the whole building.” Thanks to those efforts, traffic at Lowe Mill is up during the week, at the Saturday artist market, and at evening events. “I think it takes one time for people to come to Lowe Mill,” said Evan. “Once they come and see what we’re all about, that it’s all about community, they keep coming back to participate with each other and with arts events.”


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Deb Bailey Bethay, Grandmother Mackie Bethay, and Mother Janet Bethay

Deb Vivian Spearman, Grandmother Evie Spearman, and Mother Amy Spearman Ivy Albert (2012 Ball Chair, Amelia Summerville (Deb Tea Chair)

Emily Moody (Seminar Chair), Abigail Rehfeld, Lindsay Prozan, Caroline Stephens Yvonne Hawkins (Ball Publicity Chair), Stacey Gardner (2013 Ball Chair), Linda Akenhead (HSO Guild President), Ivy Albert (2012 Ball Chair), Pamela Honkanen (Ball Committee), Debbie Overcash (Ball Committee)

Deb Mothers: Sheila Torrez, Julie Fowler, and Sandy Alongi

Huntsville Symphony Orchestra Guild’s Debutante Tea, Debutante Seminar, Service Project M AY 1618, 2012  THE LEDGES, HUNTSVILLE B OTANICAL GARDENS, WOMEN’S AND CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA

`Debs and mothers: (D) Vivian Spearman, (M) Amy Spearman, (D) Claire Daily, (M) Cindy Daily, (D) Mallory Butler, and (M) Holly Butler

Sarah Elizabeth Fowler, Sarah Hope Ervin, Connally Bragg Harbarger, Emily Anne Epps, and Julia Bickley Johnson Debutantes: Caroline Harvilee Stephens, Amelia Grace Sutton, Vivian Ruth Spearman, Lindsay Paige Prozan, Abigail Frances Rehfeld, and Shelby Jourdan Taylor

Debutantes: Sarah Lauren Gregory, Julia Elizabeth Malueg, Anastasia Combes Lankford, Danielle Brigitte Petroff, Olivia Lakin Knox, and Caitlin Elizabeth Mantooth

Debs and mothers: (M) Martha Sutton, (D) Amelia Sutton, (D) Olivia Knox, (M) Lauren Knox, (D) Connally Harbarger, (M) Lisa Harbarger, (D) Lindsay Prozan, and (M) Paige Prozan Debutantes: Mary Bailey Bethay, Anna Marie Buchanan, Ashlyn Marie, Alongi, Mallory Ruth Butler, Hinton Claire Daily, and Aubrey Savina Torrez


5 Madison County locations to serve you! Huntsville: Downtown, University Drive, Perimeter Park; Hampton Cove; Madison z 877-332-1710


North Alabama Musicians




Noah Myers

Madeleine Frankford



The Bluebirds would not have been able to spread their wings without the help of the University of North Alabama and Singing River Records. When Noah Myers, a Madison native and an entertainment technology major at UNA, was planning to record a demo CD, he thought it would be on his own. His plan was to make the CD and submit it for Singing River Records’ artist of the year competition. Singing River Records is a student-produced label from UNA’s Department of Entertainment Industry, and the label has chosen a musical artist or group every year to produce and manage, giving the artist and the students involved real-life experience in the entertainment industry. Noah got in touch with Madeleine Frankford, a nineteenyear-old from Athens, through mutual friends who were involved in the music scene in Florence. He watched some of the videos she recorded on YouTube, covering songs from artists like City and Colour, The Postal Service, and Nickelcreek. As soon as the duo met and sang a few songs together, Noah knew they needed to record a demo together to submit to Singing River Records. With the deadline a few short days away, the two had to become fast friends through the songwriting process, and even though they barely knew each other, they had to get their emotions out on the table to produce the raw and heartfelt lyrics they are known for. After their in-depth songwriting sessions, Madeleine said “We’re at the point now where we’re finally comfortable with each other.” For the 2011-2012 year, The Bluebirds were the chosen winner. This is the first musical duo that Singing River Records has signed, but the change has been very well received. The Bluebirds have sung at multiple venues in the Shoals area and have placed their EP on ITunes this year. The Bluebirds’ sound is a beautiful mix of male and female harmonies that blend together with the sound of an acoustic guitar. Though some of their recorded songs feature a whole band and give the music more of a pop feel, the duo has been praised for their pure, folksy sound that comes through in their honest words and simple melodies. Noah says that their lyrics come from a very sincere place—“The lyrics are a combination of past experiences, storytelling, and spur of the moment inspiration…and maybe a little embellishment.” The Bluebirds have been compared many times to another group with roots in the Shoals, The Civil Wars. But, their influences come from many artists. The duo says they are inspired by musicians like Ingrid Michaelson, Ray Lamontagne, Jeff Buckley, Fleet Foxes, and Bon Iver. The two still admit that they owe a lot to the label. Madeleine, who says she is “new to the game” admits that it has all definitely been a learning experience, but like all other jobs, she knows the connections she makes now will help her in the future. Noah is now in New York doing an internship in his field of study, but no matter what his future holds with the Bluebirds, he wants to be involved in the music industry. “This has all been a great experience and I am very thankful to have a demo…No matter where I go, this will really help me get my foot in the door.” The two are young and still not sure where they will go as a group, but no matter how long their song lasts, the Bluebirds will have a big audience listening in north Alabama.

When you learn the back story of this duo—that they got together simply to compete against other groups for Singing River Records’ annual production, and had no long ties or deep history together— it makes their music even more interesting. It’s good stuff, the kind of music you hope you’ll continue to hear for years to come. If this is a long-term relationship, we are lucky. If this is a chance meeting, a passing of ships in the night, we are luckier still that we have the opportunity to hear them. Its scarcity might make it even sweeter.


Ronnie Moore

Chris Wilson

Nate Emery


Daniel Moore


Ronnie Moore, the founding member and lead vocalist/guitarist of The Barnstormers, doesn’t have an interest in the pristine Southern tradition of apple pies, fishin’ holes, or skippin’ stones in the Alabama sunshine. His music likes to come out at night. “We wanted to explore Southern folk music as a whole, but it got a little dark and bleak,” Moore explains. “In the South, we have this gloomy, big, scary heritage. And [the music] explores that—the undercurrent of darkness that pervades Southern culture.” The Barnstormers started in 2001 in Decatur, Alabama. Don’t let that fool you into thinking they’re another singersongwriter band, though. Moore is a Venezuelan-born fan of William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, and Flannery O’Connor. The band’s music is a blend of styles from all over the world, with an appetite for the Southern Gothic. “I really draw from a lot of different music from all over the world,” Moore said. “A lot of people follow that Southern tradition, but we kind of make our own gumbo of sounds.” Listen to The Barnstormers and you’ll understand. Many of the songs on their two albums, Graveyard Town and Switchblade Serenade, feature varied instrumentation with sitars, organs, cellos, accordions, and upright honky-tonk pianos. The vocals range from lo-fi and scratchy to full yet bleak. If all of this darkness is too much to take, don’t be alarmed. Their most recent album Graveyard Town was a good purge for Moore. “Graveyard Town is a release of negative feelings of the South,” he said. “We’re all looking at how to say goodbye to those negative things and say hello to a new life.” The album, set to be released this summer and entitled Strange Tales, promises to be more uplifting. This one explores the sensation of changing lifestyles and outlooks on life, according to Moore. This is not without some bitter sweetness, of course. “I’m positive on the South,” Moore clarifies. “Life here comes with a bittersweet aftertaste because of some of the things we’ve done to each other. It’s like two things that are in the same place and have to coexist. We kind of have this push-pull that goes from very light to very dark very quickly.” Telling stories is ultimately what Moore wants to do, and what he believes is the purpose of his music. “Every day is a story,” he said. “Storytelling is about finding what’s valuable in the daily and mundane and extracting it in a way that it can be preserved. It’s our own desire for immortality.” And the immortality of the South, with all of its gothic charm and dark nights, is exactly what Moore wants his music to achieve. “We borrow to create a more complete vision of what the last 200 years have been in this area, and try to put that in a contemporary scope,” Moore said. “I can’t speak for everyone else, but I can see how it’s alive in my life and creates a bigger context for that.” The Barnstormers consist of Ronnie Moore, Chris Wilson, Daniel Moore (Ronnie’s brother), and Nate Emery.

The Barnstormers might not describe themselves as “fun”— they are very serious about their music, and it can have a dark and brooding side—but there’s no better way to describe the act of listening to them. It’s just fun, as they blend their strings and their voices into a deep and powerful blend of Southern folk and rock, and you may want to tap your toes or even dance. These guys are great musicians, and they know what they are doing. They’re serious about it, but we’re serious, too: this is just fun.

“Storytelling is about finding what’s valuable in the daily and mundane and extracting it in a way that it can be preserved. It’s our own desire for immortality.”


Eddie Thomas

Frank Thomas



For brothers Eddie and Frank Thomas, music is all about location, location, location. They have recorded a Muddy Water’s tune on a hay bale at Stovall Farms, where Muddy used to work, and where Eddie said he could feel Muddy’s presence. They have also been seen sitting in a sage grass field close to where Son House recorded his version of Shetland Pony Blues. Eddie sang the same song as a mockingbird perched nearby, who then sang along with his slide guitar. They have also played in the choir loft of St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, singing Sweet Hour of Prayer, recorded by the sound crew at National Public Radio. Church bells can be distantly heard in the background. They both agree that their location in the Tennessee Valley has drastically influenced their musical style. Eddie, a singer and songwriter, and Frank, a master of recording, work together to record songs about growing up in Iuka, Mississippi, and remembering the past, where Frank says “times were simpler, but not lacking human complexity.” Along with playing classic songs from the past, the brothers have released three original albums: Maggie’s House, Chasing Butterflies, and Pennyland. In Maggie’s House you can find collections of memories from the brothers about their home in Iuka. Chasing Butterflies moves into a time where the brothers were traveling, working in Maine, trekking the Appalachian Trail, and studying directing and acting for a year in New York City. Frank says, “this album does not walk a straight line, but if you stand on the right hilltop, it should offer an interesting view.” Finally, Pennyland, reveals a restlessness in the lives of the brothers and a craving for some ‘uncertainty’ in life, and a ‘quest for undone things’. The whole discography creates a story that anyone can identify with. In 2003, the duo finished up a long and unique project called Angels on the Backroads, which covers the history of the blues through sixty-five songs which are meant to be played along Highway 61, or Blues Highway, from Memphis to New Orleans. Many of the recordings were done along this very same highway. The entire project took three years of researching musicians and learning the songs, three years of recording on location, and two years of producing to create a four CD boxed set with an entire lifetime’s work of music in country, blues, jazz, and roots. Most musicians would cringe at the thought of recording outside and having to deal with the unpredictable weather, but Frank and Eddie agree that this adds so much to their music and the mood they want to create for their listeners. But, they will admit, the conditions are not always favorable. At times, Frank would hold a fleece jacket and move around Eddie, blocking the microphone from wind during each song. There are not many albums in which the recording engineer is listed as one of the contributing artists, but in Frank’s case, it is fitting. The brothers say that the greatest influence to their music is what they heard on radio and television growing up. It is everything from the old jingles and commercials to the harmonies they sang in church pews. They say they are inspired more by the time in which they grew up in than anything else. Though they are intrigued by the ‘simpler times’, the brothers are not unappreciative of the new technologies and music that are popular today. Frank says “any music that is done well, with an honest effort, and has something that makes it feel genuine, certainly grabs our attention and is an inspiration… Eddie is much the artist, looking to tell an honest story in song.”

Comfortable as your favorite loafers; smooth as Kentucky bourbon. Eddie and Frank Thomas weave simple stories into beautiful songs that seem personal in the way they wrap themselves around you. The brothers sing with such tight harmonies they are almost the same voice, and their words speak of love, longing, and a simpler style of life. Maybe it’s their maturity that make these two among our favorites, even as we struggle to find words to describe them. They just know us, and they are singing songs about our lives.


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Jerry Robinson, Kevin Norris, and Wayne Jones Greg and Stephanie Harville, Janelle Brooks, Steve and Susan Solomon Kyle Mann and Morgan Marr

Hiram Bass and Jimmy Williams

Linda Bass, Faye Williams, Kriket Johnson, Kristi Boyer and Sabrina Valich

Katiebeth and Josh Pierson

Dainys Carrasquillo and Pedro Mangual

Cary, Karla, and Lauren Mann

AIDS Action Coalition’s Dining With Friends Dessert Reception M AY 19, 2012  THE JACKSON CENTER , HUNTSVILLE

Linda Presley, Mary Elizabeth Marr, and Audra Rutter

Pam DeLozier, Jackie Williams and Ellen Martin Heath Nicholas and Paula Nicholas

Corey Rosenblum, and Jonathan Kline Kirsten Diaddario, Charles Vaughn, Lloyd Marks, and Barb Wadsworth

Janelle Brooks, and Camilla King

Sherri Brown and Dana Lyon


Michael and Sandra Brown


“I’ve known since I was four years old that I wanted to be a singer. There was just this nagging thing that followed me my whole life. I didn’t choose music. Music chose me.”


One word to describe Ally Burnett might be “unstoppable.” But that might be an understatement. “I’ve known since I was four years old that I wanted to be a singer,” Burnett said. “I just knew the first time I stepped on stage that I wanted to do it. I can’t pinpoint it. There was just this nagging thing that followed me my whole life. I didn’t choose music. Music chose me.” Since then, she has been across the country and to the middle of the ocean: the California girl lived in Hawaii for 10 years before she came to reside in Huntsville to take care of her father who is dealing with health issues. Now she’s feverishly making music and is determined to break into the music scene. So far, she’s doing a good job. Burnett has had her music featured on several MTV shows such as Paris Hilton’s My New BFF season two, The Seven, Jersey Shore, The Hills, and Friend Zone. “I didn’t start out knowing many people,” she said. “I just saw what I wanted and went after it. Nothing’s going to stop me.” She started her musical career as a pop-punk singer, which evolved into power pop, and is now somewhere in between. Musically, she said she is constantly compared to Paramore’s Hayley Williams or Katy Perry. She does like Paramore, but she doesn’t want to deal with the connotations that go with being a pop singer like Katy Perry. While listeners can possibly hear Paramore in her style, some of her personal favorites are Paula Abdul and Andrew McMahon from the band Something Corporate. “Andrew McMahon is a god among music,” she said. “The first time I saw them live, it just blew me away.” “Pop music is just ‘Let’s get drunk, party, party; blah, blah, blah,” Burnett said. “I’m singing what I love and singing what I feel. I try to grow with every record I do.” Her new summer five-song EP is expected to be a change for her in that she is embracing a more country sound—perhaps after living in the South for so long. “It’s a lot easier to be real in country music,” she said. “[Pop music] is not real. I hate to be pessimistic about it, but it’s not. When I write, I like to be real, and country kind of gives you that leeway to do so.” Ingenuity is by far the most important thing to Burnett. “For me, I think what sets me apart is I’m free and true to myself when I make music,” she said. “Everything that comes out of my mouth has meaning to me.” At this point in her life, break-ups are a hot topic because she’s allowed to be vulnerable. “Not all of my songs are about relationships and heartbreak, but that’s definitely my niche,” she said. “When it comes to heartache, the average person can relate to it. I feel like that’s when my songs are most honest— when I’m most vulnerable.” Fans will be hard pressed to find her performing live. She said she will be doing several acoustic tours to promote her new EP, but she prefers the studio to the stage. “If it were up to me, I would try to be in the studio every hour, every day,” she said. “Your songs are like your babies, and the studio for me is where they’re all created.” She is unabashedly confident, and readily admits to a shoot-from-the-hip style. “I just do what I know,” she said. “It’s just natural to me—what I’m doing—and whatever comes out comes out. I have no idea what I’m doing,” she said and laughed. “I try to stick to what I think I’m good at, and, for me, that’s writing and singing.”

Ally is a pop-rock storyteller who knows how to pair catchy melodies with powerful lyrics that leave her songs in your head long after the pause button has been pushed. There’s a maturity to Ally’s voice, which doesn’t surprise you; the maturity in her lyrics hint at experiences beyond her years. Or maybe she just feels them more deeply; we’re just lucky that she is so masterful at putting them into words. There’s variety in the album, from slower ballad-like pieces to rock songs with a to-the-gut beat. Pay attention to this artist—she has all of the elements to make her the next talked-about star.




“When I started writing, I just started writing about things I knew about,” Matt Prater said. “Family was definitely a big influence when I got into music.” And music, for this Athens native, is embodied in his family: his oldest daughter, Madelyn, is actually one of the biggest reasons he is where he is now. “The birth of my oldest child was an inspiration,” he said. “Up until then, I just played cover songs, and I hadn’t even thought about being a musician. For some reason I decided that I could write—or was going to. That whole time period in my life was inspirational.” All of the tracks on his album Small Town Son reflect aspects from his daily life: family, God, nostalgia, and southern life. The song “Ten Years Two Kids” is a true story about meeting his wife and the journey they’ve been on. He said they were two kids then, and they have two kids now—Madelyn and Emmalee. His song “Dirt” reflects his admiration of blue-collar working life. And he is no stranger to it; he has been working in construction since he was 15. “What they are doing is still noble to me, even though it’s not glamorous,” Prater said. “Being in the daily grind—seeing things that could be.” And things that once were. Nostalgia is also a strong element in Prater’s songs. Songs like “Small Town Son” and “Ghost Town” reminisce about simpler times when “it seems like everything was just slower back then,” he said. Other songs like “Mountain Violets” are pure poetry. The words were taken from a poem written by his grandfather from South Dakota. It’s taken from a family story, and the child in the story is actually his grandfather. What Prater loves most about playing music is the connection it creates between him and his listeners. “I love connecting with people,” he said. “I love it when people understand my songs. I love music, and I love a good song.” Some of his favorite artists include John Mellencamp, Bob Dylan, Merle Haggard, and Johnny Cash. “All those guys that were kind of on the fray of rock n’ roll—folk rock, outlaw, country types,” Prater explained. Other artists like Jack Johnson, Bryan Bingham, Chris Knight, and the late, great Levon Helm have helped him round out his style. “I don’t want to limit anything by saying it’s one kind of music,” he said. “And at this point, I don’t really have to. I believe you need a little bit of everything in your arsenal. I don’t know how many good songs I can write, but I want to write a lot more.” For Prater, things will hopefully be changing soon. He is currently working on a project that he expects to release by the end of the year. He hopes this will put him on the “inside” of the music business. “I’m kind of an outsider in some ways,” he said. “I’m not part of the music industry full time. I’m breaking in when I can, and I’d like to break in a little more. At this point, I’m pretty much a loner,” he said with a laugh. But maybe not for long.

Matt Prater is from a small town and proud of it. If you’re from a small town, too, there is plenty to love in his music, which centers around his stories and his rich, melodic voice. The stories are delightful Southern slices of life, each one complete in its telling; his voice draws you in and makes you want to listen to every word. It’s kind of country, and kind of sweet, really; it’s music that never gets old. This entire album is a delight.

“I love connecting with people. I love it when people understand my songs. I love music, and I love a good song.”




When Byron Green sits down at his piano to write a song, his inspiration doesn’t come from other bands or songs he’s heard: it comes from advice. “You would think, being a musician, I would get inspired from music” Green said. But instead, 24-year-old Green uses songs to vocalize advice for his friends and family when they are going through hard times. “Instead of sitting down and talking about it and being awkward, I just sit down and write it out,” he said. “A lot of times they’ll hear it and like it and relate to it, and then I say, ‘Do you know that was about you?’” He prefers his style of songwriting because it makes the song accessible to a wide audience. “It makes it easy to write songs because there’s bound to be someone who can relate to it,” Green said. It seems pretty straightforward on paper, but Green’s style is fueled by a wide variety of genres and his ever-changing moods. This creates an interesting mix for his album, Who You Are. “There are a bunch of different moods on one disc,” he said. “People change. Everybody changes and evolves. The songs I write change with me. Some of them are really deep, and some of them are shallow. If you listen to my record, I sound like a schizo, but I’m really not,” he laughed. Green’s musical experience lends itself to a variety of influences. He cites 90s bands that he grew up with as being influential—bands like Tonic, 3 Doors Down and Matchbox 20 specifically. However, what he plays spans artists from Ray Charles to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bruno Mars to Ludacris. “I don’t have a set genre because I appreciate all kinds of music,” he said. “I mean, I haven’t put out a rap song yet, but it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t. It really throws folks off. They expect one style from a band, and I come in and do all these different things.” Any conflict? Not really. “It works out,” Green said. “You please the majority at least once each night.” And the performance is what Green lives by. “When you’re on stage, you are who you are, and no one can take that away,” he said. “An artist, in my opinion, should take the stage because no one can take the stage away from you.”

When we say Byron Green has an “unusual” voice, it’s not a bad thing—in fact, it’s very, very good. There’s something about the tenor of his voice, paired with his soulful lyrics, that demands attention. He’s not the kind of entertainer who blends into the background; instead, you find yourself hungry to hear what’s next. It’s this distinction that will serve him well, and sets him apart from the rest.

“When you’re on stage, you are who you are, and no one can take that away. An artist should take the stage because no one can take the stage away from you.”


This is your chance to win the North Alabama Perfect Wedding! Are you dreaming about a wedding that’s like no other? Are you looking for that perfect mix of Southern heritage, sophisticated chic, and drop-dead gorgeous style? We may have just what you’re looking for: it's the North Alabama Perfect Wedding! Burritt on the Mountain, No’Ala magazine, Armosa Studios and wedding stylist Jordyn Dean have teamed together with a selection of north Alabama’s top wedding experts to give you an experience you will never forget… and neither will your guests. We’ll help you design and carry out the wedding of your dreams, at little or no cost to you, and then we’ll feature it in the July/August, 2013, issue of No’Ala magazine. This will be an experience all of north Alabama will be talking about. This will be the Perfect Wedding. Here’s what we’re looking for: A bride from North Alabama or with ties here. You have to currently live here, or you must have grown up here, have family here, and plan to have your wedding here. Someone willing to relax and let the experts work their magic. Someone who will agree to set their wedding date for May 19, 2013. (There may be some flexibility in this date.)

Dea OC

Someone who will let us document the process, and who is willing to blog about it. Here’s what we will offer:


TOB ER 1 ,

Wedding stylist Jordyn Dean will meet with you to learn about your personality and help you create the perfect event. Armosa Studios will document the major milestones of this event. Baron Bluff at Burritt on the Mountain will provide the location for the wedding— with a spectacular view! Other partners include: Signature Smile, Grogan Jeweler, In Bloom Floral Design Studio, Party Works, Make-up Artist Natalie Faggioni, the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra and more added every day! The value of this package exceeds $20,000. The memories will be priceless. Interested? Here’s what you do: To apply, brides must submit an Inspiration Board by October 1, 2012. Boards must be delivered to Burritt on the Mountain, 3101 Burritt Drive, Huntsville, AL 35801. Phone (256) 536-2882. For information about how to produce an inspiration board, please visit Finalists are subject to a personal interview by the Perfect Wedding Team. Finalists will be decided by October 10, 2012, and the winner will be announced by November 15, 2012. The wedding will take place on May 19, 2013, at Baron Bluff, Burritt on the Mountain, and will be featured in the July/August, 2013, issue of No’Ala Huntsville. Got questions? Visit for details. If you want the picture perfect wedding, get started on your inspiration board today. You might win the wedding of your dreams!


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“There’s the show where it doesn’t matter what you’re doing and no one really cares, but in that case you’re playing for yourself and it’s great either way.” 42 | NOALAPRESS . COM | J ULY /AUGUST 2012


He knows what you’re thinking, and the answer is no: he is NOT related to Hannah or Walt Aldridge. “I’ve never actually met Walt,” he admits, laughing. “I’ve seen him, but I’ve never met him.” Rob Aldridge might share a name with the two local family songwriters, but he’s doing something all his own. “It’s pretty much across the board,” Aldridge said. He cites stylistic influences covering everyone from Steely Dan to Led Zeppelin to Marvin Gaye. Some of his favorites are Wilco, Ryan Adams, Zeppelin, and Tom Petty. In the Shoals area he mostly plays covers at the local bars, so his acoustic sets have a Jack Johnson feel, with a little Sublime vibe too. “A lot of people ask what kind of music I play,” he said. “After playing so many covers, I tend to hit every genre.” Aldridge, 24, just recently signed a songwriting contract with Jimmy Nutt at Nutthouse Studios. He began working on an album in the spring that is expected to be released by the end of the year. He knows his sound, but he’s having trouble piecing it all together. “I’ve had to play so much different stuff on my own,” he explained. “It doesn’t really go well with trying to put a whole album together. The album will probably stick a little closer to an alt-rock-country feel with some bluesy elements.” Aldridge, a Huntsville native, got his start playing guitar when he was 13, and guesses that he started writing around then too. His dad was a musician who played around the Huntsville bar scene. When Aldridge was a kid, his dad would sneak him in to watch and socialize. “When I did get out, I already knew all of the bar owners, so I guess I got started a little early,” he said. Since then, he’s hit the ups and downs of songwriting. “There’s a lot of songs I’ve written that I pray no one ever sees,” he said with a laugh. “I really like what I’m writing now. It’s something I’m proud of—which is more than I can say for some of the other stuff.” Prepping for his new album has let him explore his own unique style of writing as well. Once he comes up with a riff and records it, he usually plays it backwards to find out if he can hear any new melodies. Then come the words. “I try to pick a really simple subject and approach it from a different angle,” Aldridge said. “I like to use words that people subconsciously think of. I want to take my own personal experiences and generalize them in a song. I heard Tom Petty say that it makes a song personal, but it’s vague—anyone can put themselves into it.” His favorite nights are when he’s stuck in a bar doing covers and someone requests one of his originals. “There’s the show where it doesn’t matter what you’re doing and no one really cares, but in that case you’re playing for yourself and it’s great either way,” Aldridge said. “You can change a person’s mood if you’re playing it right. I’ll play some really obscure song and if I play it right they will really get into it. Sometimes people come in and request [originals]. When it’s a night like that, it’s usually more fun.” Either way, Aldridge wants some change, and the new album is expected to deliver. “I need a change, and that’s what I’m gunning for right now.”

It’s unfair, really, that someone so young can express such depth of emotion in his songs, and can deliver those feelings with such expression and such a wide vocal range. Rob’s voice is beautiful, a blend of rock and soul, leaning more to the soul. Pay attention to this one: if he can write and sing like this at this age, there’s no telling where he’ll go.




Brad Guin went years and years in the music industry without knowing he could sing. He played saxophone for headliners like The Temptations, Greg Allman, B.B. King, and Martha and the Vandellas when he was just seventeen. He has played in The Apollo Theatre, Austin City Limits, every Blue Note Club in Japan, as well as the finest theaters in every major city in North America—but he was always behind his saxophone. In the hopes of producing his own original record (which he thought at the time would be mainly instrumental), Brad traded a Fender Rhodes piano to his friend Jimmy Nutt for three days of studio time in Sheffield’s The NuttHouse studio. He then invited his ‘most bad-to-the-bone friends’ to the session. These included Buster Marbury, Jason Isbell, Ken Waters, Jimbo Hart, and Greg Lowery. One day when Buster heard Brad messing around with a song, he said “You need to do that, man. You got something.” And Buster knew exactly what he was talking about. After keeping his talent a secret for so long, even from his wife and son, Brad slowly began to grow confident in his vocal ability. He later produced and recorded an album with only one other person present. In 2011, he assembled the group we now know as Bad Brad and the Sipsey Slims, and starred as lead vocalist. Brad says he is influenced by music ranging all the way from James Brown to Hank Williams to Motown and 60s pop. Brad is self-diagnosed with what he calls ‘Jim Nabors syndrome.’ “I am country as a turnip green, and I sing like an old black man.” He lived in Tuscaloosa through childhood on the edge of the Sipsey swamp and called himself a swamper until he came to Muscle Shoals and met a different kind of ‘swamper’ in the studios here in the area. When he moved here, he was exposed to the vast musical history in the Shoals and immediately immersed himself in it. He said that in this area, it always feels like something is about to happen. “I feel like the ground rumbles with creativity here. You are constantly affected by the talented people around you and you are inspired by their accomplishments. I don’t get that anywhere else.” Recently, Brad worked with the Alabama Blues Project in Tuscaloosa which gives many at-risk and troubled youth the opportunity to learn about and play the blues music that is so deeply embedded in Alabama history. He says that he has been inspired by so many of the young people that have come through the program that he says he “couldn’t stump” with every kind of music he threw at them. He wants to help others grow up with the same eclectic music appreciation he was fortunate enough to be raised with. Brad wants to provide his listeners with what he says is missing from a lot of music today—“We are missing so much dynamic contrast. This album has such a high-quality, vintage sound that I think people will really like. All I want to do is take everyone on their own musical journey.”

Here’s the thing about Bad Brad and the Sipsey Slims: they have a distinct Muscle Shoals sound to their music. The vocals are deep and bluesy, and the music that girds all of that up is rich with horns, organ, and that beautiful saxophone, in the same style that put Muscle Shoals on the musical map. Think Percy Sledge; think Clarence Carter. Then stop thinking, grab a beer, and sit back and let this rich music roll right over you. If it doesn’t transport you to a place where there’s red clay and cotton, you are not a Southerner.

“I feel like the ground rumbles with creativity here. You are constantly affected by the talented people around you.” J ULY /AUGUST 2012 | NOALAPRESS . COM | 45

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Ice Blue It! Jeans ($78) J. Whitener (256) 885-2006

Glenda Gies Clutch ($175) Kendra Scott Loletta’s (256) 489-8889 J ULY /AUGUST 2012 | NOALAPRESS . COM | 47

48 Âť


Hess Collection 2009 Chardonnay ($16.99) Jaqk High Roller 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon ($77.99) Printed Wine Carrier ($36.99) The Wine Cellar (256) 489-9463

Turquoise Necklace ($30) Uptown Girl (Decatur) (256) 340-7360

Bremont ALT1-C Classic ($5,650) Loring and Co. (256) 880-1909

In Bloom Signature Candles ($22) In Bloom (256) 533-3050

Meadowcraft Outdoor Entertaining Set (prices vary) Brooks and Collier (256) 536-0734

Center of table can also be used as a fire pit!

Named after different neighborhoods in Huntsville. $2 of each sale goes to the Weeden House 48 | NOALAPRESS . COM | J ULY /AUGUST 2012

Zum Rub ($10) Zum Scrub ($11.50) The Little Green Store (256) 539-9699

Purple Agate Earrings ($60) Loletta’s (256) 489-8889

Zara Edwards ‘Vintage Tree’ ($225) The Little Green Store (256) 539-9699

Three Bowl Server ($36) H. Raines (256) 270-9611

Alex Leopold Artwork ($250 each) Kathleen’s Fine Arts and Interiors (Decatur) (256) 355-7616

Aztec Woven White Bangle ($8.50) Blue and Peach Bangle ($13) Cotton Cottage (256) 533-8668






pull into the driveway of Mac McAnally’s house, a man whose lyrics are often stuck in my head, and double check the address. This can’t be it, I think. It’s too…well…normal. I walk past the open garage and see the screened-door open in back, and I let myself in. Mac casually greets me inside and tells me to go on through, he’ll be right there, just like I’m a neighbor coming over for a visit, not interviewing a music legend for No’Ala. So there I sit in a rocking chair on the front porch of his 100-year-old Sheffield home, admiring the view of the river and waiting on Mac to tell me about his life. Mac arrives 15 minutes later, having showered after a morning golf game. He strums a few notes on his 1859 Martin guitar while he sits on the porch swing and talks.

BORN IN RED BAY, ALABAMA, and raised in Belmont, Mississippi, Mac was around music from an early age. His mother and grandmother both played piano for their Baptist church, and they often invited neighbors over at night to play music. “That’s how we entertained ourselves,” said Mac. “We didn’t have a TV or telephone or radio. We were kind of late in the game for in-house entertainment. Our neighbors would bring over mandolins, saxophones, whatever someone had that made a noise.” Mac was a talented piano player and guitar player from a young age, so much so that his family felt it was God’s will that he be a musician. That’s why when at only 13 years old when Mac was asked to play in a band, at a state-line honky tonk (in a wet county no less), his strict Baptist parents let him go. “They had never been in one and would never go, but they knew I wanted to play with other musicians,” he said. “Dean Linley, who worked at the Ford body shop and moonlighted as a country singer, made the pitch to my parents and assured them he’d pick me up and take me home each night. They paid me $250 a week. That was a lot of money in 1970. I was making as much as my parents.” So Mac played at the Circle E Club in Iron City four nights a week, getting home at 3 a.m. and waking at 7 a.m. for school. He was bringing in as much money as his father was making as a school teacher and his mother was making as a worker in the Wrangler plant.


“Dean was a good man, and he introduced me to country music,” said Mac. “My only other exposure to that point was gospel.” At age 13 and in a rough bar, Mac was too intimidated to get off the stage during breaks, so he stayed and practiced his acoustic guitar. One night, some other musicians heard him playing and invited him to come to the studio with them. After that, Mac was hooked. At age 15, he left school to pursue music full time. “My dad was the assistant principal so it was a tough sell,” said Mac. “My parents would have envisioned me being a music minister at a Baptist church.” One day at Wishbone Studios, an artist never showed up, but the studio asked to hear some music from Mac and his friends. With some coaxing, Mac played them one of his original songs. “I had some songs, but honestly didn’t call them songs—I would just play the guitar,” said Mac. “My parents had never even heard them. I was shy.” The engineer decided to cut a record on the spot. That record contained the hit, “It’s a Crazy World,” which made it to the Billboard Hot 100. Mac was 19.

“WE DIDN’T HAVE A TV OR TELEPHONE OR RADIO. WE WERE KIND OF LATE IN THE GAME FOR IN-HOUSE ENTERTAINMENT. OUR NEIGHBORS WOULD BRING OVER MANDOLINS, SAXOPHONES, WHATEVER SOMEONE HAD THAT MADE A NOISE.” —MAC MCANALLY “I was surprised at all of it,” said Mac. “I wore my grandfather’s overalls everywhere. Show business didn’t come naturally to me. Farm people are not raised to draw attention to yourself. Everyone in Belmont means what they say. Nobody in Belmont told me I was awesome, so I was surprised when others said I was good.” Mac’s first ASCAP check, which was more money than he had ever seen, was just $3,000 shy of allowing him to buy his father’s old homestead, which was for sale. It’s a good thing the check came up short because it would have given Mac the excuse to get out of the limelight and move back home for good. But he stayed put, and the rest is history. Mac is a songwriter, vocalist, producer, piano player and master guitarist. In his career, he’s worked with such names as Hank Williams, Jr., Alabama, Ricky Skaggs, Linda Ronstadt, Amy Grant, Travis Tritt, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Sawyer Brown, Roy Orbison and Dolly Parton. Several of his songs performed by Kenny Chesney have been major hits, including “Down the Road” and “Back Where I Come From.” He recently cut a song with Zac Brown, and LeAnn Womack invited him to sing on her new record. Mac has also produced nearly a dozen of his own records. And if that weren’t enough, he travels with Jimmy Buffett as a member of the Coral Reefer Band. “Jimmy heard that first record that I made, and he wrote me a note,” said Mac. “He said we were both Mississippi kids and both storytellers and that we’d be working together.” In May, Mac was honored in his hometown of Belmont as part of the Mississippi Country Music Trail. And for the past four years in a row, he’s been named the Country Music Association’s Musician of the Year, an honor that hits close to home. “Chet Atkins was my dad’s hero, and he won nine times,” said Mac. “Nobody has ever won more than three. The fact that I’m second to him I know would have meant a lot



to my dad. I don’t think I’m deserving, but I’m grateful someone thinks I am.” Mac’s father passed away in 1982, and his mother passed away in 2006. But his family still remains close to his heart. In fact, his grandmother’s 1906 pump organ and his mother’s accordion are in his living room. And one of the reasons Mac calls Sheffield home is because it’s close to his roots. “All of this is close to my heart—my family center, my church center, my creative center,” Mac said, pointing out toward the river. “This is a special place. The Indians said it was the singing river. I don’t have a better explanation than that. People have come through here and made wonderful music for a long time. WC Handy, Roger Hawkins, it pours out of people. I write on this front porch. I’m most comfortable here than anywhere in the world. I’m sitting here on this river, and this house is paid for, and I’m a lucky son of a gun. Nobody appreciates it more than me.” Besides inspiration from the Tennessee River, Mac credits God for his natural gift. “I’m reverent towards the source of creativity,” said Mac. “I was raised in church and think it has something to do with God.” Mac definitely does have a gift from God. He’s been known to sit down with his guitar and words of an entire song literally just pop in his head and come out of his mouth. His songs have been called American anthems. His lyrics are rich with the values important to him: God, family, nature, Southern roots, a simple life. Mac has a family of his own, three grown girls who live in Nashville and help influence his musical repertoire. “My girls are always introducing me to new music,” said Mac. “I love the new stuff, but I’ve also been catching up. My early listening had a lot of gaps in it. When I heard the Beatles they had already broken up. I’ve gone backwards through their catalog and the Rolling Stones.” His youngest daughter says that modern country music is neither modern nor country, and Mac agrees. “There have been a few trends in music that made me wonder if we were done with melodies, if it were all computerizations,” said Mac. “It costs so much to market a modern record. There is so much research involved like how to reach girls 18 to 24. Not all those overlays are good for music. We just need to make something that means something to us, and we’ll figure out who to market it to. Music by itself is one of the most fun and wonderful things in the world. It’s easy to forget that when you’re thinking about making up a song that pays the electric bill.” Mac says today he hasn’t had the time to sit down and write music as much as he’d like. His summer is jam-packed with tour dates with Jimmy Buffett and his own solo gigs. But when he


does get home, he looks forward to playing golf and eating at some old favorites, such as George’s and Dale’s, among others. “Jimmy will land his plane here to get a Bunyan hotdog,” laughed Mac. “And my daughters will drive down for Jack’s breakfast and Trowbridge’s. I’ve got my spots.” To Mac, there’s no place like home. “I can do anything here,” he said. “Produce, write. I’m close to Nashville. It’s a wonderful balance living here. I’ve lived in the Shoals since 1976, and I won’t ever not have a place here.” As for the future, Mac says there’s not much left on his bucket list. “I got it all nailed 20 years ago, and I’ve been swimming in gravy since,” he laughed. “I don’t feel finished yet though. I know I have more music left to play and left to write. And that makes me happy. It’s all good.”

AFTER THE INTERVIEW, I follow Mac inside to his piano. There I stand in his living room as he sings “On Account of You” from his Down by the River album. I can’t help thinking that music is a whole lot better on account of Mac.

Haven’t you heard?

Pie is the new cupcake.

Is your Grandma Edna’s strawberry rhubarb pie arguably the best in the state? Do you want to announce, once and for all, that your coconut cream pie is better than your neighbor’s? Let’s set the record straight! Send in your pie recipes to by Friday, July 20th. We will find the best pie recipes in North Alabama and show them off in our September/October issue. We will pick our favorite recipes and then have a tasting competition on Friday, July 27th. There will be winners in five different categories as well as an overall winner who will receive a $100 gift card to Lyn’s Gracious Goodness in Huntsville, along with a trophy. The five categories are Chocolate, Fruit, Creambased, Nut, and Novelty. Please send in only one recipe for each category. We only ask that each pie recipe be original and made with love in North Alabama. (Please no frozen pie crusts). Now get to baking!



orth Alabamians have seen his name their entire lives: The Joe Wheeler Highway, Joe Wheeler State Park, Lake Wheeler, Wheeler Dam, Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. Joe Wheeler has had a tremendous impact on the local area, state and country. He’s one of two Alabamians (Helen Keller is the other) with a statue of honor at the Nation’s Capitol. He served as the youngest Confederate general in the Civil War, in U.S. Congress for 20 years and as general during the SpanishAmerican War. He’s one of only two Confederate generals buried at Arlington National Cemetery. And it if weren’t for Joe Wheeler, the Tennessee Valley probably wouldn’t be the economic hub it is today. This summer, locals have the opportunity to learn more about the man with such a footprint in North Alabama as the Joe Wheeler Home reopens its doors. Since 2005, the Joe Wheeler Home, known as Pond Springs, has been closed. The home, which Joe built with his wife Daniella in 1870, was in utter disrepair. Due to lack of funding and the project’s complexity, the home is finally complete after 12 years and three phases of renovations. Today, visitors can enjoy a guided tour of the two-story Victorian frame house and grounds, which include a log cabin from 1818 and an icehouse, corn crib barn and plantation office Above: The earliest known photo of the house, circa 1874. The women in front of the home are the Wheeler daughters.


Above: The original log cabin (1818). Facing page: The cemetery is home to 200 unmarked graves of slaves, as well as marked graves honoring the Wheeler family.

from 1830. Also on the grounds is a cemetery with both unmarked graves of some 200 slaves and markers honoring the Wheeler family. The highlight is the Wheeler home itself, which is set up just how Gen. Wheeler’s daughter Annie lived in 1930 when she herself gave tours to the public. The house is filled with rare antiques, exquisite china, delicate clothing, one-of-a kind militaribilia and Victorian grandeur which not only tell the story of a significant Alabama family but of a way of life in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Bringing the house back to life has taken tremendous effort. The Wheeler family donated the home and surrounding buildings to the Alabama Historical Commission in 1992. The state first renovated the out buildings before having the funds for the house itself. When the work began, nobody could even walk inside the home. The porches were on the verge of collapsing, the walls were crumbling, the floors had an eight-inch sag in the middle, there was no air-conditioning and none of the windows were functioning.


Architect Dave Ely with KPS Group in Huntsville drew up plans for the home’s renovation after studying historic photographs and scale drawings. Dave was challenged with striking a balance between making the home historically accurate while adding modern yet necessary features such as an HVAC system which not only provides a comfortable environment but helps preserve the valuable antiques and archives inside from further deterioration. “We had to be careful to preserve as much of the original historic fabric such as the trim, the plaster, the wood—yet we had to insulate the walls, make the windows air-tight and add the new heating and air conditioning system,” Dave said. “We were able to save the original glass on the windows—one of which had Miss Annie’s name scratched into the glass.” General contractor Trav Hovater, Jr., with H&N Construction in Florence also assisted with the home’s renovation. First, H&N stabilized the foundation then began an arduous process to renovate the rest of the house.

“It was in pretty bad shape after years of being vacant and about as bad as I’ve seen as far as salvaging,” Trav said. H&N replaced and salvaged the plaster walls, lead abated the building, restored the hardwood floors, repainted the house and added the HVAC system. “It’s about 50/50 what was restored versus what’s new, but of course you can’t tell the difference,” Trav said. “As far as a historical restoration, this is one of the most extensive projects we’ve ever done. From here, I look at old buildings differently than I used to. I see a value in the old structures. And it’s exciting to be on a project like Joe Wheeler because he’s at the rotunda in D.C., he’s a historical figure for our state. To have our name on this project means a lot.” During the renovation, the furniture had been sent off to be restored, thanks to the Friends of the Joe Wheeler Home Foundation who raised $75,000. With the renovation complete, the furniture and thousands of artifacts were ready to be moved back in and strategically

The house is filled with rare antiques, exquisite china, delicate clothing, one-of-a kind militaribilia and Victorian grandeur which not only tell the story of a significant Alabama family but of a way of life in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. placed. The house has a valuable collection of antiques spanning from the early 1800s to the 1940s including four large 1840s New York armoires, an 1870s Mahogany island bed, a unique 1870s Wooten desk and intricate four poster beds and dining room suite. Walking through the house, visitors get a sense of the man Joe Wheeler was. Joe Wheeler was born in Augusta, Georgia in 1836 and later moved to Connecticut before attending West Point at 19. Always a Southerner at heart, he became the youngest Confederate general at age 24 in the Civil War, where he fought in 127 battles. During the war in 1863, he and his cavalry were

in North Alabama camping on Daniella’s father’s land. Daniella, who had lost a husband and a daughter by the time she was 25, fell in love with young Gen. Wheeler. A few years later, Daniella lost her son, but when the war ended, Gen. Wheeler came back for her and saved her from a life of grief. They married, had seven children and enjoyed Alabama plantation life. Gen. Wheeler set up a law practice in Courtland, and he and Daniella began buying up land. With Daniella’s late husband’s and late father’s properties plus their new acquisitions, the couple owned 17,000 acres by the early 1900s. Meanwhile, Gen. Wheeler ran for office and served as a U.S. Congressman for 20 years. While in Washington, he became close with President McKinley. In 1898 at the age of 61, soon after Daniella passed away, Gen. Wheeler was asked by McKinley to serve as a general in the SpanishAmerican War. He gladly accepted. During the war, Gen. Wheeler served as Teddy Roosevelt’s superior and alongside his son Joe,

Jr., a soldier, and his daughter Annie, a Red Cross nurse. When Gen. Wheeler came home in 1900, he spent his last years as a hero, traveling around the country attending banquets and parades in his honor until his death in 1906. Inside the home are hundreds of artifacts reflecting the family’s service to their country. Included in the collection are a rare flag flown in the SpanishAmerican War, Gen. Wheeler’s portrait and uniforms, Annie’s Red Cross uniform and Joe, Jr.’s West Point coat and military uniforms. Besides the military, North Alabama’s development was also important to Gen. Wheeler. During his service in Congress in the late 1800s, he commissioned the Army Corps of Engineers to study the Tennessee River. He had a dream to make the river navigable—from the Shoals to Decatur was like white-water rapids. Later in the 1930s, when FDR was looking at federal projects, he already had Gen. Wheeler’s plan in place for the river, and the Tennessee Valley Authority was born. The TVA acquired 3,000 acres of the family’s plantation and in 1937, they dedicated the Wheeler Dam in his honor. Today, the Wheeler family still owns much of the land. In 1992, they donated 50 acres, the home and surrounding buildings to the state. The Alabama Historical Commission employs a director, curator, tour guide and a maintenance man on site who provide public tours, maintain the property, manage the archives and conduct ongoing research. The Wheeler family had so many personal possessions that there are still trunks sitting in the attic ready to be sorted and archived. “So far I have archived 5,000 items and when it’s all said and done, I will have archived 10,000,” said Kara Long, Pond Springs curator. “This is a curator’s dream job—to have such an extensive collection in a house museum. Every day we find more items. We have so much


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POND SPRINGS: A TIMELINE 1836 Joe Wheeler is born in Augusta, Georgia 1860 He becomes the youngest Confederate general in the Civil War 1870 Gen. Wheeler and Daniella marry and build a home on her family’s land 1884 Gen. Wheeler is elected to the U.S. Congress 1898 Gen. Wheeler serves as a general during the Spanish-American War 1906 Gen. Wheeler dies and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery 1935 FDR visits Pond Springs 1937 The Wheeler Dam is dedicated in Gen. Wheeler’s honor 1955 Gen. Wheeler’s daughter Annie lives at Pond Springs until her death 1992 The property is donated to the state and renovations begin 2012 The home reopens to the public for tours


that we can rotate coverlets and clothes throughout the year so that visitors see something different each time they come.” Kara recently found a trunk with a man’s bathing suit, tuxedo and newspaper clipping indicating a trip Joe, Jr., took to Tampa in 1936 the year before he died. New stories about the Wheelers are discovered literally every day. “We were giving a tour recently, and an 80-year-old woman from one of the senior groups recalled living on the grounds when she was a little girl as the daughter of the cook,” Kara said. “And she remembered meeting FDR when he came to town. That would have been in 1935 during his whistle-stop tour. It’s pretty amazing.” Kara, the site director Melissa Beasley and the tour guide Hollye Raines all pitch in to provide tours five days a week. Guided tours are offered every hour on the hour beginning at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday through Saturday with the last tour at 3:00 p.m., and on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. with the last tour at 4:00 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for seniors and military and $3 for children. The home is also available for special events. On Sept. 8, the public is invited to celebrate the 176th birthday of Joe Wheeler on the grounds. While the renovation of Pond Springs has come a long way, it’s far from being complete. The grounds are overgrown and need landscaping. And visitors be

warned: there is no concession stand or restroom. To help complete the restoration of Pond Springs, you can make a donation to the Alabama Historic Commission at or to the Friends of the Joe Wheeler Home Foundation at

Top: The corn crib barn (1830) at Pond Springs; Above: The house is filled with rare antiques, exquisite china, delicate clothing, and one-of-a kind militaribilia; Opposite: General Wheeler and his daughter Annie Wheeler, circa 1900.

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(256) 464-0010 450 Production Avenue, Madison, AL 35758 J ULY /AUGUST 2012 | NOALAPRESS . COM | 63

False Spring I weed the wild garden to better display its unkempt look. Asters lean in wild abandon— petal to petal with white snakeroot and leaf to leaf (stalk to stalk?) in stands (clumps) of goldenrod. October is no time for rue anemone nor violet, but a perverse anemone blooms among hepatica’s liver-spotted leaves while violets bloom coyly on a western slope. It is indeed a false spring that lures these ephemera to display themselves so late. October is the time for hardier breeds—asters, coneflowers—those who do not fear drought nor frost. Time in the October of life for the fearless to go ahead— find, discover, recover the heady time of spring. Letting spring love o’re take us retake us undaunted by the season. For rue anemones and violets bloom undaunted by the season. Why can’t love?


Religious Education Mama dresses her right And sends her off to church school. But there isn’t a pink dress in the world Could cover those chubby knees, So she hikes up her skirts and Draws black ink stars In swirls and sprays, Lays over her desk A summer tablecloth, Lays pages On which there are no words, Lays clusters of lilac, Lays herself on this bed of spring And work and words that may be. “God,” she says, “Please don’t show up right now.” “I have about all the glory I can stand.” —Erin Reid 64 | NOALAPRESS . COM | J ULY /AUGUST 2012

—Margaret J. Vann

The Lawn Chair It is my father’s birthday. I have to see him. The family air Is to not speak out—to not stand up For self or to call into account. The chair came bending one way. I set it on the incline to bend back Center—then it bent the new way. It only works when I sit in it—centered. I sit in it with the knowledge That it can bend too far either way, Putting the darer in danger. But I am the only one. I am the darer. I dare to balance.


—Susan Guthrie



Seasons of Gold The summer days were kissed with clouds that rolled as we watched saffron wings hover to taste the offered lips of amber marigolds. We held our breath as reckless motes took flight, flew straight into the smile of summer sun. Each newborn day brought hours of delights. It was the timeless summer of soft dreams when life was new and nights were always sweet. We woke to breathe the musty smell of love. The stars of August glowed with passionate heat. Gold wings melt soft into October’s breast, while brittle bones hoard thimblefuls of sun. Time folds our golden summers into rest. Our winter days have all too soon begun. —Evelyn Hurley 66 | NOALAPRESS . COM | J ULY /AUGUST 2012

“That’s It” As I stretch for a pillow, something aches. As I strain for relief, something cramps— longing for release.


Staring Need in the face, inability aches. “Stop! Lay down,” says it. As I fall to the ground, Rest is found, and that’s it.” —Matt Patrick J ULY /AUGUST 2012 | NOALAPRESS . COM | 67

Darby Jones



Four years ago, nine-year-old Darby Jones was undergoing treatment for leukemia. Her mother Valerie was looking for something to get her out of the house and bring a smile to her face. She had tried dance classes in the past, but the studios expected perfection, something discouraging for Darby who has Down syndrome. Then Valerie discovered Merrimack Hall’s dance program for children with special needs, and Darby’s life has never been the same. “Darby was part of the original group, when the class was just getting started,” said Valerie. “She started dancing without a hair on her head—only a tiara. From the beginning, she just loved it, even when she was so sick. She loves the stage, she loves to perform. The dancing, the singing, the performing—it’s awesome. But more important is the friendship, the camaraderie, that there’s a place Darby and her friends can go and be totally accepted for who they are.” The Johnny Stallings Arts Program at Merrimack Hall is named after Alabama coach Gene Stallings’ son, who, like Darby, had Down syndrome. The program includes a series of interactive classes for students with Cerebral Palsy, cancer, autism and other mental and physical challenges. Dance Your Dreams! is a weekly dance class offered for children under twelve, and Project UP teaches dance to teenage students and young adults. In addition, Inspired HeArts offers visual arts therapy for both children and adults, and Camp Merrimack is offered each summer with one week of art and dance classes, a week that Darby never misses. The programs are run by a small staff and 100 volunteers, mostly local high school students. “When Gene Stallings visited our program, he was most impressed with the dedication and enthusiasm of our volunteers—they are mostly teenagers who are performers themselves,” said Ashley Dinges, marketing director for Merrimack Hall.


“Our founders are so involved in the arts,” said Ashley. “They realize that kids with special needs don’t get the chance to participate in the arts, and they wanted it to be accessible to all. Challenges shouldn’t limit people to express themselves.” —Ashley Dinges, Merrimack Hall

Samuel Evers

Rachel Parker is one such volunteer. A junior at Huntsville High School, she’s also active in dance and has been involved with Dance Your Dreams! since it started in 2008. Rachel teaches the Wednesday night class to kids three to seven years old.

Honorary Guest Martha Pullen and Darby Jones

“My mom has been a special needs teacher my entire life, so it’s something I’ve grown up with,” said Rachel. “I love making a difference in their lives. And what the students and parents might not realize is that they’ve made a difference in my life.” The after-school programs at Merrimack are run like regular dance and art studios. Students learn dance technique and choreography. They learn art history and theory as well as hands-on projects from sculpture and weaving to acrylic and pastels. Dance Your Dreams! is a free program, and there is a small tuition for Project UP and Inspired HeArts; however, need-based scholarships are available. The program is obviously filling a community need, as it has grown from one class and eight children in 2008 to nearly 200 students from ages three to 50. “Our founders are so involved in the arts,” said Ashley. “They realize that kids with special needs don’t get the chance to participate in the arts, and they wanted it to be accessible to all. Challenges shouldn’t limit people to express themselves.” Merrimack Hall hosts a range of public performances each year, from traveling productions and Nashville songwriters to concerts and comedians. The proceeds from all public performances go to the Johnny Stallings Arts Program. While the performances are popular, none sell out as fast as the annual recital for the Johnny Stallings Arts Program students. The hard work of the students and volunteers culminates each year in May when they have the chance to perform in front of the


“I love making a difference in their life. And what the students and parents might not realize is that they’ve made a difference in my life.” —Rachel Parker, Volunteer

Emma Kuczenski


sold-out audience, while helping to raise public awareness as well as around $10,000 for the program. “I don’t think the people at Merrimack Hall even realize their impact,” said Valerie. “It’s a great support group for the parents, and Darby has made lifelong friends. Out of the program have come friendships, birthday parties, sleepovers. When she is out of school and working, I can see Darby and her friends living together. These are friends who will stay with her forever.”

Hayley Henderson (far right) with the students

Brielle Schutte

The Ensemble J ULY /AUGUST 2012 | NOALAPRESS . COM | 73

74 »

food for thought » Sarah Gaede

IN THE MUSIC WORLD, THE RIDER IS THE PART OF THE CONCERT CONTRACT WITH A LIST OF DEMANDS THAT MUST BE MET TO GUARANTEE A PERFORMANCE. Van Halen is notorious for its insistence that there be no brown M&Ms in the backstage area. Rather than simply rock star capriciousness, the request was insurance that the promoter had read every line of their contract, including the technical specifications for installing nine eighteen-wheelers full of gear. If the brown M&Ms were present, it meant the contract had not been read thoroughly. The presence of even one brown offender required a line-check of the entire production, and often provoked bad-boy rocker behavior. The promoters at a concert in Pueblo, Colorado learned this lesson the hard way. Because they failed to note the weight requirements for the huge set, it sank through their new flooring and did $80,000 worth of damage.

Rock and roll all night, and party every day Van Halen’s practical test has inspired escalating demands from later stars, often centered on food and drink. Justin Bieber can’t go on without Vitamin Water, Swedish fish candy, and white socks. Not only must her dressing room furniture have “no busy patterns”, Mariah Carey requires Jo Malone vanilla candles ($65 apiece), melon Gatorade, and $300 Opus One Cabernet Sauvignon. Lady Gaga, a woman of the people, gets by on Red Bull, Coke Zero, and Robert Mondavi or Kendall Jackson wine. Adele, displaying alarming nascent diva tendencies, asks for a pack of Marlboro Lights and a disposable lighter, an assortment of chewing gum, and a small plate of “freshly made, individually wrapped sandwiches” that “must NOT contain tomatoes, vinegar, chili or citrus fruit.” She also requires two bottles of the “very best quality red wine” and 12 bottles of “best quality European lager beer, i.e. Becks, Stella Artois, Peroni etc. North American beer is NOT acceptable.” Bless his humble country heart, all Vince Gill needs to be happy is carpet on the floor, fruit juice, and herbal tea. If you are lucky, none of your friends has the diva gene when it comes to food and wine selection. As someone who loathes cilantro, I am tolerant of limited aversions to particular foods. I’ve learned to work non-meat wonders for my vegetarian friends. But dang, it’s hard to cook—especially baked goods—for vegans. No dairy, no eggs, no fun.


In the movie Barney’s Version, the hero asks, in response to someone announcing his veganism, “Is there a cure for that?” Exactly. Fortunately, I realized last summer, much to my shock, that my very favorite summer pasta sauce is—gasp—not just vegetarian, but vegan! Serve with a green salad, good bread, and a Sangiovese or Zinfandel. Finish with a simple Italian-style cake, called “Anarchy Cake” because you can use any fruit you want on it. If you have a vegan present, give them HäagenDazs sorbet in a flavor that compliments the fruit in the cake.

Raw Tomato Sauce for Pasta • 4 large, ripe beefsteak or other home-grown tomatoes, peeled and cored • 4 very large cloves of garlic, peeled • 6 large basil leaves, slivered, plus more for garnish • 6 grindings of black pepper • 1 teaspoon kosher salt • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes • 1/2 cup fruity, extra-virgin olive oil • 1 pound bucatini, perciatelli, or penne Chop the tomatoes coarsely. Place tomatoes and all the juices in a large ceramic or glass bowl. Smash the garlic with the side of a chef’s knife. Add garlic, basil, salt, black pepper, and pepper flakes to the chopped tomatoes. Stir in the oil. Let sit at room temperature for 8 hours, stirring occasionally. Taste for salt. To serve, cook the pasta, drain, return to pot, and toss with tomato sauce. Divide pasta and sauce evenly among four shallow bowls. Sprinkle with more slivered basil; serve immediately.

Anarchy Cake • 2 cups fruit (more or less)—whole blackberries, blueberries, or raspberries; sliced peaches, apricots, or plums; pitted cherries—enough to cover the whole top of the cake • 3/4 cup cake or pastry flour • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder • Pinch of salt • 1 large egg • 1/2 cup sugar, plus an additional 2 tablespoons • 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest • 1/4 cup light olive oil (not extra-virgin) • 1/4 cup milk (2% is okay) • 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar or balsamic syrup Preheat oven to 350°. Line bottom of a 9- or 10-inch diameter springform pan with parchment paper, spray with cooking spray, and lightly flour. Gently toss fruit with 1 tablespoon sugar and set aside. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside. Using an electric mixer with whisk attachment, beat the egg with 1/2 cup sugar and lemon zest until light, fluffy, and pale in color, about 5 minutes. Add the olive oil, then the milk and balsamic vinegar, beating gently until fully combined. Very gently beat in flour mixture, or fold in by hand. Pour batter into the prepared pan and arrange the fruit over the top. Sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a knife blade inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool slightly before removing side of pan. Serve warm or room temperature with fresh sweetened whipped cream if you don’t care about calories, and try not to eat it all at one sitting.

Participating restaurants will be sserving erving uup p cculinary ulinary ddelights elights ffor or llunch unch DDQG GLQQHU SUL[ ¿[H DV WKH FLW\ QG GLQQHU SUL[ ¿[H DV WKH FLW\ ccelebrates elebrates iits ts ddiversity iversity iin n ddining ining aand nd the Y Year ear e of Alabama Food. SSoo if if meals, you llove ove iincredible ncredible m eals, iinnovative nnovative cchefs, hefs, aand nd ffarm-to-table arm-to-table ffreshness, reshness, calendar…it’ss a culinary mark your calendar…it’ other,, bon appétit! celebration like no other Scan the code for a list of restaurants. participating restaurants.

august 17-26, 2012 huntsville.or g/restaurantweek


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Ron Morgan and Yvonne Hawkins Susy Thurber, Carl Casiday and Greg Screws Terry Fry, Iron Florist 2012 Ron Morgan

Alice Lanier, Donna Pylant, Christopher Madkour and Randy Roper

Ronnie Duncan and Terry Fry

2012 Iron Florists Carl Casiday, Ron Morgan, Terry Fry and Andy Hopper

Andy Hopper and Bonny O’Brian

Above: Art in Bloom “Flowers After Hours” featuring the Iron Florist Competition

Below: Art in Bloom Ron Morgan Luncheon, “In the Company of Flowers”



Carla Zane, Brenda Barton, Dot Ward and Michele Rife

Doris Sisk, Kristen Bodecker and Edna Kendall

Debbie Washburn and Heather Green

Don Powell, Jamey Reed and Shirley Powell

Kay Easton, Linda Akenhead, Cheryl Matthews and Donna Plyant

Guest speaker Ron Morgan, Ron Morgan Designs, Alameda, CA


Deb Taylor, Ron Morgan, Jane Troup and Margaret Boudreu Laura Vann, Suzanne O’Conner, Paula Renfroe and Laura Reynolds

Individual seats and season tickets to the 2012-2013 season are now on sale. GREAT savings for ďŹ rst-time subscribers! Visit or call 256-539-4818 for details.


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20 questions » Claire Stewart & Ann Hankey

A Few Questions for John Paul White, Musician John Paul White, who lives in Florence, is straight forward, inspirational, and talented. He’s also one half of the Grammyaward winning duo, The Civil Wars, who, with Joy Williams, is living the dream to which every musician aspires. Most recently, The Civil Wars had two songs on the soundtrack for the blockbuster film The Hunger Games. This true Southern gentleman hasn’t let the glitz and glamour of success change his attitude: he has no plans to leave his roots to lead a more glamorous life. We recently caught up with John Paul and asked him to answer some questions that give insight into his view of life. Just like the musical poetry that is characteristic of songs from The Civil Wars, his answers are powerful and to the point. What is the biggest change you have experienced in every day life since you have become so well-known? I’m not sure how well-known I am, but I’m definitely welltravelled. That’s probably the biggest change in my life. I very seldom get to see my family, and that’s been a tough transition. What award or accomplishment are you most proud of? My son’s game ball in youth baseball. I get a lot more emotional about that stuff. I try not to get wrapped up in the accolades, because then I have to take to heart the bad reviews. What is your favorite thing about living in north Alabama? Our support network. We’ve got a wonderful circle of friends and family that are more than willing to pitch in while I’m away. Coming home to that network is also quite grounding for me. Back to reality. When you were growing up, did you ever imagine you’d be where you are today? We all dream of this, but if we’re truly honest, we never really think it will happen. I definitely didn’t dream that I’d be in a duo making these kind of records. Pretty happy about it, though.

What is your current state of mind? I’m content.



What is your greatest fear? People realize I’m faking my way through all this.

What is your favorite way to spend free time? Anything related to spending time with my wife and kids. Which living person do you most admire? My wife, Jenny. Who is your favorite fictional hero? The Man With No Name. What is your most treasured possession? My 1956 000-18 Martin (guitar). When and where were you happiest? Right here, right now. Yes, I just quoted Van Halen. What is your most obvious characteristic? My lack of excitability. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? My lack of excitability. What is the trait you most deplore in others? Intolerance. What is your greatest extravagance? A recent trip to Disney World. Worth every penny. What do you most dislike about your appearance? That I don’t look like George Clooney. What do you consider the most over-rated virtue? Being “tough”. On what occasion do you lie? When I’m sleepy. Which words or phrases do you most over-use? “I’m sorry”. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? My urge to change myself. Where would you like to live? I’m perfectly happy where I live, but a summer island home would come in quite handy. What is the quality you most admire in a man? Humility. What is your motto? The Golden Rule.


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bless their hearts » Amy Cruce

Everyday Extraordinary Entertainment: The act or process of providing pleasure, recreation or amusement. From Websters Dictionary for Kids; and highly preferable to the grownup definition: “The act of entertaining.” What’s the fun in that? Growing up in the Shoals, one tends to sort of take for granted an immensely diverse, creative culture. I never thought it strange that there was an internationally renowned songwriter and pianist working on the sink at his mama’s beauty shop on Highway 72; and I was half-grown before I knew he was called anything but Lindon because that‘s all I ever heard his mama call him. I didn’t know Harlon Hill and George Lindsey were famous until I was in my teens…they were always just “daddy’s friends.“ We were interested when The Osmonds were swimming in the slough at Shoals Acres, but they weren’t singing so they weren’t that much different from the rest of us. For real…Center Star Church once listed Neil Young in between one of our best gardeners and the local mechanic on the prayer list in the bulletin. It has always been a part of everyday life around here…extraordinary people with extraordinary talent in very ordinary settings. Looking back, I’m not sure when “Handying” became a verb, one without a connection to the ability to assist with things. During our five years in Texas, Handy turned into a good time to come home in the summer, and between a musically inclined brotherin-law and a knowledgeable husband, three-year-old Pariss and I found ourselves attending everything from music by the river to lunch in air-conditioned cafes…although as the years have passed, the lunches in the air-

conditioned cafes have become our preferred venue. Still, we never miss Handy on North Court and the showcase at McFarland is a favorite for the music AND the socializing. It’s a regular promenade of lifetime acquaintances, and when the jazz band does its marching tribute the entire crowd is on its feet, clapping and laughing. We’ve done the river party every way imaginable, from a tent with tables and linens and candelabra, to blankets on the ground with barbecue from Bunyans. (One year we set up the tent early, and a pop-up thunderstorm came rolling down the river. By the time my boys got there? There it went, rolling hind end over tea kettle down through IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN A PART OF EVERYDAY LIFE AROUND HERE…EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE WITH EXTRAORDINARY TALENT IN VERY ORDINARY SETTINGS. the waves. We’ve always hoped someone in Tupelo is enjoying our tent.) Half of everyone I went to high school with is parked in a bag chair on the median in front of Coby Hall on Tuesday night, and we practically have to take out a loan to keep all the kids entertained with buggy rides until the kind driver and weary horse call it a night. One year we were at Court Street Cafe listening to Edsel Holden when we noticed Topper Price and his then-wife (he seemed to change women with his shirts) sitting at the bar, enjoying the music. We told Pariss to go ask Topper if he was going to play and the next thing we knew...there was Topper, down

on his knees on the dance floor, leading Pariss in a jazz melody. Turned out? Instead of asking if he was going to play, she asked if he’d like to dance. Every year thereafter, when he played Handy, Pariss made a point of finding him and giving him a hug. He always remembered her and when he died in 2007, we held a private memorial on our turntable.


Then there are the essentials…food and beverage, because what sort of hot Southern night at Handy is it without supper? Muffalettas travel well and improve with a few hours rest. A portable grill full of hotdogs and burgers keeps the kids happy and the bugs away. Brownies get gooey in the heat and baked beans go with everything. Deviled eggs packed on ice don’t take up TOO much room from the chilled beverages which leads us to…How I Got Famous. Involving a red gas can. Packing up one year, I needed a really big pitcher to hold the margaritas. Nothing around here worked, so I sent my big kid to Dollar General to find something and when she came back, she was carrying a red plastic gas can. As in…a red plastic gas can. For real. Since desperate times call for desperate measures, I went with it. Mixed the margaritas in the gas can, packed plenty of ice and bags of sliced limes and voila! An institution was born. Everyone loved it, we repeated it the next year, and by the third year? People we’d never met before were stopping us on the street and in the parks, introducing themselves and saying, “I’ve heard about you! What a great idea!“ A couple of years ago we were pictured in some Mississippi publication somewhere as The Blue Cup Social Club, which we’ve been for nearly 20 years, lounging by the river with our red gas can and umbrellas for shade. It tickled us to see our name in print, “The Blue Cup Social Club,”as if publication validated us. We actually got rather smug about it: The Blue Cup Social Club, lending elegance to Handy. All of which was fine until, bless his heart, that boy sang that song about red solo cups and totally tarnished our image. It was as if someone had moved onto our street with pink plastic flamingoes and a car up on cinder blocks. So if you’re looking for us this year? We’re the people with the red plastic gas can and the Waterford. One must, after all, uphold one’s standards.


There was the year I was walking down Court Street during Handy, and there was Boots Randolph standing on the street corner, blowing his song. At the time, I didn’t KNOW it was Boots Randolph, the man who wrote Yackety-Sax, I just knew I was in the presence of greatness. I stood there, suitably awed, until he finished and wandered off. Boots Randolph on a street corner in Florence, Alabama. Lord, I love this life!

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parting shot » Patrick Hood

Don’t scratch the records—Vertical House Records, Huntsville, Alabama

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