‘Muscle Shoals’ and musical mojo

October 26, 2013

from The Raleigh News & Observer

The lively new documentary “Muscle Shoals” — packed to the rafters with classic soul, rock and R&B songs — explores the rich musical heritage of two storied Alabama sound studios. On one level, it’s a standard-issue doc concerning a specific slice of musical history. On another, quieter level, it’s about that ephemeral and elusive substance known as mojo.

A hot ticket at this spring’s Full Frame Documentary Festival in Durham, “Muscle Shoals” is a good time for hardcore music nerds and casual fans alike. In the 1960s and 1970s, the music that came out of the small and unassuming town of Muscle Shoals, Ala., quite literally changed the direction of American popular music.

Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin made their first hit R&B records at the legendary Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals. In later years, Fame and the competing Muscle Shoals Sound Studio hosted a procession of pop music royalty: The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Little Richard, Paul Simon, Jimmy Cliff, Willie Nelson, Lynyrd Skynyrd. The film even makes the persuasive case that an accidental Muscle Shoals musical summit between Wilson Pickett and Duane Allman essentially invented Southern Rock.

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