Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Southern Dictionary?

Somehow I stumbled across an English poet on the interwebs. His name is Ian McMillan. He’s from Yorkshire, a small area of England, and like many parts of the U.K. it has a unique set of words and in some cases unique grammar. It read as if he was part of a dictionary project that compiled these many words, phrases and grammar usage that are as much a part of Yorkshire as the topography itself. And it wasn’t like these “Talk like a Southerner” books which are as much factual as they are satirical, it was a serious and scholarly project.

It makes me wonder if someone has done that with the Southern United States yet. We could have general Southern words then separate others by state, region, sub-region and communities. Is this something I’m looking to take on as a serious project? Probably not. But I would be very interested in helping one along.

It could be like Wikipedia or the Urban Dictionary and could be moderated by trained/approved volunteers. The concept intrigues me. What do you think?

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Who can be Southern?

Wade posted this article [] a while ago and I thought I’d comment on it a bit.

The article states:

“Southerners were parochial, had Southern accents, drank sweet tea for breakfast, got married 15 minutes after college graduation and named their kids Hunter and Caitlin. (She didn't mean rednecks, but the kind of educated types she was in a sorority with.)”

And while many Southerners do all of the things mentioned they also say that you have to hate Democrats, be Ultra-Christian, Conservative, hunt and own guns to be Southern. I just don’t buy it. I define myself as Southern, and not just “ethnically Southern” as the article states.

I don’t think you need another Southerner to define you as Southern like some nation looking for legitimacy. I believe if you believe you are a Southerner then you are one. I think that Southerners have an inherent D.I.Y. attitude that a lot of the geek culture has. It may mean something different, but it is there. Making their own wine. Raising their own food or trying to buy local all seem to be Southern qualities. Being nice and pleasant to be around and making others feel comfortable are also Southern qualities.

I’m in no place to argue one’s Southerness or to bestow the title on someone. If that were the case I’d revoke many a Southern I.D. card from those in what I consider uppity neighborhoods since many have bland city accents, are rude and not pleasant to be around, and have people that cut their yards or agree to be in a neighborhood that tells you whether or not you can park your cousin’s pontoon boat beside your house while his roof is repaired from the storm damage.

As many of you know, I’m not as Southern as I seem to be. I’ve never gone hunting. I prefer A/C to outdoors activities. I go swimming more often in a pool than the lake or ocean. I’ve never raised a successful garden. I don’t work well with my hands nor can I fix many things.

But do any of those things cheapen my Southernhood? I don’t think so. I could acquire new skills and learn to love the outdoors more but that doesn’t make me more Southern, does it? I think Southernhood is a state of mind. If you get to the South or grow up here and you want more than anything to get out then you aren’t a Southerner. You may be labeled that in New York but you and I both know you don’t feel like one and so you aren’t. We still love you but if you don’t want to be here we don’t want you here either.

Special thanks to Wade Kwon for this post. Without him tweeting the article I wouldn’t have made this post.

Your thoughts are always welcome in the comments.

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Review of ABC's Nashville

NOTE: I should have posted this weeks ago...

 So I really didn't know if this show was gonna be awesome or just a bunch of hype. Hayden Panettiere and Connie Britton are both well known so I was worried they were just stacking the cast in order to get fans of Heroes and Friday Night Lights to watch. Before the opening credits finished rolling I noticed that Rayna's daughters looked very familiar...then realized they were real life sisters and YouTube sensations Lennon and Maisy. [They currently follow me on Twitter...just sayin']

So yeah. They had me. Then I saw T-Bone Burnett is the music guru on the show and I was sold 5 minutes into the show. At first I thought these songs might have been contrived for TV as so many more are but I researched my favorite song of the pilot "If I didn't know better" and realized native Alabamian and half of the Civil Wars, John Paul White was a co-writer. Sold again and I'm still hooked

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

My Apocryphal Country [Guest Post]

by Alex Bledsoe

[Alex is a published author and I was humbled when he agreed to do this post. I'm also a fan of his after reading The Hum and the Shiver. I am now (im)patiently awaiting its sequel, The Wisp of a Thing. -Drew]

Three of my seven novels are set in the South, specifically in my home state of Tennessee. Two, Blood Groove and its sequel, The Girls with Games of Blood, take place in and around Memphis, a real city. The third, The Hum and the Shiver, occurs in the made-up town of Needsville.

So why the difference? Why use a real place for one story, and an imaginary one for another?

The tradition of fictional Southern places, at least in the popular consciousness, goes back to Faulkner and his tales set in Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi. Beginning with 1929's Sartoris, he set most of his subsequent novels and stories in that made-up bit of geography. He called it his "apocryphal country."

The advantages of using a fictional place are obvious. You don't have to worry
about accuracy, or offending the residents (for the most part; I'll get to the
exception). You can put anything in it that your story requires. It's really no
different than making up the kingdoms and countries in my other, pure fantasy

But fictional places, for the most part, carry no weight of reality. It's possible
to fake it, to imply a heavily involved past, but it's never the same. For famous
cities, it's even more difficult. Just the name “Memphis” brings to mind Elvis, BB
King, barbeque, the Mississippi River, Martin Luther King, Jr., high crime, weak
education, and even a huge, actual pyramid. If you tried to create analogs to all
these things in a fictional city, you'd run the risk of looking silly. Why not just use
the real thing and be done with it? So I did. I dropped hard-core, scary vampires
into actual 1975 Memphis.

But I put the Tufa, my mythical race of Southern folk-singing faeries, in the made-
up east Tennessee town of Needsville, located in the equally mythical Cloud
County. I wanted the same thing Faulkner did: a landscape that I could shape to
echo the themes and characters of the stories. I wanted to put certain characters
in the mountains, others in the valley, still others at the edges of the county,
looking in. Yes, it's based loosely on a real place, the same way Lafayette
County inspired Yoknapatawpha. But when you're talking about a small town
and not a big urban area, it just seems polite to make it fictional.

Of course, that doesn't always help. In the 1960s, author Jesse Hill Ford set The
Liberation of Lord Byron Jones, a sensational examination of small-town racism,
in fictional Somerton, Tennessee. However, his neighbors in real-life Humboldt
had no trouble seeing their town in his book, and weren't terribly delighted to be
depicted as corrupt, ignorant racist rednecks. Things did not work out well for
Mr. Ford.

Still, Yoknapatawpha County, Somerton, my own Cloud County and Needsville,
all give writers an option they don't get in real life: the chance to work in a
landscape that mirrors the inner life of their characters. Conversely, places
like Memphis, New Orleans, or Atlanta give readers a common ground with the
story's characters, a chance to go and literally walk in their footsteps. And both
have a proud tradition in Southern literature, of which I am delighted to be a new,
tiny part.

Alex Bledsoe grew up in west Tennessee an hour north of Graceland and twenty minutes from Nutbush. He's been a reporter, editor, photographer and door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman. He now lives in a Wisconsin town famous for trolls, writes before six in the morning and tries to teach his two sons to act like they’ve been to town before.

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Boiled Peanuts

Photo courtesy: Burgin Matthews
I absolutely love boiled peanuts. I took to them when we were staying with my wife's aunt near Tampa, Florida and she made us stop one day for some. I was driving but the two women opened and fed boiled peanuts to me all the way back home from the beach.

In the South you are bound to find more than a few roadside stands offering this delicacy. Much like BBQ joints if the places that sell them look respectable then the peanuts may not be the best. To me the art of advertising these boiled goobers is almost as impressive as the taste of them. Often you'll see spraypainted signs of "Hot Boiled P-Nuts". (Check out this gallery by Lady Muleskinner Press)

They're salty and can be Cajun-spiced. They have an interesting texture that can take a bit of getting used to but I find them to be a very satisfying snack. You can buy them preboiled in cans and bags but if you are lucky enough to live near something like Birmingham's Peanut Depot you can pick them up and boil them yourself. You can even find bags of raw peanuts (sometimes called green peanuts) in bags at your local grocer. I've seen recipes that involve a crock pot and 24 hours of cooking time on low, but I find that doing them overnight on high often does the trick.

I think they would be a great addition to a football buffet or just a part of a back yard cookout.

Have you tried 'em? Do you like 'em? How do you cook 'em? Let us know in the comments.

Authors note: I discovered Lady Muleskinner Press from a Magic City Post interview. I invite you to read the interview and check out the site for yourself.

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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Southern Quotables - Miley Cyrus

"I've got high standards when it comes to boys. As my dad says, all girls should! I'm from the South - Tennessee, to be exact - and down there, we're all about southern hospitality. I know that if I like a guy, he better be nice, and above all, my dad has to approve of him!"

-Miley Cyrus

[Side note: Her dad also warns against stepping on her achy-breaky heart]

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Southern Word of the Week - Chester Drawers

(n.) I think your dress socks are all in the chester drawers.
(n.) I bought my chester drawers from that place that Tina Gordon advertises for.  I think it's out of business.

Chester drawers are a chest of drawers.  I don't know why or how it got shortened and condensed here, but we all know what we're talking about.  Sometimes they come in a bedroom suite (pronounced suit), which I've been told that we pronounce incorrectly as well, but my limited research says that we may not be pronouncing it wrong.

Is there any furniture you've been told we pronounce incorrectly?  Is there any furniture unique to the South, or does everybody in the country have a chifforobe?  Let us know in the comments.

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Monday, July 9, 2012


The confusing world of buttermilk and its history.

No one in my family had an affinity to buttermilk. I didn't really even know it except as an adjective when describing biscuits from a can or pancakes from a mix when I was younger. This was a pretty enlightening article.

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Southern Quotables - Dolly Parton

I'm not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I'm not dumb... and I also know that I'm not blonde.

-Dolly Parton

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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day!

Eat well and be safe.

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Monday, July 2, 2012

Unique Town Names

This USA Today article speaks of what some may call forgettable towns with far from forgettable names. They cite "suburban swallow up" for the erasure of these towns from maps. What once made an area a landmark is destroyed by yet another planned community.

On a trip through Texas I passed through many towns and cities but the only one I can remember is Cut and Shoot, Texas. I've seen and heard of others that are closer to me. Pumpkin Center and Toadvine and the interesting story of Remlap and Palmerdale. It seemed to have to do with two kin folks (brothers maybe) that both were going to name an area after their last names which happened to be Palmer. One beat the other to the punch so the other just spelled his last name backwards and the two sit side by side. [Feel free to correct me because I fear I may not all the details I need. I first heard the story around the age of 8 so it's fermented in my brain for well over 25 years]

Southern or not what are some interesting towns, cities or communities with interesting names near you?

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Southern Word of the Week - Comeapart

A comeapart is almost like a nervous breakdown but usually not quite as severe.

(n.) It started raining on her weddin' day and I thought she was gonna have a comeapart.

It's one of those words that you can understand by the context its used in. I used it sometime in the past year but after it came out of my mouth it surprised me since few people I come in contact with ever use the phrase. I do like how it sounds though. 

Thanks to my virtual friend Jamie for using this in a Facebook post and reminding me of this term.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Telling Stories through song

Story telling is a pastime in the South as it is in many places around the world. In this modern world with social media and busy lives it has taken a backseat but you'll always hear a few among family and friends at social gatherings, weddings and holidays. Nowadays many story tellers are songwriters and the South has their fair share of some really great ones.

Former Drive By Truckers member Jason Isbell is one of these Southern songwriters. He wrote some tunes for the Truckers but he had some songs that didn't fit with their style so he decided to record them for himself which turned into his solo career. You may know him from the song Alabama Pines, released on his album Here We Rest.

He played a special acoustic solo concert this past Saturday at the Alys Stephens Center. Just him, his guitar, his girlfriend Amanda Shires and her fiddle. I didn't know as many songs as would have liked but I knew he was doing something real and not just writing songs for radio play or selling beer. 

It was an intimate show with seating for just over 100 on stage, which meant we would play in the opposite direction from what is usual in the Jemison Concert Hall. There were about twice as many seats above in the choral balcony but I'm sure there was not a bad seat in the whole house.

Earlier that day Jason did a small songwriting clinic where he explained how he began to play music and what his songwriting process was. He also suggested two or three books on the subject and for the second half of the one hour clinic he took questions from the audience. It was enlightening but I really enjoy hearing about the creative process of others whether they be musicians, authors or some other type of artist. 

Before we left he explained that he had to go to the bus station to pick up his lady friend who would play fiddle with him that evening. I was excited because I follow both Jason and his lady friend, Amanda Shires, on Twitter and her appearance was previously unannounced. 

Jason Isbell at the songwriting clinic sponsored by ArtPlay

[Sidebar: Amanda Shires is a fiddle player and songwriter who has been mentioned in national publications. She has played on national television with Jason and has also played internationally with him and other contemporary Americana artists. She plays music for a living and his highly regarded in her field but she took a bus, which I do not see as a glamorous mode of trasnport, from Nashville (I assume) to Birmingham. Musicians will understand this but non-musicians often see these people as leading a Robin Leach type lifestyle which is often not the case]

As I get there I find a seat on stage and notice that Mary Colurso has picked a seat just behind me and I strike up a conversation as I have read her articles in the Birmingham News for years. After I introduced myself she said that she recognized my name and knew I was a musician. That was my almost-famous moment for the evening.

The show was pretty amazing. I think the sound was not as grand as if it had been a full concert but that concert hall was not built for sound to be projected in the opposite direction. Jason and Amanda were great. His banter was spot on. Her fiddle was the perfect compliment to his songs and the short bursts of banter she provided were hilarious and the perfect addition at just the right times. She seemed timid at first and it was hard to hear her vocal harmonies but got dialed in just before intermission.

As many of you know I'm a sideman. I play harmonica in more than one band and I appreciate a good side man (or side woman in this case). Someone who doesn't steal the show with showmanship, but steals the show with how well they punctuate the musical passages and compliment the main act. Her violin could sound sweet, gritty or full on hoedown but whatever style she picked was ideal. I hope to see more from her.

If you need a suggestion on new music I suggest you go check out Mr. Isbell (which, for the record, is pronounced is-BULL). 

Mark your calendars for August 17th at WorkPlay
UPDATE: Monday, June 25th
The Alabama Music Office recently posted this video from the songwriting clinic.

Who have you recently seen or discovered recently that you believe to be a good storyteller? Let us know in the comments.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

The International Blues Challenge 2012

Sorry I've been absent but living has taken over my life a bit. Last year I switched jobs and now work extremely close to home and have significantly less stress which allowed me to play quite a bit of music. That is probably the main reason for my absence; I traded one creative outlet for another. One band I play with, The Lefty Collins Band, was entered in to the 2012 International Blues Challenge this past February in Memphis, Tennessee.  Please allow me to recap that for you.

Members of the Lefty Collins Band and 2Blu (the duo winners
from B'ham) on historic Beale Street.

In July of 2011 The Lefty Collins Band wins the Magic City Blues Society's Battle of the Blues Bands. It was Lefty's second time to win but he brought on a new bass player and and new sideman on harmonica (Me) so it was basically a new band. Our main prize was for the MCBS to sponsor our trip to the IBC's. It was an easy trip straight up the future I-22 corridor for me and we made it in about 4 hours from the extreme west side of Jefferson County, Alabama.

When we arrived on a Tuesday I was surprised at the size of historic Beale Street. Not that it was bigger than I had expected but smaller! I had a Bourbon Street sized image pictured in my minds eye. Lots of BBQ joints though and plenty of music. After we ate at one of the IBC venues, The Pig on Beale, I asked our drummer David if it was just me or did we have better BBQ in Alabama. He assured me that it was definitely not the best pork he'd had, so I knew I wasn't being a snob. The bun was so soft it didn't make it through 4 or 5 bites and the meat was ordinary but good. I guess I just expected all Memphis BBQ to blow me away.

The Orpheum Theatre from dress circle.
The next day we had a small orientation and got our venue assignment and times for Wednesday (that evening) and Thursday which are both quarter final days. We were at Wet Willie's with 2 bands from Canada and one from South Africa! All the bands were really good but only a few made it to the semi-final round on Friday and The Lefty Collins Band was one of them. The Magic City represented! Now we just had to play our best again to see who would go on to the finals at the Orpheum Theatre on Saturday.

Friday we went to lunch at Charles Vergo's Rendezvous. It was the BBQ we had waited for. I had seen it featured on the Food Network and had heard so much from others that I hoped that it lived up to the hype. So we got seated right away downstairs and they started us on complementary red beans and rice (which I hear was unusual). I opted for a small order of ribs ($14.95) which comes with beans and slaw. Let me tell you: it. was. awe. some. Totally lived up to the hype and I really can't wait to go back. If you go to Memphis and don't go to the Rendezvous you're doing yourself an injustice.

Backstage at the Orpheum.
Then it came time to play the semi-final round with other bands we'd played with all week and one new band from South Florida. The talent in that room was unbelievable, but only one band in Wet Willie's could make it through. That one band was your hometown boys, The Lefty Collins Band! The band is made up of Lefty Collins (Gadsden, AL) on lead vocals, guitar and songwriting duties; David Green (Jacksonville, AL) on drums and backing vocals; Barry Wasserman (Helena, AL) on bass and backing vocals; and yours truly Andrew Brasfield (Dora, AL) on harmonica and backing vocals. The Orpheum was amazing. It was similar to the Alabama Theatre but I'd say it's a bit more plush. We finished somewhere between 4th and 9th though we like to tell everyone we came in 4th.

Here are a few band's that I met along the way and I think you should consider buying their music or at least giving them a try.

24th Street Wailers (Toronto)

2 Blu (Birmingham)

Mikey Junior and the Stone Cold Blues Band (Northeast US)

You can also find The Lefty Collins Band on CD Baby or Amazon for physical or digital copies and iTunes, of course.

Here's a video of us in the semi-final round:
Special thanks to David Brunswick for the video!

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

What's in a (nick)Name?

So nicknames happen all over, but the South seems to have a lot of nicknames.  How many Bubbas do you know?  I've known more than a few and I actually have one of my church friends that calls me Bubber and that's not my only nickname.  Over the years I've been called:

Nub or Nubbie (I cut part of my thumb in a freak fruit basket assembly line accident)
Jew (Rhymes with Drew)
Harmonica Guy
Harmonica Man (not a nickname but a character on a Catholic Children's show.  Yes, really.)

I'm sure there are more, a few one off names that are funny for a few hours, but that is a lot for one man of 30ish years.  The best part about all of them is that they were spontaneous.  I'm not a fan of meeting someone and then saying, "I'm Patrick but everyone calls me  JB."  If everyone calls you JB introduce yourself as such.  I introduce myself as Andrew but if somebody says, "yeah, but we all call him Drew" that's fine, I just feel weird calling myself that but I will answer to it without cringing or thinking twice. For some reason I've always rejected Andy...but Andy-B (a Church youth group nickname) is somehow ok.

What's worse is when someone nicknames themselves then tells everyone that is what they want to be called. I know you've met at least one of these people. It's awkward and they always end up looking foolish.

Do you guys have any weird nicknames in your family? Let me know in the comments.

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