Waxahatchee and the South in Modern Rock Music: Part 1

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 "Ramblin' Man," Wes Freed © 2013

“Ramblin’ Man,” Wes Freed © 2013


. . . it is a piece of rank materialism to attempt to duplicate some earlier form, because of its delight . . . without realizing how empty a form is without the life that once supported it.

Lewis Mumford, The South in Architecture   


You think I’m dumb, maybe not too bright

You wonder how I sleep at night

Proud of the glory, stare down the shame

Duality of the Southern thing

Patterson Hood, Drive-By Truckers, “The Southern Thing


With sabers and sticks we run to our peace

Kept undisclosed and told a vague memory

And in this dejection lives a connection

Tied to your vain silence and all my resistance

Katie Crutchfield, “You’re Damaged


Clarksdale, Memphis, and Muscle Shoals – the road to rock music runs through the South like a muddy red river through a pine forest.

Alabama’s contribution began in prewar race and hillbilly records, the roots of rock in blues and country. Later, Hank Williams and the staple of Muscle Shoals artists produced spare music which expressed the emotional truths of rural Southern life.

In the 90s, an end-year baby boomer from the Shoals, Patterson Hood, formed a band, the Drive-By Truckers. Hood wrote songs that rocked in the manner of other Southern bands – Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet – yet said something deeper about “the Southern thing.”

Hood also explored new forms to express these lived-truths.

A new Southern sensibility has arisen with roots not only in Hank, and Muscle Shoals, but also in Southern Gothic literature and folk art. A cross-disciplinary renaissance in Alabama arts and design which has captured imaginations far beyond the Alabama state line. Whether its the art work of Wes Freed (shown above), the graphic design of Standard Deluxe, the fashion design of Billy Reid, or the architectural design of the Auburn Rural Studio, there’s a cross-disciplinary regional sensibility at work here.

Coming in Part 2: Waxahatchee!

Thanks to Wes Freed for permission to use his print, “Ramblin’ Man” to lead off this post. You can see more of Wes’ great work on his website, Willard’s Garage.


© Donald E. Armstrong and Material Practices, 2013


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