In conjunction with the Annual Songwriter Keynote at the University of South Alabama, we held a symposium in the Laidlaw Performing Arts Center (Mainstage Theatre) on the evening of Monday, March 2, 2020. This special event featured a musical performance by Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers, a short presentation on roots music by Peter Cooper from the Country Music Hall of Fame, and a roundtable discussion that included critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Will Johnson. Doors opened at 7:00 p.m., and the show began at 7:30 p.m. All attendees received a complimentary copy of IMC Volume One.
An Alabama native whose father co-founded Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, Patterson Hood has spent the last several decades fronting the incomparable Drive-By Truckers. The band’s much-anticipated twelfth studio album, The Unraveling, is out January 31st on ATO Records. While Rolling Stone calls DBT “the boldest, baddest Southern band in the land,” it is Hood’s incisive critical faculties that help make the music relevant. The Los Angeles Review of Books deems Hood “one of the sharpest observers of Southern culture and society.” American Songwriter agrees, calling him “the truest voice of the modern South currently making records.” “No Southern musical act over the last two decades,” writes The Bitter Southerner, “has done so much to challenge and change the way their fans see themselves and their home.”
Currently a writer and editor for the Country Music Hall of Fame, Peter Cooper defies easy categorization. A long-time music journalist for The Tennessean, a Grammy-nominated producer, a critically acclaimed songwriter and musician, a Senior Lecturer in Music History and Literature at Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music, and the author of Johnny’s Cash and Charley’s Pride: Lasting Legends and Untold Adventures in Country Music (2017) – it’s no wonder that Nashville Arts & Entertainment Magazine named Cooper one of Nashville’s “10 Most Interesting People.” “Peter Cooper looks at the world with an artist’s eye and a human heart and soul,” writes Kris Kristofferson. “His songs are the work of an original, creative imagination, alive with humor and heartbreak and irony and intelligence, with truth and beauty in the details.”
Austin-based Will Johnson was the long-time leader of Patterson Hood’s favorite band, the legendary indierock outfit Centro-matic. The group released a dozen albums before calling it quits in 2014, prompting Jason Isbell to close Something More than Free (2015) with the Centro-matic tribute, “To a Band That I Loved.” “Will Johnson is one of my favorite songwriters on Earth,” Isbell writes. While his band has certainly been missed, Johnson has found a host of other outlets for his creative energies. Among his many endeavors, Johnson has played drums for Monsters of Folk, has filled in on guitar for Drive-By Truckers, and has collaborated with Jay Farrar, Jim James, and Anders Parker to record the unpublished work of Woody Guthrie – all this while releasing a half-dozen brilliant solo albums of his own (including Wire Mountain in 2019) and developing a burgeoning reputation for his folk art. A long-time IMC favorite, Johnson is the only musician to appear on IMC Volume One twice: as a solo artist with “Alabama Crusade” and as part of the duo Marie/Lepanto, performing the Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster tune “Tenkiller.”
ASK 2020 was sponsored by the Alabama Humanities Foundation, the USA Department of English, the Stokes Center for Creative Writing, the USA Department of Theatre and Dance, the USA College of Arts & Sciences, and the Independent Music Collective.