Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Showcase Providing Outlet for Songwriters in Northwest Alabama

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Showcase Providing Outlet for Songwriters in Northwest Alabama

Article excerpt

SHEFFIELD, Ala. | Max Russell has been playing original music in the Shoals for over 30 years, so he knows the difficulties artists face while seeking an appropriate venue to perform their songs.

For the past 4 1/2 years, the Florence resident has been hosting a songwriters' showcase that gives both up-and-coming and established artists a chance to perform original music.

March 1 will mark the first anniversary of the Shoals Songwriters Showcase at Jameson Inn's Singing River Bar and Grille, a venue Russell has called the best so far.

Russell recalled the days when well-known Shoals musicians Jerry McGee and Mickey Buckins hosted the popular Muscle Shoals Songwriters' Showcase at Fizz Lounge at the old Holiday Inn in Sheffield.

"They did that for 15 years," Russell said.

About 10 years after it ended, people started suggesting Russell take up where McGee and Buckins left off.

"I saw a need for it, being a songwriter myself," Russell said. "It gives me an outlet for my songs and to promote my music. Mickey and Jerry helped me over the years. I felt like someone needed to carry the torch."

His showcase began at the old Smokehouse Pool Room in Florence, then moved to the now defunct J.D.'s Lounge in Sheffield. From there, the showcase moved to two other Sheffield venues, Frank's Italian Restaurant and the Sandbar.

"Then I ended up over at the Singing River Bar and Grill," Russell said. "It's really starting to take shape there. People realize what I'm trying to do."

Russell said he mainly attracts "underdogs who don't have a chance to put their music out there other than in a showcase," but he also showcased established artists like Earl "Peanutt" Montgomery, who wrote numerous hits for the late country music legend George Jones and other country artists.

Max Russell has also featured Russell Gulley, a member of the popular regional rock act Jackson Highway.

"Not only do local guys get a shot at being on his stage, but he also uses what I think are the cream of the crop of Alabama and regional artists," Gulley said. …

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