Last April, Steven Tyler took a brief respite from his solo tour to cut a track at the historic Florence Alabama Music Enterprises (FAME) Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. For a new compilation called Muscle Shoals…Small Town, Big Sound, Tyler put his own bedraggled spin on one of the studio’s most famous exports: “Brown Sugar.”
The Rolling Stones originally recorded the song at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio at the end of 1969, the height of the prolific town’s golden age, for the 1971 album Sticky Fingers. Tyler replaced Mick Jagger’s taut, jumping-jack yelps with his own dirtier, languorous tone. His onetime-soul army consisted of Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt, a gospel trio and the warm blast of brass and piano by FAME studio regulars. According to a recent interview with Joe Rogan, it all went down, fittingly, in the same room Tyler’s most obvious vocal inspiration – Little Richard – once occupied. The song is available for instant download by pre-ordering the full album tomorrow.
“We knew we wanted to respect and pay homage to the original version, but we also dared ourselves to make it our own,” Tyler tells Rolling Stone. “I had no idea the vibes I would feel being in those rooms at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals. So much more than an era was created there. These songs are the soundtrack of people’s lives. A world that could never be lived again.”
Muscle Shoals…Small Town, Big Sound honors the studio’s 60th birthday and the legacy of its late co-founder Rick Hall – “The Father of the Muscle Shoals Sound” – who died in January. Hall’s son, Rodney Hall, produced and curated the album with acclaimed producer and Dreamlined Entertainment Founder Keith Stegall.
The album also boasts Jamey Johnson, Willie Nelson, Chris Stapleton and Lee Ann Womack teaming up on Bob Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody,” Michael McDonald singing Etta James’ “Cry Like A Rainy Day” and Shinedown’s Brently Smith on “Mustang Sally.” Like Tyler, all of the artists on the album made the pilgrimage to FAME Studios to record their vocals in person.
The album is available digitally on September 28th. A portion of the album’s proceeds will benefit the Grammy Foundation and other charitable foundations that support Muscle Shoals’ musical history.
Muscle Shoals…Small Town, Big Sound Track List
1. Keb’ Mo’ – “The Road Of Love,”
2. Grace Potter – “I’d Rather Go Blind”
3. Steven Tyler & Nuno Bettencourt – “Brown Sugar”
4. Jamey Johnson, Willie Nelson, Chris Stapleton & Lee Ann Womack – “Gotta Serve Somebody”
5. Eli “Paperboy” Reed – “Steal Away”
6. Kid Rock – “Snatching It Back”
7. Aloe Blacc – “I’ll Take You There”
8. Michael McDonald – “Cry Like A Rainy Day”
9. Vince Gill & Wendy Moten – “True Love”
10. Alison Krauss – “Come And Go Blues”
11. Mike Farris with The Blind Boys of Alabama – “Respect Yourself”
12. Alan Jackson – “Wild Horses”
13. Brently Stephen Smith of Shinedown – “Mustang Sally”
14. Chord Overstreet – “We’ve Got Tonight”
15. Tom Johnston & Delbert McClinton – “Giving It Up For Your Love”
16. Candi Staton with Jason Isbell & John Paul White – “I Ain’t Easy To Love”