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Alabama tourism officials promote recording sessions in Shoals region

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SHEFFIELD, Alabama — Listening to the playback of his song "Swamp Thing" at NuttHouse Recording Studio, Jackson Nance asks producer Jimmy Johnson whether a fading slide guitar note can be turned up in the mix to achieve a classic blues effect.

"You know, like at the end of an old blues record, where the slide guitar makes that ..." Here, Nance makes a sound that imitates the wavery, buzzing sound of an electric guitar string being stroked softly by a bottleneck.

Johnson, guitarist with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and a noted producer in his own right, smiles and says, "Don't worry. We can do that in an overdub."

The exchanges between Nance and the veteran session musicians, including bassist David Hood of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and legendary Memphis guitarist Reggie Young, would not be remarkable in this setting — except that Nance is only 15 years old.

Nance wrote the song with Rob Robinson, the lead guitarist on the session, and Eddie Wilson. The session was videotaped for use later by the Alabama Tourism Office to promote the state regionally and nationally, Lee Sentell, director of the tourism office, said.

"Swamp Thing" is a slow, syncopated blues that name-checks many of the hits and artists associated with the heyday of Muscle Shoals music, when the town was dubbed the Hit Recording Capital of the World.

"The market for Alabama is becoming more regional and international," Sentell said. "Our food and our music are what people are looking for."

By paying for the video portion of the session, the tourism office has a marketing tool that is less expensive because of copyright issues, he said.

Nance, a native of Mississippi and a Nashville resident, said he has been singing since he was 8, and began writing songs and playing guitar at 12.

"The writing came along with the guitar," he said. "To be respected, you must write your own songs."

Nance came to the attention of Leiper's Fork, Tennessee, entrepreneur and music preservationist Aubrey Preston a few years ago. Preston is connected to the Muscle Shoals music and tourism businesses, and introduced Nance to many of the local players. Nance said Florence-Lauderdale tourism director Debbie Wilson also introduced him to Muscle Shoals musicians.

"I've never done anything like this before," Nance said during a break in the recording at NuttHouse. "Reggie Young, David Hood — I'm really fortunate to work with them. It's like being in the studio with Paul McCartney. They've been on so many hits."

The Beatles are one of Nance's biggest inspirations. He said he discovered them a few years ago and especially admires McCartney and his melodic gifts.

Hood, McCartney and Young are now in their 70s, and Hood has become a member of British band the Waterboys, who this month launched a world tour.

"David and Paul McCartney let me know I can still do this when I'm 80 years old," he said.


Information from: TimesDaily, http://www.timesdaily.com/

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