Mu­sic’s heart­land

Cross­ing five south­ern states, the amer­i­cana Mu­sic tri­an­gle is the birth­place of mod­ern sound. cathy Wagstaff hits the road to dis­cover its high­lights.

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Blues. Jazz. coun­try. rock ‘n’ roll. r&B and soul. Gospel. south­ern Gospel. ca­jun and Zy­deco. Blue­grass. these nine dis­tinct gen­res of mu­sic en­cap­su­late nearly ev­ery style com­ing out of the mod­ern amer­i­can mu­sic scene, and they all have their roots here, in the amer­i­cana Mu­sic tri­an­gle (aMt).

the tri­an­gle con­nects nash­ville, Mem­phis and new Or­leans, cross­ing five states: ten­nessee, alabama, Mississippi and louisiana, with a dip into arkansas. From the jazz clubs of Bour­bon st, new Or­leans, to the live spec­tac­u­lar that is the Grand Ole Opry in nash­ville, the routes rep­re­sent a 2414-kilo­me­tre jour­ney into mu­sic’s heart­land.

While it show­cases her­itage and his­tory in abun­dance, the aMt it­self was only launched in May 2015. Founder aubrey Pre­ston wanted to show­case amer­i­can mu­sic at a grass­roots level, unit­ing com­mu­ni­ties, his­to­ri­ans and mu­sic-lovers in a multi-state tourism and preser­va­tion project.

choose your jour­ney the aMt al­lows in­ter­na­tional and do­mes­tic vis­i­tors alike to in­ter­act with the sto­ries, peo­ple and, above all, mu­sic. there are five sug­gested driv­ing trails, each full of po­ten­tial stops that of­fer a unique per­spec­tive on mu­sic. sim­ply hire a car (prefer­ably one with clas­sic 1960s flair) and hit the road.

in new Or­leans (pro­nounced by the lo­cals as n’awl­ins), it’s all about the en­ergy of jazz, gospel, r&B and that rich ca­jun sound. along the delta high­way, get ab­sorbed by the blues; clarks­dale, Mississippi is home of the ‘fa­ther of mod­ern chicago blues’, Muddy Wa­ters. spend a night at the finest juke joint in town, Ground Zero Blues club, par­towned by ac­tor and Mississippi delta res­i­dent, Mor­gan Free­man.

Pay your re­spects to the King in Mem­phis with a visit to his fa­bled man­sion, Grace­land. those long­ing to get up-close to elvis Pres­ley can now en­joy a taste of his leg­endary south­ern hos­pi­tal­ity at the Guest house at Grace­land, the ea­gerly an­tic­i­pated 450room re­sort.

con­tinue on to ‘Mu­sic city’ it­self: nash­ville, ten­nessee. Be sure to visit a honky-tonk bar or two – their dis­tinc­tive sound is un­avoid­able as you stroll the main streets – and plan ahead if you want to see up-and-com­ing mu­si­cians and es­tab­lished stars per­form­ing (or spec­tat­ing) at the Blue­bird café. Keith ur­ban and Garth Brooks are among the names who per­formed at this 90-seat venue early in their ca­reers, and tick­ets sell out quickly, although it’s first-come, first-served on sun­days and Mon­days. nash­ville is also home to Mu­sic row (home of rca stu­dio B, where the likes of elvis, roy Or­bi­son and dolly Parton once recorded some of their most pop­u­lar hits), the Grand Ole Opry and the coun­try Mu­sic hall of Fame & Mu­seum, an essen­tial for any­one in­ter­ested in the hits that de­fined a genre.

From Mu­sic city, fol­low the natchez trace Park­way to the shoals of alabama, a quar­tet of ci­ties along the ten­nessee river: Mus­cle shoals, Florence, sh­effield



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