Thursday, July 5, 2012



By Doc Lawrence

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA. My Alabama roots run deep. My wonderful mother was from the northeast part of this state near the west slope of Lookout Mountain. My paternal ancestors came over to Georgia from St. Clair County outside Birmingham. I’ve always felt a spiritual kinship with a cross section of the state’s cultural icons. It’s nearly impossible to be raised in the Deep South and not be influenced by Harper Lee, Truman Capote, Hank Williams, Nat King Cole and Emmylou Harris.

This is heartland in tune with nice accents. Examples are easy to find of why the gifted journalist Marshall Frady called the region “America’s Ireland.” Music, literature, dance, hospitality and a love of tradition are omnipresent. Being no stranger, I set out to visit again the grave of Hank Williams, It’s a pilgrimage I made before, a walk up the hill in the cemetery hoping to connect with those archetypes that Williams embedded in his music.

Paradoxes abound in Montgomery as they do throughout the South. The Confederacy was born here. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. The Rosa Parks Museum is near the White House of the Confederacy. This was the home of the great folk artist Mose Tolliver and Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald. I plan to read again F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, his account of their storied marriage.

Cuisine has special identity here and is proudly showcased. In Alabama, farm-to-table has been a way of life since pioneer days. Throughout the state, gourmet dining thrives alongside country and soul cooking. And these folks know how to do great barbecue.

The Alabama Shakespeare Festival, headquarters of the heralded Southern Writers Project, stands almost alone at the pinnacle of cultural acclaim in the South. I’ll attend a performance on their mainstage of NANTA, a cooking musical garnering across-the-board international praise.

It’s a few days of returning to things deep in my heart. Nostalgia, reassurance, comfort, flavors and fragrances, heritage and the joy of being immersed once more in the soul of the South.

Enjoy this amazing video from NANTA:

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