SOUTHERN LIVING Apr 18, 2015: The 5 Best Record Stores in the South

by Hannah Hays

Jack White’s Third Man Records may be the South’s most recognizable record store, but smaller vinyl Valhallas can be found all across the region. To name our five favorites, we asked the help of Reed Watson, a co-manager of Florence, Alabama-based record label Single Lock and drummer for Belle Adair, who spent a decade working in record stores including Pegasus Records in The Shoals. (Full disclosure: he’s also my boyfriend, who has a collection large enough to open his own store.)

 

eoamfullview-675x451Photo courtesy of Light in the Attic

End of All Music – Oxford, Mississippi
Mississippi is the birthplace of America’s music, and this store’s deep collection of blues, gospel, and soul echoes that. Their Record Store Day Special, a spoken word album by legendary Oxford writer, Barry Hannah, also reflects the state’s rich literary history. But the present is also given just as much shelf space as the past. Started by one of the co-founders of record label Fat Possum (where The Black Keys got their start), the shop is also the best place to find the South’s newest indie artists.

 

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Horizon Records – Greenville, South Carolina
One of the most knowledgeable and enthusiastic shop owners in the country, Gene Berger started Horizon 40 years ago underneath his mother’s yarn store after he dropped out of college. Now housed in a former Amoco gas station, it has become a community center for Greenville’s music scene. His curated collection of jazz and classical is unrivaled in the Southeast.

 

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Photo courtesy of Memphis Daily News

Shangri-La Records – Memphis, Tennessee
Whether you’re looking for Elvis’ Sun Records recordings or Stax hits from Rufus Thomas or Otis Redding, even newer Bluff City artists like John Paul Keith, this grey house in midtown is the place to find Memphis music. For serious collectors, their rare records collection is worth the trip. Last time we visited, we spotted a sealed promotional copy of Prince’s Purple Rain.

 

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Domino Sound Record Shack – New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans staples Dr. John, Professor Longhair, and Irma Thomas are all here, but so is the South’s largest collection of reggae and international vinyl, especially records from Africa. Their homemade mix tapes on actual cassettes range from Ethiopian wedding songs to zydeco tunes.

 

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Photo courtesy of Nashville Scene

Grimey’s New and Pre-Loved Music  – Nashville, Tennessee

There’s a certain expectation for a record store in Music City, and Grimey’s lives up to it with hundreds of thousands of albums across every genre from country classics to metal and a regularly-stocked selection of new releases. Downstairs, the shop’s venue, The Basement, hosts some of the best in-store performances in the country. Ryan Adams’ Pax-Am band and Natalie Prass are next up on their calendar.

  • NEW RELEASES 4/28: April is going out large as we get in new stuff from GORILLAZ, ROBERT CRAY, WILLIE NELSON, MARK LANEGAN, RON SEXSMITH, TROMBONE SHORTY & more!
    Robert Cray has been bridging the lines between blues, soul and R&B for the past four decades, with five Grammy wins and over 20 acclaimed albums. For his latest project, Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm, the Blues Hall of Famer traveled to Memphis with his friend, renowned Grammy Award winning producer Steve Jordan, to make a classic soul album with Hi Rhythm, the band that helped create that sound. Set inside an old theatre, the funky Royal Studios looks much as it did when Al Green was cutting those classics for Hi Records. Guitarist Teenie Hodges has passed away, but his brothers Rev. Charles Hodges (organ and piano) and Leroy "Flick" Hodges (bass), along with cousin Archie "Hubbie" Turner (keyboards), were still there.
  • NEW RELEASES, 4/14: YES, we do have the new KENDRICK LAMAR in-stock NOW, but that’s not all. We’ve got new STRING CHEESE INCIDENT, JOHN MAYER, and some jazz-classical love for Mr. Gene!
    Less obviously haunted by the influence of George Clinton than its predecessor, Damn still sounds rooted in early-70s soul. There are nods towards the luscious, harmony-laden mellowness of the Stylistics and the Chi-Lites (opener Blood even features a warped version of the kind of spoken-word monologue found on the latter’s single Have You Seen Her?), to the stentorian bellow that opens Curtis Mayfield’s If There’s a Hell Below We’re All Gonna Go and to the dense sound of psychedelic soul – by way of Outkast – on Pride. If it seems a more straightforward listen than To Pimp a Butterfly, there’s a cheering sense that this doesn’t equate to a lessening of musical ambition. There’s none of that album’s wilfully jarring quality – its sudden, anxious musical lurches and abrupt, short-circuiting leaps between genres – but the tracks on Damn still feel episodic and expansive: XXX alone goes from massed harmony vocals to a downbeat rap over glitching, stuttering samples, to a thrilling moment where it explodes in a mass of sirens, screeching tyres and heaving basslines, to a dramatic drop in tempo and an understated guest vocal from Bono in the space of four minutes. Rather than angsty disruptions, there’s a more subtle sense of disquiet here. The heavy-lidded drift of Yah would sound relaxed were it not for the presence of two grating bass notes that fit with the lyrics’ prickly unease, where images of contented family life rub up against “theories and suspicions”. Meanwhile, on the brilliant Pride, troubled lyrical shifts from modesty and confusion to self-belief – “I can’t fake humble because your ass is insecure” – are mirrored by a rap electronically treated so that its pitch gradually speeds up and slows down amid the woozy atmospherics and falsetto vocals. Elsewhere, there’s brilliant, dexterous storytelling on Duckworth – the saga of how Lamar’s father narrowly avoided being murdered by a criminal called Anthony, complete with an eye-popping, no-spoilers twist – and another demonstration of Lamar’s nonpareil ability to write songs about the pressures of wealth and success that somehow manage to elicit the listener’s sympathy rather than a roll of the eyes.