Local studio preserves Shoals music history

From left: Junior Lowe, Brad Guin, Mike Dillon and Travis Wammack collaborated to entertain the audience March 2 at Cypress Moon Studios in Sheffield. Various songwriters and musicians use this studio as part of the “Songs from the Sessions” event six – eight times per year to entertain Shoals music fanatics.

by Student Photographer Caleb Cole

Overlooking the banks of the Tennessee River in Sheffield lies one of the area’s most celebrated musical institutions.

Cypress Moon Studios, the previous Muscle Shoals Sound, has been the location where esteemed artists, such as Etta James, Bob Dylan and the Commodores, recorded some of their most famous songs.

Tonya Holly, the owner of Cypress Moon Studios, seeks to preserve the musical heritage of the studio. This objective gave Holly the inspiration for her latest concert series, “Songs from the Sessions.”

“I just want to grow the music here and keep it alive,” Holly said.

“Songs from the Sessions” commemorates the iconic songs various performers, musicians and producers recorded in Muscle Shoals that launched their careers. Holly hopes to host six – eight shows annually in the Full Moon Theater on the campus of Cypress Moon Studios.

In her last installment, Holly honored the guitarists whose legendary licks have become instantly recognizable to anyone who knows Muscle Shoals music.

Fifteen guitarists received recognition that night. Among those performers were Kelvin Holly (Amazing Rhythm Aces, Little Richard), Larry Byrom (Steppenwolf), Travis Wammack and Gary Nichols.

Highlights of the show included a rendition of honorary guest Pete Carr’s classic, “Main Street.” Kelvin Holly played the signature guitar part as Carr watched from the audience.

Jimmy Hall, the lead singer and harmonica player from Wet Willie, was the guest singer for the event.

Concert-goers who attend “Songs from the Sessions” can expect a comprehensive musical experience.

“You’re a part of the history but also the progression of where we’re going,” Holly said.

Each of the concerts in the series is recorded live, and plans are in the works for the studio to release the concerts as a web series.

Holly said she has not set a specific date for the next chapter of “Songs From the Sessions,” but she expects to organize another concert in May.

Any interested parties can find information about Cypress Moon Studios on Facebook, and tickets for “Songs From the Sessions” are available for purchase in advance by calling 256-335-6961. Fans can also buy tickets at the door.