Points of interest, music festivals and venues in "The Good Life City"
For a town of less than 100,000 residents in Southwest Georgia, Albany has produced its share of influential musicians. "The Genius" American music icon Ray Charles was born there, as was Big Band–era trumpeter Harry James, jazz guitarist Russell Malone, top country songwriter Dallas Davidson, Shawn Jay and Smoke of hip-hop duo Field Mob and American Idol winner Phillip Phillips. From the Albany Chorale to the award-winning sounds of the Albany State University Marching Rams, the mighty gospel of church choirs like Voices of Zion and local groups like Evan Barber and the Dead Gamblers and 7th High Band, music is ingrained in the community of "The Good Life City."
Below, use the itinerary to find must-see music venues, festivals and more points of interest, and listen to music by local artists in the "Our Albany Picks" playlist.
Points of Interest
An often unheralded but vital civil rights battleground, Albany was the site of voter registration drives, sit-ins, marches and participation by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1961 and 1962. The congregational singing traditions of the region helped make music a central part of the Albany Movement, and in 1962, the SNCC Freedom Singers were formed in the city and subsequently toured the country. Their story, as well as the stories of ordinary people who helped bring about change in their community during this period, are shared in compelling exhibits at the Albany Civil Rights Institute.
The museum is open five days a week, and every second Saturday, the Albany Civil Rights Institute Freedom Singers engage visitors with an oral history presentation featuring songs and stories of the Civil Rights Movement. Led by original Freedom Singer Rutha Harris, the group performs emotionally charged versions of freedom songs, including “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around,” “Woke Up This Mornin’ with My Mind on Freedom” and “This Little Light of Mine.”
Since 1965, the Albany Symphony Orchestra has been the heartbeat of classical music in South Georgia. Each season, the orchestra presents a variety of afternoon and evening performances at the Albany Municipal Auditorium and the Albany Museum of Art. The 2016 season includes a multi-media performance in conjunction with Albany’s annual Native American Festival featuring Native American flutist Joseph FireCrow.
Born in 1930, Ray Charles is memorialized in his birthplace of Albany with a downtown park bearing his name and a revolving, illuminated bronze statue of him seated at a grand piano. The music of Charles plays on speakers as water flows down the sides of the statue, created by sculptor Andy Davis with input by students from the Georgia Academy for the Blind. The park includes a touchable mini-version of the statue featuring markings in braille. Ray Charles Plaza overlooks the Flint River, and two pathways connect the Plaza with the Albany Riverwalk.
1. Briar Patch Music Festival
Ready for an authentic South Georgia experience on the last weekend in May? Grab your tent, chairs and cooler, and head to Briar Patch Music Festival, which is staged on a plot of land located squarely between cotton, corn and peanut fields on Five Bridges Road in Damascus (population: 277), just a few miles outside of Albany. Regional and touring rock, jam, funk, country and Americana bands and singer/songwriters take the stage over the two-day weekend in the country.
A variety of concerts and musical events are held throughout the year in the three venues that make up the Albany Civic Center Complex. For bigger shows, the Civic Center has more than 10,000 seats, while Veterans Park Amphitheatre seats 2,500 outdoors. In addition to hosting smaller shows, the 965-seat Albany Municipal Auditorium is home of the Albany Symphony Orchestra.
2. Harvest Moon
For more than two decades, Harvest Moon has been a top-rated family-friendly eatery in Albany with live music on the menu every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. The Bo Henry Band, whose red-bearded leader co-owns Harvest Moon, often holds court in the cozy venue playing long sets of soulful Southern rock, blues and jam music.
The Georgia-headquartered restaurant chain features live music every Friday night and an acoustic series on Sunday night. The local Southeastern Songwriters series is moving its residence there in early spring 2016.
Merry Acres Inn is a charming, locally owned boutique-style hotel where guests can enjoy drinks and conversation in the lodge-style interior or outdoors on the double veranda. Happy Hour performers during the week include guitarist and singer Brandon Fox on Tuesdays, keyboardist and singer Danny Fallin on Wednesdays, and guitarist and singer Bill Harrell on Thursdays.
In Southwest Georgia, locals love food, sports and music, and Newman’s Bar and Grill has them all. Live music every Friday and Saturday night regularly includes the Ryan West Band (country); singer, songwriter and kazoo player Anthony Johnson (Christian/Americana); and the classic country of the Mac George Band.
Icons presents a variety of performers from Southwest Georgia and North Florida, including 7th High Band, featuring the incredible saxophonist Fred Williams Jr. Its famous soul food kitchen turns out to-die-for chicken wings, fish and grits, and traditional dishes like ox tails, catfish and pork chops.
The historic venue was renovated several years ago and now hosts several concerts and special events throughout the year. In February 2016, 340 Creative Group will premier a new concert series at the venue that will run through the summer.