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For music lovers, there’s no better time than now to visit “Sweet Home Alabama.” by Bobby L. Hickman Alabama state leaders have designated 2011 the “Year of Alabama Music” to salute the many artists, events and destinations that make the state a unique draw for music lovers from all genres. Communities across Alabama are pulling out all the stops this year to draw musically inclined visitors. So this summer and fall provide the perfect time to hear live music at concert halls, parks and juke joints; visit the birthplaces of legends; explore recording studios and museums; or enjoy music-themed festivals throughout the state. The list of Alabama musical artists covers a wide range of genres over the past century. There’s Hank Williams ( both Sr. and Jr.), Jimmy Buffett, Wilson Pickett, Chuck Leavell of the Allman Brothers Band, Clarence Carter, Emmylou Harris, Lionel Ritchie, “American Idol” contestants Bo Bice, Taylor Hicks and Ruben Studdard -- and of course, country supergroup “Alabama.” Muscle Shoals has the Swampers … When many people think of Alabama music, their first thought is often Muscle Shoals. And why not? For more than 100 years, the Shoals area has played a major role in the development of American music – from

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As July 4 approaches, there's no better place than Alabama's beaches for fireworks and fun. by Erin Z. Bass On June 18, Alabama announced the launch of a new advertising campaign featuring celebrity chef Lucy Buffett, who asks vacationers to "Come on, get back to the beaches we all love." Buffett owns Lulu's on the Intracoastal Waterway in Gulf Shores and is the sister of beach crooner Jimmy Buffett. Her restaurant has become a hot spot in the area, and no trip to Gulf Shores or Orange Beach is complete without some Lower Alabama Caviar, a Cheeseburger in Paradise and Lulu's Rum Punch overlooking the water. With live music every day of the week in the summertime and an art market on Saturdays, you may want to visit Lulu's more than once during your trip. As Lulu herself will tell you, her restaurant is just one example of hometown places that give Gulf Shores/Orange Beach its charm. Everybody's got their favorites, whether it be cheesecake at Hope's just over the bridge from Lulu's, pancakes at Tacky Jack's, shopping at Tallulah's or the outlet mall in Foley. We know many of you are skeptical about a beach vacation where the beach could possibly

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