A couple weeks ago, I ventured to Mercy Lounge on a Sunday night. It was a Sunday night just like every other Sunday night, really. A little warmer than usual, maybe, prime for some music and cheap whiskey while the rest of civilization settled in with Mad Men and anxiety dreams of Monday.
Of course another Sunday in Nashville is not just another Sunday when there’s a good show involved, and the lineup of Andrew Combs, Shovels & Rope and headliner Jonny Fritz was one of those times. I first saw Corndawg last summer on stage with Middle Brother back in Brooklyn; Combs, a find during my Soundland visit in the fall. It was my first time with Shovels & Rope, but wont be the last. The three acts had been touring together and stopped here for a homecoming show of sorts.
I listened to Combs’ record endlessly in planning my move to Nashville and still do; I wanted to be on “Tennessee Time,” and “Too Stoned to Cry” is the one of the damn saddest, finest slow-burning tunes in the tradition of Townes Van Zandt I’ve heard in a long time. His newer 7″, “Big Bad Love,” is still twanged-up but more soul-infused, a bit more swagger: in fact, Combs coined his own accurate word-slash-hashtag to describe it: #countrysoulswag, natch. American Songwriter just ran a great profile on him here.
Anyway on that fine Sunday he was excellent, Shovels & Rope tore it up and Fritz brought it. So we very excitedly accepted Combs’ offer to share his Top Five Best Things About Going on Tour with Jonny Fritz and Shovels & Rope, plus a slideshow of some photos he took along the way. P.S. If you missed him, head to the Basement on 5.11. Shovels & Rope play there too on 6.7. And Jonny…well, he’ll be back. He’s just down on the bikini line. Or tour. Or both.
Andrew Combs’ top Five Best Things About Going on Tour with Jonny Fritz and Shovels & Rope:
1. Jonny Fritz & the Almond Bros – How does traveling the country, making money playing good music with good friends sound? Yeah, that’s what I thought- fucking awesome. Too many tours are plagued with bad attitudes, bad musicians, bad songs, bad girlfriends, bad drunks, and all sorts of other bad shit…. Not with these fellas. Whether it was skipping sound check to go swimming in the river, seeking out the best fried chicken in Georgia (hint: Fried Green Tomatoes), or trying to distract truckers with Playboy fold-outs, every day consisted of serious, side splitting, laughing my ass off fun. To make it even better, every night I got to see their set – killer songs played by killer musicians. I have the utmost respect for Jonny, Josh, Spencer, Jerry, and Taylor. I’m glad they let me tag along.
2. Shovels & Rope (Cary Ann Hearst & Michael Trent) – These two changed the way I look at writing songs and putting on a show. If you have ever seem them rip into the hip shakin “Boxcar”, or bring you to your knees with Michael’s ballad “Fingernails for Breakfast”, you know what I’m talking about. It doesn’t hurt that they also might be some of the nicest folks I’ve ever met. Oh, and Cary Ann can cook a mean shrimp and grits! Look out for their new album coming soon. It might just change your life.
3. The Corndawg Van – Equipped with a loft, power converter, DVD player, Christmas lights, and plenty of room to stretch out, this beast is what every band wants to tour in. It makes 10 hour drives more than bearable.
4. Charleston, SC – Oh my lawdy, I do declare that the most beautiful women… no I take that back, the most beautiful, smart, and interesting women, live in Charleston, South Carolina. What could make a place any better? Oh, how about nice beaches, great music, and exceptional seafood. Thank you Cary Ann and Michael for showing us your hometown. I’m sold!
5. Stupid Things People Say to You at Your Show – Some musicians probably hate this part of touring, and maybe I will someday too, but I sure got a kick out of it this tour. Here’s just a few favorite quotes from people we came in contact with at the shows:
– “Can you play some Jim Croce songs!”
– “Dude, I have this song I wrote, and I think YOU could make it a hit! What’s your email? I’ll send you the lyrics. I don’t have any music yet. Maybe you could help me with that?”
– “Your songs/voice are great, but what you need is a party song – you know like a raise your glass, light a joint type of song. If you had one of those, I might buy your cd.”
– “The show was awesome! Not 100%, but pretty damn good, dude.”
Click through a slideshow of Combs’ personal photos from the road: