In this Tennessee autumn, my to-do list is short and ambitious: 1. Cut back on cigarettes, 2. Go to the gym at least four times a week, and 3. Make W.B. Givens my friend.
It’s a distinct talent that can take the traditions of bluegrass and the buzzing Americana scene and craft something both wonderfully familiar and original. W.B. Givens offers us this combination; through robust and bluesy melodies comes cutting images of living your life and letting life live for you, of holding back wails through the push of the wind, of an emotive “Oh My God,” when “sailing through the hurricanes.” Givens’ balancing act is two-fold. It is in the purposeful rests and crescendos of his compositions, in the lyrical paintings of emotional response.
I have always been drawn to those artists who can call a spade a spade when it comes to the way we feel about things. W.B. Givens is far from heady in his music; he seems to have a good understanding about the brushes of sadness and the salvation of communion. His songs are a go-to choice for those moments when an emotion is pure and in need of catharsis and wisdom.
Beyond his uniqueness in Nashville’s Americana scene, W.B. Givens has a rather down-to-earth list of his favorite things to do in this city, and most of them involve drinking, smoking, and eating. Coincidentally, these are three of my favorite things as well. But I’m okay with whittling down my to-do list to number three.
By W.B. Givens
1. Robert’s Western World
Or as I like to call it, home. Ever since I discovered this bona-fide, country-fried honky tonk of all honky tonks, it’s the only place I go on Lower Broadway. It’s one of the few downtown bars that offers up a hearty dose of country croonin’, face-melting pedal steel, and Tennessee two-steppin’ on a nightly basis. You’re not allowed to decline a dance, regardless of how intimidating those tassels and rhinestones may be. After a few High-Lifes, it’s impossible not to have a good time because, when you’re here, you’ve assumed your own role in this vast country cosmos. Visit Hope upstairs in the Sho-Bud bar, or Cooper of Cooper and the Jam (a rock-n-roll badass) and Samantha Harlow (a genuine country songstress) downstairs.
2. Charlie Bob’s Restaurant
One time, I ate the steak and egg breakfast three days in a row. Located on scenic Dickerson Pike, this is the only meat-and-three in town that offers a cornucopia of early morning classics for a well-deserved $11.50. Their outdoor patio, complete with an idyllic desert island scene enameled on the wall, is as charming as the wait staff. Halfway through my meal, the cook usually comes outside to make sure my steak was cooked right before enjoying a few smokes and talking about the weather. The infamous Wednesday Night Old Time Jam, where I met most of my favorite East Nashville rough-necks, found its new home here at this oasis of good country cookin’.
3. Mercy Lounge/High Watt/Cannery Ballroom Complex
Since I moved to Nashville 5 years ago, this has always been the hot spot to see all my friends’ bands and most of my favorite artists. I’ve been to countless shows in this building, and their new upstairs room The High Watt is one of my favorite small rooms to play. Brandon, another of my favorite bartenders and the Assistant Manager of the complex, always shares one-too-many Jameson shots with me, and makes damn sure that everybody has a great night. When the Americana Music Festival comes to town each fall, I like to spend most of the festival bouncing between all three of these venues in a carousel of country, roots, folk, rock, and everything in between.
My favorite smoky sports bar in East Nashville. They’ve got darts, pool, whiskey, and even a weekly DJ set. I request “Hold My Life” by The Replacements every time I see him there. I discovered this joint when my good friend J.P. Harris, Honky Tonk’s Top Brass, first moved to town a couple of years ago, and when Shorty’s working the bar, it’s hard not to have a good time. Tattoos, tiny hats, and an assortment of other aspiring avatars, this place is a hot-bed for all of East Nashville’s finest.
5. Percy Priest Lake
I grew up sailing on Sardis Lake, which is a short 15-minute drive from my hometown of Senatobia, MS. Ever since, my first order of business when exploring a new town is to find the closest body of water. Percy Priest, despite it’s rapid wind changes, has a lot to offer. There are some great islands for camping on the lake, and there’s one small island in particular that has around 10 trees planted in a circle with just the right amount of space between them to string up as many hammocks as possible. If there aren’t any Vanderbros coming ashore to set up an impossible game of beer pong, it makes for one hell on an afternoon. We shot the music video for our first single, “Oh My God,” (produced and directed by Casey McBride) out on the lake, and I can’t wait to get it out.