The “R” stamp from Saturday night has finally faded from my right hand after an ambitious and a long overdue visit to Broadway, and I can’t help but be grateful for Tennessee whiskey, strangers with impeccable dance skills, and a healthy dose of rockabilly and country. In a time of friend funerals (weddings) and airbrushed lifestyles, sometimes it’s nice to share a drink with an unfamiliar face or a waltz with someone whose name you’ll never ask. But you can’t do it without the right venue, libation, and most importantly, the right soundtrack.
For all you globe-trotting, solo-strutting visitors and even you local, beautiful stand-alones, J.P. Harris is here to tell you about all the places to meet your match, whether it be for the one-and-done or the Southern romance. All praise be to Nashville’s honkytonks and dives and alcohol, the almighty confidence booster, and thank whatever religious idol you choose for the straight-shooting, Country music of J.P. Harris and The Tough Choices. Hailing from Alabama but landing all over the map, Harris has settled in a natural habitat for his sound and soul. His most recent album, Home Is Where The Hurt Is, is a reminiscent, old-school sound that reminds this town that Country is more than your tailgates and cut-off shorts. It’s about the exposure of narrative, the perfectly selected harmonies (and Nikki Lane‘s assisting voice on the record doesn’t hurt a bit), the sex appeal of steel guitar, and the heartfelt confession of three chords and the truth. The album was recorded at Ronnie’s Place, the former studio of Country singer and pianist, Ronnie Milsap, here in Nashville, and with an introduction like “Get A Little Lovin’,'” the 2014 release starts with a bang that perpetuates an outlaw-meets-heartache persona. With the help of people like Chance McCoy (Old Crow Medicine Show) and a backing band that supports the songwriter’s specific, musical intentions, there is no other choice but to trust what they do and get down with their style. Maybe even with the person you see across the bar.
Take a hint from Harris as he tells Lockeland Springsteen his “top five places to send your visiting-and-single friends.” And this isn’t just exclusive to your friends. You can participate, too, so grab a drink and a dance partner tonight as J.P. Harris and The Tough Choices take over the 5 Spot.
Nashville Five, by J.P. Harris
Of all the “Nashville” lists I’m asked to make for interloping friends, whether asked for directly or not, this is the list they’re usually after. Regardless if they’re after a Nashville fling or just want to take in the sights (and sounds and smells) of Music City with a free spirit, these are my recommendations. I should disclaim that even though these listings seem for the carnally-intrigued only, they are places you might actually meet someone you’d like to know, and actually enjoy yourself doing so.
- ROBERT’S WESTERN WORLD: For reasons I hope are obvious to locals, everyone should go to Robert’s at least ten times as frequently as you go to church. With consistently the best traditional country music anywhere in town, Robert’s western flair and the general haphazard rowdiness of Lower Broad tends to get everyone one in The Western World a little frisky. The drinks are cheap enough, the bar food comes out cheap and late into the night (for those “oops, I’m staggering-drunk because I never ate today” moments, oft the lynch pin in the closing-time pairing of to-be lovers), and let’s face it: regardless of one’s proclaimed taste in music, no grown-ass, fun-loving adult with any sense can sit still when there’s bright lights and country music. Enjoy your pick of dance partners from the crowd of vacationing oilfield men from Dallas or bachelorette party-goers from Waukegan. Hell, you may even meet a cute local…
- NO. 308: For your friend from New York who absolutely swears to high-holy-hell that they hate country music and the culture thereof, there is another place. You might could say there were more than one bar in this style, but of this class of more sophisticated, dark-and-modern vibe, I would never recommend another. The sweet and always beautiful folks who run No. 308 are kinder than the ultra-mod interior may let on, and the beauty and style of the staff has drawn a veritable casting room of good-looking patrons in denim and leather, often looking to get lucky. It’s not a Williamsburg dance club, but you can get a good cocktail and most likely get flirted-on fairly easily here. And they have bangin’ small plates.
- THE FIVE SPOT: Everyone who’s been here long enough already knows, but generally speaking this is always a surefire bet for a good time and some company. Being the melting pot for most of the musicians in East Nashville, your friend is pretty much guaranteed to meet someone who is interesting enough to speak with for more than a beer. And they might even see a B-level music celebrity while they’re at it.
- MICKEY’S TAVERN: Far enough up Gallatin Road to keep out the riff raff, Mickey’s is the perfect neighborhood bar. For those who still enjoy some nightlife but not the hordes that frequently dominate many east side bars on the weekends, this place has a little bit of it all: a pool table, a juke box, darts, cheap beer in a can, and a low-key vibe overall. This joint is far from a meat market (thankfully), but as many locals have moved north from the high-priced living of Five Points, there’s plenty of hip bar-goers not up to braving the drive or cab fare to where the “action” is. Never too packed, never too empty. Challenge someone to darts and make a new friend, visiting pal.
- THE PARTHENON: It’s Monday, I’m busy, get out of my hair and do some tourist shit already. You’ve been here for a week, entertain your own damn self. Maybe you’ll meet someone doing yoga in the park.