I once got pulled over going eight miles per hour over the speed limit driving through Arizona, on the fast track from Los Angeles to New York. We’d been living in the City of Angeles for somewhere around a year and three months, and that was apparently how long we could endure the awful 72-degree weather and gauzy, pinched-cheek colored sunsets. Maybe we were crazy, but we packed our black Toyota with a trunk-full of possessions and hit I-40 back towards the city I was born, to trade an apartment with canyon views for one 1/3 the size on the Lower East Side where our window looked out onto, well, just another building and another window.
It was the same road trip where we first came to Nashville, where we dragged our cat into the lobby of the Music Row Best Western – it was cheap, and I didn’t know enough about the town then to pick a better neighborhood. We spent one night dancing at Robert’s Western World and eating Jack’s BBQ like good tourists and fell in love with the place somehow. I didn’t know it then, but that road trip – LA to Nashville to New York – connected all my past and future lives.
Raised on the Plains, the new LP from Jesse Lafser, is the record equivalent of her personal road trip – a musical line traced through everywhere she’s rested her hat, pieced together through porchside plucks, emotive lyrics and a voice that lays in perfect, strong balance with the steadfast melodies. There’s a worldliness to it without weariness; a firm echo of the south, where she lives now, shaped by the fast unfolding of all this country has to offer – from all her past homes or maybe homes of former lovers, hiding in the mountains and valleys and the plains. Songs like “Darlin’ It’s a Waste of Time” swank in with blues on the breath, while “Circus of Saints” blends a Graceland-eqsue percussive beat with sweet fiddle howl and rich folk sensibilities – it feels easy, natural. It all does, the pictures of past, and future, lives.
Below, Jesse takes us on another journey for her Nashville Five – down Gallatin Road, in our very own East Nashville. Just buckle up (not metaphorically).
Meanwhile, Raised On the Plains is out April 28. Hear a song, “Rosey,” now over at the Bluegrass Situation and catch her live at the Basement on April 25.
Nashville Five /// By Jesse Lafser
Every time I drive down Gallatin road I see something new. The bad drivers are pretty consistent though. You can see anything from a weave in the street to over-priced vintage items. It is an interesting slew of businesses and characters and serves as a prime exhibit of the mixed gentrification process in this neighborhood.
Five best things on Gallatin Pike in East Nashville
1. Sip Café’s new drive through
Sip Café recently moved locations and the new spot is great – they perfectly captured this throwback, nostalgic diner feel and they added a drive-thru. A COFFEE DRIVE-THRU is everything to me. They are nice and friendly – but not too chatty – and their iced coffee is my new summer staple.
2. El Jaliciense
Fresh Guacamole. Need I say more. I will though – the tacos are amazing and they also have really great aqua fresca.
3. Mickey’s Tavern
I have longed for a neighborhood bar such as Mickey’s Tavern for a while now – it used to be a somewhat intimidating building called the “Beer Barrel”, with large flames painted on the front – I was always curious to go in there and never did. But Mickey’s is great – you can duck in anonymously for happy hour – it’s dimly lit, not over crowded, and the drink prices are more than fair.
4. Southern Thrift
I sometimes like to wear boy’s Wrangler jeans and if you get lucky, you can find a good pair at Southern Thrift. I have also found many a great blazer there for just a few bones.
5. Madison Glass
If this is not the most incredible storefront you have ever seen…it looks like a scene from a small, obscure old western town. It is a photograph waiting to happen. It’s jangly and full of history and character in all the right ways. I’ve never even been inside – I just always admire it every time I drive by.