A few years ago I was working in Brixton, London with a young Ugandan keyboard player/producer called ‘Fingaz.’ We talked over many things and (for some still unknown reason) the subject of Country Music came up. ‘I love it,’ he told me. I looked askance ….’Fingaz,’ I implored, ‘why would YOU love country music?’ ‘Simple.’ he replied ‘The stories.’
He was right of course. It’s the stories. This week’s Another Country comes from our recent adventures in Music City where we encountered a great variety of music people who all had a great collection of stories. In this week’s first episode you’ll hear Josh Osborne tell you how he played his first nervous song round through to his multi platinum successes with Chris Young, Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves, Sam Hunt and Midland. It’s a great listen for anyone who feels like almost giving up…..Josh had a few false starts so talking to him in his writing room where he was surrounded by awards and gold discs told its own story.
Josh’s office is a brand new-build on Music Row belonging to his publisher Smack which is owned by Shane McAnally. The Row is changing but publishing is still the core of its working life. Little publishing houses with dusty writing rooms and large corporate shiny offices are all part of the geography of 16th and 17th Avenue South..the postal address of Music Row. That is all in cosmopolitan West Nashville. However if you’re looking for the new, the strange or the alternative then you need to head over the Cumberland River to East Nashville. On Gallatin Pike you’ll find a unique little pre-loved clothing store called High Class Hillbilly which is owned by one of our favourite artists from 2017, Nikki Lane. Here’s what the front window of her shop looks like:
Nikki is an artist and and an entrepreneur and it’s the latter which has allowed her music to flourish. Alway from the mainstream of Music Row hers is a story which will help you understand how country keeps being re invented. You won’t hear Nikki on the main country FM stations or see her being music being discussed or played on CMT. She is however doing something vital, fresh and new which will eventually inform and influence the mainstream. You need to hear her story, not least to find out how she managed to get so close to those buffalos on her record sleeve.
Finally we caught up with Nancy Jones (widow of George) who gave us a personal tour of the George Jones museum. Nancy will tell you how George never could duet with Frank Sinatra, the real tractor story and explain how George’s hair always looked so well kept. Mostly she’ll reflect on why most people agree George had the best country voice of all time.
It’s the stories people…..and they’ll all be part of our Nashville radio specials this week and next. Start this Tuesday on BBC Radio Scotland FM from five past nine.
Can you recommend some good music places to visit in Nashville, I’m hoping to go there soon. Always enjoy the program by the way.
Here’s a general guide i’ve Sent out to pals who are going:
Nashville can be fascinating or quite dull I’d imagine. It’s full of song writers so I like it but equally I can imagine some people finding it a bit square.
Tourist wise there are a few things which you should do if ( big if here) you like country music.
Country Music Hall of Fame downtown is great. Bluebird Cafe if you find the right round is a good night out, and if you’re lucky a gig at The Ryman is a magical experience.( I saw Fleet Foxes there one night).
However people will go to the Grand Ole Opry, spend nights down at the Honky Tonks on Broadway and do other assorted Country type events which I have never done – so can’t comment.
The other thing I would do is the history stuff. As I’m always working I don’t get much free time , but Nashville is Civil War central. There’s a civil war trail to be followed and amazing stories.
Also there are old bits of Antebellum world to see. Bellemead Plantation is fascinating and there’s at least one more.
Southern food is good if you don’t want whole food etc.. Worth going out of town for breakfast at The Loveless Cafe and near Music Row for Breakfast at Noshville. Boho coffee and informal eating in Hillsboro Village is nice.
You can’t survive without a car and they all drink and drive. There’s some kind of Protestant church on every corner and they all go. Finally make sure you drive out to Franklin some evening. Essentially a dormitory town, it’s charming and there’s a whole lot of history there too
George Jones/ Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline museums now open and worth a visit.
Musicians Hall of Fame well worth it too.
Roberts Western World is a good bet for good and music.
The Listening Room is now a newish Bluebird type space.
Some new lovely restaurants in German Town and The Gulch.