By April 13, 2013 3 Comments Read More →

Nashville!

tubbstore

The scene inside Ernest Tubb’s Record Shop, on Broadway in downtown Nashville. At any given moment, you’ll find local musicians jamming or pitching their latest tunes on a stage at the back of the store.

Dead Like Jazz has no designs on competing with Frommer’s, Lonely Planet or even Trip Advisor when it comes to writing about travel, but a trip down south a couple of weeks ago makes us feel as though an exception is in order. If blogging paid better, perhaps we’d get to more places and do this more often, but for now, this will be our last travel post for a while. What triggered it was a recent move by a family member to that bastion of all that is commercial and crass about for-profit music today, Nashville, Tennessee.

This was our first trip there, and we only spent four days trying to get a feel for the place, which is never enough time in a fairly large city. There was plenty of quality family drinking time, some of which occurred in fairly generic, suburban watering holes, featuring fairly generic (but tasty enough), suburban food and cover bands, so we really had only two days or so to see what we needed to see. What we did see impressed us. Nashville is not only a great music town—a fact not surprising to many, but it was to us—it also turned out to be a great eating town, if you’re not worried about consuming plenty of carnivorous, lardy treats.

Being first time visitors, we were told that there were a handful of must-sees: Opryland, the Country Music Hall of Fame, Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage, the Parthenon replica, and the downtown bar scene on Broadway. We crossed Opryland off our list immediately, based on intuition and experience with theme parks in general. Regrettably, we didn’t make it to the Hall of Fame, but that was more about hours and timing than it was about trying to avoid it. We’ve been told it rivals its rock and roll equivalent in Cleveland in many ways.

We passed on The Hermitage, which was only a couple of miles from our suburban base of operations, but only because it seems to warrant a day all by itself. We were told that the Parthenon was a bit oversold as an attraction, but regardless, we feel odd seeing replicas of anything of which we haven’t yet visited the original. We avoided going to that hotel named Paris in Vegas once for that very reason. Is it any wonder the French hate us? On the other hand, we saw no reason to avoid New York New York, since we’d seen the original quite a few times. Yes, the real one has better pizza and lousier weather.

The thing we did quite a bit while in Nashville—and this won’t be a surprise to anyone who’s seen our family’s liquor tabs over the years—was haunt the bars down on Broadway. Yes, plenty of locals warned us that Nashville’s “real” music scene is elsewhere. Even budding country acts frequent other venues, and it’s not a surprise that other genres are tough to find downtown. But, for one-stop shopping for first-time visitors, Broadway can be a real hoot. As crassly commercial as the business end of the music can be down there, Nashville takes its musicians seriously. Live music venues all have an official sign indicating them as such, and anyone who has any connection to the music business knows that hundreds of great session players have gravitated there in the last 30 years, which yields no shortage of great, local bands.

The King and a typical Yankee tourist meet in Nashville

The King and a typical Yankee tourist—OK, it’s the author’s nephew—meet in Nashville

Three or four blocks of Broadway—right downtown, and just west of the Cumberland River—feature dozens of joints, all playing live music from late morning until closing time—along with barbecues, a couple dozen western apparel and boot shops, the Ernest Tubb Record Store and the Ryman Auditorium, from where the Grand Ole Opry broadcast until moving to bigger, purpose-built digs out at Opryland. The sheer volume of the live music floored us a bit, and reminded us more of the French Quarter than anywhere else. All in all, a pleasant surprise. Tootsie’s Orchid features up-and-coming songwriters, Tubb’s store has live music from bluegrass to newer, pop country acts, and Legend’s Corner, while mostly employing cover bands, features more music memorabilia, instrumental bric-a-brac and autographed stuff than we’d ever seen. We’re forgetting at least half a dozen other great spots, but suffice it to say that y’all won’t have any trouble finding dandy music. Even jazz. By the way, anyone who’s read this blog already knows of our affection for Mr. Tubb and his music, so simply being in his equivalent of hockey great Tim Horton’s doughnut shops made us a little tingly. No, we’re serious. On both counts.

Being partial to trad and cowboy styles, we spent more time at Robert’s Western World than just about anywhere else. They book rockabilly and other traditional acts, but the emphasis there is on the “western” side of “country and western”, so Texas-style western swing dominates. Hell, the upstairs is called the “Sho-Bud Balcony”, in honor of that most famous of makers of pedal steel guitars. We’re sure Austin, Texas has plenty of this sort of action, but we haven’t been there, yet, so this filled the bill nicely. In short, if you like live music, plenty of competent to brilliant pickers, and cheap booze, Nashville is heaven.

The food, if one is so inclined, ranges from the fried to the smoked to the fried, but aficionados know just how sublime that can be. We’re always on a mission to eat great fried chicken, and one of Nashville’s more famous tourist traps, The Loveless Cafe, filled that need admirably. Literally, the best biscuits and fried chicken we’ve ever had, along with some tasty extras. The Loveless had been explained to us as a kitschy, overblown theme park of a restaurant, living on it’s long-vanished reputation as a small motel and cafe south of town. Well, the wait was a not unexpected three hours, but if you’re ever in Nashville, and you appreciate fried chicken, for God’s sake, get to the Loveless. The wait was, for maybe the only time in our lives, worth it.

When we go back—and we will go back—we’ll report on the Country Music Hall of Fame and some of the edgier, off-the-radar music venues. Maybe we’ll catch the Red Wings playing the Preds at the gorgeous, new downtown arena, or catch a Titans game and cheer for ex-Titans assistant Jim Schwartz’s Lions if and when they visit again. The Titans play in what looks like—from the outside, anyway—to be the future of outdoor stadia. As commercial megavenues go, it looks like a dandy. And, we’ll eat some more chicken. Until then, keep your sorghum covered. And get another plate o’ those biscuits.

nashville

A couple of views of Nashville’s Broadway entertainment district, a tourist-laden area jammed with bars, booze, live music, souvenirs and general fun.

3 Comments on "Nashville!"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Uncle Jack says:

    Holey shit, I thought I was there also, but it must have been a dream. Perhaps its the early stages of Dementia or maybe it was that other Jack guy. I think his last name is Daniels. I couldn’t possibly have forgotten all this. JD, you saw and remembered a lot. The nice thing about a limited memory is you get to enjoy it twice. Once when you do it and again when they tell you what you did. Thanks, Uncle Jim

  2. Moderator at large says:

    Just testing the new spamsweeper. And thinking of Nashville.

Post a Comment


Hit Counter provided by Sign Holders