"...I decided to visit California for a year or two to see its wonderful flora and the famous Yosemite Valley. All the world was before me and every day was a holiday, so it did not seem important to which one of the world's wildernesses I first should wander." --John Muir (1868)
Sunday, April 29, 2012
We've been to Nashville twice before, always for a long weekend only, and we've enjoyed ourselves immensely. So we decided to spend more time there than any other spot on our trip so far, three whole weeks. We had reserved an Army Corps of Engineers campground sited on a lake only about 10 miles from downtown Nashville. Due to the two-week stay limit, we had to move for the last week to another COE campground on another lake a little further from town. All-in-all during the three weeks we were there, we probably spent two evenings at home. For anyone who likes music of any kind, but especially country music, Nashville is a city like no other--nothing is even close! Nashville is a mecca for songwriters, musicians, singers and various players in the music industry. All these people are trying to get discovered and love to play music, so the number of live music venues here is hard to estimate. Downtown on "lower Broadway" there are at least a dozen honky tonks with live music from noon to past midnight every day, all with no cover charge. Then there are several "songwriter clubs" around town, like the Bluebird Cafe, Douglas Corner, Third and Lindsley and several more, where song writers play their music to small audiences in an atmosphere that is more like a poetry reading than a concert. One night at the Bluebird we saw four songwriters gathered in a circle in the center of an audience of about 100 taking turns singing their songs that were recorded by the likes of Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Tim McGraw and other big stars. There was something authentic and moving about this kind of show, especially all the stories the writers told about how they came to write the songs and the challenge of getting their songs picked up by artists. Another great venue is the Station Inn, pretty much the Mecca of bluegrass music. The first time we visited the Station Inn back around 6 years ago, it was a cinder block hut with no windows in the shadow of a freeway surrounded by vacant lots and warehouses. Now, it is a cinder block hut with no windows surrounded by condos, valet-parking restaurants and boutiques in the newly-gentrified "Gulch" area of Nashville. But inside it is still the place it was when Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs played here in the 50s. Never more than about 20 feet from the stage, you can see the best of bluegrass music in an awesome atmosphere, lubricated with root beer and "things" of popcorn, sitting on garage sale kitchen chairs around mismatched tables, elbow to elbow with other lovers of bluegrass. We went to the SI three nights and saw three awesome bands (Caroline, Steeldrivers and Special Consensus), two of whom were having CD release parties so some of the song writers were there, literally sitting across from us. Even if one doesn't care for bluegrass, the musicianship and singing of these top acts is a moving experience when you are close enough to be in your living room! Of course we spent several evenings on lower Broadway, wandering from club to club and sampling the music. You get a lot of cover bands, doing everything from old Johnny Cash and Hank Williams to newer hits, but also a lot of original music. We saw bands that have opened for Kenny Rogers on tour around the world (Savannah Jack) and musicians that have played in the studio or on tour with the best. The quality of music in all the clubs of Nashville is amazing. Many famous acts have gotten their start playing on Broadway for tips from Willie Nelson to Rascal Flatts. And because there are so many clubs, there is often room to dance, so we loved that a lot and were often the only ones on the dance floor. To be continued...
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