J.P. Harris plays tracks from Home Is Where The Hurt Is and talks about how to spot a good honky-tonk and the Keep It Country festival.
Also on this episode, garage rock from The Bloodhounds, country blues from Lucinda Williams, indie rock from Kelly Pardekooper, roots rock from Blitzen Trapper, heartland rock from NQ Arbuckle, country music from Jim Lauderdale, blues from John Lee Zeigler, and jump blues from The Bumper Jacksons.
(buy) (review) Wild Little Rider / The Bloodhounds / Let Loose! / 4:39
(buy) (review) Everything But The Truth / Lucinda Williams / Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone [Disc 2] / 5:11
(buy) (review) Crazy Girl / Kelly Pardekooper / Milk in Sunshine / 3:07
(buy) Blitzen Trapper - "To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)" (originally by Ryan Adams) / Various Artists / While No One Was Looking: Toasting 20 Years of Bloodshot Records / 2:50
(buy) Red Wine / NQ Arbuckle / The Future Happens Anyway / 3:35
(buy) (review)Let's Have a Good Thing Together / Jim Lauderdale / I'm a Song / 2:09
(buy) Going Away / John Lee Zeigler / We Are The Music Makers / 4:24
(buy) (review) The Bacon Adoration / The Bumper Jacksons / Sweet Mama, Sweet Daddy, Come In / 2:36
- Visit the J.P. Harris web site.
- Check out the Keep It Country Festival.
- Read the review of Home Is Where The Hurt Is
J.P. Harris interview recap
The Definitive Honky-Tonk
Calvin asks J.P. Harris about how you recognize a good honky-tonk. He says, "Let's see a general lack of Jägermeister signs. [laughs] A jukebox that's free and/or filled with nothing but country & western songs and old school rock & roll, and usually a really nice thick patina of bar grime on every vertical surface. Those are three big qualifiers for me. [laughs]"
Calvin asks J.P. Harris why they're called honky-tonks. J.P. Harris says, "I'm sure that some big city educated ethno musicologist fella could tell you where the term originated but it's like saying 'willy-nilly.' It's just it's always been a way that you describe a rough joint with loud hillbilly music of whatever ilk, cold beer and dance floor. Honky-tonks have been around since the 20's and 30's. I think that's when people started getting into the touring circuit and country musicians gettin' around and playing them. I think that's what they were born out of."
"Give A Little Lovin'"
J.P. Harris sets up "Give A Little Lovin'." He says, "I think the first track off the record seems to be a good one to hear as their first song off the album, I think it's pretty self-explanatory. I'll just say we had a hell of a time doing it in the studio."
[Calvin plays "Give A Little Lovin'" from Home Is Where The Hurt Is by J.P. Harris and the Tough Choices.]
Calvin notes the Junior Brown-esque baritone on that one. J.P. Harris says, "I'm not a very big fella but I think I made up in size with my lungs proportionally to the weight of my body. That and smoking too many cigarettes. There's a lot of old classic country songs that have a lot of goofy up and down vocals like that. Writing my own one was very entertaining. It was very hard not to giggle a lot to myself while I'm singing it. It's just kind of intentionally a little bit goofy. I really like that as the opening track. I like how the rhythm of the vocals matches the rhythm of the music.
The Band Lineup
J.P. Harris runs through the band line up, "We've got a whole mess of people on that record that are awesome. Pretty much everybody that's on it are folks here in Nashville. One of them is Adam Meisterhans, he's my road guitar player and a good friend of mine,. He plays with a bunch of local bands here in town. Just some great local bands here in Nashville and some bands out of West Virginia as well. My good friend and long-time bass player Tim Finlan plays all the bass on it. He's an old old buddy I've known longer than just about anybody else in my life. Our buddy Jerry Pentecost plays drums. He's played with Caitlin Rose, Johnny Fritz, recorded with all these folks in town just all around general bad ass drummer. Great guy, great in the studio. He's toured with us a lot, really fun to be on the road with. And then our buddy Mark Sloan who's another great local, backs a lot of singer songwriters in town. He also plays in a band called Johnny Appleseed that's just getting started that's really killing it in the classic country and western swing vein. He's on the keys and that's Ronnie Millsap's piano he's playing which is a very nice addition to the whole sound. My buddy Chance McCoy from Old Crow Medicine Show was playing rhythm guitar on the record. He also did all the male harmony vocals, did all the fiddle and lead guitar on one of the songs. And the girls singing are an especially special line up. We got our good friend Ashley Wilcoxen who is here in Nashville. Really great gal She's done some backing vocals for some Black Keys records and sings a lot locally. The next gall is a really talented singer and songwriter who's been seen a lot working with Billy Reed recently and helped put on a thing called the Shindig down in Muscle Shoals Alabama recently a great music and lifestyle event. That's Miss Shelly Colvin, a wonderful gal and a pleasure to work with. And the last but not least is our really good friend who's been getting a lot of attention lately, Miss Nikki Lane. Who's obviously a Nashville, indie, country staple, the Queen as I like to call her. So they were a really fun bunch of gals to have in the studio.
Calvin notes that the album was recorded at the old Ronnie Millsap studio. J.P. Harris says, "Yeah, Ronnie's Place, which is now owned by a larger studio and a publishing company. It's right over in the big fancy part of Music Row, but it's humble in comparison to many of the studios it adjoins. I believe that Roy Orbison built it back in the early 70s. I believe Ronnie Millsap bought it in the late 70s and he owned it for twenty years. Everybody's recorded in there Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn and Waylon and the whole crowd. Everybody's gone in and done something in that studio over the last many, many decades. So the outside of the building and the first part you walk into, the lounge the office and things are not as it was back when it was built. But the interior of the studio is all original. It's beautiful and has a really cool vibe to it. A lot of the equipment that our sound ran through on its way to being recorded was the same equipment that was there when they first built it. They've done a really good job of preserving all the stuff in there and keeping the integrity of how it was originally built and it was a hell of a lot of fun a very very nice studio to be in."
"Home Is Where The Hurt Is"
J.P. Harris sets up "Home Is Where The Hurt Is." He says, "It's hard to pick a favorite off the record but one of my favorites is the title track. That was a song that I wrote in one sitting. I'd been thinking about working on it for a while. Timmy my bass player kicked in a line to fill out the last verse. I'm really happy with the big arrangement. I'd always been a fan of the really epic super arranged George Jones weepers and all the classic weepers with the background vocals and the big rising arrangements."
[Calvin plays the title track from Home Is Where The Hurt Is by J.P. Harris and the Tough Choices]
The Keep It Country Music Festival
Calvin asks about the music festival J.P. Harris helped organize. He says, "Being a musician who's played music festivals for years I've always said I don't know why in God's name anyone would put themselves through the responsibility of putting on a music festival. There's this little tiny town about an hour of north and east in the foothills of the Sierras. It's up near Yosemite and Bass Lake. It's really beautiful and really rural area. There's this little old reproduction Wild West Town, kind of a tourist trap that was built in the 70's. It eventually became a gathering place for locals in the area. There's a lot of bikers up there and ranchers that have been in California for a long time. The place eventually went our of business. A really good friend of mine Jen McMillan who runs a really cool clothing design company called Bandit Brand, it's all U.S. made and U.S. printed T-Shirts and what not. She bought the place sort of by the skin of her teeth I guess last fall. We aptly all named it Bandit Town. It's an amazing setting to have a music festival in. She'd been talking to me about doing it. So I gave her a call one day and said, 'hey what do you think about doing a country music festival out there some time in the fall.' I knew that my bad hadn't been out west in a while. And I know Jen is a real cool gal. She's a tough person, been around a long time. Is a real road dog like we are in a different sense. I just wanted to be a part of bringing attention to her. She's had some great shows up there that Nikki Lane has played. Our buddy Whitey Morgan has played up there. She's just had a whole mess of folks up there. We eventually chose the dates and I realized some buddies of mine had booked this old truck driving legend who I had been a fan of for many years by the name of Red Simpson. They booked him in a bar out in Charlotte and they are old friends of ours. So I hollered at them and said, "How hard is it to get a hold of Red Simpson.? Does he still get out and around?' And they said, 'Yeah he lives out in Bakersfield, man, I'll give you his phone number.' Red is 80 years old and he wrote a lot of really popular truck driving songs back on the 60's and 70's. 'Hello I'm A Truck' is one that you will find in every truck stop in America. And he wrote a song that Junior Brown re-popularized that was his one kind of cross-over breakout hit on VH1 or MTV back in the 90s. This song called Highway Patrol. And everyone assumes it's a Junior Brown song but Red wrote that about 1964 or 5. But he also wrote a bunch of hits that he didn't ever really record that people are much more familiar with like "Close Up The Honky-Tonks' which Buck Owens first recorded back in '66 or '67 and eventually Dwight Yoakam recorded it in his own rendition. And he also wrote a hit for Merle Haggard. He wrote it for himself and Merle covered it. A song called "You Don't Have Very Far To Go" which is a real classic 60's Merle tune. So a lot of people don't know who he is even though they know his songs. He's written. He's written 180 or 200 regularly published songs."
"So I called him up and we shot the breeze for a couple of hours the first time we spoke on the phone. I think I kinda gained his confidence by the end of it. And I said 'Red, we want to back you on this music festival. We want to have you come up and play it and we'll pay you for it. And then we just started chatting on the phone every couple of weeks. And we finally made the haul out there. We rehearsed in the oldest running continuously open honky-tonk open 82 years called Trouts. So we just hit it off real good and we had a blast. We basically just had an outlaw country music campout up in the mountains. A couple of hundred people came out. We had Nikki Lane play, Whitey Morgan, Joe Fletcher, Our friend Sam outlaw who's recording Ry Cooder right now down in Los Angeles. Just a bunch of folks. Some new folks that are just getting started. We had 10 or 11 acts up there about three days long. It was a lot of fun, a really good time. It was cool to see that we had some people fly in from the midwest and people flying in from the northwest and it was a really good crowd of folks at this thing. So it was a great success. Everyone seems to be mostly concerned with their own success in the music business these days, and especially in the younger hip and appealing music industry. [laughs] And I think country music in general there's so few really solid young artists doing stuff like we're doing that really get out and tour a bunch. I wanted to throw the first party that we could say 'All right, every year the real deal of all the young country guys, we all get together out here. ' And of course Red Simpson was sort of the focal point of it to bring out a real country legend because it was a pretty young crowd there. And it was cool to show all those folks, 'all right this is the last of the old-timers right here. Check it out, we've got a real important thing we got going here."
"We ought to close with one that's a little different than a lot of other songs that I've written in the past . One of the most meaningful songs on the album, 'Maria.'"
[Calvin plays "Maria" from Home Is Where The Hurt Is by J.P. Harris and the Tough Choices.]
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