SOMETIMES DOGS BARK AT NOTHING
I met JP Harris when he was hosting his Sunday Morning Coming Down event in East Nashville’s Gallatin Avenue in September, described correctly as “an afternoon of gumbo and good times.”
There are more good times to be savoured, courtesy of JP, on this hugely impressive and engaging album – it is quite brilliant in places. He has come up with a set of up-tempo fliers as well as thought-provoking lower-key songs, underpinned by warming and honest vocals, and a jubilant band who sit at his shoulder throughout, cajoling and encouraging the gleeful flow of his first release for four years.
His lifelong dedication and love of country and honky tonk tones are clear, reflecting as well his informative, itinerant days that involved hitchhiking and hopping freight trains while eking out a living in various ways – farm labourer, a shepherd living with the Navajo, woodsman and carpenter.
JP’s Florida Blues #1 is a dust raising, foot stomper to set things off, as is Jimmy’s Dead And Gone, which closes the album. In between, the range of styles is beguiling. You will never tire of listening to Lady In The Spotlight and its aching observation that a hopeful, small town girl seeking fame through her music would, sadly, more likely need to use her body to get what she wants. Never more topical.
Long Ways Back would grace any Willie Nelson album while the swoonsome, I Only Drink Alone, reveals JP to be quite the crooner with a sparkling piano break adding to the lustre. Languid and hypnotic is Runaway with a drum shuffle sprinkled with spikey guitar and lush harmonies. Miss Jeanne-Marie, with its gentle piano-based balladry, had me waiting for the Silver Bullet band to kick in. The beating-the-bottle confession of When I Quit Drinking is self-explanatory but it flows out with no little measure of dry humour.
JP Harris has delivered an album that is uplifting and emotional, dive bar boisterous, and full of heart – this is one hell of a collection. He is still in demand as a carpenter and he considers himself a carpenter who writes country songs – not a country singer. To me it is clear he is excellent at both.