I returned to Nashville last weekend, for the first time in a couple of decades. It was very interesting for me to revisit the city, being now twice as old as I was when I lived there. All in all, the city hasn’t changed much, which is a good thing. I was very impressed with how the city weathered (pun intended) this spring’s flood. I visited some areas downtown that had been flooded and you would never have known it.
After having been away for so long, coming back was something of an eye-opener. In my memory, Nashville was not a particularly unusual city (I’m not a city guy), just one with maybe a little better weather than most of the places I’m used to. The thing that struck me about Nashville this time (and I’m about to state the obvious, so don’t be disappointed when you get to the end of this sentence) is the city’s dedication to country music. Now, is that a blog-worthy observation, or what?
Well, it’s been five minutes since I wrote that last paragraph, and the Pulitzer committee still hasn’t called, so maybe I should elaborate a bit.
I lived in Nashville for four years, and I went to the Opry and I visited Music Row and I own a Stetson (though it’s straw, so I don’t know if that counts). And I never really thought that much about it. Nashville is called “Music City”, but I guess to me that was always just for the tourists. Music in this country is recorded all over, and I never really thought of Nashville as any more special than any other place when it comes to music. Sure, you go down to Broadway and there are souvenir stores with their life-sized Elvi on every corner, but outside of the tourist traps the place never seemed to me to be so extraordinary. In fact (and maybe because), most of my favorite artists are Nashville outsiders, those who don’t conform to the “Nashville Sound” (I can’t help but think of the Alan Jackson / George Strait song “Murder on Music Row”, which accuses Nashville of killing country music).
Once I really started looking around, though, I was genuinely impressed (and maybe you have to live a few years North of the Mason-Dixon line to feel this way) with how seriously Nashville is into its music. You can walk down the street on a Thursday afternoon and hear live music coming out of every store you pass. Up in Philadelphia, live music is strictly a Friday and Saturday night thing, and only if there’s nothing good on TV (Seriously, last Saturday’s gig was canceled due to the World Series). Sunday the Titans were playing at home (just across the Cumberland from downtown Nashville) and the city was rocking with live music. As it should be.
Most people up North where I live take country music lightly, and I understand that. It’s a form of music that doesn’t take itself too seriously (can you see Prince cutting a country album?). But it is a distinctly American form of music, with a rich history and more than its share of colorful characters, and there is a pride in the city for the music that I really don’t think I fully appreciated before.
So if I had a proper cowboy hat, I’d take it off for the city of Nashville. I did manage to get me a snazzy new pair of “work boots” (pictured), which were just about the most conservative pair in the store. Philadelphia is not ready for red-dyed alligator skin.
Come out to see me with Scot Silver and Kris Dragoun at Baxters in Malvern tomorrow night (10/30).