When I was in Nashville earlier this month, I saw a shirt I had to have. It said, “Nashville is Always Live.” I bought it right away, because I’d just never seen a graphic tee shirt with such an apt description of the city. The live music there is non-stop, and it is everywhere.
After about 14 years of going down to Music City for more business than pleasure, I dedicated one weekend there to more pleasure than business. Meaning, I did the things and saw the sights I’d always heard about, but never had time for.
Like seeing a guy at Legends play for whatever the crowd was putting in the tip jar he was passing around the bar.
And heading up the side stairs to the 3rd floor of Tootsie’s for a literal holler and swaller.
And watching a little fiddler busking on a street corner in the 12 South neighborhood.
And going to an Opry show at the Ryman, and getting to hear Tracy Lawrence perform and also give a little back story about his new album Good Ole Days. This new one — which was coming out almost exactly 26 years after his debut album Stick and Stones — has guest appearances by artists like Tim McGraw, Luke Bryan, Luke Combs, Jason Aldean, Big & Rich, Justin Moore, Dustin Lynch, Craig Morgan, Kellie Pickler, Easton Corbin and more. “When I came here,” Lawrence explained during his set, “there were so many people who helped me along, and I think I’m in a place in my life where I can do that, too.”
And having some bluegrass with my chicken and cornbread waffles on a Sunday morning. The day I went to the Bluegrass Brunch at The Sutler, I saw the Tennessee Warblers. So while I enjoyed the meal — and the bottomless mimosas — the band performed a mix of their own tunes, plus bluegrass covers of songs like John Prine’s “Grandpa Was a Carpenter,” Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion,” Dire Straits’ “The Bug” and Gordon Lightfoot’s 1974 hit “Sundown,” off his album of the same name (and if we’re being completely honest, the very first album I ever owned). It was such a perfect way to end my Nashville weekend.
So when I left The Sutler for the airport, I assumed that those Tennessee Warblers would be the last of the live music I’d hear. I had no idea my Uber ride to the airport was about to be the weekend’s encore.
My driver, Karen Brooks, had won a Grammy, had a string of country singles in the ’80s, dueted with Johnny Cash on “I Will Dance With You,” and wrote songs for artists like Rosanne Cash, Tanya Tucker, Patty Loveless, Anne Murray, Crystal Gayle, Exile and more. And from right there in her driver’s seat, Brooks gave me one last taste of live music to close out the weekend.
Which just made it that much harder to leave the city I love.