Around Nashville, JP Harris is either known as one of the best carpenters, building recording studios or meticulously restoring historic homes, or as one of the best no-bullshit old-school country singers. But anywhere else he’s known as Squash (a childhood family nickname that never wore off), a quasi-mythical bearded figure known for rolling through underground picking circles, fiddler competitions, and stringband contests with his powerful banjo playing on handmade instruments.
With Don’t You Marry No Railroad Man, his debut recording of traditional music under the moniker JP Harris’ Dreadful Wind & Rain, his alter ego is coming out of the shadows to celebrate this arcane and truly American musical repertoire. Together with long time friend and ace fiddler Chance McCoy (formerly of Old Crow Medicine Show), the duo features ten tracks spanning the breadth of American old-time repertoire. On this sparse and arresting recording, Harris isn’t mining his roots as a marketing pitch, he has the chops to back it up. The album was made at McCoy’s homestead in the remote mountains of Monroe County, West Virginia, in a hundred-year-old sharecropper’s shack.
Though in many ways at odds with his Alabama roots, his travels into rural parts of the country left him desiring a better understanding of what he’d left behind, to search for the whole story of American music and culture. He would later learn, after a trip home to Alabama with his first handmade banjo, that there were strong old-time music roots on both sides of his family: his paternal great-grandfather Warren Harris had moonlighted as a stringband trio guitarist on Ohio radio stations, and his maternal great-great-grandfather Elihue Waters was a championship fiddler in Tallapoosa County, AL.
Up in the mountains with Chance, JP found himself murkily recalling his favourite Appalachian songs and tunes, melodies he’d danced to or drank to or partied to over the years, but also melodies that seemed out of touch with time. He played detuned banjos built by his own hand and slowed the music down from its square dance roots to draw out the stories in the songs. These are songs of murder, of devils come to tempt, of adoration and love lost, some dating as far back as the 17th century, and learned either through oral tradition or tattered antique songbooks.
Note: Venue door opens at 8:00 pm. Stage time is 8:30 pm. Please be punctual.