JP Harris tore into town for a night of hard-core country and honky tonk which just about blew the socks off of everyone at the show and dispelled all doubts about the current state of American roots music. Harris, originally from Alabama, is the real deal with a hobo background and who earns his crust by carpentry when he’s not riding the rails with his band. with a cracking new album, Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing, under his belt, and sporting one of the finest beards in captivity played a powerful and joyous show full of riveting lyrics and twangtastic guitar to an enthusiastic crowd in the bowels of Nice N Sleazy.
Honky tonk was on his mind as the band swung into Two For The Road with guitarist Justin Mahoney twanging away as pedal steel player Thomas Bryan Eaton deftly laid out his delicious curling licks. There was pure dirt stained country on Badly Bent while I Only Drink Alone, from the new album, was a fantastic nod to the tear stained waltzes so beloved of bygone Nashville artists such as Ray Price but Harris showed that he can shine on poppier material such as the sixties folk sound of Lady in The Spotlight. It’s hard however to imagine any band right now who can hammer through songs such as JP’s Florida Blues #1 and Gear Jammin’ Daddy with such ferocious energy. The latter song received the most enthusiastic response of the night and with Eaton fairly soaring away on pedal steel it was well deserved. With the songs all packing a punch in less than four minutes each Harris and his band roared through the set with commentary kept to a minimum (although he did take a poke at Trump at one point). An encore of Jerry Reed’s Freeborn Man topped the night as they ran through all the red lights with the brakes off, trucking the highway and riding the rails with a fury and, it has to be said, a great deal of gritty country style. As we said earlier, JP Harris is the real deal.
The evening opened with an inspired set from an impromptu conglomeration, a super group of sorts featuring local musicians from the Holy Smokes recording roster calling themselves Trusty Buck’s Lone Star Revue. A raggle taggle ensemble (composed of members of The Hoojamamas, Harry and the Hendersons, Awkward Family Portraits and Tom McGuire & The Brassholes – do check them all out), they played a short set which ranged from skiffle like numbers to Ronnie Lane inspired rambles. There was a wonderful song about flying to Peru which floated on some inspired lap steel guitar while there was a nod to local hero Les Johnson & Me (who was billed to appear but sadly didn’t) as they covered one of his songs. They finished with a fine version of The Stones’ Sweet Virginia with the audience singing along.
Squeezed in between Trusty Buck and JP Harris, Miss Tess (who was handling bass guitar duties with the Tough Choices) ran through a short set accompanied by Thomas Bryan Eaton on guitar. An established artist in her own right Miss Tess set the scene well for JP as she had a fine twangy guitar presence along with a finely hewed sense of neon lit sadness as in her opening number Going Downtown. On Moonshiner, with JP’s rhythm section sitting in, she romped through a rambunctious salute to old time rebels with some fine country picking from Eaton.