Last week JP Harris dropped his 3rd full-length studio album on us, ‘Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing’. Because we don’t waste time when we hear JP is in town for a show, I’d had the privilege of hearing a few of the tunes before release, so I knew the album was going to have at least a few crankers on it.
Over a decade ago I met a wild-eyed, woolly-faced carpenter in southern Vermont, where we worked a cedar shingle roof job together. I was a goofy young buck, so he and his crew taught me the ins and outs of this classic roofing style, aided by the convenience of modern air tools. He and his boys would kick off their boots at lunch and crank up the music, their big wild beards dancing along with them long before lumberjack chic was a thing.
A short time later that carpenter took off for Nashville to become a country musician; today he looks identical to my memory and I’m almost certain his closet still consists of several of the exact same outfit, blue jeans and olive-green button ups, because I think that’s all I’ve ever seen him wear.
On first listen you will find JP and friends keep their roots in the honky tonk, but their branches are working their way out a bit, touching all the corners of country music. “When I Quit Drinking”, "Hard Road”, and the title track have the feel of the JP we expect, but much of the rest of the album feels comfortably experimental, mastering the blending of different shades of country music.
“Long Ways Back” is probably my favorite of the different style tunes, feeling very Willie, but with the leash still tied to the honky tonk stage. I love the keys on “I only Drink Alone”, and both “JP’s Florida Blues #1” and “Jimmy’s Dead and Gone” play it fast and loose without leaving the neighborhood.
As you listen to the words you will find that this album is a bit of a personal confessional for JP, working out the trials and tribulations of a musician’s life, of a man’s life. I have no doubt that it’s a wild ride, but damned if it doesn’t make for good country music.
Harris touches on the timely subject of the plight of the female country musician with “Lady In The Spotlight”. He would know as well as anyone, having worked closely with many of the most talented ladies in the industry right now, both touring and on his 2017 duet EP ‘Why Don’t We Duet In The Road”. I feel this one, because I could give you a laundry list of ladies putting out music as-good or better than most men in country music right now (I hear at least one of their voices on this album BTW).
We waited a long time for this album, and when that happens I always worry my own hype will overshadow the reality, but such was not the case here. I loved the blending of styles, while keeping things anchored in the expected; a slippery slope JP and crew walked surefooted.
Find out more about JP Harris on his website: www.ilovehonkytonk.com/ or Facebook