I have one more Nashville-related story, and then I swear I’ll stop. (You didn’t think I could squeeze 5 blog posts out of one 4-day trip, didja? Consider yourself lucky that I ran out of disposable daylight hours before I could visit the Ryman Auditorium and Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.) To be honest, though, the events described in the paragraphs below could have taken place anywhere, not just in Music City, and that’s more or less the point I’ll be making.
You often hear people say that there will never be another Beatles, or another Rolling Stones. Of course these claims are correct in the literal sense, but I think they’re also accurate in a more general way; it’s hard to imagine a group having that sort of massive cultural impact now that the musical landscape is so fragmented. I often wonder if any of bands that I adore now will be considered by my hypothetical grandchildren as part of some unified musical canon, or if the diffusion of listeners’ attention across a multitude of sub-genres means that there will be several different canons, each with its own revered membership. It’s a depressing thought in some ways, one that makes this Gen-Y’er feel like his favorite bands aren’t quite as important as they ought to be (or that they might have been 50 or 60 years ago).
But guess what? My glass-half-empty, future-phobic ranting ends there, because I believe, with every fiber in my being, that songs are as important as they ever have been, and that their import isn’t going anywhere. Even if my kids’ kids’ kids’ kids don’t know who the hell Journey was, I bet they’ll still be fist-pumping like idiots to “Don’t Stop Believing” at some dive-y lunar bar in 2162. That’s because truly great, canon-worthy songs transcend genres, nations, races, ages, even the people who wrote and performed them — they become a part of us. And I’m not speaking figuratively; they literally become part of our physiology by reorganizing the neural pathways in our brains to make singing along with the lyrics easier (this would be creepy if it wasn’t so awesome). So why do I bring this up now? Because events that took place in Nashville lead to me believe Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel” is one of these transcendent songs.
The day before I left for Nashville, I made sure to chat with my musical sherpa Clay about which tunes-related locales I should seek out while I was in Music City. In addition to Hatch Show Print, the legendary letterpress print shop, and Ernest Tubb’s record store just across Broadway, Clay suggested I check out Grimey’s New & Preloved Music. So on Friday afternoon, while I was still in a daze from seeing Jack White in the Third Man Records parking lot, I made the short drive up 8th Avenue South to Grimey’s, where the mood was quite different from the Blunderbuss-imbued one I’d found at the Third Man store.
Sometimes finding out about a band late is torturous. Like when the group just broke up or is on a clear creative decline. Or, worse yet, when one or more of the founding members have died and the band is touring around the country like a zombie version of themselves. In all these cases, you can still listen to tunes from the glory days, but you have to accept that you’ve missed out on something that simply can’t be recovered. Other times, though, being the last to know isn’t so bad. Under the right circumstances, discovering an artist after everyone else can feel great, like you’re walking into a party that’s already in full swing. That’s just how I’d characterize my first two weeks of listening to Bobby Bare Jr.
When I first heard about Bare, I was a few days away from heading to his hometown of Nashville, TN for a friend’s wedding. Not to get too touchy-feely here, but c’mon; what’re the odds of me hearing about him right before my first trip to the center of the country music universe? (Bare’s father is country veteran, having charted albums for decades and written, according to Wikipedia, the world’s one and only Christian football waltz — “Dropkick Me Jesus (Though The Goalposts Of Life).”) Did I mention that I heard about him from a friend who, at the time, didn’t know I was going to Nashville? As far as happy coincidences go, this was a pretty crazy one.
I have a few more things to share about my trip to Nashville (I promise they don’t involve vomit or Jack White), but I have to butt in and right a writing wrong that I, myself, have perpetrated. It’s been 302 days since I last wrote about Animal Collective. How the hell did this happen? AC and I certainly aren’t feuding or anything. As Big Boi once said of his distinguished colleague, André 3000, “Not clashing, not at all.”
I guess one reason might be that they haven’t released a conventional* LP since Merriweather Post Pavilion, but that wasn’t that long ago, right? Let me just check Wikipedia and find out when that wa… January of 2009? WTF?!? There’s no way 40 months have passed since that album came out. It just can’t be true. The songs still feel fresh, despite the fact that I’ve heard them god knows how many times over the past few years. In fact, I’m pretty sure the album hasn’t left my phone’s iPod, and I’ve had at least two phones since January of 2009. The more I think about it, the more it seems like this is a major indicator of an album’s greatness — the amount of time after its release that it stays in the front of your mind (and on the smaller hard drive of your primary listening device).
Another good reason I didn’t puke when I saw Jack White in the Third Man Records parking lot in Nashville, TN (aside from maintaining my self-image as super-cool under pressure) is that some very precious cargo was riding in the black shopping bag at my side. Nestled next to a copy of Drive-By Truckers’ Live at Third Man was First Aid Kit’s entry in the label’s Blue Series. I’ll be frank; I knew I was leaving with this 7-inch record the moment I saw it, regardless of which songs were on there. My love for First Aid Kit has grown by leaps and bounds since I first professed it in February, and whatever they’re sellin’… I’m buyin’.
What I didn’t know was that I’d share an eerie connection with the cover song that graces the record’s A-side.
What do you get when you mix a nasty hangover, yellow tinted windows and a celebrity encounter? Me almost throwing up, that’s what. There I was this past Friday, walking out of the shop that occupies the southernmost sliver of the Third Man Records facility in Nashville, TN, holding a black shopping bag that itself held the spoils of a shopping trip that was truncated by a sallow lighting scheme that somehow magnified the gastric consequences of a night spent cavorting on Broadway, when I came close enough to Third Man founder Jack White as he was backing out of the parking lot in his Mercedes to projectile vomit all over it. Given how close I came to giving White’s black Benz an unwelcome paint job, I believe not having done so qualifies as “keeping my cool.” Clearly, I shouldn’t be allowed around famous people. Especially famous people I hold in such high esteem.
I’m just plain bad at celebrity sightings, partly because I tend to doubt my own eyes, chalking most encounters up to having seen “someone who looked just like” famous person X. But not this time.
Bobby Bare Jr. — “Visit Me In Music City” (live)