Monday, August 5, 2013


A word of advice: if you don't like country music, you might want to skip this post. We had a week steeped in Hank Williams and Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard, with the occasional Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn sprinkled in for good measure. It was BLISSFUL.

In the beginning, though, there was naught but anticipation. This is what a 14-hour drive does to me, apparently:

But then, thrillingly, we were delivered. Sunday morning, we went to "church" (an early morning gospel show) at Robert's Western World on lower Broadway, and looking back at the pictures, it seems like we spent the whole week there. 

It is awesome. From 11am to 2am every day, you can walk in, find a comfy seat at the bar, order a PBR, and hear all those golden old country songs. Mama Tried. Jambalaya. Folsom Prison Blues. All the musicians were first-rate, everyone knew how to sing and how to perform and how to banter between songs. There is all manner of wonderful stuff on the walls, a pressed-tin ceiling, and a wall of shelving with cowboy boots for sale. And that mural... well...

We spent a lot of time on lower Broadway (the center of town, where all the honkytonks are) and it was so comforting to know we had a default activity-- if we ever found ourselves bored, or irritable, we could go sit at Robert's and be soothed.

We also found a fun blues club on Printer's Alley-- a nice change-of-pace from all the 3/4 time and drawly choruses, when we needed one.

During the day, we saw the city. It's tiny. Everything worth seeing downtown is concentrated around four square blocks; everything worth seeing in East Nashville is the same way. We visited Gruhn's Guitars on South 8th, which was Patrick's idea. There are fabric stores that make my heart pitter-patter, that feel spiritual... and I can only assume this here guitar store affected my sweetie in a similar fashion.

We went to the zoo, and the Tennessee State Museum. We got hand-dipped milkshakes and did a Civil War walking tour. I bought boots; Patrick got a beautiful Western shirt. I ate chicken and waffles and fried green tomatoes.

Inevitably, though, we found ourselves back at Robert's, staring into our beers. 

Just look at that sign. How could it not be good, with a sign like that? I ask you.

This was my favorite band of the week-- Rachael Hester and the Tennessee Walkers. The only complaint I will make about lower Broadway is this: there aren't enough female-fronted bands! I love Ring of Fire and Crazy Arms as much as the next hillbilly, but I want to hear You Ain't Woman Enough to Take my Man, too. Watching this band set up, noting the chick singer and the fiddle player and, oh my, is that Chris Scruggs on guitar? Oh my. I put a five in the tip jar and requested Faded Love, my very favorite Patsy cover. I may have gotten a little teary, but I swear that was the beer's fault.

Ahem. Where were we? Oh right. Tuesday night, we got a little fancied up, and I was able to take a picture of Patrick and I without him flipping the camera the bird. 

We went to F. Scott-- definitely the toniest place we ate all week. And then, the infamous Bluebird Cafe.

It was definitely an experience. It's as intimate as everyone tells you-- I took this shot from our table, I didn't have to zoom or anything. But what they don't tell you is while Robert's is a goofy pasture where the wannabe cowboys roam free-range, the Bluebird is essentially a music industry feedlot. The songs were all originals, but so thoroughly steeped in the shallow, pop-song style of corporate country music... well, it wasn't our scene. One had a refrain of Hey Ya'll Hey Ya'll. The performers were all really talented, but forced into the very narrow confines of what sells on country radio these days. Still, part of the well-rounded Nashville experience. We high-tailed it to Robert's immediately, and drowned our sorrows.

If it wasn't for Gillian Welch and Jason Isbell and Kacey Musgraves, I'd be convinced that country music is dead forever.


All too quickly, we came to our last night in town. How could this be? 

I felt so aligned with this town, even with all its cheeseball charm. I loved its neon signs and river view and walkability and adorable little bungalow neighborhoods. Patrick and I talked about staying another night-- "we've got another $109 for the room, right?"-- and we talked about having Del shipped to us in a mailing tube. And we talked about the day when I'm rich and famous and we can have an apartment here.

Sigh. We walked over to check out the Shelby Street bridge over the Cumberland, for pedestrians only, which ended up being a dreamy-perfect swan song. Look at that damn view.

And then, of course, the photo shoot. 

Damn him! Good thing he's cute, or there'd be trouble.

And then, one last shot of Lower Broadway at night, and home to bed. 

What a fabulous trip. Our hotel room was awesome, we had HGTV, we only ate one bad meal, it only rained a little, and in the meantime, we had the city to explore, and each other. 

And now I'm home, back to facing down deadlines and blanching green beans and loving my Delmer-dog (who missed us terribly, but definitely bonded with my parents). It's a good life, but so nice to get away ever once-in-awhile. I left a piece of my heart in an empty PBR can atop a barstool at Robert's.

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