JP Harris’ Dreadful Wind & Rain
Don’t You Marry No Railroad Man
Free Dirt Records
The past 18 months have given many of us time to think and reminisce. Nashville-based country singer JP Harris rekindled his passion for old time music. It was this antiquated folk music that pre-dates blue grass, the radio and phonographs that Harris fell hard for and had to learn to play. He learned the old songs at fiddler’s conventions and mastered the obsolete claw hammer style of banjo playing. When Harris came to Nashville, he drifted away from the old time sound that first inspired him. Sitting around with nowhere to play gave Harris a chance to reconnect with his roots.
JP Harrris’ Dreadful Wind and Rain is pretty much JP and Chance McCoy from Old Crow Medicine Show. They packed some recording equipment out to an old sharecroppers cabin in rural West Virginia. The pair spent two weeks tramping around the West Virginia countryside and playing front porch music from more than a century ago. They just ran through the songs a time or two and moved on. They weren’t going for perfection, just capturing a perfect moment.
Harris chose tunes that resonated with him. He opens with the tragic ballad, “House Carpenter.” The tale of doomed lovers sounds a lot like the folk songs of Ireland and Scotland (think ballads like “Tam Lin”). This makes sense because folklorists like Allan Lomax, found some of the best preserved Scottish ballads in the hills of Appalachia. “Country Blues,” “Old Baggum,” and “Barbry Ellen” have a similar feel and equally tragic tales to tell. “Closer to the Mill (Going to California)” and “Otto Wood” are the sort of up-tempo dance tunes that are the roots of modern bluegrass. Harris and McCoy’s spare arrangements of these old tunes, recorded in a cabin in the weeds, give us a tiny hint of how folks spent their down time before electricity came. Just a couple old friends making music to keep themselves entertained.