My Country

By Noah Graff

My dad and I arrived in Nashville last Thursday afternoon to go to a conference put on by the Precision Machined Products Association (PMPA). After checking in at our hotel I headed straight to Broadway to take in the main attraction of Nashville, the prolific Country music scene. I can’t say I’m a true country music fan, though I do love Johnny Cash, but I was in Nashville so I had to listen to some Country music. I find that even if I’m not an expert or big fan of something, be it jazz, bull riding, or sniper rifles (at the Shot Show in Vegas), if I’m in a place that features the best in world of something I can usually appreciate it and get into it. So in Nashville I was ready to expand my mind and hopefully be wowed by the next… shoot, I don’t know jack about about Country music so nobody clever comes to mind.

For those readers who don’t know about Nashville’s music scene—I really didn’t—it’s kind of the Mecca of Country music. It’s the place to see some of the best emerging Country artists in the world, the ones who are on the cusp of becoming stars on the radio. It’s also home to many great artists who will never be heard by people outside of Nashville but play for the love of the music and performing.

Artists in Nashville have the opportunity to practice their craft constantly, getting to perform long sets in medium-sized local bars with passionate audiences throughout the day and until 3:00 a.m. Sometimes they even play sets at more than one bar in the same day. There is probably no better place in the world for a musician to get in the 10,000 hours prescribed by Malcolm Gladwell to achieve mastery.

The main drag for Nashville’s music venues is Broadway, with some other interesting spots off the intersecting avenues, primarily 2nd Avenue. I strolled Broadway for a half hour in the late afternoon, feeling uninspired to go in anywhere. Music seemed uninteresting, and I was turned off by the street’s commercial Disneyland feel. Picture continuous neon signs of Cancun’s Party City framing the world’s highest per capita number of bachelorette parties riding booze bicycle trollies. Ehhhh! And so many tourists. I met more people in Nashville from Chicago than from Nashville!

The Risches Performing at Layla’s Nashville, March 2, 2017.

But then something caught my ear. Something twangy, melodic and fun, that at that moment reminded me of the soundtrack of the Coen Brothers movie, Oh Brother Where Art Thou. I looked up and saw a smiling middle-aged woman at the door who invited me inside of Layla’s to hear a Blue Grass band called The Risches. Layla’s seemed a little different from elsewhere. It felt more raw, more like how I would picture a real honky tonk. It had a simple decor, with some posters on the wall and hundreds of colorful license plates hanging from the ceiling.

On stage were six musicians. A skinny long haired man in his 20s or 30s played an acoustic guitar at left stage. At right stage a pregnant woman sitting on a stool also played guitar, and behind her was a man playing base. A cute fiery chick in her 20s with a quasi mohawk, wearing a miniskirt and cowboy boots, furiously played fiddle and guitar and sang, and a woman with a wild mop of short blond curly hair, wearing big dark sunglasses, belted out surprisingly powerful and beautiful tunes. I guess she gave me a rebellious Janis Joplin type vibe. Finally, a blond woman with short blond hair in her 50s or 60s sat discreetly on a stool in back playing a snare drum with brushes. Everyone on stage sang and played guitar at some point in the set, aside from the base player.

I had to leave after 30 minutes to go to the conference. When I stepped outside I chatted again with the sweet woman at the door. She told me that the older woman playing the drum was Layla, THE Layla who owned the bar. She said that everyone on stage were siblings. They have been playing in Layla’s since several of them were kids. She said some were practically raised on stage! I researched the Risches, formerly known as Jypsi for this piece. Turns out some of the members have solo albums in addition to those recorded as a group. They perform at Layla’s three days a week at various times a day. I’d recommend you check them out if you’re in the neighborhood. I saw some other talented musicians over the next few days at other decent venues, though nobody I loved like the Risches. I’m happy to say that underneath its commercial shell, Nashville does deliver the music it’s known for—it has a soul. And though I’ve developed an appreciation for both, I think I’m slightly more likely to download a Country song than buy a sniper rifle.

Question: Who is your favorite Country singer?

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9 thoughts on “My Country

  1. AvatarRon Tchida

    The late Merle Haggard would be at the top.
    George Strait and Alan Jackson, and through in a Marty Robbins to round things out.

  2. AvatarArt Santana

    I agree with Ron’s choices but would respectfully add Don Williams, Willy Nelson and George Jones and do not leave the queens out of the list; Loretta Lynn, Crystal Gail and Barbara Mandrel but what do I know, I am Mexican. LOL

  3. AvatarMindy Mikami

    Chris Stapleton! I fell in love when I saw him and Justin Timberlake CRUSH it on the 2015 CMAs. Everyone I play his music for (even if they don’t like country music) appreciates his raw talent and his non-commercial vibe.

    If you didn’t see the CMAs, you can see an article about the performance here:

    I love Nashville, but it has gotten too commercial. You kind of have to go off the beaten path to find something good.

  4. Lloyd GraffLloyd Graff

    John Denver and Willy Nelson. “I Wanna Be A Country Boy”, well not really. For falling asleep at night Denver is my hero. Willy is so smooth and the bandana and long hair are a great brand.
    And Johnny Cash and the 1953 Cadillac built one part at a time just symbolized the corruption of the old time car plants. Johnny was just so earthy.

  5. Avatarrick

    I have purchased many rifles, including what you may consider a “sniper” rifle. It sounds as if you are inferring an evilness to the tool. Tools are not good or evil – only their operators. A sniper rifle is an accurate long range rifle, no different than a hunting rifle used for accurately and humanly harvesting dinner. Or a competition rifle to achieve the best score in a long range shooting contest. (but I digress)

    I downloaded some country tunes also.

    Noah, give it some time, maybe a few weeks. Find a country radio station and enjoy – it will grow on you! Our entire office not only listen to country, they are now country music fans, just because of one lady at work, I enjoy most music, so I don’t get involved with music/radio selections.

    The thing about Country music, when you take the time to listen, is that it tells a story, and there are lessons to be learned. Today’s pop music is always looking to push the envelope of what is acceptable in terms of vulgarity, sex, drugs etc…

    Take a listen to Luke Bryans – Drink A Beer and Lee Brice’s – I Drive Your Truck.
    read the lyrics and watch the videos. You will find it is much more than drinkin’ and drivin’. 🙂

    For this reason, when the kids are around, I’m always playing country music, I needn’t always change the radio channel, because of the discussion of bitches and hoes or the endless vulgarity of lyrics.

    One does not realize the rudeness and vulgarities in so many new songs. When a vaguely familiar song is plays on satellite radio, expletives are not changed or eliminated as with terrestrial radio.

    the only time you hear about a hoe in a country song is when there is a farming and gardening tool involved or as an expression of a long daunting task.
    “That is a Long Row to Hoe!”

    I have always loved female vocalists, long before it was popular.

    It was country music that had so many Female artists long before the ladies really entered the Rock-n-roll scene.

    Back in the days of Rock-n-roll you had the aforementioned Janis Joplin, (I still love Janis!) who was very much blues & folk with a touch of country, playing some powerful classic rock.

    The only other rockin’ ladies from that era which come to mind are Stevie Nicks and Grace Slick. These ladies laid the foundation and paved the way for many an incredible modern female artist. It was during the 80’s new wave scene that the female artists really came out.

    Country music on the other hand always featured many ladies.

    Throughout the years in Country Music there was Matriarch, Minnie Pearl, Dolly Parton (ironically Dolly Parton shares her birthday with Janis Joplin, but again I digress), Loretta Lynn – the Coal Miner’s Daughter, The Carter ladies – Maybelle and Sara, Emmylou Harris, Reba McEntire, Kitty Wells, Brenda Lee, Linda Ronstadt, and the list goes on and on…

    So in addition to the classics, I must admit I currently enjoy Taylor Swift – who started as a country singer, and Sara Evans, Lady Antibelum, Carrie Underwood, Sugarland – Jennifer Nettles has a powerful voice!, and Miranda Lambert.

    I used to enjoy the Dixie Chicks, but they were stupid enough to alienate more than half of their audience with stupid political theater in a foreign country. Too many these days are too stupid to understand the repercussions of their actions. Just SHUT UP AND SING!

    On the other hand, Toby Kieth is great! His support for the Troops, Veterans, the poor, cancer victims, God and Country is under reported and outstanding.

    If I had to choose today, I would have to say my current favorite is The Band Perry, they have a great repertoire, Kimberly Perry is a cutie with a beautiful voice to match!

      1. Avatarrick

        Nice Picture!!!

        That is Ronnie Barrett’s M82A1 semi-automatic 50BMG 50caliber rifle.
        I trained at some of the Barret classes on and for that rifle.
        I might even have a few of them. They are great investments!
        Many consider precision machined steel a VERY precious metal in addition to brass and lead 😉

        The gun is a “Blast” to shoot.
        Next time you are in Vegas there are some ranges where you can try one out.
        Give it a”Shot” you’ll be glad you did. 🙂

        Did you get a chance to talk to Ronnie Barrett?
        He is quite an interesting individual and the sharpest dressed gentleman at the Shot Show.
        I’ve had some great conversations with him.
        Imagine being only 1 of 7 people In the last 100 years that invented firearms adopted by the United States Military.
        Ironically he was and still is a great photographer with NO formal machining or manufacturing experience.
        A true American success story!
        The simplicity, design, and innovation of his gun are amazing.

        A gun’s accuracy is measured in “MOA” Minutes Of an Angle.
        A change of one minute at 100 yards equates to approximately one inch on the target.
        A quality Sniper rifle is a “SUB MOA” rifle holding groups of close to 1/2″ at 100 yards.
        Initially The M82A1 was not really a “Sniper” rifle, it was considered a 2 MOA gun.
        Extrapolate that out to 1000+ yards and you are talking about a 20″ circle.
        Average shoulder width is 17″ and the torso even less.
        It is was commonly deployed to snipers for hard target interdiction.
        Basically shooting engine blocks at checkpoints without collateral damage.
        However continued improvements to the M82A1 and better ammunition increased its accuracy.

        The M82A1currently holds five of the top 15 longest military sniper confirmed kills.
        The longest being 2,515 yards, close to 1-1/2 miles.
        It is of course also a testament to the skill of the soldier performing this task.
        The longest shot is another 200 yards out.

        The more accurate bolt action .338 Lapua Magnum is becoming the long range snipers’ go to weapon.

        If you have time look up the history of the 30-06 & 50 BMG bullets.
        Each of the designs are over 100 years old and still in military use to this day.

        The gun and accessory industry is one of the few American manufacturing businesses left here and holding strong.
        Glad you enjoyed the Shot Show, and some country music!


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