January 5, 2019
J P Harris – Sometimes Dogs Bark At Nothing
Emerging as one of the best releases from the last quarter of 2018 is Sometimes Dogs Bark At Nothing. Harris has an interesting backstory of leaving home in Alabama in his mid teens and traversing the USA; now coming to rest in Nashville. Along the way he’s made a living with a variety of practical jobs including carpentry. I’d like to think that he’s made more money as a musician than spoiling wood because if this release is anything to go by then it is worth parting with your hard earned cash for.
Along the way he’s picked up some worldly wisdom and shook off some bad habits. Such a phase is captured in “When I Quit Drinking”, where against an acoustic backdrop he recounts the sober world he now inhabits; not with particular fondness. Maybe some reining in was necessary if you listen to “JP’s Florida Blues #1”, a rocking paean to a drug fuelled tour in the Sunshine State. This has a fun and well devised video if you make your way onto YouTube.
Harris seems to have some talented friends to call on for the album. The bassist, Morgan Jahnig (Old Crow Medicine Show) plucks throughout and produced the album. Guitar duties fall to luminaries such as Leroy Powell and Chance McCoy (another OCMS player). To this end you tell me if the guitar solo on “Longs Way Back” isn’t a pure Willie Nelson copy with its fluid and delicate runs.
I’d place Harris nicely in the Country Americana bracket with an acoustic platform occasionally rocking out with a hoe-down. However you’ll find him being claimed exclusively by Country when you hear “”I Only Drink Alone” which could place you in the 1960s with a Haggard or George Jones style of song. A honky tonk piano drives this gentle tune with a thumping base to a gentle waltz.
His articulate and observational lyrics can be fun or profound and maybe benefit from reflection and composition over the last four years since his previous release. “Lady In The Spotlight” is a rueful and tender song with a Glen Campbell acoustic guitar rhythm where an aspiring female musician ‘wannabe’ finds that she’s not taken seriously as she tries to break into a new scene. Her looks count for a lot yet only as temporary entertainment for her potential mentor.
This is an album of ten fabulous tracks and my favourite pick would be “Miss Jeanne-Marie” which brought to mind Travis Meadows with its melody and arrangement of a chiming piano and a heartfelt vocal up front with occasional electric guitar fills.
Harris has an attractive voice and an ability to write a tune. If I’d got to this sooner then it would have made my 2018 end of year list. I’d guess some of these excellent songs may end up on a bigger star’s album shortly. Cut to the chase and get the real thing now.
PS Don’t be put off by the album sleeve!