As a reporter, I’ve burrowed into some of Nashville’s deepest mysteries (Why DO they play Rascal Flatts on country radio?), but I’ve been stumped by its most perplexing paradox. Why doesn’t Music City dance more? There are certainly pockets of enthusiastic dancers in clubs and societies around town, but the industry crowd (and yes, the Americana cognoscenti are as guilty as anyone) are more inclined to listen to live music with arms crossed than with hips shaking. Last year I went to see Trombone Shorty at the Grammy Block Party. In any other city, his funky-butt hard-edged New Orleans grooves would have been gasoline on a boogie fire, but your correspondent had to dance nearly alone. Sigh.
But of late, you’ll pardon the pun, something is afoot. Nashville’s clubs are starting to host dance-a-ramas. The 5 Spot’s Keep On Movin’ parties have been popular for a couple of years. And an outfit called the Holler & Stomp Collective are now hosting square dances, yes you read that right, at the Mercy Lounge and elsewhere.
So we’re on it. This week your friendly old-school barn dance presents its first ever actual Barn Dance! We’re moving the pews aside and making space in front of the stage. We’re featuring five different bands with five different styles, so whatever your taste or step, we should have something to get you moving.
We’re borrowing the Hogslop String Band from the Holler & Stomp scene to get your blood flowing with a professionally called square dance. Since forming in 2009, these young old-time players have become favorites in the area and been hired for every kind of good time event you could imagine. They bring that raw feral energy one needs in old-time dance music, and they’re not above or below pickin’ with a live chicken on stage.
On the more refined side of the dance card, we’ll enjoy the Western Swing sophistication of Carolyn Martin. She’s a former vocalist with the world famous Time Jumpers, and since returning to her solo career, she’s been inducted into the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame and won all kinds of other awards. Expect dreamy vocals and expert playing by her band.
If you’re more into a Lindy Hoppin’ kind of thing, The One And Only Bill Davis will take you from the fifties into the sixties with his rockabilly meets country meets vintage pop sound. Bill’s a true friend of the show and we’ve been waiting for the right occasion to have him play on stage. His current recording, made at historic RCA Studio B, shows off artful vocals and a smart retro sensibility. We have to think his live show’s going to be even more exciting.
Our evening will get started with a return visit from Christabel and the Jons, purveyors of “Tennessee swing” out of Knoxville. Lead singer Christa DeCicco’s voice sets the tone: smooth and dreamy with a Patsy Cline edge and attitude. The boys behind her are expert players, but their take on classic jazz is always relatable, never esoteric. And our evening is made complete with a dash of modern bluegrass that will produce dancing of I-don’t-know-what-kind. Monroeville is an awesome and inventive young band out of East Tennessee and Nashville, but I’m not sure if the twirling jamgrass crowd has discovered them yet. Let’s just say you’re free to express yourself.
I’m considering hiring out my Griffin Technology chat room as a go-go dancer booth during the sets. Or maybe I’ll just grind away up there myself. If I can dance alone in front of the entire Nashville Recording Academy, I’m clearly incapable of shame.