Out on the Razzle in America

United Kingdom
Freelance writer, literary graduate and minor lad. In America for pleasure, not business. I've never been before, so I thought I should. Should I have done it all at once? Can it all be done at once? Only one way to find out...

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Nashville, Music City

From the air, parts of Tennessee look a fair bit like England. Tim McGraw doesn't welcome you to Heathrow over the intercom mind you. And in London (most of it that is), there aren't signs saying relinquish your weapon at the door. Welcome to Nashville, Music City.

Nashville isn't the home of all popular music of course, though the South could just about get away with such a claim. There is little Kanye West to be found in Nashville, which is a glorious thing, though Taylor Swift was in town the night I arrived. With Memphis the home of soul, the blues and rock and roll, and New Orleans the home of jazz, Nashville is instead the home of the only music that gets major radioplay in every state: country. Despite the fact that outside the US it only features in a few isolated markets (such as Australia), over here country is big business, the biggest it seems.

The fact that country is such a huge deal makes a trip around the Country Music Hall of Fame very strange: walls are plastered with gold albums, hundreds of plaques with bronze faces, and rack after rack of CDs, all of them showing people you have never, ever heard of. Not that all the famers are unknown, or all of the items on show obscure. Elvis' gold-plated Cadillac sits up on the third floor.

I like Nashville, and I like a fair bit of the country music that I have heard, though I couldn't name the artists that make those songs. There is more to Nashville than country of course. A general creative air permeates the city and you see musicians posted on streetcorners, busking rather than just begging, though of course the latter are to be found, as in any city. There is not a great deal to photograph, especially given the poor light when I was there, but with so much of the city to do with sound rather than sight that is understandable. That said though, a visitor may be treated to the occasional flash of thigh from a dancing cowgirl that has mounted the bar top. And there is more to Nashville than music of course: food; the link to the hill country; the river and its history; its thriving university scene. All of these things could be discussed, but in a post titled Music City, there's only one reason to talk about Nashville, however briefly.

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