By John B. Moore
Modern country music has gotten a bad rap as of late, and just about all of it is entirely justified.
The Bro Country/Jimmy Buffett-with-a-cowboy-hat-ization of the genre has stripped just about every strain of authenticity and creativity out of the same genre that once gave us first name legends like Willie, Waylon, Johnny and Kris.
But who’s that on that white horse? Alabama native J.P. Harris, back with his third album, is almost singlehandedly bringing a sense of artistry and pride back to country music. Lyrically, he brings to mind everyone from Kris Kristofferson and Leon Russell to Billie Joe Shaver,
forgoing the obvious clichés and let’s have a beer and hit the beach lyrics he opts for strong character sketches and clever metaphors that would that would make Dylan and Springsteen jealous.
On his own since he climbed the steps of a Greyhound bus right after 8th grade, Harris spent the next couple of decades hopping trains, working on farms and eventually carving out a decent life as a carpenter. Those life experiences seem a long way away from many of his contemporaries in Nashville whose biggest contributions seem to be pairing embroider-pocketed jeans with cowboy boots and Spring Break Daytona t-shirts.
Across 10 tracks, Harris offers a nearly-flawless album to make up for the four-year lapse between records. From thoughtful slow burn songs like the title track to more rock-infused numbers like “Hard Road,” you’d be hard pressed to find a better country record put out this year.
Download: “Sometime Dogs Bark at Nothing,” “Long Ways Back” and “When I Quit Drinking”