By Devon Leger.
JP Harris’ Dreadful Wind & Rain explores Harris’ long roots in Appalachian string band music, a scene where he’s better known by his nickname “Squash”, turning up at festivals and picking parties with his hand built banjos and playing all night. To record the project, Harris went into the mountains of West Virginia with longtime musical pal Chance McCoy (from Old Crow Medicine Show until recently), and the two of them recorded it all in McCoy’s old sharecropper cabin on his rural property. The album rings with Gothic tones from Harris’ detuned banjos, and the songs reach all the way back to pagan antiquity. This is old music done the old way.
Around Nashville, JP Harris is either known as one of the best carpenters, building recording studios or meticulously restoring historic homes, or one of the best no-bullshit old-school country singers. But anywhere else he’s known as Squash (a childhood family nickname that never wore off), a quasi-mythical bearded figure known for rolling through underground picking circles, fiddler competitions, and stringband contests with his powerful banjo playing on handmade instruments. With Don’t You Marry No Railroad Man, his debut recording of traditional music under the moniker JP Harris’ Dreadful Wind & Rain, his alter ego is coming out of the shadows to celebrate this arcane and truly American musical repertoire. Together with long time friend and ace fiddler Chance McCoy (formerly of Old Crow Medicine Show), the duo feature ten tracks spanning the breadth of American old-time repertoire. Harris wades between ancient ballads that traveled from the British Isles to Appalachia to droning banjo ditties played on one of Harris’ coveted homemade banjos. Harris also works as a serious carpenter in Nashville which adds a unique authenticity to his version of the classic ballad “House Carpenter.” On this sparse and arresting recording, Harris isn’t mining his roots as a marketing pitch, he has the chops to back it up.