South for a song

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

From Page 1 For­get the mousse and hair­spray, su­gar We don’t need none of that Just a lit­tle dab’ll do ya, girl Un­der­neath a pork pie hat Let’s go to Mem­phis in the mean­time — Mem­phis in the Mean­time by John Hi­att There’s 1352 gui­tar pickers in Nashville And they can pick more notes than ants on a Ten­nessee ant hill And any­one that un­packs his gui­tar can play twice as bet­ter than I ever will — Nashville Cats by John Se­bas­tian WE do the tourist stuff, in­clud­ing Sun Stu­dios, where Elvis made his first record­ings, and Grace­land, where he lived and, of course, died. Sun Stu­dios is funky, fun and highly in­for­ma­tive while Grace­land is a mas­sive mon­ey­mak­ing en­ter­prise. It’s Satur­day and thou­sands are be­ing shut­tled non-stop through the house and sur­rounds. I had the im­pres­sion Grace­land was some sort of quasi south­ern man­sion but it’s more like a su­per-sized project home you might find in an outer Aus­tralian sub­urb and, strangely, the ceil­ings are re­ally low. WE head 300km up In­ter­state 40 to Nashville. Along its fa­mous Lower Broad­way, we hear the dis­tinc­tive twang of Fender Tele­caster gui­tars, the in­stru­ment of choice in this part of the world. It is­sues from in­sti­tu­tions such as Toot­sie’s Or­chid Lounge where the walls are lined with pho­tos of ev­ery no­body who car­ried a gui­tar through its doors to be­come some­body over nearly 50 years.

Then there’s the Ernest Tubb Record Store where you can find thou­sands of CDs by long-dead coun­try he­roes, in­clud­ing Tubb him­self, the Texas Trou­ba­dour as he was known, who opened the shop in 1947. But you won’t find one by who­ever is this week’s rap star on the rise. Tra­di­tion reigns; if it don’t twang, it ain’t the Ernest Tubb thang.

Around the cor­ner is the ven­er­a­ble Ry­man Au­di­to­rium from where the Grand Ole Opry, the longestrun­ning ra­dio pro­gram in the US, was broad­cast for more than 30 years. Th­ese days, the Opry, which

Best west­ern: Coun­try singer Wil­lie Nel­son up­holds coun­try’s tra­di­tions and not the new-fan­gled cross­over coun­try pop favoured by mod­ern Nashville, has re­lo­cated to a pur­pose-built au­di­to­rium and hol­i­day re­sort on the nearby Cum­ber­land River.

Later, we visit the Wildhorse Sa­loon, a three-level mega venue that rep­re­sents this new Nashville. There are mas­sive fried steaks and live mu­sic; they’ll even teach you dumb line danc­ing. Tonight on stage are Tel­luRide, five young guys from the far­away Pa­cific North­west who have come here to live the dream in what’s prob­a­bly the most com­pet­i­tive mu­sic scene on the planet. More than a quar­ter of the al­bums on the Bill­board Top 100 chart at any time can come out of this small city, pop­u­la­tion 600,000.

Tel­luRide play a tight, con­cise brand of coun­try pop,

Check­list

Creative Hol­i­days’ new North Amer­i­can 2009/10 pro­gram in­cludes sec­tions on Nashville and Mem­phis with ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions. More: www.cre­ative­hol­i­days.com. World Cars has an early­bird rental sale valid for col­lec­tions to the end of the year if booked and paid for by March 31. Up­grades and other deals avail­able. More: 1300 55 44 32; www.world­cars.com.au. Austin’s South By South­west 2009 takes place on March 18-22; Fort Worth’s Main Street Arts Fes­ti­val is on April 16-19. www.sxsw.com www.main­stree­tarts­fest.org

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