J.P. Harris and the Tough Choices, I'll Keep Calling | Album Review | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Seven Days needs your financial support!

J.P. Harris and the Tough Choices, I'll Keep Calling 

Album Review


(Cow Island Music, CD, digital download)

As they state on their MySpace page, J.P. Harris and the Tough Choices “play Country-Goddamned-Music. Period.” There’s very little room for interpretation in that declaration. Harris and company are throwbacks — for starters, they still have an active MySpace page … zing! Joking aside, the band, which got its start in Vermont but has since relocated to — where else? — Nashville, meticulously evokes a purer era of country music. Setting aside the glitzy pop trappings of modern country, the band’s new album, I’ll Keep Calling, is like a honky-tonk time capsule, buried in red clay decades ago and only recently unearthed to deliver us from the sins of Lady Antebellum and Carrie Underwood. You’ll find no Auto-Tune here. In fact, the album’s only real adornments come whiskey soaked and stained with nicotine.

The album opens on “Two for the Road,” which sets a countrypolitan tone that never wavers throughout the following 11 tracks. Harris is clearly steeped in honky-tonk tradition, and his writing bears the mark of a man who has spent a night or 200 in roadhouses and backwoods dives. With a deliberate baritone over a spare, Western-swing groove, he spins a classic, bleary-eyed yarn, singing, “Oh I’ll take one for my heartaches and two for the road. All the whiskey tears that I’ve cried for you, well, you’ll never know.”

Harris isn’t breaking any molds and displays a steadfast dedication to country convention. But rather than sounding derivative or predictable, his tunes bear an unusually honest quality. When he sings of walking away from a settled life on “Badly Bent,” you believe he’s just the sort of rambling man who has carved his name in “almost every bar from here to the Gulf of Mexico.” When he rues a lost love on the title track, you feel the desperation in his weary croon. And when Harris swears he’d give up all his worldly possessions for love on the closing cut, “Take It All,” it’s hard not to envision the bearded singer with nothing but the Western shirt on his back and a pack of smokes in his pocket.

J.P. Harris and the Tough Choices play Positive Pie 2 in Montpelier this Sunday, May 13, with the Starline Rhythm Boys.

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

More By This Author

About The Author

Dan Bolles

Dan Bolles

Dan Bolles is Seven Days' assistant arts editor and also edits What's Good, the annual city guide to Burlington. He has received numerous state, regional and national awards for his coverage of the arts, music, sports and culture. He loves dogs, dark beer and the Boston Red Sox... more


Comments are closed.

Since 2014, Seven Days has allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we’ve appreciated the suggestions and insights, the time has come to shut them down — at least temporarily.

While we champion free speech, facts are a matter of life and death during the coronavirus pandemic, and right now Seven Days is prioritizing the production of responsible journalism over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor. Or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.

Latest in Album Review

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative

All content © 2022 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401

Advertising Policy  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact Us  |  About Us  |  Help
Website powered by Foundation