Country music has a strong lineage of drinking songs. There are the bro-country songs that seem to encourage rampant alcohol consumption, but they’re of a piece and don’t offer much of a story compared with the songs that are about the singer’s relationship with alcohol and usually extend to ruminations on life in general, through the prism of that relationship.
Alabaman J.P. Harris is in the latter category with his single ‘When I Quit Drinking’, from his new album Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing. As the chorus goes, ‘When I quit drinking I start thinking about starting up again’ – but that’s actually the least sophisticated line amongst the highly entertaining lyrics that are married with a clean honkytonk sound.
For over a decade, Harris travelled the US, often alone, hitchhiking and hopping freight trains while making his living as a farm labourer, shepherd, woodsman, and carpenter. These days, apparently, he doesn’t call himself a musician so much as a carpenter who writes country songs. Carpentry seems an apt trade for a songwriter whose songs have a structure that is not only solid and strong but made so neatly that the listener detects only the art wrapped around them. ‘When I Quit Drinking’ is a very good song, and there are more on his album.
Listen to ‘When I Quit Drinking:
Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing is out now on Free Dirt Records.