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JP Harris

Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing – 2018 (Free Dirt)

Reviewed by Greg Yost

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CDs by JP Harris

A four-year recording hiatus did nothing to damper J.P. Harris's creativity. In fact, the carpenter, singer, and songwriter has stretched his sound a bit with "Sometimes Dogs Bark At Nothing," a 10-song offering on which Harris ventures further afield from his honky-tonk roots while still producing a unique brand of country that is at once contemporary and classic.

The first few notes make it crystal clear that something different is afoot. "JP's Florida Blues #1" is an adrenaline-charged piece of country rock driven by both electric guitar and keyboards - a tune that owes more to the classic '70s blues-rock sounds of The Rolling Stones than anything that graced the Ryman Auditorium stage. Although it is a musical departure, lyrically it is classic Harris - starkly personal tales of his past misadventures chasing the next high. As he sings retrospectively, "I lost my mind out on the highway/Seeking my inspiration with my nose."

Harris, in collaboration with producer Morgan Jahning of Old Crow Medicine Show fame, continues exploring new musical landscapes on "Lady In The Spotlight," a ballad perfectly suited for this #MeToo era. The song's light country/folk/rock motif once again harkens back to the '70s, but this time it reflects the softer sounds of chart-topping artists like Glen Campbell and Harry Nilsson, specifically the latter's rendition of "Everybody's Talkin'."

Piano plays a more evident and integral role than on previous Harris recordings. On "I Only Drink Alone," the instrument adds tasteful flourishes that nicely complement the track's twangy feel, while "Miss Jeanne-Marie," the most powerful and emotional track is carried by piano and Harris's voice, which is reminiscent of Neil Diamond. The vocal similarities between the two dissimilar artists are also noticeable on the laid-back title track.

Fans of Harris's older work should have no fear. There is still plenty of traditional country/honky-tonk music here. "Hard Road" is an enticing piece of classic country barroom rock, including some fabulous interplay between lead guitar and pedal steel. "Jimmy's Dead And Gone" is a hobo's tale of a life jumping trains, played at a breakneck pace that matches the song's theme. "When I Quit Drinking," which finds the protagonist weighing the pros and cons of drinking to both numb the pain and to drown the memories of lost love, is as traditional as it comes and may just be the best song of this exemplary set.