Hey y’all! Once again, Brian here. My wife and I are currently on a two month tour across America, playing music, (we’re The Wallens) camping out, and seeking adventure along the way. Just wanted to update you on our last couple of weeks!
Stop #1: Franklin, TN
Picking up where we left off in the first post, we were fortunate to be able to spend several days with Molly’s sister Katie, her husband Josh, and their three wonderful kids. They are some of my favorite people, and it was really nice to spend some time in Franklin. Charlie enjoyed it too.
I haven’t gotten to be much of an uncle for my sister’s kids; for one thing, I was still just a kid myself when they were born, and for another, we’ve always been so far away from each other. (They live in Florida.) Being able to spend time with nieces and nephews and be “Unca Bunca” is really meaningful. I’m also very thankful for the hospitality of Katie and Josh. But, I’m sure y’all didn’t come here to read my sentimental thoughts on family!
It is worth noting that we were able to make a stop at my favorite of the Nashville hot chicken establishments, Hattie B’s. It’s legit, trust me.
Stop #2: Jonesboro, AR
Bellies and hearts full, we packed up the truck and trailer, waved goodbye to Tennessee, and headed onto our next stop! Jonesboro is a college town in NE Arkansas, and it has a really cool vibe. We stayed at a secluded little campground in Craighead Forest Park, just far enough outside of town to be peaceful.
Our venue was a funky little Irish pub called Cregeens, and it really did have a straight-from Ireland vibe. We had a very warm and welcoming crowd, and the Bangers and Mash were top notch! Can’t wait to go back.
Stop #3: Greers Ferry, AR
Speaking of family, we have some relatives in Arkansas that we didn’t know were relatives until the last time we came down! Kevin and Lee Ann Wallen are the kind of people you want to have in your family, for a lot of reasons. They were kind enough to hook us up with a place to stay and a gig at their church. If you’ve never been, Greers Ferry is an incredibly beautiful place.
Our weekend started with a gig at a small golf club bar called Bogies, and it ended with an afternoon concert at Holiday Hills United Methodist Church. You’d be hard pressed to find more generous and genuine people, and we’re very grateful that we got to sing some our favorite songs for them. ♥️
Stop #4: Memphis, TN
Friends and family are a recurring theme here. We headed to Memphis, not to play a show or to compete in the International Blues Challenge, but to spend a few days with some of our best friends. Steve, Brenda, Tom, and Catrina made the trip down from Metamora to rendezvous with us for some Beale Street shenanigans. I got a new hat at Lansky Brothers! We went thrift shopping! And most importantly, we got to watch Catrina play a showcase at the world famous B.B. King’s with the Chuck Brisbin Trio. Our friends are really like family to us.
We also found a great coffeeshop in a Memphis neighborhood called “The Pinch”, so named because it was cut off from the rest of downtown by the construction of an Interstate bridge. Comeback Coffee really impressed me, and it’s worth stopping there if you need some quality espresso.
Stop #5: Tuscaloosa, AL
If you haven’t picked up on it yet, I really, really love the South. The fact that you might walk into a brewery and find massive chalkboard art of Alabama football heroes in the style of a Jason Isbell album cover is a great example of why.
I knew it would be a great night as soon as I saw that. And sure enough, it was. Total listening crowd, and a tasty Pilsner! Druid City Brewing is really worth your time, and we enjoyed every minute of our show there.
Stop #6: Florence, AL
How cool is it that our next stop would be the hometown of Jason Isbell? Across the Tennessee River from Muscle Shoals, you’ll find a basement venue with one of the coolest names, The Boiler Room. It’s a combination bar, bowling alley, and music venue. Badass. We actually had a couple drive all the way from Corinth, MS to Florence and spend the night there just to see us play. Sometimes, I have to pinch myself. Not to sound like a broken record, but we loved the Boiler Room.
Stop #7: Arkadelphia, AR
Our last stop of this leg was back in Arkansas, in a little college town called Arkadelphia. We found out that there are two universities, Henderson State and Ouchita Baptist, that are literally across the street from each other. The rivalry is a different level of intense. Our campground, JB’s, was about a half-hour up the road, and it came complete with goats and an ass. Not kidding!
Our show was downtown at Slim & Shorty’s, a place with an island sort of feel. We dined like kings and queens on steak and vanilla cheesecake! The crowd was small, but awesome to play for. We met a couple who had traveled to many of the same Colorado mountain towns as us, and we met a metal musician with a big-time appreciation for bluegrass, to name a few.
It was hard to leave the South. It’s been so good to play venue after venue full of Prine and Isbell lovers, blues aficionados, and bluegrass diehards. The UP and Indiana have become very special to me for spiritual and community-based reasons, as has Colorado because of its beautiful mountains and towns.
I felt the same kind of connection throughout Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas, but it was driven by music. Blues, bluegrass and folk music are deep in the blood of the South, and it was an absolute privilege to play songs that are a part of that heritage. We’ll be back, and I can’t wait.