We’ve all heard stories about how the music scene in Nashville has become more corporate than country in recent years, with everything from Broadway to the Grand Ole Opry oriented more towards the tourist trade than the sound that made Music City famous.
Those in the know recognize a few spots where you can still find a honky tonk vibe with music to match, like Roberts Western World on Broadway, or The Station Inn for live bluegrass. There is also quality music on tap several nights a week at American Legion Post 82 on Gallatin Pike in East Nashville, where they advertise “Authentic American Music” on tap.
Their Honky Tonk Tuesday night is legendary among locals, repeated on Saturdays, where last month Rodney Crowell, Vince Gill, and Emmylou Harris played a set of music together. It’s a round robin, jam-like environment where a house band holds forth, and you never know who will pop in for a song or two.
The same feel exists on the newly revived Wednesday Night Bluegrass shows at Post 82. Word is getting out that it’s the place to be mid-week for Nashville grassers, and the super-talented young pickers who make their home in the area play some powerful music there on stage.
Wednesday Night Bluegrass was the brainchild of Evan Winsor, a bass player who moved to town last year from southern California. He was already a bluegrass pro, and a recent graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, but was a bit surprised by how hard it was for him to meet other young pickers in Nashville. Eventually he began to be introduced to others in a similar boat through doing shows with Rebekah Long and Donna Ulisse, but wished there was a central hang where everyone would show up on a regular basis.
Learning of the big fun at the Legion on Tuesdays, he saw that they also offered a bluegrass jam on Wednesdays, but it was poorly attended and the folks at Post 82 were considering shutting it down. So he rounded up a group who were willing to serve as a house band, and offered to take over the running and promotion of the bluegrass jam, which met with the approval of the management.
As a rule, the house band includes Evan on bass, with Nate Leath on fiddle, Luke Munday or Cory Walker on banjo, James Kee on mandolin, and a rotating cast of guitarists. Guests in recent months have included Josh Williams, Mike Bub, David Grier, Dennis Crouch, Shad Cobb, Jenni Lynn, Mike Compton, Molly Tuttle, Casey Campbell, Jon Weisberger, Trey Hensley, Jake Stargel, and many others.
These shows have become so popular that Evan and James schedule at least one name act each week when they can in addition to the house band and jam. Coming up on June 19 will be The Wes Corbett Band, The Bluegrass Pride Allstars featuring Molly Tuttle and Melody Walker, and the Post 82 House Band featuring Deanie Richardson, Tristan Scroggins, Chris Wade, James Kee, and Evan Winsor.
Another big one coming up is on July 17th with the Mallory Eagle Band featuring Jake Stargell, Gaven Largent, Harry Clark, Maddie Denton, and Evan Winsor plus a special edition of the House Band with Trey Hensley, Matt Menifee, Billy Contreras, Mary Meyer, and Evan Winsor.
Here’s some video from a Bluegrass Wednesday Night last month with Evan, James, Cory, Nate, and Jed Clark taking a run at Cripple Creek.
Like all the Legion shows, there is no admission charge, but donations are accepted at the door. $10 seems to be the normal donation requested.
Things are going so well on Wednesdays that Winsor and Kee are currently working on turning the shows into a syndicated radio program. They hope to be able to announce more about that in the next few months.
So whether you live in or near Nashville, or will be in town on business or vacation, you know where to be on Wednesday nights. Jamming typically runs from 7:00-8:00 p.m., with the scheduled bands going on after that.