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Pat Reedy makes honest honky-tonk music for the modern world, mixing twang, blue-collar songwriting, working-class pride, and an unconventional backstory into albums like 2018's That's All There Is.
That's All There Is was written during breaks in Reedy's construction job, with lyrics scribbled down on scraps of paper and discarded pieces of wood. Maybe that's why these songs — with their warm, rough-around-the-edges charm — sound different than the contemporary country-pop hits recorded in Reedy's adopted hometown of Nashville. In a city full of Hollywood cowboys and wannabe outlaws, Reedy is the real deal, more influenced by the artists whose filled the airwaves during his childhood years — including Dwight Yoakam, Mark Chesnutt, and George Jones — than anything in today's mainstream.
Years before he moved to Nashville, a 21 year-old Reedy cut his teeth on the street corners of New Orleans. He quickly became one of the city's busiest street buskers, strumming songs for the locals on Lower Decatur and the tourists on Bourbon Steet. Those performances became the launching pad for his career, and although Reedy eventually graduated to proper venues, he never forgot the lessons learned during his roadside gigs.
"It taught me how to really sell a song," he says of his busking history. "How to draw a crowd, too. And, occasionally, how to fend off drunks."
Backed by the Longtime Goners, an electrified honky-tonk band of New Orleans-based street musicians, Reedy began making trips to Nashville. There, the group recorded a self-titled album in 2013, followed by 2016's Highway Bound. Although tracked in Tennessee, both albums looked to New Orleans for their cues, with accordion riffs and country-punk sensibilities that paid clear tribute to the Big Easy. Reedy toured heavily in support of both albums, hitting the road in a 1985 diesel pickup truck and bringing the hootenanny spirit of original country music to dive bars, honky tonks, and punk houses across America.
These days, Reedy has left New Orleans in the rearview mirror and embraced a new place — Nashville — as his home. That's All There Is feels like the soundtrack to that relocation, filled with pedal steel guitar riffs, upright bass, fiddle, and booming melodies inspired by classic country music. There's no accordion here. No punky influence, either. Instead, Reedy sinks his teeth into his own country roots, writing traditional-minded songs about heartache, travel, and long work days.
The album's title track finds him leaving town, his rearview mirror full of broken bridges that are beyond repair. "It's about that feeling when there's nothing to hold you someplace no more," he explains. "There's a broken relationship that you've tried to fix, but it's not worthy and that's all there is. It's time to hit the road again and start over with a truck and a guitar. And maybe a dog."
On "Nashville Tennessee at 3AM," he paints the picture of Music City during the surreal, liquor-soaked hours of the early morning, after the party has died down and before the workday begins. In keeping with the album's autobiographical nature, many of the song's details come from Reedy's own trips to Nashville as a young 20something, back when he'd hitch a ride into town by train hopping.
"I used to slum through town during my early 20s," he remembers, "and it was during one of those train rides that I met a semi-retired circus clown who became my best friend. His name was Stumps the Clown. We'd busk on Broadway, then grab beers from a gas station and climb up the Shelby Pedestrian Bridge so we could look down over Nashville. Then we'd walk to the East Side and go to sleep in a punk house. Those houses don't exist anymore, because the people got gentrified out."
Perhaps it's unsurprising that Reedy sympathizes with those who've been displaced by Nashville's recent boom in population. He's more aligned with the oddball characters and left-of-center artists who filled the city long before it became a tourist mecca, and he brings that old-school approach to That's All There Is, planting one foot in the territory of his influences while pointing the other toward newer territory.