On my latest trip to Nashville I decided that, after visiting the staples and several brand new Nashville points of interest, I would focus on some live music spots south of Nashville. Here’s what I discovered less than one hour’s drive outside the hustle and bustle of Music City.
Music City Roots at the Loveless Café Barn: Held each Wednesday, this live-recorded television and radio program presents a variety of music like no other. The night I visited, there was live music from the duo Black Violin, who blend classical, hip-hop, rock, R&B, and even bluegrass; from the bluegrass quintet The Hillbenders; Canadian fiddler, step dancer, and singer/songwriter April Verch; Australian Americana transplants The Greencards; and the Nashville rock trio Matt Butcher and the Schoolyard Band. If you like a variety of high quality music in a casual setting that serves homemade food, you should make it a point to catch Music City Roots. General admission is only $10. (About 15 miles, 30 minutes southwest of Nashville on Highway 100.)
Leiper’s Fork: This community of farmers, artists, and musicians is a favorite among stars in the music industry, and you never know whom you may run into. On the night I was there, Justin Timberlake dropped by the picker’s corner of antique store Serenite Mason and played a couple tunes. Puckett’s Grocery, located in the center of the village is a popular live music venue. I visited during the weekly Thursday open mic, which features a caliber of musical talent that could only be found in a Music City suburb. I was surprised when a couple of stars from the ABC television series Nashville took the stage. There’s usually live music at Puckett’s Thursday through Sunday, and also on Tuesdays. (About 30 miles, 45 minutes southwest of Nashville just off Old Hillsboro Road.)
Franklin: Another popular Nashville suburb where many music legends and actors reside, Franklin features a quaint downtown area with the restored Franklin Theater, which shows movies and is also a favorite with many touring acts. The Americana Music Association is headquartered in Franklin. Aside from the theater, live music venues include The Bunganut Pig & Pub Eatery, Mickey Roo’s, and Puckett’s Grocery, which also offer good home-style Southern food. (It’s 14 miles, 30 minutes, south of Nashville, off interstate 65.)
Vineyards, Wineries, Breweries, Distilleries: There are many vineyards south of Nashville that offer live music events throughout the year, among them Natchez Hills Vineyard (www.natchezhills.com), Amber Falls Winery & Cellars (amberfallswinery.com), Pickers Creek Winery (www.pickerscreekwinery.com), and Arrington Vineyards (www.arringtonvineyards.com), which is co-owned by Kix Brooks of country duo Brooks & Dunn. Check the websites for music events. At Short Mountain Distillery you can sample both genuine moonshine and live music. At the Mayday! Brew-house the owner, known as Ozzy, is a musician and has named his fermentation tanks for rock stars with names like Jimi Hendrix and Randy Rhodes. He hosts live music twice a week.
Musical Dinners: Ask around and you’ll find no shortage of intimate diners and cafés that offer live music while you enjoy home-style southern cuisine. Miller’s Grocery Café in Christiana (about 42 miles, a 45-minute drive from Nashville) features folk, bluegrass, and Americana music every Friday and Saturday night. It operated as a grocery store for more than 75 years before it became a restaurant. Marcy Jo’s Mealhouse and Bakery is where the 2010 Academy of Country Music’s “Top New Vocal Duo” award winners, Joey and Rory Feek, spend time off the road. In fact, Joey still occasionally works in the family-owned restaurant located in Pottsville, about 42 miles, 45 minutes, south of Nashville. Every third Saturday is Songwriter’s Night at the Mealhouse.