In a genre that prides itself on authenticity, JP Harris has credentials and then some. Harris has rode the freight trains, spent years as a shepherd with the Navajo, lived for years without running water in a cabin in Appalachia, and worked as a carpenter. For Harris, when he sings about hard work, it’s because he’s done it. His new album, Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing, details some of his adventures.
For this record, his third full-length, he tapped a handful of his favorite players and called on the production prowess of Morgan Jahnig (Old Crow Medicine Show) to capture the stories of his stranger-than-fiction life. Dripping with pedal steel and telecaster twang, the record has the rugged edges of outlaw, the danceability of honky tonk, and classic country’s beloved emotional candor. Harris has a timeless voice that’s just as natural with the album’s rustic title track as it is with “Florida Blues #1,” a frantic Southern rock number about the aftermath of a cocaine-fueled bender.
On “When I Quit Drinking,” which Wide Open Country is exclusively premiering today, Harris gets a little more personal than usual. “As some of my songwriting becomes more introspective or true-to-life, I tried to offer something universally identifiable in this one,” he told Wide Open Country. “Though almost all of my songs are from my own life, I also feel the right to keep some things my personal business. With this song I was able to vocalize one of my own struggles, with the hope that it helps someone else through theirs.”
Harris and Smithsonian Folkways will also be curating the Outside Folk showcase at Newport Folk Fest this Saturday, July 27. Harris will play alongside queer country pioneer Patrick Haggerty (of Lavender Country) as well as Matt the Electrician, Chris Smither, Lula Wiles, and more.
Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing will be out on October 5 via the good folks at Free Dirt Records.