Greg Garing can't seem to get Nashville out of his soul. The enigmatic country/roots singer-songwriter has left Nashville at least a couple of times in the past decade, once for New York City, once for the mountains of North Carolina. But both times he's returned, and we're glad to have him back.
Garing was a key player in the Lower Broad honky-tonk revival of the mid-’90s, and he still sings and plays like nobody's business. He was also the subject of a documentary, Legend: A Film About Greg Garing, which chronicled his ongoing struggles with heavy-metal poisoning. Tonight at 10 p.m. at FooBar, Garing plays his first official show since moving back to Nashville. His band will include guitarist Kenny Vaughan, whose encyclopedic mastery of old-school country makes him a perfect match for Garing. (And the two have played together quite a bit in the past, so it should be like riding a bike, so to speak.)
The last time I saw him play was at the Basement in 2005. "I've been away from Nashville for a while," he said to the crowd. "Can someone tell me what the fuck 'alt-country' means?" Amen. The entire Spin review of that show, after the jump ...
"I've been away from Nashville for a while," Greg Garing explained to The Basement crowd last Thursday. "Can someone tell me what the fuck 'alt-country' means?" We've been trying to figure that out for years now and still don't have a clue, but we're pretty sure it doesn't describe your music, Greg, which is far too uncontrived to fit into such a reductive description. For those who don't know, Garing was a mainstay in the Lower Broad honky-tonks until he moved to New York City in the late '90s, but, judging from his performance, the big city hasn't taken the country out of the boy. Don't be fooled by the gaunt rocker facade: there's nothing hip, detached or ironic about his music, a stirring blend of old-school country, bluegrass, rockabilly and jazz that is at once deeply reverent to the past, yet refreshingly urgent and whacked-out. Armed with only a guitar and a disarmingly lovely voice that'll practically knock the wind out of ya, Garing was mesmerizing—bold, vulnerable and as immediate as an atomic clock. His incomparable guitar playing—a lurching blend of chordal accompaniment, bluegrass runs, jazzy solos and frenzied explosions—was blissfully (and intentionally) unshackled to any conventional concepts of timekeeping. (Note to practicing musicians: throw out those metronomes now.) It was welcome news to hear that Garing may soon be moving back to Nashville for a while—could a steady gig be in the offing?