J.P. Harris & the Tough Choices calls its brand of honky-tonking classic country "real country music." So there's really no better place for them than a place like Charlotte's own honky-tonk of sorts - Plaze-Midwood's Thirsty Beaver Saloon where the Alabama-bred/Nashville-based Harris plays tonight.
What's interesting about live music at The Beaver is that it's free - as in no cover charge. The staff does pass the hat which - considering the generous clientele of music lovers and musicians that frequent the bar - often results in a touring act earning more than it might under a guarantee from a more traditional venue.
Not that the bands don't work for those tips. Bands usually play two or three sets and if they really get going may keep playing into the wee hours. The first of the Tough Choices' sets kick off tonight at 8:30 p.m.
It doesn't get much more country than Harris and his band who trade in weeping pedal steel, walking guitar lines than stir up images of the old west, storytelling ballads, and playful songs (like the one in the video above) that you can imagine your grandparents dancing to in their youth. But the band can also rock live with harder charging rockabilly and songs that remind me of what was once considered mainstream country in the late `70s and early `80s. Yet Harris' most direct link is to artists like Hank Williams, Buck Owens, and Bob Wills. It's no wonder he seems at home in a bar where they play vintage "Hee Haw" episodes above the bar.
The Thirsty Beaver doesn't have live music every night, but look for it every third Thursday of the month and on Sunday late afternoons when you'll notice a packed parking lot if you drive by.
The music is often country or some related genre, but the little orange building also hosts heavier rock bands like Charlotte's fabled Antiseen on occasion and celebrates old school punk on the first Wednesday of each month with Punk Rock Wednesday.