Arlen Roth on the Nashville Cats
Well, this past couple of months, I was fortunate to be working on my new Slide Guitar Summit album, which features me doing slide guitar duets with folks such as Johnny Winter, Lee Roy Parnell, Greg Martin, Jack Pearson, David Lindley, Cindy Cashdollar, Jimmy Vivino, Sonny Landreth and others, and my sessions that I had in Nashville once again totally convinced me about just how right John Sebastian was when he talked about the “Nashville Cats” in his famous song with The Lovin’ Spoonful.
I suppose some of it is definitely the air of friendly competition that exists in Nashville among all those great players, but it just seems that when you get to that town, everybody just plays better! It’s a fascinating phenomenon to witness, and I really think it’s great just how each player seems better than the next!
On this particular trip I got to meet and play with the incredible Jack Pearson for the first time; a man who has a tremendous reputation “in town’, but beyond that is mostly known as someone who was in the Allman Brothers Band for a few years about 15 years ago. The truth is, I pretty much never saw a more well-rounded player, especially when it came to all genres and all techniques.
Everyone in fact who played on the album was incredible, but there was something about being once again exposed to the sheer greatness of playing that always can be found on seemingly any street corner of Nashville that really blew my mind! Add to that the incredible hospitality that each person extended to me, and that wonderful “everything’s alright” attitude, which just made it so perfectly comfortable for recording. It really felt the right way, which is to say that the recording was an extension of us all having a “good time”, and that we were truly busy making memories with each other.
Maybe that’s really the “secret” of a place like Nashville. It is first and foremost a nice place to live and work and raise a family, and therefore it happens to be the best place to make music in a relaxed way. Even when “time is money and money’s time” it never really felt that way, and the typical time pressure I had come so used to feeling up in New York seemed completely absent while down there in Nashville!
Getting to meet Jack Pearson was particularly amazing, because not only was he one of the greatest all-around players I had ever encountered, but then I found out that he was actually born and raised in Nashville, too! Well, after the session, all I could say to him was “you know Jack, I think you really are the Nashville CAT!” To which he replied, “yep, that’s me, I must be that Nashville Cat!”