PREMIERE: East Nash Grass Delivers Traditional Bluegrass Gem In ‘I Almost Told Her’ Ahead Of Upcoming Album

In 2016, bluegrass musicians James Kee and Harry Clark were new to Nashville. They were looking to find steady gigs, a steady band, and frankly, something to do.

Dee’s Country Cocktail Lounge in Madison, TN, (a few clicks outside of East Nashville) was also new and finding its legs as a happening new establishment. After some introductions and perhaps a few beers, Kee and Clark found themselves a Monday night residency at the bar.

Flash-forward to today, not only has that residency cruised on strong for years, but the growth of what has been known as East Nash Grass has surged, as the now All-Star sextet has since performed at the Ryman among other notable venues, and are on the cusp of releasing their second studio album, Last Chance to Win.

The band features the ardent power of Clark’s mighty mandolin, the smooth-sailing vocals of Kee, the traditional tenacity of Cory Walker’s banjo, the dobro-wielding dynamo Gaven Largent, the fiddle firepower of Maddie Denton, and lastly the bass-pluckin’ finesse of Jeff Picker. Together, the group of seasoned stringers deliver a feverish ferocity few others are capable of.

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And today August 8th, the band has released their third single, “I Almost Told Her,” leading up to the album release.

“I Almost Told Her”

In talking to Kee on the telephone, he told us, “I was talking to a friend at Dee’s, discussing emotionally unavailable men. So he told me a story about a friend of his who’d recently been broken up with, and this guy was normally stoic and reserved, didn’t say a whole lot. But that particular day he was bummed out and told my friend, “Yeah I really loved her, and I almost told her.”

And thus, a song was born.

He went on to say, “It just really stuck with me and didn’t go away. And I could relate to that as well. The more I thought about it, the more it manifested into a song.”

With a sonic fluidity only bluegrass bands have, “I Almost Told Her” hits like a runaway train from the get-go. It harnesses a hybrid feel of more traditional bluegrass and a more progressive style, and the chorus is simple and effective, as is the signature of most quality songs.

East Nash Grass

Last Chance to Win is a reference to the band’s often irreverent and not-so-serious stage presence, as they like to have fun, let loose, and let their instruments provide the seriousness. “I think that’s something that is missed a lot in bluegrass. Everybody just takes it so damn serious. It’s like, hey let’s lighten up, we have a banjo playing,” he told us. “We just liked the tongue-in-cheek approach. Hopefully it’s not our ‘last chance to win.'”

It’s a big advantage for a band to have more than one songwriter, but for each member to be an accomplished writer on their own accord is almost unheard of, yet such is the situation in East Nash Grass, meaning damn near limitless potential, and a buffet of songs to choose from when recording.

“I could really feel the progress that we made since our first album,” Kee said. “Everybody’s become better listeners, better players, better writers. It was just neat to see that. Everybody was less inhibited than they might’ve been before. Whether we realized it or not, the collective focus mostly became trying to have this piece of work that we all made together.”

Last Chance to Win is due out next Friday August 18th, and was recorded at famed producer Mark Howard’s Tractor Shed studio.

East Nash Grass // Photo by Jeff Fasano

Featured photo by Aaron Fishbein

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