Gold Rush as Folk Opera


Twice monthly, The CFR is delighted to feature articles from our partner ArtsNash. The journalists at ArtsNash cover the eclectic and growing arts scene of Nashville, Tennessee.
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This folk music review was written by Tim Ghianni.

The bright lights of Broadway are a long way from the near-mythic Red Beet Bunker-Americana nice guy Eric Brace‘s home and label HQ in the cracked asphalt hollers of East Nashville.

Story continues below.

Brace & Straub
Eric Brace and Karl Straub
Photo: Michael Williamson,
Courtesy Red Beet Records

But Brace isn’t ruling it out. “Who knows? Broadway? I don’t know,” says Brace, 53, as he sits in the aforementioned bunker sending out promo copies of the project that may, eventually, join Cats and Les Misérables on The Great White Way.

No, he’s not quite betting his bunker on it (although his personal and emotional investments surely are high). He’s not ruling it out, either.

Brace is a dreamer. Has been ever since he parlayed a love of the rootsier side of hometown D.C. music into a job as a nightlife reporter for the Washington Post.

It’s a long story, but basically, he went from waiting tables during lunch hour to support his own performing habit-“I always have written songs, when I’ve strummed a guitar, I’ve always strummed my own music. I like getting on stage and singing songs”-to going out to write about the music scene in America’s politically corrupt (another story) capital city. Well, there was one stop in between: He answered phones at the newspaper for awhile, all the while pestering the entertainment staff with his thoughts of what might be covered. Before long he was weighing the work of Samoan metal bands and the like for Ben Bradlee and the newspaper’s readers.

But this story isn’t really about that journalistic dream. It’s about the one that’s been growing in the back of his shiny head for a decade and a half.

The result, which on this day he and his wife Mary Ann and their Red Beet Bunker label manager Lindsay Hayes are shoveling into envelopes bound for the nation’s press and disc jockeys, is Hangtown Dancehall.

The songs Brace wrote with his longtime buddy-“a true musical genius,” he says-Karl Straub could best be described as a “folk opera.”

Read the whole review and profile of Brace at ArtsNash.

Tim Ghianni is a lifelong journalist and author in Middle Tennessee. He was a nationally honored columnist and editor at The Leaf-Chronicle in Clarksville for 14 years, at the Nashville Banner for its last 10 years of existence and then spent the final 10 years of his newspaper career at The Tennessean before being “bought out” in August of 2007. His newspaper years-which included encounters with murderers, mayors and movie stars, from James Earl Ray to O.J. Simpson and his friend Kris Kristofferson-are chronicled in his 2012 book When Newspapers Mattered: The News Brothers & their Shades of Glory. When John Seigenthaler hosted Ghianni for a Word on Words show about that book, he called it “an obituary on newspapers …. but it’s funny” (or words to that effect. ) Ghianni continues to write for local and national publications and for his They Call Me Flapjacks blog; he is also Tennessee and Kentucky correspondent for Reuters. His recently published book, Shoebox Full of Toads: Farewell to Mom, chronicles his hours spent at his mother’s deathbed, telling her how she affected his life. A heartwarming, occasionally funny book, it is available for $25-including shipping and handling-from Ghianni by writing him at 471 Rochelle Drive, Nashville, TN 37220. His latest, Monkeys Don’t Wear SILVER SUITS: Kelly’s Little Green Men & the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse, a “non-fiction novel” (co-authored with his When Newspapers Mattered partner Rob Dollar) chronicling the folklore and fact of a 1955 alien invasion in Southern Kentucky, just has been released. All three books are available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.