There is a narrative about Nashville that relies heavily on the idea of pioneering and/or flagbearer status. Whatever sort of algorithmic appeal ascribing such elevated standings to individuals holds, it also endorses laziness on the writer, historian, detailer, etc. These narratives typically revolve (or are at least easiest/lazily illustrated) around the Jack Whites, Dan Auerbachs, Followills, and Nikki Lanes of our little world. That means no offense to those listed earlier, but there is a notion that there are only a handful of pillars within the Nashville community, which is obviously not the case. As is true with all great plays, films, cities, groups, and IMDB loglines, there are “No Small Parts.”
Would the New York indie scene of the late late 1990s and early 2000s be as highly regarded today if there were no Jonathan Fire*eater? Where would the early inlines of hip-hop and rap be without Sha-Rock? How about punk and grunge without X-Ray Spex and Lara Logic? I think (hope) you get the picture, and as you might have guessed, the next question I’m posing is where would Nashville (or the music scene, at least) be without Matthew Perryman Jones?
As far as fixtures of Nashville are concerned, I’d argue that one would be hard pressed to find a more relevant and integral component within the music scene of Nashville’s growth than Mr. Jones (unintentional Counting Crows or Mike Jones reference?). In even just considering such a notion, one can’t help but be overwhelmed by the sheer depth and breadth of Jones’ discography and its relative influence.
Full-lengths, EPs, and singles that date back (unofficially, aka “according to Wikipedia”) to 2000 with Nowhere Else but Here, and then officially with Throwing Punches In the Dark begin to paint a picture that long precedes the East Nashville explosion of the early 2010s. Jones was blazing a trail long before there was a Burger Up, much less one in 5 Points. Sure, the Burger Up reference is a little questionable, but it’s the only chronological marker I can think of at the moment - and seeing as it’s reaching dinner time as I write this - it’s fitting.
Anyway, back to Matthew Perryman Jones. He’s helped foster and cultivate the East Nashville songwriter scene in a manner of which has bolstered the legacy and careers of any and all who pass through. From his most recent Basement East stop with Now/It’s alum Molly Parden opening up, to a 2017 duet with Mindy Smith, or a role in the fateful Ten Out of Tenn. Even if the Basement East stop was only for a night, Jones’ impact on the East Nashville music community was far from lost that night. My personal gauge of Basement East shows’ popularity and/or demand is what the degree of which the WeWork parking lot either is or is not filled. As more perceptive readers might have guessed, it was full for Jones’ East Side stop. And even though it made parking a bit of a puzzle, the brief mind bend of parking for The Basement East was well worth getting to Jones’ show.
While Jones’ journey through (and with) music might best be described as a slow burn, it is one that has moved with the utmost smolder. Just take his most recent full-length release, The Waking Hours, Jones’ overall tonality is retained, but his thoughtful purview is it’s most wizened and realized. An album for his daughters from a man whose had a lifetime’s worth of experience, an experience that will undoubtedly benefit those it was written for, as well as the city that Jones has both cut his teeth and blazed trails in long before most else would have endeavored to do the same. So let this serve as a defense or a rationalization in favor of Matthew Perryman Jones’ addition to the list of the proverbial Nashville music cornerstones list.