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>> A HARDWORKING MAN TAKES HIS EXPERIENCE TO THE STAGE
JP Harris and the Tough choices

 JP Harris & The Tough Choices are busting out of Nashville with some real country.

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Date published: 1/24/2013

BY ANDREW LEAHEY

FOR THE FREE LANCE-STAR

JP Harris spent the holidays in rural Louisiana, wrapping up a carpentry job 15 miles outside of Angola Prison.

It wasn't a glamorous New Year's by any means, but he needed the money to help bankroll his next tour. Traveling with a multi-piece country band gets expensive, and Harris--a former nomad who spent his early 20s herding sheep, picking apples and scrapping sheet metal for cash--knows how to make a buck or two with his hands.

For the past four years, every last cent has gone into his music. Harris is the leader of JP Harris & The Tough Choices, a group of roving ruffians who play old-school honky-tonk songs about heartache and hangovers. Armed with the bushy beard of a Civil War general and the booming baritone of someone twice his age, he commands a larger-than-life presence onstage.

"I think people romanticize the idea of the rambling country singer and his band, playing roadhouse to roadhouse," Harris explained. "This isn't a group of kids who got out of music school, received a van as a graduation present, went on tour and then felt totally wiped out after a week. People see us pulling into the parking lot in a smoking van, with dents all over it and beer bottles falling out of the back, and they're seeing something they thought only existed in movies."

He added, "Combine that with the experiences I've had--the various lives I've led--and it inadvertently creates a small urban legend around the band."

Harris' teenage years and early adulthood sound like something out of a Jack Kerouac novel, full of hitchhiked car rides across the Southwest and wild evenings spent in the desert. Before moving to Nashville two years ago, he spent a decade without electricity or running water, living on a Navajo reservation one minute and in a Vermont hunting camp the next.


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What: JP Harris & The Tough Choices When: Thursday, Jan. 31, at 8:30 p.m. Where: Hill Country BBQ, 410 Seventh St. NW, Washington, D.C. Cost: Free Info: hillcountryny.com; ilovehonkytonk.com