Written by Taylor Bruce, Editor / Co-Founder of Wildsam Field Guides
WILDSAM FIELD GUIDES kicked off our series of American travel books last fall with the city of Nashville, Tennessee. We love this city’s gritty heritage as much as we do the sweet sounds on WSM. It’s a complex place of rolling hills and poisonous snakes, of artisan dreamers rethinking everything from blue jeans to cotton candy, of Civil Rights scars and Fugitive poetry. And we appreciate the whole heritage, good and bad, magnificent and mundane, because it’s that diversity of story that refines the best of cities. Here are just a few of our Nashville favorites.
THE SOMALI COFFEE SHOP
Since the mid-70’s, Nashville has been one of the largest and most welcoming resettlement cities in the United States. Kurdish and Egyptian, Sudanese and Mexican, a thriving international flavor lives in Nashville. One place to experience this side of the city is Farhan and Medina Hussein’s Somali Coffee Shop on Murfreesboro Pike. The lively shop feels like stepping across the continents. And you’ll not find better sambusa or $2 lattes in all of Tennessee. 1040 Murfreesboro Pike
For Eastsiders, this is Central Park. Hugging the once-bustling Cumberland River, the bucolic multi-use stretch includes golfing, sports fields, free bike rentals, greenway access, and a rad green-roofed nature center.
Artist Emily Leonard’s stunning landscape paintings feel like impressionistic memories of the woods and fields surrounding Nashville. Standing in front of the airy works makes you feel woozy with emotion. Which was one reason why the Nashville Ballet commissioned her to paint a 22-foot panel during two live performances earlier this month.
ARNOLD’S COUNTRY KITCHEN
If the term “meat and three” isn’t a familiar one, get thee to Arnold’s on 8th Avenue S. No city does the southern tradition like Nashville. And fans of mac n’ cheese: Bring your bibles. 605 8th Ave S
One of the last ten American presses in operation, United runs its machines five days a week and stamp out 40,000 records a day in the grindingly loud factory. For the curious, here’s how a single record is made.
- 1. Recordlike lacquer rotates as music is player
- 2. Electric signals from master recording travel through a needle
- 3. Needle etches groove into lacquer, replicating sound
- 4. Lacquer is coated in silver, spun in nickel bath
- 5. Metal disc, or Mother, is produced with ridges instead of grooves
- 6. Mother used to create ridged stamper
- 7. Stamper, a negative of the recording, placed in hydraulic press
- 8. Tiny pellets of vinyl melted at 250 degrees into biscuits
- 9. Biscuit placed between stampers, squished for two seconds
- 10. Music is imprinted and excess biscuit trimmed off
Opened six months after the Civil War, Fisk has been a cultural fount since day one, including its world-famous gospel choir, the Fisk Jubilee Singers – still moving listeners to tears every semester. Lesser known is the University’s Steiglitz Collection. Georgia O’Keeffe donated 101 pieces in 1949, which brought Picasso and Cezanne to Nashville. The collection is valued at over $70 million.
CITY HOUSE ON SUNDAYS
Chef Tandy Wilson’s City House is by far the best place to spend a Sunday evening in Nashville. Besides pulling from a Colonel’s bourbon list, Tandy’s pals cook the best – and most inventive – ovenfired pizzas in Tennessee. Just last week, they served a pie topped with country ham, mustard greens and buttermilk cheddar.
East Nashville author Tony Earley wrote an essay for the field guide called “All Those Daughters.” It’s a wonderfully sprawling look into his neighborhood, and it covers – among other things – Jesse James, the flood, Hank Williams, bridges, bicycle riding, his two daughters and the Civil War. The 4,000+ word ode bottles a lot of what I feel when I think about the city. Below is an excerpt.
“From the back deck I can see the pointy ears of the Batman building eavesdropping above the neighborhood trees; I can see the flickering antennae of fireworks when the Sounds win a baseball game at Greer Stadium, or a concert ends at Riverfront Park. I hear the boom of the fireworks several seconds after the flash; the distant, prolonged cannonade of the finales. Freight trains shout out before crossing Porter Road, then clamber onto the long, high trestle spanning the river at Shelby Bottoms. When the wind is right I can hear the band playing onboard the General Jackson as it paddles boozy tourists back and forth on the river between downtown and Opry Mills. Usually “Rolling on the River.” On Saturday nights I can hear the stock cars chasing each other around the track at the Fairgrounds, and always the distant, shushing surf of the Interstate. The police helicopter often thwops overhead, and some nights it draws a bright beam of light across my yard like a brief message from God: I am watching you. Everything will be all right.”
Illustrations by Lucinda Rogers
Copyright © Wildsam Press