Town of Historic Granville, Tennessee
931.653.4151

Town of
Historic Granville, Tennessee

931.653.4151
Granville Museum
169 Clover Street • Granville, TN 38564
Come see why people from all over the south visit
the 1880's Sutton General Store,
Granville Museum, Sutton Homestead
Pioneer Village,
and Antique Car Museum.
 On the waterfront of the beautiful Cordell Hull Lake
just an hour outside Nashville
Historic Granville, TN — a place you’ll want to call home.

OPEN WED - FRI 10 AM - 3 PM, SAT 10 AM - 5 PM
SUTTON HOMESTEAD OPEN WED – FRI 12-3 PM, SAT 12-5 PM

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I fell in love in a barn in Tennessee

Geograhpicexploer
PHOTO BY JACQUI OAKLEY

I fell in love in a barn in Tennessee.

It was an hour east of Nashville, in a tiny town called Granville, on the banks of
the Cumberland River: a place of white-washed, storybook houses and American flags
in every yard. I'd come because I'd heard about The Sutton Ole Time Music Hour: a
bluegrass jam held in the town's general store, broadcast live on the radio every
Saturday night. But I wasn't hopeful. Country music, to me, meant guns, bad lyrics
and pick-up trucks — the soundtrack of a world alien to my urbanite lifestyle.

Stepping inside the 1880s-built T.B. Sutton General Store is like stepping inside a
time machine. There are vintage signs, soda pops and patchwork quilts on the walls,
the smell of sweets and old wood; everything creaking and leaning, as if it might
topple at any second. If John Wayne were to walk in dressed in full cowboy gear, no
one would've batted an eyelid. And, as the only Brit in the room, I was swarmed —
being British in Granville is, perhaps, the closest I'll ever come to genuine
celebrity.

A few-dozen fold-up chairs are laid out in front of a tiny corner stage. We're in
for a treat: the legendary Mike Compton, the 60-something former protégé of the
Father of Bluegrass himself, Bill Monroe, is in town: ready to play smoking-fast
mandolin, accompanied by upright bass, fiddle and banjo. The instant the band
strikes up I realisethis isn't broken-hearts-and-horses-style country; nor is it
your Shania Twain-esque electrified pop. This is five old boys standing around one
mic, swapping solos, stomping their feet, hollering and laughing; and it's
infectious.

The show has its funny parts; although this is live radio, it still feels like it's
being broadcast from a bygone era: adverts for farm equipment and propane are read
out in between songs; the compere holds up 'clap' signs when we're supposed to
cheer, and the band are dressed in denim dungarees, for goodness' sake. And near the
end of the show, when Compton gets the whole room singing along to an old John
Hartford classic, Bring Your Clothes Back Home, it dawns on me that these are
America's songs. Before hip hop and rock, before jazz and blues and putting your
hands up for Detroit, people sat around on porches and store fronts, and played old
time music like this, singing about life on the edge of this wild, great country.

But that's just what I heard with my ears; what really struck me were the people
themselves. Before the show, we sat down in the old feed barn next
door for a communal meal: big bowls of fried chicken, mashed potato and green beans
smothered in butter, passed round, family style. We bowed our heads and said grace,
the whole room giving thanks for the food, the music, even their strange visitor
from across the pond.

There was a kindness and humility about the whole thing, something rarely seen in
our pumped-up city lives. I was right: this was another world, but a world on my
doorstep that I'd had my eyes closed to for too long. But rural towns like Granville
are slowly fading away. Scattered like wind-blown seeds across the heartland of
America, they echo an older, simpler time: a shrinking world — being gobbled up by
cities and technology — that's routinely castigated as clichéd by lefties like me.
If their world feels alien to us, ours must feel like an invasion to them.

Don't get me wrong: I haven't fallen in love with every kind of country music. In
Nashville, I saw a man in a pink rhinestone suit singing about meeting Jesus in a
bar, and another get a standing ovation for endorsing the right to bear arms.

But that's their world, not mine. Because, if you look beyond all the cornball
lyrics and saccharine sentiment, there are moments of genuine grace in country music
too. If you're in any doubt, just file into the jam-packed general store in
Granville and you'll hear it for yourself.

Author: Aaron Miller
Follow @AaronMWriter

Published in the Jan/Feb 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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