Do you remember the soundtrack to your earliest childhood memories? Do you remember the songs that wafted from the car radio to the backseat as you rode along the highway, en route to a family reunion or summer vacation? My earliest memories of seemingly interminable, minivan-filled-to-bursting road trips are often scored by solo acoustic guitar. My older brother, a fingerstyle enthusiast and acolyte, had an equally interminable collection of Phil Keaggy albums. At one point, I could tell you the exact title of the tune that was my favorite to fall asleep to on the road — though by now I’ve long forgotten which one.
Guitarist and Nashville transplant Jordan Tice counts many a virtuosic, acoustic guitar aesthetician (cutaway or not) among his influences, from Norman Blake to Mississippi John Hurt — two pickers Tice references as direct inspirators of his upcoming solo album, Motivational Speakeasy. The record was written pre-pandemic and, despite its “stripped down” nature, feels impetuous, mischievous, and adventure-ready, even in a song as languid and buttery as “Stratford Waltz.” Named for Stratford Avenue in Nashville’s Inglewood neighborhood, the tune immediately recalled to mind the family road trips of my childhood, my brother’s CD carrying case, and my sleepy head bonking against the back window in our circa 2004 Chevrolet Astro Van.
The intimate setting of the album — it’s just Tice and his “beloved and well-worn Collings guitar,” as a press release puts it — and the subtly lush reverb magnify the gentle, magnetic momentum of “Stratford Waltz.” With that motion and the sly adventuresome spirit we know from Tice’s writing, both lyrical and instrumental, it’s no wonder a mind might leap immediately to the open road, with hundreds of miles ahead. And personally, it’s certainly fitting because, nowadays, when I turn off the highway and head south on Gallatin Pike in Nashville towards my current home, my most direct route is down — did you guess it? — Stratford Avenue
Photo credit: Jacqueline Justice