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The best country record shop

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My favorite country record store is Lawrence Brothers on lower Broadway in Nashville. It’s special first of all because it’s one of the few places you can walk into and see wall-to-wall albums — CDs are secondary, although the store does carry them, just as it does 45s and eight-tracks. In fact, the store has a whole wall of eight-tracks, everything from the bluegrass of Reno and Smiley to The History of Country Music, Vol. 6.

I discovered Lawrence Brothers (officially, the Lawrence Record Shop) when I moved to Nashville in 1983. I’ve bought a lot of things there, including a copy of Delia Bell, the album I produced with Delia, since I didn’t have a copy and it has been discontinued. And I bought a copy of a Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner album with ”If Teardrops Were Pennies,” which is one of my favorite duets of all time.

A trip to Lawrence Brothers is really one-stop shopping because, in addition to music, the store sells boots, hats, belts, bolos, T-shirts, and watches. There’s even a box of what appear to be used grosgrain ribbons — orange, yellow, and powder blue — sitting on top of a box of boots, with cassettes stacked above them. The place sells posters, too, of everyone from Aaron Tippin to Jerry Jeff Walker.

There’s also a framed poster of a painting of John Wayne. And there are autographed pictures of stars you would know, and stars you might not have heard of. (None of these is for sale.) My favorite is a picture of Dolly Parton — her first publicity shot — taken when she was about 10 years old. And it’s signed. It’s really fantastic. The store itself has a lot of charm, though it’s not real fancy. It’s a very plain building, with two columns of neon lights, and much longer than it is wide — 25 feet by 180 feet. A decorator definitely hasn’t been here. I love the wood floors, even though they’re covered by a practical beige carpet, because they have the smell of old country stores. That’s very nostalgic for me.

Not everything here is country. They’ve got B.B. King, and Billie Holiday, and the Kingston Trio, and Etta James, and picture discs of Ike and Tina Turner, Jerry Lee Lewis, Deep Purple, and Ray Charles. So they carry almost everything, except maybe the real left-field current stuff, like Kate and Anna McGarrigle’s Heartbeats Accelerating. That you’d have to buy at Tower Records. But generally if you can’t find it at Lawrence Brothers, it either can’t be found or you’re going to have to dig a whole lot deeper. (Harris, touring this summer with her new band, the Nash Ramblers, is finishing work on the album Emmylou Live at the Ryman)

reporting by Alanna Nash.

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