by Brian Clarey

In the heart of the Whiskey District, at the easy juncture between Saturday night and Sunday morning, the walls shook and the timbers rattled inside the dive known as Walker’s.

You know the place: the seasoned bar top, walls the color of tobacco stains, no bigger than a basement rec room. It’s a doorway I haven’t darkened in years, but I spent decades of my life in places like this, much of that time in this actual place.

And on Saturday night it called me home.

Maybe you don’t know it — and maybe it’s for a reason — but Walker’s Bar has been cramming live bands into the corner by the ladies room and the sink outside its door, filling the corner with sound on nights when the local working musicians are otherwise gig-less. Marcus Horth has been holding it down when he’s not hiring himself out, and on Saturday he joined journeyman bassist Chris Carroll in the little space where the foosball table usually stands. And wedged into a space next to a cocktail table across the room, underneath his trademark soft-leather cap, my man Tim Betts tore himself away from the crowd to take a turn on his guitar.

Tim’s my man. He’s my man: collaborator, road-trip buddy, bunkmate, partner in crime. He’s another one of our best who has moved on. We first lost him to the road, as the touring guitarist for CJ Chenier, a gig that brought him to four continents. And then Chicago took him for a time. Now he’s set up outside Charlotte.

But on Saturday night he was right at home underneath the ancient Foster’s surfboard that hung overhead, wrenching notes from his guitar with machine-like precision as Horth weaved a tapestry of sound behind it.

The barroom thundered and the dancers shuffled and spun, dodging guitar necks and the steady stream of smokers heading out to the back patio for relief, the ladies stacking up by the restroom door behind the drummer, waiting for the number to end before rejoining the crowd.

It was just another Saturday night in the big city, just another roomful of liquored-up souls taking release in the music and from each other, just another song played to the hilt by a few of our own.

And as Saturday night eased into Sunday morning, I took my leave, the sounds of the barroom spilling out onto the street behind me.

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