(196) Country Music Takes Center Stage

In the late 1960’s, The Lovin’ Spoonful had a mild hit with a son called “Nashville Cats.”  I had no idea what the song was about; the chorus went like this:
Nashville cats, play clean as country water
Nashville cats, play wild as mountain dew
Nashville cats, been playin’ since they’s babies
Nashville cats, get work before they’re two

Well, I found out when I read about the exhibit that is currently on display at the Country Music Hall of Fame. Nashville Cats were the session players on a lot of great music we know and love, and popular musicians, from the Byrds to George Harrison to Neil Young to Leonard Cohen came to Nashville to record. But it all started with one man and his decision: Bob Dylan. He came to Nashville in February of 1966 to record Blonde on Blonde and the rest, as they say, is history. But wait–there was someone else that had an influence on this decision: Johnny Cash.

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It was their relationship that caused Dylan to make the decision to come to what was considered conservative and square Nashville to record.  What now seems commonplace was actually a risky idea.  The exhibit pays homage to Dylan and his decision, as well as the session players and recording artists that created some of the greatest music we know.  Dig this:

“The Boxer” Simon and Garfunkel

“Hickory Wind” The Byrds

“The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” Joan Baez

“City of New Orleans” Steve Goodman

“Heart of Gold” Neil Young

“Crazy Mama” J.J. Cale

The exhibit is full of interactive music and highlights each session musician and their contribution.
The exhibit is full of interactive music and highlights each session musician and their contribution.
Quotes from those involved brought a personal touch.
Quotes from those involved brought a personal touch.

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We had visited the Hall of Fame in 2013, and not much has changed. I did, however, find something of significance.  My friends know how much I adore a new country singer Kacey Musgraves.  Well, they have already added her to the museum, with her Grammy for best song and the speech she wrote praising John Prine, her number one influence.

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All in all, it was a morning well spent at the Countey Music Hall of Fame.

Then–the greatest show in country music –The Grand Ole Opry!

This was our 3rd visit to the Opry, and the best so far. The place will pretty full for a Tuesday night, and the crowd was into it. John Conlee opened the show, and the came Terri Clark:

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Each performer did three songs. Terri opened with “Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me” and also sang her new single written by another favorite of mine, Brandy Clark.

Next up, a real favorite and one we saw last year, Bobby Osborne and the Rocky Top X-Press. This is some mighty fine bluegrass, finishing with “Rocky Top.” The crowd went wild, and Bobby was visibly moved by the reaction. He has played the Opry for 50 years, so it was cool to see him experiencing the love.

Then Chris Janson, who was by far my favorite of the night. This guy may be young and male, but he is no bro country bumpkin. He puts on a show where he wears his heart on his sleeve, and he puts forth fantastic energy and music. He moves from guitar to harmonica playing flawlessly; his songs are beautifully written and meaningful, and he is always certain to point out his favorite part of his own songs–but not in a bragging way. He seems amazed at his own fortune to even be playing for the crowd. Love this guy. He is up and coming. Watch for him; and I’ll post a video below.

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After the break, Jeannie Seely performed and included (serendipity!) “Ode to Billie Joe.”  It was good to hear this consummate professional perform once again. She is the first one I ever heard sing at the Opry. Then Chase Bryant and Nathan Chapman performed.  Both were good, but nothing really stood out to me.

Finally, Vince Gill. He brought along the best steel guitar player in the world, Paul Franklin, and they did some songs from their Bakersfield album–two by Merle Haggard and one by Buck Owens. Vince is exactly as you would expect him–quietly unassuming and always feeling honored to stand in the circle and play. It was one grand night at the Opry!

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I found this video from last year when Chris Janson performed at the Opry and Vince Gill joined him on stage. It shows the incredibly infectious nature of Chris. Enjoy!

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