Since I was in Nashville over the weekend, attending the Opry and checking out a few other things, I didn't get the opportunity to respond to the comments that were made regarding the shows this past weekend. I did receive texts and facebook messages from several of my friends and blog readers, asking my thoughts about the Opry and the upcoming Hall of Fame announcement, and also offering comments on the pictures that I posted on my Facebook page (Byron Fay). In no particular order, here are a few of my thoughts and personal observations from this past weekend.
Let's start with Chris Janson. I don't particuarly care for him. I can't put my finger on it, but there is just something about him that I don't like. But that's ok, as there are other members of the Opry, and in country music, that I don't particuarly like either. I have seen him at the Opry several times and I will say that he is talented, has a lot of energy and gets very good crowd reaction, especially from the younger fans. And, based on his new single being #1 on iTunes this past Friday, perhaps he is ready to break out. Yes, he gets a little preachy at times, but so have others. Don't be surprised if he becomes an Opry member some day. Remember Brad Paisley and Josh Turner? When they first came to Nashville, the Opry took great interest in their careers and heavily promoted both of them. Brad and Josh, much like Chris, made dozens and dozens of Opry appearances before they finally hit it big. Once they did, an invitation to become a member followed. Don't be surprised if it happens in this case also.
And then there is Larry Gatlin and The Gatlin Brothers. First, it was nice to see all three there. The majority of the time, it is just Larry and Steve, with Norah Lee Allen filling in for Rudy. And yes, Larry has a lot of energy on stage. For those who were not there, when Larry opened on Friday night with "Houston," he was out in the audience dancing with several ladies, including an elderly lady with a handicap. When he and his brothers did the gospel number, they stood with their dad around the piano while their mother played. Considering how old Larry and his brothers are, their parents must be in the mid-80s, or close to it. On Saturday night, when Jim Ed Brown was singing "The Old Lamplighter," Larry was singing along with the Opry singers. Also on Saturday, the bit where he stopped "Houston" after he started and did the Elvis song was pre-planned. The band already had the sheet music and the stool was already out for Larry to sit on. What I really like about Larry is the time he has given the Opry over the past several years. He has been there more than the majority of the members, and that is nice to see.
It was nice to see Jim Ed Brown again on the Opry. He is looking pretty good and his voice seems to be getting stronger each week. He did make a couple of mistakes when announcing acts, such as saying it was the Nashville Square Dancers and the Nashville Square Dance Band, and his thoughts seemed a little scattered. But he did a nice job hosting the segments.
Holly Williams did an awesome job with the two ballads that she did, especially the second one each night, "June" which was dedicated to her grandparents (on her mother's side of the family). It was just her and her husband and their guitars. Well done.
Gary Morris was tremendous, as was Ray Stevens. Gary has such an outstanding voice, and the second number, "Faith and Freedom," which was done with the high school orchestra from Texas, received a standing ovation. Ray had the audience laughing away and his new song, "Taylor Swift is Stalkin' Me" was well received.
I have a hard time with child acts and on the Opry Friday night was EmiSunshine. All dressed up with make-up at the age of 10. I hope someone is watching out for her and saving her money. I think we all know what happens to most child acts when they grow up.
It was my first time to see Pure Prairie League, one of the pioneers of country-rock, and a group that Vince Gill was part of at one time. They did "Aimee" which you would expect and the audience was singing along. And you know what? While not a country group, they sounded more country than most of what is on the radio today.
Among the others, John Conlee, The Whites, Jeannie Seely and Bobby Osborne all did solid jobs. Mike Snider was funny and kept things clean. His group is very, very talented. Shelley Skidmore is a nice young talent, both as a singer and as a songwriter, while The Henningsens did a nice job also. All in all, a pretty good weekend at the Opry.
Now a few thoughts on the Hall of Fame, which will announce the newest inductees on Wednesday morning. By now, all those who will be elected, or their families if deceased, have been notified. (Each year I am surprised that even with the advanced notice, the word never gets out. It also shows how much the media in Nashville cooperates with the Hall.) I am sure there are people out there checking concert schedules and artist's websites looking for clues. But remember, even if an act is out on tour, Nashville is a short airline flight from most of the United States.
Some have speculated that with Brenda Lee doing the announcement, there might be a connection. I doubt it and I would really be surprised if Brenda even knew at this point. Remember, this is just the announcement and not the actual induction. Brenda has been in this role before, as have Kix Brooks and Bill Anderson over the years. I guess if you wanted to speculate, let's consider the choices. It could be an act who's career began as a child. It could a group of females. It could be the Oak Ridge Boys, who Brenda has worked and recorded with. She made records for RCA, so it could be a member of the "A" team. You get the idea. There are lots of choices and good luck to everyone being considered.
For what it is worth, I did find it interesting that Larry Gatlin made a big deal about Ray Stevens not being in the Hall of Fame when doing the introduction of Ray on Saturday night.
Personally, I am still thinking Oak Ridge Boys, hoping for Jim Ed and the Browns, and as a musician, would like to see Jerry Reed go in.
Like I said, just some random thoughts..............