Bobby Karl Works the (CRS) Room – Chapter 333

The music at Country Radio Seminar is abundant.

Taylor Swift “and friends” capped the festivities on Tuesday (2/23) with a Music City Jam at the Convention Center. The “friends” turned out to be Gloriana and Julianne Hough. Taylor was presented with a plaque for 10 million units sold.

On Wednesday (2/24), UMG brought out almost its entire roster (minus Shania and Strait) to the Ryman. As “ringmaster” Royce Risser explained, everybody got one song, performed acoustically. Jamey Johnson drew a standing ovation for his “That’s Why I Write Songs, as did Vince Gill with a moving “Bread and Water.” Among the newcomers, both Randy Montana and Mallary Hope won over fans. Ryan Bingham sang his Oscar-nominated “The Weary Kind” from the acclaimed film Crazy Heart.

The 18 performers also included Lee Ann Womack, Easton Corbin, David Nail (singing powerfully), Ashton Shepherd, The Randy Rogers Band, Sugarland, Gary Allan, Josh Turner, Billy Covington, the aforementioned Julianne Hough, Laura Bell Bundy, Josh Kelley and Coldwater Jane.

That night (2/24), Rascal Flatts saluted country radio with a party celebrating the group’s 10th anniversary. The most emotional moment was bringing Marty Raybon on stage for “Church on the Cumberland Road.” It was a lovely, heart-tugging gesture. Several stations were recognized for supporting Rascal Flatts. It turns out that KBEQ in Kansas City was the first to play “Prayin’ for Daylight,” the band’s debut single. Meanwhile, Lady Antebellum was entertaining a packed house at the Hard Rock (2/24).

The CMA research study was unveiled Thursday morning (2/25). Country music buying is down 28%. The number of country fans is slightly down, but the ones we have are listening to radio longer and want the playlists to be less repetitive (hello!).

The CRS exhibit hall is now an exhibit hallway, outside the Renaissance Ballrooms. There can’t be more than a couple dozen booths up there, so it looks pretty sad.

Working the Convention Center (2/25) were Jack Ingram, Lynn Anderson, The Harters, Veronica Ballestrini, Burns & Poe, Adam Fisher, The Jane Dear Girls and Gwen Sebastian. Sharon Eaves had Bryan White in tow. He has a new CD titled Dustbowl Dreams and in April will be showcasing at Birdland in Manhattan along with Gary Burr and Victoria Shaw.

Clay Underwood has news, too. He has signed a song publishing deal with Mike Hollandsworth and Full Circle Music. The new duo Mollie & Jackie is putting out a single to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Titled “You Can’t Say Love Enough,” it features a bunch of celebrity guest vocalists, including Larry Gatlin, Dolly Parton, Wayne Newton, Bill Anderson, Steve Wariner, Mark Collie, Cowboy Troy, Heidi Newfield and Heartland.

Thursday’s Sony luncheon (2/25) was turkey and dressing with all the trimmings. Skip Bishop hosted. Danny Gokey sang splendidly on the rocking, soaring “My Best Days Are Ahead of Me.” Just before he competed on American Idol, Danny’s wife died. It turns out that so did the wife of his single’s co-writer, Kent Blazy. So this song has special meaning. “I’m excited about life again,” explained Danny, dedicating “I Will Not Say Goodbye” to his late spouse.

Brooks & Dunn announced that the finale concert of their Last Rodeo tour will be in Nashville on August 10 and that its proceeds will go to the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum. The organization’s Kyle Young lauded them as “good citizens.” The duo answered audience questions and told highly amusing anecdotes about The Rolling Stones, souvenir photos and a grease-spewing smoke machine.

After they exited, Alan Jackson walked out unannounced, saying, “How y’all doin?’” He asked for the house lights to be turned up so that he could see everybody. “These are hard for me, these luncheon things,” he drawled, recalling when he played for the Ramada Inn Sunday brunch crowd for four hours for $25. “I just thought about that. Today, I don’t even get $25.”

His relaxed yet moving set included “Here in the Real World,” “Good Time,” “Little Bitty,” “Remember When” and “Livin’ on Love.” After performing “Mercury Blues,” he told the crowd that a then-unknown Keith Urban was in its video, playing guitar. He introduced a new tune titled “God Bless the Working Man” and asked the audience for requests. “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” and “Song for the Life” ensued. During “Chattahoochie,” he tossed guitar picks to the delighted crowd. He dedicated his finale, “The Way I Am,” to Merle Haggard.

“I want to say, seriously, I know how lucky I am,” said the eternally humble superstar.

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