Bobby Karl Works the Sony Boat Show

(L-R): McGraw and Paltrow

Chapter 362

You could count the reasons for floating down the Cumberland on Thursday evening (3/3) on the fingers of your hand.

It was a lovely spring night to be on the river. It was the 25th anniversary of the CRS General Jackson cruise. The food was the best of the convention. Oscar winning singing thespian Gwyneth Paltrow was hosting. Arista/BNA/Columbia/RCA contributed 14 artists to showcase.

First Gwyneth. She was a charmer as an emcee, bantering easily with the crowd, cracking jokes, and being effortlessly relaxed and warm. She also sang and introduced surprise guest Tim McGraw to duet with her on “Me and Tennessee.”

“Mike Curb, the head of Tim’s label, didn’t know that Tim was going to be here to sing with me,” confided Gwyneth. “So can we please keep that a secret?” No chance, sister.

For my money, the performance of the night belonged to Chris Young singing his new single “Tomorrow.” He is just such a superb, stand-up country vocalist. Chris also sang “Voices,” his unusual single that died in 2008 and was recently reborn as a No. 1 smash.

“Where do you think you’re going, man?” inquired Skip Bishop. “You think the show is over?” He presented Chris with a plaque saluting his three consecutive No. 1 hits. I think we’d just heard “Tomorrow” as a fourth.

(L-R): The RCA Nashville promo team’s Matt Galvin, Dan Nelson, and Steve Pleshe; Sony Music Nashville Chairman/CEO Gary Overton; Young; RCA promo’s Josh Easler, Norbert Nix, Liz Sledge, and Parker Fowler; Sony Music Nashville Sr. VP Promotion Skip Bishop; and RCA Nashville VP Promotion Keith Gale.

Jerrod Niemann was also impressive. Performing in a hearty sounding trio on a satellite plexiglass platform stage at the rear of the theater, he engaged the crowd to sing along on “Lover, Lover” and was just as effective delivering his evocative “What Do You Want From Me,” with a vocal assist by Carrie Underwood.

Following her fiery set, Skip and Gary Overton presented Carrie with a plaque saluting Play On as a Double Platinum album.

(L-R): Underwood; Sony Music Nashville Sr. VP Promotion Skip Bishop and Chairman/CEO Gary Overton; Arista Nashville VP Promotion Lesly Tyson; and Sony Music Nashville VP Sales Kerri Fox-Metoyer.

Another cool thing about the cruise was the introduction of a number of new Sony artists. American Idol competitor Casey James proved to be a groove-master guitar slinger. The Lunabelles harmonized and dazzled on mandolin, guitar, banjo and percussion. John Rich discovery Bradley Gaskin wowed the crowd by nailing a honky-tonkin’ “Mr. Bartender.” Brent Anderson sang winningly in a light tenor with a delicate, pop-ish style.

“The most important thing we do is [introducing] new artists,” said Skip. Amen to that.

One by one, Jake Owen, Josh Thompson and Sara Evans took the stage to please the radio taste makers.

Brad Paisley closed. “I’ve had the absolute best year of my life, thanks to you—You have been so, so good to me,” he told the CRS attendees. Almost everyone who sang did a variation on that speech. (Chris Young: “I want to thank everyone in this room. I can never thank you enough.”)

Brad sang his current “This Is Country Music,” then introduced his next single, “Listening to Old Alabama.” A reunited Alabama next joined Brad’s band to roar through “Tennessee River” to the surprised audience’s delight.

We dined on antipasto, featuring pancetta and black olives. The main course was tender, succulent roast beef, fingerling potatoes, tomato wrapped asparagus, gravy-garnished pork chops and heated rolls. A dessert assortment included chocolate dipped strawberries, fruit custards and sponge cake topped with whipped cream.

“There is apparently an endless supply of Jack Daniels at this,” observed conventioneer John Roberts. “We make it here,” I replied.

It couldn’t have been easy singing for that crowd. And the later in the evening you went on, the louder the din from the well-oiled schmoozers.

Working the room were Jim Crestman, Jason Owen, Tony Thomas, Hunter Kelly, Pete Fisher, Lisa Konicki, Lorianne Crook, Chuck Aly, Terry Hemmings, Jaye Albright, Michelle Goble, Clarence Spalding, Sherod Robertson, David & Susana Ross, Brett Wolcott, Steve Buchanan, Fletcher Foster, Suzanne Alexander and Lauren Tingle.

The Sony label group sort of “owned” Thursday at CRS. In addition to the boat showcase, the company staged a luncheon that featured music by Arista’s Ronnie Dunn and Columbia’s Joanna Smith.

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