The New Faces of Country Music Show rounded out another successful three-day annual Country Radio Seminar, held Feb. 19-21 in Nashville. This year’s crop of talented newcomers infused their Country sounds with hard rock, pop, soul, and acoustic music, peddling their songs to the decision-makers and gatekeepers at Country radio. Undoubtedly, the five performers for the evening–Thomas Rhett, Brett Eldredge, Cassadee Pope, Tyler Farr and Charlie Worsham–spent the better part of the previous days hobnobbing with members of the radio elite before giving the CRS attendees a more in-depth look at their stage shows and star potential.
Gifted singer-songwriter Thomas Rhett is carrying on a family legacy of Country music success, stepping into his own as both a chart-topping artist and a solid songwriter. An opening video clip poked fun that Rhett has grown up in the business as the son of successful songwriter (and onetime artist in his own right) Rhett Akins. Clad in the now seemingly standard issue Country male performer stage attire of a backward ballcap and tight jeans, Thomas Rhett’s easygoing charm, confident vocal and lineup of solid tunes won over the industry crowd. Opening with “Middle Class White Boy,” the Valory Music Co. artist followed with “Something To Do With My Hands” and his chart-topper “It Goes Like This.” But it was his new single, “Get Me Some of That,” that showcased his rugged, powerful voice at its best.
Atlantic Records newcomer Brett Eldredge‘s soul-inflected voice and unassuming stage presence held court that evening, beginning with his latest single, “The Beat of the Music,” followed by his chart-topping hit “Don’t Ya.” Eldredge’s commanding, soulful voice even managed the herculean feat of silencing the loquacious radio crowd with “One Mississippi.” The passionate rendition earned the evening’s first standing ovation, and all but guaranteed this star-in-the-making increased spins at Country radio.
Big Machine Label Group’s second entry in the New Faces of Country Music Show, Republic Nashville’s Cassadee Pope, showcased her formidable vocal range during her four-song set. Instead of the traditional humorous clip that precedes an artist’s peformance, Pope made a brave choice, opting for a interview clip where the singer-songwriter spoke about her love of the stage and revealed her vulnerable side. “I’ve dreamed of playing this show for a long time,” said Pope, a former winner of NBC’s The Voice, before offering the mid-tempo “Wish I Could Break Your Heart.” Pope called “11” one of her most personal songs, inspired by her parents divorce when Pope was a pre-teen. The evening’s lone female performer, Pope offered “You Hear A Song” and her gold-selling hit, “Wasting All These Tears.”
The evening took a turn from polished pop-country to hard rock as Columbia Nashville’s Tyler Farr offered his first song of the evening, “Camo Is The New Black,” followed by “Whiskey In My Water.” Whereas more traditional Country performers might have covered a Haggard or Jones classic, Farr made an unexpected choice with “Sail,” a 2013 hit from electronic rock band AWOLNATION. The slithering electric axe melodies and amped decibel levels accompanying the cover song surely rattled awake any who might have been feeling the exhaustive effects of the three-day long seminar and multiple late music-filled evenings.
Though his confidence was unwavering and effortless, his multiple between-song demands that the audience raise their hands seemed a better fit for club crowds than the radio industry attendees. However, his angst-filled take on “Redneck Crazy,” had many in the crowd singing along; the performance ended in the show’s second standing ovation of the evening.
Multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Charlie Worsham exuded a boyish charm as he offered the bright, instrumental-driven “Want Me Too” and “Trouble Is.” A former member of the band Kingbilly and a Berklee School of Music grad, the Warner Bros. Nashville artist offered a seasoned stage presence and considerable guitar skills. This in addition to a lightweight tenor reminiscent of Vince Gill (who made an appearance on Worsham’s album Rubberband). Sheryl Crow was the evening’s surprise guest, making an unannounced appearance to assist Worsham on “Mississippi in July,” and Worsham more than held his own during the collaboration.
The eclectic lineup (along with the numerous other performances throughout the Country Radio Seminar) reminded radio programmers and the industry the span of musical leanings available to Country consumers has never been wider.
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