BOBBY KARL WORKS THE ROOM
Emotional ovations and cheers of surprise were the order of the day during lunchtime on Friday (2/27) at Country Radio Seminar.
The emotion was provided by the mighty voiced Craig Morgan. Living legend and new Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Ronnie Milsap was the unannounced, unexpected pleasure. Both appeared at the CRS luncheon sponsored by Black River Entertainment.
Craig Morgan remains one of country music’s finest vocalists. He’s a stand-and-deliver man who can send chills up your spine like few of his peers. He treated the conventioneers to a pair of new songs he’s recorded with producer Byron Gallimore for his upcoming Black River CD.
“All Cried Out” was throbbing and thrilling. “Country Side of Heaven” became more and more uplifting and inspiring as its arrangement added complexity and phrases from “Amazing Grace.”
Morgan pulled out all the stops with “If Not Me,” a song on his current album, The Journey. His searing delivery of this blood-stirring anthem became even more emotional when members of the 101st Airborne Army division came striding out to line both sides of the banquet hall. On stage, Morgan was joined by military heroes, including Medal-of-Honor Marine Dakota Meyer. You could practically see the lumps in attendees’ throats.
We thought that was the finale. After all, what could top that? The screens showed a video about the label’s recording studio, which is a restoration of Ronnie’s Place. The curtain parted to reveal its previous owner seated at a piano, resplendent in a sparkling black-and-turquoise western shirt.
“It’s an honor to be here today,” said Ronnie Milsap, 72. “I love what happens when radio adds your record. It’s still a big deal to me. I’m a radio nut I carry them with me everywhere I go.”
He treated the crowd to an extended medley that was ragged-but-right and featured segments of such classics as “What a Difference You’ve Made in My Life,” “I Wouldn’t Have Missed it for the World,” “It Was Almost Like a Song,” “(I’m a) Stand By My Woman Man,” “”Pure Love” and “(There’s) No Gettin Over Me.”
Milsap concluded with a reprise of the appropriate “What a Difference You’ve Made in My Life.” Then he added, “I’m not done yet: I’m going into the studio next week. And we’re going to make some new records!”
The Black River Entertainment CRS luncheon at the Renaissance Convention Center began with a video touting the conglomerate’s holdings in sports and music — the Buffalo Bills (football) and Buffalo Sabres (hockey) franchises, as well as its Nashville song publishing, record label and recording studio properties.
The label’s John King blasted into the rocking “Baby Let Your Hair Down” with no introduction. Next came his power ballad “Got You Baby,” dedicated to his wife of one year.
“A year ago was my first CRS; I didn’t know anybody,” said King. “You guys are my friends, my family now. This is my new single. It’s going to be on your desks next week,” he added, before delivering the pounding, catchy and sexy “On Your Lips.”
Kelsea Ballerini was introduced via a video of testimonials by folks who work with her. Her set began with the jaunty, flirty, “Dibs.” The ensuing “The First Time” will be the title tune of her debut album, due in May. This sweetly lilting tune was aided by cello accompaniment and a snippet of Keith Urban’s “Stupid Boy.”
“My first single is Top 30 right now, and it’s blowing my mind,” she said to the radio folks. “You guys have given me a voice.” She zipped through “Love Me Like You Mean It,” then added, “Thank you for an incredible year.”
Following a video about Black River’s restoration of the historic Sound Stage Studio (where some 650 No. 1 hits have been recorded), various country stars appeared on screen to praise Black River songwriter Josh Osborne.
He took the side stage to perform an acoustic medley of some hits he’s co-penned, including “Leave the Night On” (Sam Hunt), “Wild Child” (Kenny Chesney). “My Eyes” (Blake Shelton), “Take Your Time” (Sam Hunt) and “We Are Tonight” (Billy Currington).
Black River CEO Gordon Kerr introduced Morgan’s set by stating, “I stand with Craig and his love of this country….Craig bleeds red, white and blue. But his passion is music. And not just any music, country music.”
Then the singer-songwriter proved it.
Fabulons working CRS that day included Schatzi Hageman, Vanessa Davis, Fletcher Foster, Mark Logsdon, Cindy Hunt, Leslie Fram, Gary Krantz, Brandi Simms, Ken Tucker, Bert Stein, Jimmy Collins, Nicole Zeller and Jaclyn Carter.
As usual at CRS, many artists were working the room as well. Gretchen Peters, Mitch Goudy, Rainy Qualley and Rachele Lynae were on site. A harmony-singing band called Stella // James entertained us while we assembled care packages for Operation Troop Aid and waited to get into the luncheon.