Bobby Karl Works Don Henley’s Ryman Soiree


Don Henley


Chapter 512

We’ll throw a party for just about anything here in the Nashville music biz, so how about one for the Album of the Year?

Don Henley was in town to play the Ryman on Sunday (Oct. 18), so CAA opened its doors for a pre-concert soiree.

Henley’s just-released Cass County CD is a masterpiece. Mostly recorded in Music City, it features a cast that includes singers Martina McBride, Merle Haggard, Trisha Yearwood, Dolly Parton, Miranda Lambert, Alison Krauss, Jamey Johnson, Vince Gill, Ashley Monroe, Lee Ann Womack, Lucinda Williams, Molly Felder, Martie Maguire and Emily Robison.

Playing on this extraordinary collection are such familiar Music City names as Steuart Smith, Jim Hoke, Greg Morrow, Jerry Douglas, Glenn Worf, Bryan Sutton, Stuart Duncan, Pat Buchanan, Rob Ickes, Mike Rojas, J.T. Corenflos, Jimmie Lee Sloas, Shannon Forrest, Gordon Kennedy, John Deaderick and Jerry McPherson. In other words, cooking with the same ingredients that every Nashville producer and act has access to, Henley has eaten everyone else’s lunch.

“I’ve got a new album out there,” said Henley. “Made most of that album here in Nashville. And darned if it didn’t come on the charts at No. 1. Miracles still happen.”

Overlooking the Ryman and Lower Broadway from the 11th floor of the SunTrust building, the CAA office was a glamorous spot to celebrate from. After collecting our adult beverages in the office reception area, we went into the spacious boardroom for snacks and chats.

Cornbread salad, jalapena poppers, mac & cheese bites, barbecue sliders and rocky-road brownies were served. All of our favorites were there schmoozing – R.J. Curtis, Pete Fisher, Regina Stuve, George Flanigan, Beverly Keel, Troy Tomlinson, Fletcher Foster, Laura Crawford, Hunter Davis, Hunter Kelly (celebrating a new job), Brian Mansfield (also celebrating a new job), Phyllis Stark, Ken Tucker, Chandra LaPlume, Steve Betts, Dan Hill, John Grady, Jerry Duncan, Leslie Fram, Deborah Evans Price, Sarah Trahern, Susan Stewart, Bri Stewart and hosts-with-the-mosts John Huie and Rod Essig.

Jeff Balding talked about engineering Henley’s album over its gestation period of more than four years. The superstar began working on this collection 10 years ago, I am told. It is his first solo album in 15 years.

The pre-show party people were joined in the Ryman throng by Chuck Dauphin, Lisa Harless, Leslie Roberts, Ken Levitan, Whitney Daane, Katharine Richardson, Nathan Pyle, SunTrust’s Rob McNeilly, the Nashville Public Library’s Kent Oliver and 3,000 other music lovers.

“It’s good to be here on this historic stage,” said Henley. “It’s Sunday night – we ought to be in church,” or at least a former gospel tabernacle.

Don Henley

Don Henley

His dramatic opening song featured him standing shoulder-to-shoulder with his 10 band members. They sang a richly harmonized arrangement of Steve Young’s “Seven Bridges Road” with just percussion and guitar accompaniment.

Henley mixed selections from Cass County with such awesome past hits as “The Heart of the Matter,” “The End of the Innocence,” “New York Minute,” “Dirty Laundry” and “The Last Worthless Evening.”

He apologized for being hoarse, but needn’t have. As the evening progressed, his always-distinctive voice became stronger and stronger. Particularly impressive were the new album’s “That Old Flame,” “Take a Picture of This,” “Words Can Break Your Heart” and “When I Stop Dreaming.” “No Thank You” and “The Cost of Living” were also standouts.

When the concert song he performed was one of the CD’s celebrity duets, assorted band members ably substituted for the absent country star.

Shawn Colvin opened. Her latest CD is a collection of cover tunes, titled Uncovered. So her set included tunes by Graham Nash, Tom Waits and the late Red Lane (the Tammy Wynette classic “Til I Get It Right”), as well as her own songs (“Sunny Came Home,” etc.).

Extra security guards were posted to rigidly enforce Henley’s no-cell-phones ban during the concert. The star said he wanted us to be, “in the moment” with him. You could tell that several of the more smart-phone addicted were going through withdrawal.


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