Bobby Karl Works Team UMG At The Ryman

Pictured (L-R): Chris Stapleton, Keith Urban and Vince Gill. Photo: UMG Nashville/Twitter


Chapter 554

It was one of the most magical musical moments in memory.

On Thursday afternoon, Feb. 23, Keith Urban was on stage in the Ryman Auditorium performing his massive hit “Blue Ain’t Your Color” for the CRS conventioneers. Following his guitar solo, he nodded to stage left. People screamed as Chris Stapleton strolled out.

Chris ripped into a searing electric-guitar solo, and Keith’s playing answered him. Then Keith flashed his megawatt smile at stage left again. More screams erupted as Vince Gill joined Keith and Chris at center stage. He let loose a fluid, eloquent, electrifying solo, and Keith’s playing answered him.

For the next several minutes, time stood still as the three guitarists swapped solo after solo. Notes swirled around the venerable hall as the trio cast a spell over the crowd. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will treasure forever.

The setting for this extraordinary sonic event was the eighth annual Team UMG showcase for CRS. Fourteen stars aligned with MCA, Capitol, Mercury and EMI performed a song apiece while we ate picnic lunches in the pews.

“Welcome…to the Ryman, which is considered to be the finest venue in the world,” said host Royce Risser. He brought out superstar Luke Bryan as the afternoon’s first act.

“What an honor to open our CRS party,” said Luke. “Thank you for playing my Super Bowl Anthem. It means the world to me, and I never take it for granted.” Luke sang his current single, the tender “Fast.”

Lady Antebellum performs during UMG Nashville’s Team UMG show at the Ryman during CRS. Photo: UMG Nashville/Twitter

Royce described Darius Rucker as, “one of the greatest artists and greatest people you will ever meet.” Darius delivered his thumping, insistent and catchy “If I Told You.”

“Everything I said at this event last year about Jon Pardi has come to pass,” said Royce. “I said he was about to break wide open, and he has.”

“Thank you for all the support and love,” said Jon. He performed his bopping “Where You At.”

“We are at the best venue in the world with country music,” said Dierks Bentley. He bravely sang a ballad that is not a single. It was dedicated to Jake, his famous and beloved dog who died last year. “Can’t Be Replaced” earned Dierks the day’s first standing ovation.

“This is always a unique time for us artists,” said Kip Moore. “I’ve grown to really love some of you guys. I’m truly grateful to you: I’m one of the few people on earth who gets to wake up every morning getting to do what I love to do.” Kip did a soulful version of his new single “Girls Like You.”

Next up was Lauren Alaina, who is currently enjoying her first top-10 hit after five years of trying. She sang her rippling waltz “Three” with power and conviction. Since it celebrates having “three minutes on the radio,” the song earned a big cheer from the broadcasters and the day’s second standing ovation.

“He’s a little more country than most of what you play right now, and he intends to stay that way,” said Royce while introducing Easton Corbin. The singer delivered the romping, rhythmic and fun “A Girl Like You.”

“It’s good to be here in the Mother Church of Country Music,” said Josh Turner. “You’re about to witness an epic battle between me and bronchitis for the next four minutes.” Let the record show that Josh was the winner with his wistful “Hometown Girl.”

Lady Antebellum celebrated its 10th CRS by introducing its new, r&b flavored “You Look Good,” complete with horns. “One of the best parts of this job is when Lady A writes a song about you,” wisecracked Royce about “You Look Good.”

“In baseball terms, Billy always gets on base, and his homerun percentage is close to 70%,” said Royce about Billy Currington. Billy’s “Do I Make You Wanna” was rolling and melodic.

“Body Like a Back Road,” the sexy new single by Sam Hunt, has been streamed 7.3 million times in its first week of release. The soon-to-be-married Sam made his Team UMG debut by performing it. “That’s two songs written about me,” quipped Royce.

Traveller was the biggest selling country album of 2016,” said Royce by way of introducing Chris Stapleton, “and the fourth best-selling album of any genre, right behind Drake, Adele and Beyonce.”

Chris performed an emotional and penetrating “Broken Halo,” written following the cancer death of a friend at age 38. At its passionate finale, the crowd shouted and applauded long and hard.

Vince Gill drew a standing ovation before he even sang a note. “I was the only one who volunteered to sing after Chris Stapleton,” he noted wryly. “That boy is the Real Deal.

“This is a room full of people who made all of our dreams come true. Thank you for all the great years.” Vince sang the poignant, heart-tugging ballad “When My Amy Prays,” which he wrote as a birthday present for his wife, Amy Grant. The performance made Vinnie the day’s first performer to earn two standing ovations.

Lauren Alaina performs during UMG Nashville’s Team UMG show at the Ryman during CRS. Photo: Twitter/UMG Nashville

The afternoon’s last performer was Keith Urban. He recalled being an intern at a country radio station in his hometown of Brisbane, Australia at age 15. He was fired after he inadvertently interrupted a news broadcast with the Waylon Jennings single “Theme from The Dukes of Hazzard.”

For his first performance, Keith revived the medley he did at Nashville’s New Year’s Eve celebration. He created it by tying together songs by artists who passed away last year – George Michael (“Careless Whisper”), Leonard Cohen (“Hallelujah”), Glenn Frey (“Take It Easy”), David Bowie (“Heroes”), Merle Haggard (“Mama Tried”) and Prince (“Purple Rain”).

Among those singing along were Erin Morris, Jason Morris & Jewel Coburn, Peyton Hoge, Brandi Simms, Tom Lord, Barry Mazor, Steve Lowery, Allison Auerbach, Brenden Oliver and Chandra LaPlume.

Then came The Moment. Keith, Vince and Chris drew a richly deserved, roaring, thunderous standing ovation when they finished conjuring their mesmerizing guitar artistry.

“I think that’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen,” gasped Royce Risser. He thanked us for coming. If you weren’t there, you missed a true treat.


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