Bobby Karl Works The Room: CMA Music Fest’s Friday Lineups Salute Legends, Newcomers


Chapter 565


Ashley Campbell performs on the Opry Classics stage. Photo: Ashley Campbell/Twitter

Part of Friday’s CMA Fest felt bittersweet. That date, June 9, marked the release of Adios, the final studio album by the legendary Glen Campbell. To commemorate it, daughter Ashley Campbell, who performs on the album, and Carl Jackson, who produced it, participated in a Q&A with songs on the CMA Close-Up stage at Fan Fair X in the Music City Center.

Carl recalled being discovered when he was 18 by Glen. He spent 12 years traveling the world with the Country Music Hall of Fame member. He sang the album’s “Arkansas Farmboy,” which he wrote to tell Glen’s story.

Ashley performed the CD’s title tune. She bravely and candidly updated the fans on her father’s condition. She wants people to know the reality of Alzheimer’s.

Glen is in the final stages of the disease, she told the crowd. He can no longer process language, nor speak it. He lives almost completely internally, but enjoys little things like desserts and naps. He is also unfailingly pleasant and enjoys being around people. Which is a blessing, since many patients grow angry, confused, difficult and/or anxious.

Glen’s “booth” in the exhibit hall was a van outfitted to be a listening room. His vintage album jackets lined the walls. Dubbed The Vinyl Store, it was stocked with reissued LPs and turntables, one of which was wired into the sound system and previewed Adios for prospective customers. You could buy CDs, too. I chose the vinyl.

Up until this point, I had also missed seeing the “One-Piece-at-a-Time” Johnny Cash Cadillac. It was in a booth promoting The Storytellers Museum in Bon Aqua, which is where it usually resides. You can bet there was a steady stream of picture takers to the automobile.

Just up the road from the museum in Bon Aqua is The Hideaway Farm, Cash’s rural retreat. This lovely Victorian farmhouse is also now a tourist attraction. Bon Aqua is 40 minutes west of Music City. By the way, there’s a bluegrass festival there on July 1.

Another highlight in the hall was a mini Hee Haw cornfield where you could pose for snapshots.

In addition to Ashley and Carl, Deana Carter, Bobby Bare, Ronnie McDowell, Lulu Roman, Charlie Worsham, Jake Owen, Mark Wills, Charley Pride, Scotty McCreery, Bailey James and Temecula Road were working the campus that afternoon. Not to mention such industry mavens as Ben Vaughn, Mike Dungan, Mark Logsdon, Victoria Shaw, Todd Cassety, Scott Stem, Taylor Shults and Kirt Webster.

Meanwhile, scattered around on the festival’s nine downtown stages were such scheduled greats as Josh Turner, Nora Collins, James Otto, Sylvia, Ty Herndon, Lari White, Mo Pitney, David Frizzell and Lauren Alaina.

At the Riverfront Stage Granger Smith received a Gold Record for “Backroad Song” after the ace showman riled up his so-called “Yee-Yee Nation.” He closed the show in his trademark bib-overalls-and-tank-top outfit.

At the Gilden Hard Rock stage, Dennis Banka finished his emcee duties on Friday. But no one showed up to replace him. He didn’t want to leave the venue unattended, so he wound up spending all day hosting there. He enjoyed sets by Olivia Lane, Joanna Smith, Risa Binder, Filmore, Carter Winter and more.

Over on the Chevy Park stage, Swon Brothers member Colton Swan leaped over a metal barricade to get up close and personal with the fans.

As for me, I had to hustle on up to 8th & Broadway. I needed to catch the 3:41 No. 7 Hillsboro/Green Hills bus to beat rush-hour traffic home. The rest of you suckers suffered in the congestion while I read a magazine in air-conditioned comfort.


BOBBY KARL WORKS THE ROOM: The Nissan Stadium Concerts

Chapter 566

Kelsea Ballerini on the Nissan Stadium Stage during 2017 CMA Music Festival. Photo: Kelsea Ballerini/Twitter

The beautiful fireworks at midnight over Nissan Stadium commemorated another outstanding evening of song that was Friday’s CMA Fest concert (June 9).

Brooke Eden kicked things off with an excellent, octave-jumping rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Opening artist Trace Adkins exuded effortless charisma, as always. I also dig it that he is directly and bravely addressing aging with “Watered Down.”

Rascal Flatts shouted, “Are you ready to rock?” to the massive crowd. It was. One surprise artist was Dustin Lynch, who stood on a small stage in the midst of a throng of fans. He introduced his new single/video “Small Town Boy.”

Television stars and country recording artists The Property Brothers hosted. They pronounced Sam Hunt, “the most beautiful man in country music.”

Sam was, indeed, a huge crowd favorite, giving new energy to “Take Your Time” and getting a roar of approval for “Body Like a Back Road.” Said Sam, “We’ve played for fans all over, but you guys take the cake for the most dedicated fans in music.”

The equally studly Brett Young appeared as another surprise artist. He sang his chart-topping ballad “In Case You Didn’t Know.”

Kelsea Ballerini and Rhett Akins will co-host the August ABC network TV special that will be crafted out of this whole whoop-de-doo. On Friday, she was the delightful appetizer for the headlining main course of Eric Church and Blake Shelton. Kelsea introduced a new song and (as of now) a non-single titled “I Hate Love Songs.”

Blake brought Trace back out to sing “Hillbilly Bone” with him. “That’s country, right there!” quoth Blake.

Photo ID (L-R): Matt Signore, COO, WMN; John Esposito, Chairman & CEO, WMN; Blake Shelton, Peter Strickland, CMO, WMN; Scott Hendricks, EVP A&R, WMN; Kristen Williams, SVP Radio & Streaming, WMN; Narvel Blackstock, Starstruck Entertainment; Brandon Blackstock, Starstruck Entertainment

This was actually Blake’s second concert of the day. That afternoon, he’d staged a surprise pop-up performance at the WildHorse Saloon. It was a 90-minute journey through his hit-packed catalog of 16-years duration. Sherod Robertson, Erika Goldring, Cindy Watts, Helen Comer and Troy Gorczyca were among the lucky ones packed into the venue.

Troy is the Brand Manager of Smithworks Vodka, the title sponsor of the event. As the drink’s spokesman, Blake introduced it to the Nashville market during the CMA Music Festival. Because Blake said so, I bought a bottle. Miss Mary tasted it and pronounced it good.

Up in the CMA Hospitality Suite that night, the schmoozing reached a new plateau by the time Blake hit the stage. At times, you could hardly hear the music over the gabbing.

Attending fabulons included Charlie Cook, Chuck Aly, Dave Pahonek, David & Susana Ross, Larry McCormick, Chris Horsnell, Amy Smartt, Bill Denny, Aubrey Gilbert, Hank Adam Locklin, Bret Wolcott, Lisa Manning, and Susan Stewart.

If you couldn’t get into Nissan Stadium, or if you needed more female sounds than just lonely Kelsea could offer that night, CMA Fest offered an innovative alternative at Ascend Amphitheater.

Running simultaneously with Friday’s Nissan show was an all-female bill on the free Cracker Barrel Country Roads Stage there on the other side of the Cumberland. It starred Danielle Bradbery, Kelleigh Bannen, Natalie Stovall, Ruthie Collins, Aubrie Sellers, Kellie Pickler and Sara Evans.


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