The CMA Music Festival doesn’t officially start until Thursday, but it has been already sputtering to life for several days.
The CMA, itself, tossed a pre-fest cocktail party last Friday afternoon (6/2). On Saturday, the International Country Music Conference concluded with a picnic co-hosted by participants Jewly Hight and Barry Mazor. Working that back yard were Rolling Stone Country’s Jon Freeman, ICMC award winners Tamara Saviano and David Cantwell and NPR music queen Ann Powers, among others.
On Monday (6/5), CAA hosted its annual, star-sprinkled barbecue at its downtown offices. Devin Dawson, Seth Ennis and Cale Dodds clowned for Getty Images. Simultaneously, Florida Georgia Line cut the ribbon on its FGL House on 3rd Avenue South. It’s a four-story restaurant and entertainment destination with a rooftop bar.
The pre-fest event on Tuesday (6/6) was the annual Nashville Association of Talent Directors (NATD) picnic held at Fannie Mae Dees Park (Hillsboro Village’s “Dragon” park, as it is popularly known). This event had the distinction of being the first of the week to feature live music.
The Martin Family Circus was the entertainment. This band certainly has a pedigree. Papa Paul Martin is an alumnus of Exile. Mama Jamie Martin is the daughter of Oak Ridge Boy Duane Allen and of Nora Lee Allen, who leads the Opry’s vocal backup group. Daughters Tallent, 9, and Texas, 11, alternate singing lead. Sons Kell, 15, and March, 18, provide vocal and instrumental support, as do their parents. All of them seem to have flawless ears for harmony singing.
The group’s exuberant, feel-good set included The Swan Silvertones black-gospel arrangement of “Mary Don’t You Weep.” In honor of attendee Fred Vail, who used to manage The Beach Boys, the group did harmony-soaked renditions of “In My Room” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” They closed with a lively, endearing take on “I Want You Back” by The Jackson Five. The group also sings country. Its fitting billing is “music that makes you smile.”
Smiling away were Zach Farnum, Ed Salamon, Jim Bruce, Bonnie Sugarman, Blake McDaniel, Dick Beacham, Rod & Jennifer Harris, Charlene Carter, Randy Perkins, Ray Shelide, Chaz Corzine, Tammy Johnson and Robert Williams. Grilling the weenies and flipping the burgers were the quipping comedy duo The Professor & The Bull. Other artists in attendance included the band Savannah Jack, singer Allison Hendrick and Channel 2 newsperson Stephanie Langston.