BOBBY KARL WORKS THE ROOM
If the 2018 New Faces Show at CRS represents the future of country music, then that future contains very good artists, if no actual superstars.
All five of the showcasing artists were solid talents. But there was no Cinderella moment when we witnessed a star being born.
The act who came closest to capturing the hearts and minds of the radio taste makers was Lauren Alaina. The young, big-voiced belter is rapidly evolving from being a pageant singer to being a vocalist of true nuance and finesse.
She sang her breakthrough No. 1 hit, the rocking and repetitive “The Road Less Travelled.” It vividly illustrates that she knows how to craft a killer chorus. Next, she needs to work on creating verses.
Lauren also performed what was arguably the evening’s best song, the autobiographical “Three.” This soaring, inspiring number was her opening song, and it had the crowd on its feet by the time she finished it. Her clear, penetrating and supremely assured voice was also effectively showcased on her current single, “Doin’ Fine.”
Luke Combs was the show’s closing act. He was the evening’s most solidly “country” vocalist, which was particularly evident on his mash-up of the two stepper “Honky Tonk Highway” with “Boot Scootin’ Boogie.”
Luke’s wry and winning No. 1 hit “When It Rains It Pours” bubbled with energy. He presented his current single, the lovelorn “One Number Away,” as well as his career-launching chart-topper “Hurricane.”
Handsome and charming Michael Ray also had two chart toppers in his arsenal, his energetic set kick-off “Kiss You in the Morning” and the churning and blazing “Think a Little Less.” Sitting alone with his guitar, he also introduced a new heartache ballad, “Her World Or Mine.” By the way, Michael is a real “give back” guy who donates his time and talents to many charities.
The new trio Midland repeatedly emphasized its Texas roots, but still sounded like creamy-smooth, California country-rockers. The group came out swinging with its dynamic “Make a Little.” The easy-going, western vibe of “Burn Out” was right up the group’s alley, since it emphasized the trio’s strengths, strong melodies and fine vocal harmonies.
Midland closed with its breakthrough No. 1 hit, the inescapably catchy “Drinkin’ Problem.”
Winsome Carly Pearce had the unenviable job of opening the New Faces Show. But she demonstrated vocal confidence, effective stagecraft and admirable pluck.
In addition, her funky, groove-soaked “Hide the Wine” was the finest of the new singles showcased during the evening. It even outshone her outstanding No. 1 smash “Every Little Thing.”
She summed up what every one of the New Faces was thinking by saying to the radio folks, “You guys came together and believed in me. All I’ve ever wanted to do in the whole world is to sing country music. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. It is such an honor to stand on this stage tonight.”
A who’s who of fabulons attended – John Esposito, George Briner, Chris Farren, Scott Hendricks, Rob Simbeck, Diane Pearson, Gator Harrison, Daniel Hill, George Walker IV, Lori Badgett, Fred Vail, Cindy Watts, B.J. Hill and the ubiquitous Dennis Banka for starters.
Clay Myers had the talented Nora Collins in tow. Melanie Howard was introducing folks to the talented Heidi Raye. Country hunk Travis Rice worked the room solo.
Schmoozing up a storm were Bobby Bones, Royce Risser, Lisa Lee, Wes Vause, David Preston, Chuck Dauphin, Jimmy Harnen, Melinda Newman, Cody Alan, Jennifer Meyer, Ben Vaughn, Mike Sherry, Big John Bowen and Phyllis Stark. MusicRow greats Jessica Nicholson, Eric T. Parker, Alex Kobrick and Haley Crow shared a table.
We dined on moist baked, herbed chicken quarters with polenta and roasted cauliflower, carrots and broccoli. Chocolate mousse cups were the delectable desserts.
The ACM announced its radio-award nominees and Country AirCheck presented its kudos during the banquet.
Jameson Rodgers entertained during the cocktail reception. He had a cool, rocking, blue-collar country sound, which was unfortunately amped up too loud.