In a unusual lineup of the constellations, this week had three consecutive new-music parties by female country artists, with Kacey Musgraves on Monday (March 26), followed by Ashley McBryde on Tuesday (March 27) and RaeLynn on Wednesday (March 28).
In Kacey’s case, “constellations” is exactly the right word. She chose the Planetarium in the Adventure Science Center to present the tunes on her new Golden Hour collection. Billed as an “exclusive listening experience,” the event featured the venue doing its thing showing solar system, landscape, color-wash, universe, candy-dot, lunar and planetary images on its dome while we listened to the songs in the dark.
“This is the most personal collection of songs I’ve had so far,” said Kacey, who co-hosted with her co-writers and co-producers Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuk. They recorded it at Sheryl Crow’s studio.
The CD features more love songs than is usual for her, which she attributes to her happy marriage to singer-songwriter Ruston Kelly last fall. The songs are also more pop than is usual for her, perhaps due to touring with Katy Perry and/or to working with Tashian and Fitchuk, both of whom are pop artists.
At any rate, the evening was both an audio and a visual sensory immersion.
Grooving to it were Leslie Fram, Leslie Roberts, Rachel Whitney, R.J. Curtis, Susan Stewart, Al Moss, Garry Wall, Jason Owen, Michael McAnally Baum, Phyllis Stark, Cameo Carlson, Brenden Oliver and Nick DiFruscia.
“This looks like a sixth-grade field trip in here,” said Mike Dungan to the fabulons seated in the Planetarium. “You’re all so adorable.
“Brilliance is a word we too often throw around too loosely,” he continued as he introduced Kacey. “Songwriting talent, alone, can make anyone stand out from the pack. Throw in effortless performance, fashion and that something called ‘cool,’” and you have Kacey.
“You have a perfect score for coming up with cool places to have your listening parties,” I told the Grammy and CMA award-winning star. Remember the Christmas-album bash at Riverwood with trees in every room and fake snow falling from the balcony? How about the drag queens acting out the lyrics to the songs on Pageant Material at Play while we wore tiaras and beauty-queen sashes? Now we’ve had a Planetarium star show for Golden Hour.
“I’m going to have to keep coming up with cool new places,” Kacey replied. “If you have any ideas, let me know.”
The triple-play female fiesta continued with Ashley McBryde. She staged her listening party on Tuesday at the Melrose Billiard Parlor, another imaginative venue selection.
“Is this not what a frickin’ country record launch should look like?” asked Cris Lacy of the attendees. The WB exec was referring to the dive-y quality of the dark basement venue.
“You are the ‘It’ girl: we love you,” I said to Ashley. “It’s a lot to take in,” she replied, referring to her sudden rise from obscurity.
Her “A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega” has been streamed more than 13 million times. It was named one of the best songs of any genre for 2017 by The New York Times. She’ll be on Jimmy Kimmel on April 2. She is Eric Church’s favorite new artist. Mine, too.
Ashley’s Girl Going Nowhere CD was produced by the great Jay Joyce. It drops March 30.
“This is the next generation,” Cris added during her remarks. “She’s an Arkansas red-clay bad-ass. I’ll have what she’s having. It’s raw and real and unlike anything else that’s out there. Little girls with dreams become women with vision. THAT’S Ashley McBryde. “We are proud to have you as part of the Warner Music family….This record is a gift to us.”
Ashley took the mic, but couldn’t overcome her emotions enough to speak at length. “Whiskey-drinkin’ bad ass?” she said as she wiped away a tear. She then led everyone in a toast: “Holler and swaller!”
Many rebel yells and war whoops ensued.
Rob Simbeck, Georgia Middleman, Kyle Young, Joseph Hudak, Erin Enderlin, Gary Burr, Becca Walls, John Peets, Ebie McFarland, Chuck Aly and, natch, John Esposito, Wes Vause and Mary Catherine Rebrovick raised their glasses.
The Warner label was in the spotlight again on Wednesday as we celebrated RaeLynn’s debut single from her forthcoming sophomore album for the company. It’s a rousing empowerment anthem called “Queens Don’t.” So the party at Suzie Wong’s House of Yum had a royalty theme. We all put on fuschia-colored plastic queen crowns that lit up and flashed. Then RaeLynn brought out the (drag) queens from the Play nightclub next door. “Shania” danced and pantomimed to, of course, “Man, I Feel Like a Woman.” “Reba” did “Fancy.” “Dolly” pranced to “9 to 5.” Finally, RaeLynn’s “twin,” “Vanity” pantomimed the song of the hour, “Queens Don’t.”
When RaeLynn first came to Nashville as a teenager, friends took the Texas innocent to Play. It was her first club experience, and she was charmed by the drag community.
All the queens drew wild applause, although I thought everyone except “Dolly” looked kind of corn fed.
“I wrote this song because I’ve always had strong people around me,” stated RaeLynn about “Queens Don’t.” “The biggest was my mom. She found herself single with five kids. Most people would have found that devastating.
“Watching my mom, I found you can choose to build up and encourage your queen – and king — – potential.”
We not only got a floorshow at this party, but dinner, too. The House of Yum laid out jasmine fried rice, beef & broccoli, General Tso chicken, egg rolls, vegetable teriyaki, Asian wings and peanut chicken.
There were party favors, too. A basket at the exit contained gaily wrapped “mystical effects” lipsticks from the Too Faced cosmetics company that the former Voice competitor is affiliated with. The cards read, “Compliments of the Queen, RaeLynn: Always turn your pain into power, love you to the moon and back.”
Enjoying the gig were Hunter Kelly, Jon Freeman, Sherod Robertson, Julie Boos, Kerry Hansen, Ben Vaughn, Brandi Sims, Bob Paxman, Shane Tarleton, Shanna Strassberg, Eric T. Parker, and Nathan Pyle.
By the way, “Queens Don’t” had 700.000 streams this week. Sounds like a hit to me.