BOBBY KARL WORKS THE ROOM
Who doesn’t love Little Big Town?
Even in a genre that is full of really, really good people as its artists, LBT’s Jimi Westbrook, Kimberly Schlapman, Phillip Sweet and Karen Fairchild rank super high on the lovability scale. Their adorable-ness was on full display on Tuesday evening (June 26) at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum.
The occasion was the reception to celebrate the group’s new exhibit “Little Big Town: The Power of Four.” A block-long bank of glass cases displays costumes, mementos, awards, manuscripts and personal items that document the group’s 20-year road to stardom.
“I’m so overwhelmed by all of this, and I’m the crier,” said Jimi. Sure enough, he began to blubber as he continued: “I walked along the exhibit and saw the journey. It’s the greatest journey I could ever have hoped for. I’m so grateful for this journey that we’ve had together. And I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else. All of you people in this room … are a blessing. This is a privilege and an honor.”
“You lived this journey with us,” added Phillip. “Music is what drives us and inspires us. It is a gift. For us, it was all about the making of the music. That’s what keeps us changing and growing. I love every one of you.”
“Thank you for changing our lives,” said Karen. “I believe in the power of this community and in the healing of music. And we could all use some of that right now. I look out here and I see not just family, but people we consider ‘family’ in this business. I look around, and I see believer after believer after believer.”
“When I came to Nashville as a 14-year-old, I came to the Country Music Hall of Fame,” recalled Kimberly. “My sister and I took a picture in front of the Hall of Fame. After that visit, I had huge dreams in my head. I wanted to become a country music star. And I didn’t even know what that meant. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude.”
Karen remembered that the first concert she ever saw was by The Oak Ridge Boys, pointing out the coincidence that now she sings in a four-part harmony group. The Oaks’ Duane Allen and Opry quartet singer Nora Lee Allen stood beaming at stage left. They weren’t the only gifted folks in attendance. All three of “The Love Junkies” were there – Liz Rose, Lori McKenna and Hillary Lindsey. Their “Girl Crush” catapulted LBT to even greater renown three years ago. (“Three women changed our lives,” Karen noted.) Lori’s new album, The Tree, drops next month, by the way.
Also in the house was Wayne Kirkpatrick, who co-produced and co-wrote LBT’s breakout hit “Boondocks” and the act’s other early star-making sounds (“Bring It On Home,” “Good As Gone,” “A Little More You,” “Little White Church,” etc.).
The celebrants also included Jett Williams, Ernie Williams, Earle Simmons, Bobby Simmons, David Preston, David M. Ross, the Nashville Public Library’s Kent Oliver, Del Bryant, Shanna Strassberg, Ben Vaughn, Jeff Gregg, the Memorial Foundation’s Scott Perry, Lisa Konicki, Tom Roland, Tim Wipperman, Deborah Evans Price, architect Seab Tuck, Karen Clark, Charlie Monk, Cindy Watts and Lisa Lee.
The cocktail-party hors d’oeuvres table held grilled-shrimp skewers, sirachi devilled eggs, petite panini sandwiches, pickled vegetables, an artisanal-breads basket and a scrumptious cheese-and-cured-meats board.
“We don’t put in exhibits of people who don’t pave necessary roads and change things for the better,” observed Hall of Fame CEO Kyle Young. “Little Big Town…. paved necessary roads with faith, hope, love, talent and harmony.”
Kyle recalled the many difficulties the group has endured along the way. LBT was initially signed by Mercury, which released none of the songs the group recorded there. Monument issued singles and an album, all of which were rejected.
Even after success with Capitol, tragedy stalked the four. Kimberly’s husband died suddenly. Jimi’s father and sister passed away. Through it all, those angelic vocal harmonies, superb song choices and beautifully crafted records made Little Big Town strong and enduring.
“We are overwhelmed,” said Phillip Sweet. “This is incredible, and we couldn’t be more grateful.”