BOBBY KARL WORKS THE ROOM
When a superstar beckons, we answer.
“We,” in this case, was the throng that gathered on Monday evening (Aug. 20) to listen as Carrie Underwood’s forthcoming Cry Pretty album echoed in the polished, stone-and-cement interior of the Parthenon. Expectations were high, since this was her debut effort for her new label, Capitol Nashville.
John Tumminello, the vice president of the Pathenon conservancy, welcomed “we” with a history of the Nashville landmark and expressed how historic it was that the venue was hosting “new music from the incomparable Carrie Underwood.”
“To know Carrie Underwood is to respect her,” said UMG Nashville president Cindy Mabe. She added that the star is a “strong and brave and bold” role model for girls who is “one of the greatest voices we have ever known. This sets the basis for the rest of her career – Carrie’s most personal album yet.”
The diva took the stage with tears flowing. “The waterworks have already started,” she stammered. “She didn’t say anything about ‘poise,’” she added, referring to Cindy’s intro.
“Today is a big day. It’s a very emotional and nerve-wracking day. This journey has been one of chances taken, and I’m very proud of those steps. I hope what you’re hearing, you love, because it’s part of my heart,” she continued, now weeping openly. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Carrie sat at stage right. Her baby bump was showing in her sequined gold-and-black cocktail frock. Husband and expectant father Mike Fisher sat quietly beside her throughout the night.
Power ballads “Cry Pretty,” “Ghosts on the Stereo,” “Low” and “Backsliding” led up to the rocking “Southbound.” This, in turn, paved the way for the hooky, mid-tempo heartbreaker “That Song That We Used to Make Love To.”
“As you can hear, we covered a lot of ground,” said Underwood, at this halfway point in the listening session. “My partner in crime throughout this whole thing has been [co-writer and co-producer] David Garcia.” This is Underwood’s first venture as a co-producer.
“You guys like it so far?” asked David. “We ‘caught a vibe,’ I guess you could say….It was one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had making music. We need to say a big thank-you to all the musicians….and all the songwriters.”
Of the latter, Allen Shamblin, Tom Douglas, Hillary Lindsey, Brett James, Josh Miller, Marc Beeson and Chris DeStefano were in the house. Carrie and David co-wrote six of the tunes with a number of them. Project engineer Joe Baldridge was also beaming in the crowd.
The bluesy “Drinking Alone,” the ballad weeper “The Bullet,” the quiet portrait of destruction “Spinning Bottles,” the driving and stormy “Love Wins,” a reggae-pop effort “End Up With You” and a home-and-hearth spiritual “Kingdom” were previewed next. The collection will also include a bonus track of her NFL anthem collaboration with Ludacris, “The Champion.”
“Thank you so much for coming and listening to what we’ve been doing for the past year,” said Carrie. “It means a lot to me.”
During the cocktail hour, we snacked on “East Nashville sliders,” which seemed to be mini burgers with pimento cheese. The wait staff also circulated with fried-avocado tacos and cilantro-tomato salsa on toast points. A tower of plates held a plethora of mini desserts.
“We” mutually schmoozed R.J. Curtis, B.J. Hill, Rod Essig, Sherod Robertson, Rondal Richardson, Fletcher Foster, Jon Freeman, Jody Williams, Joanna Carter, Jessica Nicholson, Ashley Eicher, Becca Walls, Chuck Aly, Deborah Evans Price, Eric T. Parker, Leslie Fram, George Flanigen, Hunter Kelly, Donna Hughes, host-with-the-most Mike Dungan, Nick DiFruscia, Tiffany Dunn, Bobby Young, Terry Wakefield, Mary Lauren Teague, Lisa Konicki, Lon Helton, Phyllis Stark, Steve Buchanan and Sally Williams.
Like I said, “we” all answered the call. That included the comely trio Runaway June, who will be an opening act on Carrie’s “Cry Pretty” tour.
We perched on Lucite banquet chairs. Pink-and-gold balloon garland encircled the hall’s classical Ionic columns. Yards of gold and black drapes flanked the walkways. Fuchsia-toned up lights cast shadows. The cocktail tables wore crimson skirts.
Looming above it all was the Parthenon’s massive, 42-foot, colossus-statue of a Greek goddess. She is embellished with – no foolin’ – 24-karat gold-leaf gilded helmet, sandals, shield, spear, bracelets, necklace and floor-length tunic
Shanna Strassberg had the guest quote of the night: “There’s only one woman who can upstage Carrie Underwood, and that’s Athena.”
Cry Pretty drops on September 14.