Bobby Karl Works The Room: CRS’ New Faces Show Was A Star-Making Moment For Jimmie Allen

Jimmie Allen. Photo: CRS

BOBBY KARL WORKS THE ROOM

Chapter 616

Nice guys finish first.

Personable Jimmie Allen walked off with this year’s New Faces Show at Country Radio Seminar. He was far and away the evening’s finest singer. Not only that, his songs had the most substance, and his performance demonstrated scene-stealing showmanship.

Jimmie was not without competition. Lindsay Ell had the guitar chops and the beauty. Russell Dickerson had stage presence and dance moves. LANCO had hits and charm. Dylan Scott had the physique and the warmth.

Another highlight of the event was the surprise appearance by superstar Tim McGraw. Following a video where he reminisced about his New Faces Show appearance 25 years ago, the curtain parted to reveal him in the flesh, singing his first hit, “Don’t Take the Girl.” He then waded into the crowd to pose for selfies.

We all went nuts. What a moment.

Bill Mayne and Keith Urban. Photo: CRS

The evening’s other headliner was another nice guy, retiring Country Radio Broadcasters exec Bill Mayne. He was saluted with a career-spanning video overview, a presentation by Keith Urban and a standing ovation.

“I thank you very much for letting me have the best job in the world for the past 10 years,” said Bill. “I love you all. You will be in my heart forever.”

The four-hour marathon show and three-course banquet took place on Friday night (Feb. 15) at the Omni Hotel downtown. More than 1,000 attended.

Russell Dickerson. Photo: CRS

Official show-opening act Russell Dickerson took charge from the moment he stepped on stage. He came out bobbing and dancing to his peppy current single “Every Little Thing,” then launched into his chart-topping “Blue Tacoma.”

“I’ve been dreaming of this day since the first time I came here in 2010,” said the Nashville native of CRS. “You guys had no reason to believe in us, but you did,” he added.

That led naturally into his Platinum breakthrough No. 1 hit, “Yours.”

He didn’t let up. Russell rocked out on the frothing “MGNO (My Girl’s Night Out).” Bounding down into the crowd, he segued into Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” pulling women from their seats to shake their booties with his and sing along.

Back on stage, he broke into a wild, aerobic dancing finale. Suffice it to say, all stops were pulled out. He even busted some flossing dance moves. The expression on witness Eric T. Parker’s face was priceless.

Lindsay Ell. Photo: CRS

Speaking of exercise, Lindsay Ell was introduced via a humorous video where she took her radio promotion team to a 4 a.m. fitness boot camp. She began her set with her debut hit, “Criminal.”

Her guitar prowess was never better showcased than on the new song she introduced, “Go To.” It was intercut with U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name.” Lindsay finished her set with the rousing lament “Space.”

“Thank you to everyone in this room for putting me on this stage,” she said with sincerity.

Then it was Jimmie Allen’s turn. He was preceded by a long, deep, echoing, electronic noise and then burst into the spotlight with the upbeat “County Lines.” He displayed admirable aplomb and confidence as he delivered his current single, “Make Me Want To” in a strong, clear voice.

Jimmie is country’s first African-American artist in history to top the charts with his debut single. He gave that song, “Best Shot,” an impressively full-throated vocal.

He cranked the energy up even higher on “Underdogs,” an uplifting ode to strivers and dreamers. As he sang it, he walked all the way through the ballroom, high-fiving people at every table he passed and wailing the high notes with chesty ease. The crowd went wild.

His finale was the power-ballad message song “All Tractors Ain’t Green.” Its stirring melody was augmented by a lineup of soulful female vocalists behind him.

He received a well-deserved standing ovation.

LANCO. Photo: CRS

LANCO had an introductory video that told of the band’s graduation from a camper to a tour bus, concluding with the former’s being blown up in farewell. The group then took the stage, opening with its chiming, bright and driving “Born to Love You.”

Lead singer and principal songwriter Brandon Lancaster (the band’s name is shorthand for “Lancaster and Company”) introduced the radio tastemakers to his new song, “Save Me.”

Then came the five-man group’s breakthrough No. 1 hit, the highly tuneful “Greatest Love Story.” The finale was the exciting, anthemic sing-along “Rival.”

Am I wrong, or was this Arista Records act Sony Music Nashville’s only major presence during CRS?

Dylan Scott. Photo: CRS

Curb Records up-and-comer Dylan Scott closed the show. He was introduced via a clever video that toyed with his impressive, gym-toned, buff bod by suggesting he had a magic, hit-enhancing supplement.

He took no prisoners with a rocking, pounding performance of his Gold-selling top-10 hit, “Hooked.” The fastest-rising single of his career came next, “Nothing to Do Town.”

Dylan sat at the piano to introduce “Nobody,” which he said he wished could be his next single. It built impressively to a rousing crescendo.

The Louisiana-bred singer’s father is Scotty Robinson, who played guitar for Freddy Fender, Freddie Hart and other classic country stylists. “I’m an old-school country music fan,” said Dylan. “My hero was a guy named Keith Whitley.”

He sang Whitley’s ballad “Don’t Close Your Eyes.” On the one hand, it was an admirable tribute. On the other hand, he’s not near his late idol, vocally (but then again, who is?). The performance did elicit a big cheer.

“I’ve been here 10 years, and it’s been a long 10 years,” added the budding star. “But I am so happy and so blessed.”

A thudding, intense rendition of his chart-topping Platinum smash “My Girl” concluded his set and the show.

Tim McGraw. Photo: CRS

The event was punctuated by videos of various artists reminiscing with Gator Harrison about their New Faces Show experiences. In addition to McGraw, they included Luke Bryan, Jake Owen and Lee Brice.

The 2019 CRS New Faces Show was sponsored by the Academy of Country Music. The organization’s Pete Fisher saluted this year’s ACM radio nominees, teased its April 7 awards show, talked about its Lifting Lives charity and introduced a video and stage segment about St. Jude’s Hospital.

During the pre-show cocktail hour, Dillon Carmichael offered a spirited set. Bopping along throughout the night were Rob Simbeck, Nancy Kruh, Ash Bowers, Mike Dungan, Jim Ed Norman, incoming CRB exec RJ Curtis, LB Rogers, Tom Roland, George Briner, Jack Purcell, Brandi Simms, the omnipresent Charlie Cook, Preshias Harris, Jimmy Harnen, Jon Loba, Christy Walker-Watkins, CRB board prez Kurt Johnson, Gayle Thompson, Lon Helton, Brenden Oliver and Lauren Patterson.

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