Bobby Karl Works The Room: Nashville’s Musical Diversity Shines For Grammy Block Party

Pictured (L-R): Nashville Chapter President Trey Fanjoy, Jimmie Allen, Trisha Yearwood, Nashville Chapter Executive Director Alicia Warwick. Photo: Courtesy The Recording Academy


Chapter 619

What a lovely way to start the week.

Monday’s revival of the Grammy Block Party (April 29) notched up another victory for Nashville music diversity. Apart from host Jimmie Allen’s acoustic performance of “Best Shot,” the event was notable for its near-absence of country music, Nashville’s most famous genre.

Trisha Yearwood sang the classics of Frank Sinatra. T-Pain offered hip-hop. Gavin DeGraw performed modern pop. Francesca Battistelli did Christian rock. And MAJOR. just about stole the show with his brand of contemporary r&b.

The evening was balmy and mellow as we arrived at the courtyard plaza of War Memorial Auditorium. New Nashville DJ/remix artist Dave Aude was spinning sizzling sounds. And the fabulons were schmoozing mightily.

Jed Hilly, Benita Hill, Dan Hill, Dan Rogers, LB Rogers, Dave Pacula, David Malloy, Dave Brainard, Bil VornDick, Billy Burnette, Eddie Perez, Edie Emery, Chris Farren, Chris Keaton, Jon Loba, John Briggs and Regulus were noshing, imbibing and working the room.

The noshing, by the way, was dandy. The food station featured deviled eggs, hot-chicken sliders with dill pickles, tomato-and-mozzarella skewers, cheesy stuffed potato morsels, pimento cheese toast points with cucumber and tomato slices, roast-beef-and-horseradish sliders and pudding cups.

We were urged to enter War Memorial. Which made this “block party” unusual in that it was staged indoors. The venue’s interior was decorated with large, pale blue, glowing stars as well as multiple strings of golden party lights. There were indirect “up” lights on the classical columns, and the perimeter was bordered with black drapes.

Trisha Yearwood performs. Photo: Courtesy The Recording Academy

Opener DeGraw offered oldies like “Easy” and “Cupid” before favoring the crowd with his tuneful hit “Chariot,” which drew big applause. He performed solo at the piano with just an acoustic guitarist as additional accompaniment.

Yearwood was up next. She was backed by a 10-piece band including strings and horns as she showered us with a swinging set of Sinatra standards. She paused to introduce pianist/bandleader Alan Pasqua. He plays on her Let’s Be Frank collection, which was recorded live in Sinatra’s old stomping grounds at Capitol Records in Hollywood. She sang its love ballad “For the Last Time,” which she co-wrote about and with Garth Brooks, before raising the roof with a breath-taking “Over the Rainbow.” This drew shouts, whistles and cheers.

“I want to say how honored I am to be part of the Grammys,” she said. “So thank you for inviting me tonight.”

DJ Dave Audé entertained the crowd in between the performers by spinning everything from “Old Town Road” to “Islands In the Stream” with club-remix precision.

“My mom named me Major,” said the next act, MAJOR. (Major R. Johnson Finley). “So I made a commitment to honor my name.”

That he did, with a groovy, rhythm-drenched set that showcased his pitch-perfect, mellifluous, octave-leaping voice. His performances included hits “Better With You In It” and “Honest,” plus the soaring, anthemic “Shine Bright” as well as the introduction of his new single titled, I think, “Til the Sun Comes Up.”

“I thank you for this welcome to the Recording Academy,” he said. “I’ve dreamed of moments like this. It’s a dream come true….Nashville, I love you! Together, we can change-over the world.”

Gavin DeGraw performs. Photo: Courtesy The Recording Academy

Allen sang solo with his own guitar accompaniment. Then Battistelli came out rocking. She has seven No. 1 CCM hits and six Dove Awards. Grammy-winning rapper/producer T-Pain (Faheem Rasheed Najm) was the finale. Alas, by the time he performed, the crowd had thinned considerably.

Spotted gabbing and grooving were Frank Liddell, George Flanigen, Chuck Ainlay, Victoria Shaw, Beverly Keel, new Opry hire Audrey McGrady, Pat McMakin, Ben Fowler, Jessica Nicholson, Karen Clark, Mike Wrucke, Martha Moore, Todd Cassetty, Irene Kelley (who has a new bluegrass album), Jenny Tolman (who also has some new country music), Garth Fundis, Terry Hemmings, Clay Myers, Gary Kraen, Steve O’Brien, Earle Simmons, Sherry Bond, Sherod Robertson and Nashville NARAS board prez Trey Fanjoy.

Kudos to the committee who planned this bash, as well as the sponsors who made it possible. Not to mention erstwhile Recording Academy staffers Alicia Warwick, Bri Buchanan, Ashley Ernst, Susan Stewart, Nathan Pyle, Debbie Carroll, Laura Crawford, Courtney White and Lyn Aurelius.

The Grammy Block party has been a mainstay of the Nashville music community’s social calendar since 1999. The event took a year off in 2018. Now it is back, with a merry and melodic vengeance.

Pictured: Chapter ED Alicia Warwick, Gavin DeGraw, Jimmie Allen, Chapter President Trey Fanjoy. Photo: Courtesy The Recording Academy

Trisha Yearwood. Photo Courtesy The Recording Academy

MAJOR. performs. Photo by Frederick Breedon/WireImage; Courtesy The Recording Academy

T-Pain performs at the 2019 Grammy Block Party at War Memorial Auditorium on April 29, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo by Frederick Breedon/WireImage/Courtesy of The Recording Academy

Pictured (L-R): Nashville Chapter Board member Phil Thornton, Alicia Warwick, Claude Kelly, host/performer Jimmie Allen, Susan Stewart and Nashville Chapter Board member Chuck Harmony. Photo: Courtesy The Recording Academy

Pictured: T-Pain, Francesca Battistelli, Gavin DeGraw, Jimmie Allen. Photo: Courtesy The Recording Academy


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