In my opinion, Music City’s greatest annual fiesta is the Grammy Block Party.
It certainly felt that way on Wednesday evening (May 31) at Ole Smoky Distillery. This event is staged every year by the Nashville chapter of the Recording Academy and has evolved into an essential calendar item for the music-biz community. If you work in this industry and you are not a member of the Recording Academy, you should be, if only to be invited to attend this awesome bash.
“I became a member last year, and I’m very proud of it,” said Breland.
He was one of the stellar performers at the party. Get this: The gig began with the Tennessee State University Band strutting across the street and onto the party plaza with the panache and pride of the Grammy winners they are. Once on stage, they did a jam presentation alternating rhythm-section romps with melodic brass interludes. It was youthful and electrifying.
Christian singer/keyboardist Blessing Offor offered a set that included the Bill Withers classic “Grandma’s Hands” and his “Real Magic” tune that’s become a national Coca-Cola commercial. The blind native Nigerian more than proved he’s a worthy member of the Nashville music community with his brilliant showcase.
Wendy Moten, who hosted, also presented a dynamic vocal session. It included the slinky groove of the inspiring “Don’t Give Up” as well as her spine-tingling arrangement of “You’re All I Need to Get By.” She reminded the crowd that she’d competed with the song on TV’s The Voice. The veteran R&B vocalist went on the talent competition in order to remain active during the COVID pandemic and became a crowd-favorite finalist.
The musically eclectic Breland did “Cross Country,” which he said describes his musical style. He danced nimbly across the stage as he presented everything from his current single “For What It’s Worth” to the gospel song “Praise the Lord.” He is presently on tour with Shania Twain, so you’ll be able to catch him at GEODIS Park when she headlines the venue’s opening concert next Wednesday (June 7). Breland’s energy got the crowd on its feet and dancing.
The superstar stardust of the event was sprinkled by Brothers Osborne. The multiple country award winning band features one of modern music’s most charismatic and gifted frontmen T.J. Osborne alongside his equally-gifted, guitar-slinger brother John Osborne, a class instrumentalist and now an amazing record producer for Ashley McBryde.
You will notice that those artists performing at the bash reflected diverse styles and social groups. This is one of the things I love most about the Nashville chapter of the Recording Academy. The crowd was also racially diverse. Which shows how effective the chapter has been in representing the many artists who live and record here. Yes, we are country and (usually) proud of it, but Nashville is a crib for many other genres. One of the things I liked about this event’s 22nd staging is that it has become more diverse and welcoming. Did I mention that the finale was scheduled to be a grand salute to hip-hop with Daisha McBride, Chuck iNDigo and Tim Gent?
In between the performers, DJ Megan Coleman grooved non-stop spinning choice tunes. Grooving along were Emily Peacock, Becky Parsons, Natalie McDonald, Pam Lewis, Steve Dorff, Leslie DiPiero and chapter executive director Alicia Warwick.
We were greeted on entering by Mike Kepler, a born fabulon if I’ve ever met one. After schmoozing the TSU band members in the the Mexi-food buffet line, we loved on the gig’s terrific publicist Ronna Rubin.
Then the proverbial floodgates opened — Nancy Shapiro, Ed Rode, Sherry Bond, Earle Simmons, Becky Hobbs, Bonita Hill, Ruby Amanfu, Dan Hill, Debbie Carroll, Neil Spielberg, Tracy Gershon, Beverly Keel, Jennifer Hanson, Jenny Tolman & Dave Brainard, Courtney White, Dan Daley, Mason Hunter, Tom Long, Laura Crawford, Ashley Ernst, Ben Fowler, Lyn Aurelius, Phil Thornton and a multitude of other fabulons worked the room. If you weren’t there, you should have been.