BOBBY KARL WORKS THE ROOM
At the BMLG label luncheon at CRS, the emphasis was on artist development.
On Friday afternoon (Feb. 15) at the Omni Hotel, the company used its moment in the spotlight to introduce new artists and new sounds. The showcase luncheon’s star attraction and closing act was Rascal Flatts. But on the way to the band’s hit-packed presentation, BMLG’s Scott Borchetta had other fish to fry.
After greeting the radio conventioneers, Borchetta brought out newcomer Riley Green. The delightfully countrified Riley kicked off his set with “In Love By Now,” a penetrating rocker featuring his hot band. Both “Georgia Time” and “Bettin’ Man” were songs he wrote about loves gone wrong.
“About a year ago I was an unsigned artist framing houses in Jackson, Alabama,” he told the crowd. “Now I have a single that’s No. 8 in the country. So thank you very much.”
That introduced a romping treatment of “There Was This Girl.” We loved it.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time,” said Scott. “And you really feel that when your friends start getting inducted into the [Country Radio] Hall of Fame.”
He offered a shout-out to this year’s inductees, Mac Daniels, Jeff Garrison, Kyle Cantrell, Gregg Lindahl, Charlie Monk and the late Bobby Denton.
Back to the newcomer business at hand, fresh company signee Lauren Jenkins was up next. She already makes videos and short films of her songs, so that part of her talent was screened.
Then the CRS first-timer sang her artful, introspective “Makers Mark and You” and “Running Out of Road” in her smoky, languid voice.
I have long thought that Brantley Gilbert has one of the coolest voices in modern country music. Not that you could hear it much over his loud, country-meets-Megadeth band. On a brighter note, he and the group were a stylebook of facial-hair grooming modes.
Brantley favored us with hits such as “Country Must Be Country Wide” and “Bottoms Up.” But his set was truly uplifted by the appearance of Lindsay Ell. She and Brantley demonstrated dynamic interplay while introducing their new duet “What Happens in a Small Town.”
“That’s the first time they have performed that together,” said Scott. He predicted “a big future” for his next act, newcomer Noah Schnacky. “Noah already has 50 million streams on his songs. He’s really the whole package.”
Sitting alone on a stool in the spotlight, Noah proved to be a deft acoustic guitarist as well as an able vocalist. The youngster was also teen-heartthrob handsome as he performed his romantic tunes “Hello Beautiful” and “Maybe He Will.”
“I grew up on country radio,” said Noah to the country radio crowd. “You all showed me what I liked. You made me the artist that I am today. So if you don’t like me, it’s your fault.”
Rascal Flatts came out with a driving, blood-stirring treatment of “Yours If You Want It” that was so much better than its recording of the song. They not only sing like champs, their band cooks with gas.
“Thank you for being our voices to the world,” said member Jay DeMarcus. “Without you, we wouldn’t have had 19 years in this wonderful business.”
True to the spirit of the showcase, the group introduced new music. Its just-released single, “Back To Life,” was performed as a super power-waltz.
The melodic pile-driver “I Like the Sound of That” was embellished by a soaring Joe Don Rooney guitar solo. “What Hurts the Most” was a vocal showcase, wherein lead singer Gary LeVox went from wispy, atmospheric phrasing to full-throated emotional blasts. The audience was on its feet throughout the rocking, pulse-quickening finale, “Life Is a Highway.”
Sharing the sounds and the fried-chicken lunch were Jeremy Westby, Leslie Fram, Becky Harris, Jim Varnell, Sarah Skates, Billy Dukes, Tom Baldrica, Don Cusic, Ron Allen, Sherod Robertson, Tracy Berry and visiting Ottawa academic Jada Watson.