We Are Family.
That concept was repeatedly invoked at Monday night’s SESAC banquet on Music Row (11/9). And, my, how the “family” has grown: The event is now double in size what it was just a few short years ago.
“I’m proud to be a member of the SESAC family,” said Songwriter of the Year winner Monty Powell. Monty won for his Keith Urban hits “Sweet Thing” and “Kiss a Girl,” and the former was named SESAC’s Country Song of the Year. He is also the co-writer of Urban’s new single, “’Til Summer Comes Around.”
“For me, it really is like a big family gathering,” said SESAC’s Tim Fink.
He pointed out that SESAC is the only performing rights organization that honors Americana songwriters and introduced a video montage that included SESAC Americana celebs Hayes Carl, Gurf Morlix, The Avett Brothers, Todd Snider, The Greencards, Band of Heathens, Kieran Kane, Ray Wylie Hubbard and Jim Lauderdale.
Dustin, Savannah and their father Kevin Welch accepted a SESAC Americana trophy. Peter Cooper picked up two. Carol Young, Joe Lee King, Colin Brooks and Kieran Kane were also Americana honorees. Bug Music’s Roger Murrah accepted for an absent Gurf Morlix. Also not attending was double Americana winner Bob Dylan.
Following opening remarks by Pat Collins and dinner, Trevor Gale announced, “a special performance from someone who is considered a song’s best friend…the one and only Joe Nichols.”
“This is a song from the record,” said Joe introducing a track from his new Old Things New collection. “It’s not the single, which I’m supposed to plug at every opportunity.”
He proceeded to stun the crowd with the ballad that closes the CD, “An Old Friend of Mine.” The song is about gaining sobriety, which the performer did not long ago. His emotional delivery of the extraordinary lyric drew gasps, shouts and a standing ovation.
“Wow,” said Tim, “that’s a powerful performance.”
The other performance during the event was a stirring, highly political song called “Across America,” sung by new SESAC signee Nanci Griffith with co-writers Charley Stefl and Thomm Jutz. It appears on Nanci’s CD The Loving Kind. Nanci, by the way, also referred to SESAC as her new “family.”
SESAC’s Shannon Tipton Neese and John Mullins joined Tim Fink for the presentation of the country awards. Honorees included Scooter Caruso (“Better as a Memory”), Tim Johnson (“Do You Believe Me Now”), Hillary Scott (“Looking for a Good Time,” “I Run to You” and “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore”), Brice Long (“Anything Goes”), Liz Rose (“You Belong with Me” and “White Horse”), Anthony Smith (“I Want My Life Back”), Kim Tribble (“One in Every Crowd”) and the afore mentioned Monty Powell.
Pat Higdon and Kent Earls accepted Publisher of the Year honors for Universal Tunes and Eden Valley Music.
I used to describe this banquet by writing something like, “SESAC celebrated in intimate elegance.” With more than 400 guests attending this year, it might not be quite so “intimate.” But it is still the most elegant of the performance rights events in Music City.
Gold and mauve metallic cloths covered the dining tables. Each held a centerpiece of massed crimson carnations, and the same flowers hung in globes from branches stationed throughout the cocktail tent. The dining tent’s chandeliers were crystal curtains and tubes that shimmered under pastel lights of various hues. Crystals were also tucked into the tent drapes. The entire room seemed to glitter.
Dinner was exquisite. We began with a salad with a pear center surrounded by mixed greens, spiced pecans and bleu cheese mousse drizzled with a raspberry balsamic vinaigrette dressing. The main course was pan-seared grouper over sautéed baby spinach, plus savory corn bread pudding and sliced beef tenderloin that you could cut with merely a fork. The irresistible (believe me, I tried) dessert was an apple cake truffle over pumpkin mousse topped with whipped cream. The brandy finale was a nice touch, too.
Gliding through the evening and looking fabulous were Lady Antebellum, Pam Rose, Billy & Jill Block, Butch Baker, Jamie Johnson of The Grascals, Burt Stein, Jerry Salley, Blaine Larsen, Scott Siman, Jim Zumwalt, Victoria Shaw, Richard Leigh, Roxie Dean, Gary Burr, Rick & Janis Carnes, Clay Myers, Pete Fisher, Nancy Shapiro, Troy Tomlinson, Nashville First Lady Anne Davis, Jed Hilly, Kira Florita, Ree Guyer Buchanan, Dwight Wiles, Tinti Moffatt, Frank Liddell, Gary Overton, Ben Vaughn, Kyle Young, Glenn Middleworth, David & Carolyn Corlew, David & Susana Ross, John Grady, Blake Chancey, Dan Hill, Kevin Lamb, Debbie Carroll, Jill Colucci, Jeff Walker, Gilles Godard and Pat Finch. The balmy fall evening weather could not have been more perfect.
Country Music Week activities actually got underway the day before, on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon at Hall of Fame Park (11/8). This was a Music City Walk of Fame induction ceremony for Dolly Parton, Kid Rock, Charlie Daniels and the late Ernest Tubb and Tootsie Bess.
“It’s great to be married to the Mayor and be in love with the Governor,” said Dolly, referring to husband Carl Dean (who was not there), the similarly named Karl Dean (who was) and Gov. Phil Bredesen (also present).
Dolly remained in the spotlight Monday afternoon (11/9) via a screening and press conference for her new Live From London DVD at The Tracking Room.
“I love doing what I do, and I’m going to do it until the day I die,” vowed the ageless wonder. She swore that she will never retire.
In addition to a star-struck international press corps, her admirers included Carrie Underwood, Kellie Pickler, George Jones and Charlie Monk.