BWW Review: NASHVILLE: STARRING MUSIC CITY HIT-MAKERS Along With Grand Rapids Symphony, Present Song Writers Playing Some of Their Greatest Country Hits!
The Grand Rapids Symphony definitely was "Blessed" last night to have "Jesus Take The Wheel" as guest song writers from Nashville perform there chart topping hits and tell the stories along with them, turning the ski area into a larger Blue Bird Cafe for the special event. As "Went Out Last Night", we were "Living in Fast Forward", and "Playing Cinderella" and there might have been "Something In The Water" as sweet as "American Honey", some may have been a "Real Good Man" or had a "Girl Crush" but we all knew we'd be leaving "When The Sun Goes Down". Although leaving some people might have been thinking "When I Get Where I'm Going", and thinking of the other great songs we heard.
For those of you who are regular readers on my BWW site, this review is a bit different from things I have published in past reviews. You may not know that in addition to musicals and theatre as a whole, Country music plays a huge part in my life ever since I was in high school where I participated in the Country Showdown singing competition. Although I didn't win the competition, through the experience I made new friends in Country Radio and have been a part of there listener family ever since, as well as for the past 5 years this year stage managed the event. Imagine my excitement when I heard that Grand Rapids Symphony presents: Nashville: The Songwriters. Their Stories at the Symphony, staring the Music City Hit Makers, I knew this was event that would be the hit of the summer with the country music fan base right here in West Michigan, and it didn't disappoint!
As many people know allot of the songs are made famous by the Artist who sings them, however, how many of us can say we know the artist behind the song, or for that matter know the story behind them? Even the process of writing a song just hoping that it resonates with an artist and that they will want to record it, and just wishing it will be a hit is every day life for the four guest who joined the Grand Rapids Symphony for this event.
The best way I can describe the setting is the Blue Bird Cafe song writers round on a much bigger stage, with a full orchestra, and probably over 1,000 country music and symphony fans. Our four artist, also playing MCs for the evening, come out to lots of applause to the Grand Rapids crowd, and a nice temperature evening for August, take there seats behind the conductor at his podium, three guitars in hand and Ready to Play!
Brett James, kicked off the evening with a tune made known by Jason Alden called "The Truth". Following up that Hillary Lindsey joined in with the multi award winning hit that came with an interesting back story about how it almost didn't happen, because when the title came about they didn't even know where they could go with it and side lined the tittle. They ultimately came back to it with the song known by that title as "Jesus Take the Wheel" made famous by Carrie Underwood. If you have never heard an orchestrated version of this song, you should really check it out, and Grand Rapids Symphony strings did not disappoint!
Following that mega hit, the next guest Cary Barlowe, a former rock band member performed a song he wrote for Tim McGraw "Damn Country Music". Bringing us what I refer to as Classic Country the fourth artist Rivers Rutherford, brings us back a bit in time with a special tune he wrote influenced by how as stated in the first verse "I came to see her daddy for sit down man to man. It wasn't any secret I'd be asking for her hand. I guess that's why he left me waiting in the living room by myself." "Playing Cinderella" ultimately this was recorded by co-writer Chuck Wicks.
We return to Brett who played us a country hit made famous by Dirks Bentley in his anthem country "I hold On", but not to be out done Hillary counters with a song she wrote for Kieth Urban "Blue Ain't Your Color". Cary Barlow comes back with "It Don't Hurt Like It Use To" as sung by Billy Currington, and to follow up all of them, Rivers comes out swinging with "A Real Good Man" sung by Tim McGraw
After a very strong first half of the show had me wondering how this night could possibly be topped, Brett James comes right out of the gate with a current Carrie Underwood hit, which was a co-write with Carrie herself "Something in The Water". This is another one of those numbers when played live by orchestra the strings can shine so much and just send chills down your spine. Once those chills were starting to subside, Rivers does it once again with a story about how he even played this at the funeral of a loved ones friend in the song "When I Get Where I'm Going" sung by Brad Paisley, which has been played at similar events I've attended. Hillary and Cary also come out strong out of the gate with a song they co-wrote and was recorded by country group "American Honey" Lady Antebellum followed by one Cary wrote called "She Won't Remember" that he wrote about their daughter.
Next Brett takes us on a journey to the islands where he was summoned personally by a country artist to come write within days after Christmas. Outside on the porch the next morning drinking a cup of coffee, and strumming a rhythm out on the guitar, Kenny Chesney sticks his head out and says "Man we went 'Out Last Night' ", they penned that into a co-written hit, still played as a summer anthem today, Rivers also performed "Ain't Nothing About You" recorded by Brooks and Dunn.
Hillary Lindsey sang her written hit "Girl Crush" made famous by Little Big Town, that is a song about crushing jealousy. It is about the ache of desire. It is, ultimately, about fantasizing. Brett James sings a song he wrote that was covered by a country artist who is little newer, Cody Johnson, called "On My Way To You".
To raise the bar even higher Rivers comes back up singing another Kenny Chesney recorded song, "Living in Fast Forward" one of the earliest songs I can remember learning. Following that very strong performance and an outstanding performance by the symphony horns, as any good Kenny song would have. Hillary Lindsey and Brett James come back to sing a song actually written with Martina McBride in mind. Now again though you can write a song with a specific artist in mind, that doesn't mean they will pick it up, or even record it for that matter, but how lucky are we that when they penned "Blessed" that Martina took the song and recorded it?
Closing out the show Brett comes back to sing the second hit, ironically wrote that same trip to the island as the last song, he comes and sings "When The Sun Goes Down" originally recorded by Kenny Chesney / Uncle Kracker. He said that is rare when you can write back to back hits like that, but country fans are sure glad he did.
This event made me want to go down to Nashville even more then I already did, so I could go site in for the evening at a songwriters round or singer/ songwriters round. This was so exciting to me, as I have artist friends who are in the business, some who are singer songwriters, in addition to meeting some of the artist who recorded these writers songs. There is just something special about hearing it from the writer themselves, and the story behind it. It definitely answered some questions about some of the well known songs on the list. Many people I heard after were talking about how they wish they could hear more songwriter events like that, and how they hope this event can come back in the future, even as soon next year, and even more multiple nights.
Next up for the Symphony they kick off there Fall season Friday, Sep 13 Hadelich Plays Beethoven