Friday, October 16, 2009

Garth Goes Vegas

Garth Brooks Announced As Resident Headliner At The Wynn Las Vegas

The man I took banjo lessons from when I was a young teenager was a prophet. I don't remember his name, but he was. He revealed to me way back when that artists of the day like Michael McDonald would eventually become mainstays in Las Vegas.

OK, maybe he was wrong about McDonald, who as far as I know has never settled into a lengthy run at Caesar's Palace or Harrah's, but he was right about the concept of contemporary stars inhabiting the place like Steve & Eydie did not that long ago.

As you probably know by now — although I did talk to someone in the music business the other day that didn't know — Garth Brooks is the latest artist in residence in Sin City. For fifteen weekends a year, four times a weekend, for the next five years if all goes as planned, G-Daddy will do shows at the Wynn Encore and then jet back to Oklahoma to be with his daughters and wife, Trisha Yearwood.

It's not a bad deal for Garth, who admitted that he underestimated casino owner Steve Wynn. "I told him he couldn't afford me," Brooks said of Wynn. "I was wrong." In addition to whatever Wynn is paying the Garthmeister, he gave him a jet to fly back and forth between OK and BETTERTHANOK.

All that to say, even if I had stuck with the banjo lessons, I wouldn't be playing Vegas. Garth is doing a one man show.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Urban Gives It All For The Hall

As I sat enjoying the wonderful Keith Urban "All for the Hall" benefit at Sommet Center in Nashville the other night, I wondered who else besides Keith could pull off such an extravaganza. The answer is no one. Well, no one and Vince Gill, who was there along side Keith.

It's not just the matter of asking your friends and peers to show up—Keith recruited acts that had opened for him in recent years and also dipped into the friendship well with Faith Hill and guitar buddy Brad Paisley—but it's also about having the grace and humility to then support them as part of their backing band. Who does that?

Jason Aldean, Little Big Town, Dierks Bentley, Lady Antebellum, Taylor Swift, plus the aforementioned Ms. Hill backed by Gill's band plus Vince, Keith and Dann Huff on guitar. Talk about lack of ego. I can't think of another current country superstar who would/could do it.

From where I sat, Keith looked like a kid in a candy story. He was just having fun.

The funny thing is that since I was young I always imagined being at a concert when a surprise guest came on stage (In my mind's eye it was usually Bruce Springsteen joining Michael Stanley, but that's just me). This wasn't quite like that—most of the acts were announced in advance: Dierks Bentley was the lone surprise— but it was close enough . . . hell, it was better. “I think this is officially one of the greatest open-mike nights we’ve ever seen in Nashville,” Urban said during an opening set that found him and his band as the opening act for the night.

The concert was such a success that Keith plans to do it again next year. By the way, the show was born out of Vince's call for country artists to donate one night's take to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Keith took that call to heart and Vince came to support his effort. Bravo.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Flashback, Again

I've said it before and I'll probably say it again: 2009 has been a flashback kind of year for me. A few months ago it was Steve Martin and Spinal Tap, now it's Rosanne Cash and Radney Foster and Sam Bush. I've also reconnected with old friends via Facebook.

I'm not complaining.

Each in their own way, Rosanne Cash, Radney Foster and Sam Bush are all big reasons why I'm involved in country music today. When I was hired at WXKX Parkersburg, W.Va., in 1987, I knew little of country music. But artists like Cash and her then husband, Rodney Crowell, Foster & Lloyd and Bush's New Grass Revival quickly caught my ear and sucked me in.
Americana Music Festival And Conference - Day 2

Twenty-plus years later, Cash, Foster and Bush are still very much on my radar. Rosanne's new album, "The List," which was inspired by a list of 100 essential country songs that her father, Johnny Cash, gave her when she was 18, is a wonderful walk down memory lane.

Radney's new album, "Revival," is one of my favorite releases of the last two years. There's a passion there that reminds me of Radney's best work with Bill Lloyd. I'm guilty of playing the title cut again and again. Loudly.

And then there's Sam Bush. I wrote his bio for his forthcoming album, "Circles Around Me." That's a big deal for me, both musically and professionally. If you had told me way back when I was spinning New Grass Revival records like "Callin' Baton Rouge" that I would write Sam Bush's bio one day, I would probably respond "OMG," or whatever the '80s equivalent was. ("No shit?")

I may one day write a book about the importance of late '80s country music in the big scheme of musical things, but for now I'll relish the fact that artists whose music I fell in love with 20-plus years ago are still around and thriving.