BBQ & Sing-Alongs: CMA Festival Day 4

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They said today was going to be the hottest day of CMA 2015 and they were right. Word to the wise: when the weather app on your magic rectangle tells you that it’s going to be high in the 90s, make sure to stay hydrated… with water.

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 10.23.51 AMGood thing Darius Rucker was playing in the air-conditioned convention center on the CMA Close Up Stage. He was also doing a Q&A panel and talked about the songwriting and recording process. “Sometimes you’ll write 50 songs,” he said, “but you’ll have to pick 13.” He also humbly stated, “I truly believe that I was a singer in a cover band that got really lucky.” During a stripped-down acoustic rendition of “Alright,” some of the audience could be heard singing along. But of course it was when he and a fiddle player launched into his breakthrough cover of Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel” that the entire audience lit up and joined in, singing every single lyric with him. Rucker also gave props to his influences and inspirations such as Al Green, Radney Foster, Dwight Yoakam and Miranda Lambert, whose “More Like Her” he added to his quiver of covers. Even Hootie fans were rewarded with an old-school treat when he dusted off a more countrified take on “Let Her Cry.”
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CMA Festival Day 3: Women Of Country Music

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Carrie Underwood’sBlown Away,” in 2012, was the last huge chart-topper by a female country artist. Recently a radio consultant, in comparing country music to a salad, referred to male country artists as the “lettuce” and the female country artists as the “tomatoes.” Subsequently, a few of country music’s female luminaries (including Martina McBride and Jennifer Nettles) are speaking out against these remarks in an effort to put women in country music on equal footing as men, the debacle has been dubbed #TomatoGate.

GG2A9424Rootsy chanteuse Sunny Sweeney also offered her two cents on the matter with a screened a t-shirt depicting a cartoon image of her hoisting a salami over the text, “Sunny Sweeney – Breaking Up The Sausage Party.” When I heard she was playing CMA 2015 I made it a priority to see what she’s been up to.
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From Kelsea Ballerini to Zac Brown Band: CMA Festival Day 2

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Contrary to Thursday, Friday showered us in sheets of rain. It was the kind of hot summer rain that finds its way into many country songs, and most of the CMA fans seemed to welcome it. As some of the Pandora crew and I ducked under a tent, Kelsea Ballerini took the stage to an enthusiastic round of hoots and hollers from her fans. I was excited to see her live, I heard that she put on an amazing show the week before at Marathon Music Works for our Pandora Country event (she opened for Dustin Lynch and Thompson Square). I was further intrigued because of recent Taylor Swift comparisons – Ballerini also writes her own songs.

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Ballerini confidently strode on stage, slung an acoustic guitar over her shoulder and sang “Yeah Boy.” Her crowd didn’t need warming up – they were instantly fervent. I paid for a cold beer and when I turned back around, the audience seemed to double in size. For a second I doubted myself but then Ballerini said, “There are so many of you! I just got word that there are over 4,000 people here right now!” And the sound of 4,000 people cheered back at her in panoramic sound. She then introduced her next number “Peter Pan” as a song about boys who didn’t want to grow up. The catchy “Dibs” got heads bobbing and the crowd sang along. But the spectacle of her set was a ‘90s mashup medley that blended Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, ‘N Sync, Backstreet Boys and Destiny’s Child. Following that she covered an especially impassioned version of Rihanna’s “Take A Bow” as her fans chanted, “Kelsea! Kelsea!” and waved their hands in the air like some kind of country-pop tent revival.
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