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.
Good 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.”
Although the last day of CMA 2015 was indeed the hottest day of the event, I couldn’t return to Oakland without trying some Nashville barbeque. On my way to lunch I caught the last two songs of The Marshall Tucker Band. As luck would have it, they closed with my two favorite MTB songs: “Fire On The Mountain” and “Can’t You See,” the latter of which also happens to be the number one thumbed-up Southern rock song on Pandora.
After filling up on pulled pork, I sluggishly strolled to the Plaza Stage where I just barely caught Sarah Zimmermann from Striking Matches playing one of the most intensely searing hot guitar solos I’ve seen all week. I soon learned that being loaded down with smoked swine and potato salad has its advantages as I found a chair in the shade and caught a set by The Lacs. Their moniker is an acronym for Loud Ass Crackers, which makes perfect sense when you consider that their sound is an interesting hybrid of Southern rap and Southern Rock (a subgenre that has recently been coined “hick-hop”). They opened with “Field Party” and got the crowd raising their beers in the air and bobbing their heads along to the rhythm. Before following that up with the strip club anthem “Wylin’,” Clay “Uncle Snap” Sharpe told the crowd, “This next song is about a lil’ ol’ country girl – but not any lil’ ol’ country girl. This one’s about a booty-shakin’ country girl.” Upon first impression, I thought that Sharpe would have been the big silent type, but he offered more stage banter than his cohort, Brian “Rooster” King. Sharpe knows how to work his crowd. When he yelled, “Nashville rednecks make some noise!” The crowd went crazy. He then shared a funny story with us about how their label took the duo shopping in Beverly Hills. Although he didn’t really want to, he was a good sport and tried on a bunch of $80 V-neck t-shirts. The audience laughed when he mentioned that the cashier looked at him funny when Sharpe asked for a pair of scissors to cut the sleeves off. Then he yelled, “Don’t hate on us ‘cause we shop at Wal-Mart!”
As entertaining as they were, I thought it would be fun to bookend my CMA 2015 experience the same way I started it, so I slipped out and headed back over to Robert’s Western World where I got to watch a band called Rachel Hester & The Tennessee Walkers cover some of my favorite old honky-tonk hits, no better way to cool down from the final, hot, hot, day at CMA Festival. Nashville, you did well!