I arrived in Nashville yesterday afternoon, and my first destination was the Nashville Palace. The “Music Valley” area near the Opry usually features more traditional-leaning acts than most of the downtown Nashville venues (though there are some very good choices there,too).
Anita Stapleton had the afternoon set. She is a regular cast member of the Merlin Gene Show on RFD-TV, and she was involved with the Marty Stuart Show a few years ago. For this set, it was just her and a guitar player who used to play with Ricky Van Shelton and a bunch of others from that era. Anita is most at home singing classic country covers (pre-1990). She asked for requests, and I suggested Connie Smith, who happens to be her favorite singer. Her voice fits Connie’s style very well.
Eight acts were on the schedule yesterday for the Grand Ole Opry. The Opry will turn 95 years old later this year. The two Opry members on this particular show were Connie Smith, who opened the show, and Ricky Skaggs, who closed the show. Both are also CMHOF members, so there’s not much I can say about these greats that y’all don’t already know.
This is a good time to strongly emphasize that Opry membership throughout history since 1925 is for living people. It’s meant to be the core of an active working performance group. There is no disrespect towards any dead legends to not include them in the current membership. CMHOF membership is to honor legends.
On to the show, which was being taped for the Circle Network, which I can’t get. The eight acts had maybe 15 minutes apiece, which is typical for a Tuesday show.
Connie Smith and Ricky Skaggs were in top form, as one would expect. Restless Heart has been around since 1984. Tradition is a big reason I go to the Opry, so I’m always happy to see the veteran acts.
Dusty Slay is a stand-up comic, and the Opry has had comedy acts since the beginning. He did a nice job & drew plenty of laughs.
Jason Crabb is one of the very best Christian music/Christian country artists, so there’s another part of country music tradition. He made good use of the Opry house band and its pedal steel player, and has a strong voice.
Striking Matches is a young duo, and it was just the guy and the lady with their acoustic guitars. Their voices might be a little folky sounding for those desiring a hard country sound, but they played those guitars like bluegrass pickers, and were a pleasant surprise. I’d have liked seeing them pick a song with Ricky.
King Calaway is a boy band, with more in common with Backstreet and NSYNC than Roy Acuff or Gene Autry. I bet Simon Cowell would like these guys, because they do have quality voices, harmonies, charisma, and musicianship. Is there anything actually “country” about them, though ?
Chris Bandi made his first Opry appearance. He sounds a lot like most of the modern country acts you hear on mainstream radio, for good or ill. I’m trying to not be unfair or too judgmental, because the acts have such short sets. He was certainly enthusiastic about being there, so good for him to get to play the Opry.
I always enjoy going to the Opry, and seeing legends like Ricky Skaggs and Connie Smith is always a treat.
After the Opry, I stopped back in the Nashville Palace and saw the wild and zany rockabilly act The Royal Hounds. These guys are so much fun – energetic, funny, and just plain nuts. At one point, they went into “surf” mode, with the guitar player balancing on the bass fiddle.