Introducing Nashville @Sage Gateshead, October 17 2019
It would be safe to assume Music City needs no introduction: the storied Tennessee town is home to hundreds of talented singers, songwriters and musicians and remains the self-styled capital of country.
Its biggest stars dominate charts worldwide and its trademark anthems soundtrack a genre that’s never boasted such widespread appeal.
As such, Introducing Nashville, supported by the Country Music Association, might be better described as Intimate Nashville. For one night only, fans familiar with country music’s biggest names are granted a golden opportunity to acquaint themselves with the next generation in a setting that lends itself to creating a unique and close connection.
If all four artists recognised as much, then Rachel Wammack expressed it best: the de facto host for the night likening it to her experience as a bar tender in downtown Nashville when customers would open their hearts and bare their souls over a drink…or four. The tables turned, it was Wammack who found herself pouring forth in front of complete strangers all too happy to listen. An emotive experience almost reduced the beaming singer to tears.
Apparently Wammack cries a lot. But it’s likely she’s mainly shedding tears of laughter in the company of Introducing Nashville tour buddies Travis Denning and Walker Hayes. The former is a loveable rogue with a penchant for liquor and tall tales, while the latter boasts a self-deprecating and dry sense of humour – best enjoyed during a hilarious rendition of Your Girlfriend Does with that laugh out loud Willy Nelson line.
Completing a truly captivating quartet was the former winner of US talent show The Voice, Danielle Bradbery. Arguably the most affecting of the four singers on show, the pint-sized pocket rocket fuses faux vulnerability with a deceptive vocal power that’s already piqued the interest of Music City’s most influential movers and shakers.
Trademark tune Sway confirmed Bradbery’s ear for a genuine crowd pleaser but was she really so cold? Sporting a woolly winter coat that surely doubled her body weight, the 23-year-old must have been sweating buckets under the unforgiving Sage 2 lights.
Denning, by contrast, ditched his leather jacket shortly after a brief burst of Motörhead’s Ace Of Spades. Subsequent references to Rammstein and AC/DC confirmed his love for all things heavy and the post-show realisation that he’d just performed a stone’s throw from Brian Johnson’s birthplace drew one of the biggest smiles of the night.
Killer single David Ashley Parker From Powder Springs and the brilliant Tank Of Gas And A Radio Song are all country but it’s easy to imagine Denning drifting closer towards Tyler Bryant and Brothers Osborne sometime soon. A rocker at heart, he wears his heart on his sleeve.
Hayes is more the housewives’ favourite even if he admits he’s hardly country music’s favourite son. It seems his face – and what a lovely face it is – doesn’t fit as far as Nashville’s illuminati are concerned but You Broke Up With Me and Halloween are just two examples of a singer songwriter at the very top of his game. Lyrically astute and musically moving, Hayes boasts that canny knack of telling compelling stories with tongue firmly planted in cheek.
Wammack, who gifted one young fan a necklace at the post-show meet and greet, frequently appeared overawed that Nashville’s new breed had been made to feel quite so welcome on the other side of the Pond. Sat behind a gleaming brand piano, her captivating versions of Closure and What He Does marked out the Muscle Shoals native as the one to watch.
The North East’s knowledgeable country music cognoscenti might need no introduction to Music City but their willingness to welcome Nashville’s bright young things knows no bounds. And almost 12 months to the day since Tenille Townes and Kassie Ashton took The Sage by storm, four new stars were born.
Images By Adam Kennedy