Usually when I write reviews about shows I begin with the opening act, and simply elaborate on the whens and the hows, and tell you all about the songs they played. But this is an entirely different echelon here, and it holds so much historical significance and reverence for Country Music that I feel the need to delve further into this than others would normally do.
First I wanted to touch on the opening act a little bit. A few times around town I had heard the name YOLA, but I was not in any way familiar with her or her music. I’ll be totally honest i wasn’t really sure what kind of music she played.
To be equally honest as of now, I’m still unsure what to classify her as. She was all over the grid last night with songs like “Ride Out In The Country”, and then a song called “Walk Through Fire” that she said she wrote while actually being in a house fire once. I really enjoy stories behind the songs whether it’s a small bar setting or a BIG theater show like this one. She really took a lot of time to interact with us, and laugh and joke about things.
“Love All Night (Work All Day)” and “Faraway Look” were nice songs but then she got me by covering an old Beach Boys song, as well as an Elton John song. Obviously she has many many influences and heroes, and the Ryman was a proper place for her.
She also played a song from her first album which was an EP called “Orphan Offering” and that song was called ‘What U Do”. She has been playing the local music clubs of England for a few years, and just recently released her first full length album here in America. I really enjoyed her music and hopefully I’ll get to feature her music more often at festivals in the future.
When it comes to this band and it’s members, and it’s meaning it has a special place in my own heart. I mean WHO ELSE plays on the stage of the Mother Church like that with Mr. Roy Acuff’s own fiddle? As Opry members they represent true love for the institution and I KNOW that EVERY ONE of them really and truly adores the foundation of this genre. In fact, there was ONLY ONE negative thing about last night I could complain about..they didn’t huddle around the mic and sing “The Warden”…but what THEY DID DO out shined ANY SHOW I have ever witnessed at the Ryman…EVER.
Sadly the announcement was made by founding member Mr. Christopher “Critter” Fuqua, that he has decided to part ways with the band once again to pursue solo projects. He originally founded the band with Mr. Ketch Secor in 1998, and has played with the band for many years. He briefly left the band for 5 years in 2007, and returned in 2012 to help make what I consider some of the band’s finest albums yet.
I regard this band in many ways to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band….now just hear me out on this people. Think about it, their relevance and their musical versatility, and their frequent lineup changes but maintaining that relevance. You have Mr. Charlie Worsham, who much like Mr. Joey Miskulin in Riders In The Sky…sometimes he is a member sometimes he is missing. He is a collaborator, and they recently recorded a REALLY GOOD gospel backsliding song called ” I Hope I’m Stoned When Jesus Comes Down”. It talks about how it comes from the Earth and they don’t think it would be that bad if they were stoned when the rapture happens.
The lineup last night was one of the ages, with guest appearances by Mr. Joshua Hedley, The War And Treaty, Margo Price ( night 1 only) and many more. Also joining them now is a local fixture here Mr. Jerry Pentecost, and of course Mr. Ketch Secor, Mr. Joe Andrews, Mr. Robert Price, Mr. Cory Younts, and Mr. Morgan Jahnig.
Now to continue to reiterate my comparison to an institution like the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. These young men all play SO MANY instruments, and when you combine them together they just tear up the audience in every way possible. All of them sit in their respected areas surrounded by a plethora of things to play their songs for us. To be honest I have no idea how these guys know what to pick up and when, and the stagehand is constantly moving around handing them items.
To witness their live show is indeed an uplifting spectacle as they opened with a short medley of songs such as “Ol Molly Hare”, “Raise A Ruckus” and “Tear It Down” both from the “Eutaw” album. From the 2004 album called O.C.M.S. they played “Tell It To Me”, and “Child Of The Mississippi” was from the “Volunteer” album . But one of the many songs they played tonight that I have never heard LIVE yet was “Alabama HighTest” from the 2008 “Tennessee Pusher” album 9 and the only selection from it for the evening).
“Take Em Away” was followed by others like “Shout Mountain Music” and “Down Home Girl”, before they had the ENTIRE Ryman swaying their arms to one of my favorite songs they do “Sweet Amarillo” from my favorite album they have…”Remedy”. That album was picked from in full force tonight with OF COURSE “Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer”, “8 Dogs 8 Banjos” ( another song I have never heard LIVE) and “Firewater”. The song Firewater has those wonderful OCMS harmonies that we all so dearly enjoy, and one day that fact alone will be remembered in the Hall OF Fame as relevantly as the trio that backed Mr. Marty Robbins, or the Everley Brothers.
Sadly, without Critter Fuqua we may never hear “James River Blues” played LIVE again, but I’ll tell you what, songs like”Tennessee Bound” was another one that had some great harmonies tonight. As most of you know New Years Eve is also the holiday associated with the death of Country Music’s most famous Legend of all Mr. Hank Williams. Of course the boys acknowledged his death by playing “Lovesick Blues”.
“Guitar Pickin President” was AWESOME, and I enjoyed it as well their version of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”…NO, NO it won’t people. not with this band still around, they will always carry that torch with pride. Another thing that I ALWAYS argue with people about is the fact that when these boys sing “Wagon Wheel” in their set it’s a BEAUTIFUL SONG. I enjoy it very very much and it brings me so much joy to hear it, they then played a few songs for an encore before leaving us for the night.
Many times the stage was absolute pandemonium with members running about and dancing for us, while playing so many instruments and having so much fun. That’s another unique thing about this band…they truly enjoy entertaining people. They aren’t interested in being an arena act, they are interested in honoring those that were here before them like Mr. Roy Acuff or Mr. Doc Watson, whom initially discovered them…to be honest I don’t think this is ANY sort of roadblock for them…IN FACT I think they have just begun to become Legends in their own right.