By Gary Hayes
Photo Credit : Joshua Wallace
I just had an absolutely astounding weekend on every front, and to be honest I don’t even know where to start. I wanted to make this more focused on the music, for the artists involved but I had SO MANY good meals, two great hotels…and one not so great problem in Atlanta.
I’m going to come right out and say it AGAIN, Miss Sunny Sweeney MUST BE inducted into the Opry as a member. This article is going to tell you how to write the Opry manager and pester the ever loving CRAP out of her to do so. If you don’t agree that Miss Sunny would play often enough for us to come enjoy her, you are SADLY mistaken! That young lady represents TRUE Country Music tradition, integrity and honor for the legends, I know this as FACT because I watch her comment on their posts, I notice things that most folks don’t.
So now my friends before we go any further I want you to write to the Opry president Miss Sally Williams and implore her to please seriously make Miss Sunny Sweeney a member of the Grand Old Opry. Look at it this way people…if WE LOVE Miss Sunny Sweeney as much as we say we do, don’t YOU WANT YOUR children and grandchildren to be able to attend the Opry, and regard her as a Legend of THEIR era? I know I do, my daughter is 22, and I want her to be 40 and regard Miss Sunny in the fashion we all regard Miss Loretta Lynn. MAKES SENSE doesn’t it? Now that I have my personal music business politics aside, let me tell you ALL ABOUT where I stayed, where I ate, what’s good and what’s shit…and one of the BEST concerts BOTH artists put on in months.
Email miss Sally Williams at Sallywilliams@rymanhp.com
The show itself was at The Florida Theater in downtown Jacksonville Florida. I literally drove around eight hours one way to come to this show with Mr. Joshua Wallace who also contributes a LOT to this page, and it has manifested into something I couldn’t maintain without him now. He does a lot of paperwork and PR work for me, while I am busy focusing on the 200 plus festivals we cover every year for you. He does all the album reviews and helps me with with travel plans, and more! Heck we are going to Atlanta soon for George Strait..NEVER did I EVER dream we would even be considered for an arena show, we haven’t been confirmed YET BUT we are being considered!
The actual tickets were a prize donated to us by the Flockers Facebook page on behalf of Mr. Cody Jinks, so on that note please allow me to thank Mr. William Higgins and the THOUSANDS of insane people that make up this group here. I KNOW for a FACT he couldn’t do that without every one of us. ( I am Flocker 2975).
I went to Atlanta first to visit my buddygirl Miss Tenishia Sylvester, and she took me around town. I got to eat chili coneys at The Varsity. Y’all KNOW ME and how I have my go to places to eat and stay in every city across the United States, you MUST GO get the fries and coneys WHAT’LL YA HAVE?
I’ll be back in Atlanta this spring to cover the King George Strait show in the dome. Now then, I want to tell you about the unacceptable treatment I got from the Comfort Inn And Suites Smyrna Georgia Ballpark Area hotel.I’ll be honest before I go on, the room was not bad and the breakfast was VERY GOOD. The staff was friendly especially the lady that ran the breakfast bar, she was exceptionally pleasant.
However folks I’ll be blunt…the hotel charged my card before I even got there. Apparently the owner runs all cards every day. If you have no intention to use that card, and pay another way DO NOT USE THAT CARD HERE. In fact I myself will be moving my reservation to another hotel, I was forced to pay twice to check in. I was told that my money would be immediately refunded by the night clerk because she caught it early enough. Guess what? NOPE. I tried to clear this issue up with the day clerk, who told me the owner would be there shortly. I waited in the lobby, and was told by the day clerk to leave my email and bank’s phone number. Well it is Monday now, and I AM STILL OUT my money, and my efforts to contact them have been answered very weakly. DO NOT STAY HERE, you will not be treated well by the owner. The fact remains I did in fact have my money refunded, but TIME is money and I should have been paid cash instead. VERY POOR business ethics by that owner to make me go almost 5 days to wait for something he took from me instantly.
I got a mid morning start out of Atlanta an on to Valdosta Georgia where Mr. Joshua lives, and the plan was to check into my next hotel, then hop in his car where he drove us to Jacksonville Florida. I stayed at the Red roof Inn university located on North Ashley Street. NOW THIS was a better hotel, complete with a hot tub in my room. For a man with rheumatoid arthritis this was a GODSEND, and the bed was VERY NICE. The staff was equally friendly and the cleaning lady was quite a pleasure to talk with, and THAT OWNER knew how to treat guests. That shall be my GO TO hotel on future visits to Valdosta.
We went out for a nice pizza supper before the show Friday night, and he took me to V Pizza right on the beach in Jacksonville, and I had an all meat pizza. This was absolutely delicious, and his kitchen crew was throwing down back there. I saw them moving around each other and working together like ants. Damn fine crew bad there working, and everyone was nice there, also saw some very appealing wings coming out of their kitchen. The young man at the register was VERY cordial and well mannered, and his staff makes this a truly fine dining experience.
The Florida Theater was a breathtaking venue with a balcony, and tonight was a sold out packed house for Mr. Cody Jinks with Miss Sunny Sweeny supporting him. I’ll be honest here, later on in the show Mr. Cody reiterated to the audience the importance of those that work behind the scenes. How integral the sound crew was, the instrument techs, the security. The security was provided by S.A.F.E. security, and I myself thought they did a damn fine job of keeping things in order.
Miss Sunny Sweeney always does a damn fine job of entertaining me as a big fan of hers from day 1. See much like other media sources that cover her and those of her ilk, I actually was a fan from her early years coming out of finding her on Myspace, when she was pounding out “Heartbreaker’s Hall Of Fame”. She knew early on that she was destined for greatness..as I DID. I saw through her heart, she spoke to me, she covered “Sixteenth Avenue” with passion and dignity just as she does at the Opry.
Tonight was by far one of her finest performances yet, probably a top 2. She was comfortable, enthusiastically encouraging us to sing and cuss, and even dedicated “Pass The Pain” to me and those like me that eat breathe and sleep Country Music. I do not watch TV or movies, I read and study Country Music, I am a nerd. However the most flattering thing for me was that she wrote this song with one of my heroes, and an overlooked Legend Mr. Monty Holmes. He produced and wrote some of Country Music’s greatest works, like “I know She Still Loves Me”, and produced a few of my favorite Barbara Mandrell albums.
“Tie Me Up, But Can’t Tie Me Down” was one of the newer songs she played tonight, there were a few which means a new album is already brewing in this young lady’s mind. And You can damn sure bet I’ll be keeping her on loop in hopes of a scoop on new stuff. Honestly the latest album Trophy is still pretty hot on playlists and fresh in our minds. “Pills” was one she didn’t write off that said album there, however the lyrics are quite ingenious. That song was written by Miss Brennen Leigh and Mr. Noel McKay. If you recall Miss Brennen Leigh often joins her on her Christmas acoustic tours like Hard Candy Christmas.
“Staying’s Worse Than Leaving” is a selection from the 2011 album Concrete that I like to hear live. Off the Trophy album she played the song “Better Bad Idea” that she wrote with Mr. Galen Griffin and Mr. Jason Lee Owens Jr.
One of the new songs I heard her play last year during a two day run I followed her on, was a song called “Body In A Boxcar”. This was in support of her Trophy album tour, and could be a possibility on a new album. “Old Me” was included in tonight’s set, as was her most commercially successful songs she wrote with Mr Bob DePierro called “From A Table Away”. If you would like to read more about my two show run I wrote about her, please go HERE 1 and also HERE 2.
Now folks I want to touch on a really big piece of news here. Besides her Opry stuff I wanted to touch on a brand new song that I never heard before. I was given verbal permission to talk about it here,and you may have heard it here first. A brand new song she has called “Poets Prayer”, that she wrote about her industry friends.
I never realized how difficult the job was living on the road until I began following them around like I do to write about them. Suitcases, hotels, and new cities every weekend sounds fun. But the truth is they only get to see each other when they tour together. This song is full of lament for the lonely life they posses and the well wishes toward her fellow guys and gals she loves on the road.
She played “Drink Myself Single” and “Why People Change” until she got up to her song that required our help. I mean what better way to prepare an audience for Mr. Cody Jinks than raising glasses and yelling “Kiss My Ass”. I’m quite sure that theater was full of working class folks like myself, in fact part of this article was wrote on a forklift. Yes folks on third shift your trusty Mr. Gary works in a factory. As she closed with “Bad Girl Phase” she went outside to sign autographs with fans, , and I got to visit with her briefly. It’s always nice to see her smile and enjoy her fans, I’m telling you she really truly does love each and every one of you that support her music.
Mr. Cody Jinks came out to the intro of The Ecstasy Of Gold, which is actually a long-standing Metallica intro. Cody Jinks often displays his affection for heavy metal music, as when he appeared on stage for the Steel Woods show he had a Judas priest shirt on. Read more about that HERE.
They went right into a song my buddy Mr.Josh Morningstar wrote called “Must Be The Whiskey”. This song is from his latest album called Lifers, which met good and bad critical acclaim. I thought it was a pretty good album myself.
“Momma’s Song” was next which talks of momma always worrying about her baby, I think many of us can truly relate to this song off the Adobe Sessions album. Also off that same album was the next song called “David”, which talks about an old school buddy of his.
He played one of my favorite songs called “Vampires”, followed by “Somewhere Between I Love You And I’m Leaving”. That title is pretty self-explanatory but it is a good song, along with “Been Around”. I’ll be honest, this time around he played more obscure songs than his usual set.
“Big Last Name” was one of the newer songs off the Lifers album, the rabble rousing song with some great piano work in it. One thing I noticed about Mr.Cody is that now he is a LOT more comfortable playing to larger audiences, and has a TOP NOTCH BAND. Next song up was a song called “Head Case” also off the Lifers album.
“Somewhere In The Middle” is a neat song to me because driving a forklift on a loading dock is what I do all night, and I write about music all day. These songs were all off the Less Wise album, and then he got the entire crowd singing to his trademark song he wrote with Mr. Ward Davis called “I’m not The Devil”.
“No Words” was a song off the I’m Not The Devil album that is often played during his live set, and features some great Steel guitar work by Mr. Austin Tripp. He played “What Else Is New” before playing his only cover, which was a splendid version of Mr. Keith Whitley’s “I’m Over You”. Then they broke into “Holy Water” which had a cocktail named after it at the theater. Basically it was Jack and Coke, and also included was “Chase That Song”.
Coming to the close of the show they played the title track of “Lifers” and also “Cast No Stones”. Another couple songs that got the crowd singing along with were Cast No Stones and he played his trademark song called “Hippies And Cowboys” from his early days of playing shows. I have heard Mr. Cody tell me time and time again he has played that song to 15 people more times than he played it for 500.
He is a humbled individual to every degree and he proclaimed “Y’all could have chosen to pay to go anywhere, and YOU chose ME. YOU gave ME the opportunity to do this for a living”. As he played “Loud And Heavy” I just sat back and closed my eyes and reminisced at the times I went to see him play gas stations and weird places.
This is NOT to say that he hasn’t worked to be on this next echelon of his career, he has burned up the roads and played sleepless shows too many times. I’m sure he and his band slept in cars and on floors more times than they slept in nice hotels. He deserves EVERY accolade he has been given.
My trip back home was splendid, and I wanted to touch on a truly great story of TERRIFIC service, and a super great waitress I had at St. Angelo’s Pizza In Smyrna Georgia.I had heard about this particular place, and that they actually served a Chicago style pizza. Now, this is really a tourist thing, the locals in Chicago really eat thin crust. But they did have one.
I got a waitress after waiting a bit long but she explained it was shift change so I was OK with that. I ordered my pizza and was waiting, and she finally brought me…the wrong pizza. Apparently she misunderstood me, and had no idea what I meant. I had to show her what a Chicago pizza was and she said YEAH we have that, but thought I wanted something else. Now MIND YOU the incorrect pizza was VERY delicious, and they comped it and I ate some.
I finally got my pizza I wanted in a box, because it took so long to get. I had to get back on the road, but I honestly saw that she was genuinely upset that I was upset. I want to THANK Miss Kaitlyn Hammond for her GREAT WORK toward me as a patron. She had NO IDEA I work for this website and she was under scrutiny here. I URGE YOU to go here for food if you are on I 75, and visit them.