BUSY, busy, busy ... the days fly by when you’re having fun – and I’m having so much it should be illegal!
On Tuesday we spent the day strolling around town and checking out the retail sector of the city. That night we walked downtown to have a scout around, checking out some honky tonks off Broadway, catching the end of Chris Henry and Hardcore Grass’s set at the Silver Dollar Saloon.
We were heading back to the hotel when we heard some good music coming out of Bailey’s Irish Pub, so detoured in there for a song or two. Several drinks later, we stayed until the Zach Neil Duo had finished their two-hour set. No breaks in Nashville, folks, and they’d probably been playing for two hours before we got there (for tips).
For Facebookers, check out www.facebook.com/ZachNeilMusic – he’s got a great voice and impressive repertoire that includes our own Keith Urban as well as the songs of the old traditionalists.
On Wednesday morning, I headed out to Antique Archaeology at 1300 Clinton Street, Nashville. What a top shop. All sorts of stuff in there.
I was browsing around and chatting to a sales assistant when Mike Wolfe walked in the door. Yep – one half of the dynamic duo from American Pickers, who keep Aussies glued to the box for back-to-back episodes once a week.
This was a Kodak moment in the making and I wasn’t about to miss it. He was delighted to know that Aussies are as addicted to the show as his own countrymen.
That afternoon, Audrey Auld had a gig at Dan McGuinness’s Irish Pub, so I was keen to get along there. Before too long the place started filling up, with some familiar faces among them – Bob Saporiti and Denise Fussell, whom I’d met at Jeff and Terri Walker’s home a few days earlier; Melanie and John Lomax III, Garry Jackson and Paul Siels, some of my new Nashville buddies.
Aud had a great band backing her – featuring Mark Miller on bass, Tom Mason on lead guitar and Carco Clare on pedal steel. They made great music together.
Unfortunately, we had to leave the gig early as there was a reception for the Tamworth mob at the home of Becky Meagher, one of the Nashville Sister City committee members. Once again, John and Melanie gave me a lift and we were warmly welcomed to Music City by some friendly locals.
Sat-Gav, Catherine and Kate from Tamworth Regional Council arrived half an hour after we did, and we had a lovely evening on Becky’s back porch, enjoying some fine company, fine Australian wine and a lovely buffet meal.
Gordon and Marie got caught up at the Tomkins Showcase at the Sheraton so they turned up late at Becky’s but were made more than welcome.
There’s something very special about southern hospitality. We met some beaut people and made quite a few new friends that night.
We drove back to the Sheraton and got ready for another trip highlight – Marty Stuart and Friends at the Ryman, the mother church of country music.
The Oak Ridge Boys, Wynonna (featuring Marie’s producer, Jason Roller, on guitar), Connie Smith, the Chuck Wagon Gang, Stonewall Jackson, Roger McGuinn and more were among Marty’s friends – what a fabulous night of entertainment.
The show started at 10pm and didn’t finish until 2, but we were knackered after our big day in the city, so we headed for home about 1am, musically satisfied.
Thursday was the start of the four-day CMA Music Festival and the city was buzzing with country-loving fans. I spent the morning soaking up the history of American country music at the Hall of Fame, which featured a special Bakersfield exhibition. It’s an incredible place and an absolute must-see if you’re in this neck of the woods.
The big concerts at LP Field started that night, so I was there in time to see the opening fanfare, complete with the national anthem and fireworks followed by one of my all-time heroes, Glen Campbell.
It’s sad to say, but Alzheimer’s is taking its toll on that wonderful man. His guitar-playing is as slick as ever, but the words of many of his big hits often escaped him. I felt pretty sad, actually, watching his performance, knowing we were slowly losing one of the finest talents in the business to an insidious disease.
He still had a few good lines in him – like the old George Burns classic: “I’m glad to be here ... at my age I’m glad to be anywhere!” – and received a standing ovation after his last song.
Then it was the turn of the younger set: Miranda Lambert, who brought out the Pistol Annies to help her with one of her six songs; and Kellie Pickler, who did an acoustic set of two songs before the next act, Jason Aldean, tore the place apart.
Next up was Lady Antebellum and then the Zac Brown Band, who were my highlight of the night. The roar from the crowd after their set was almost deafening.
New talent Lauren Alaina from Georgia took her turn on the acoustic stage, high up above the sound and lighting desk, before the biggie of the night, Brad Paisley, burst onto the main stage at full throttle.
The staging was sensational and the sound and lighting were excellent, showcasing the country’s top players.
Americans love their country and as I looked around, everyone was singing the lyrics to each artist’s songs, word for word.
Another day. Another highlight.We were living out our American dream.