Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
he annual rite of country radio – CRS (Country Radio Seminar) - kicked off today in Nashville (virtually, of course), and one of the highlights is always the artist showcases.
This wasn't a full-fledged concert, of course. Each artist – three new ones plus Tim McGraw - was given enough time to play a few songs.
Track45 kicked off day one festivities with "Just Come On In." The trio is comprised of siblings Ben, KK and Jenna Johnson from Meridian, Miss. With somewhat of a Little Big Town vibe, KK took lead vocals with her sibs on backing harmonies. And they even sported country instruments with Jenna on banjo and KK on fiddle at one point.
The duo acquitted themselves as well on "Met Me Now," their first single, which strayed more towards pop territory.
Shy Carter is better known for working with artists like Charlie Puth and Meghan Trainor, but the singer is now on the country end.
On "Good Love," Carter positioned himself more on the spiritual side with a gospel-inflected song that could just have been about a higher power or a significant other ("when I feel like I'm drowning you come around with that good love").
Carter, who has penned songs for Keith Urban, Kane Brown and Billy Currington, sounded a bit flat vocally on "The Rest of Us," with an easy going vocal performance. He went more overtly for the God route with this song in giving thanks. While this was part of the Country Radio Seminar, it's hard to pinpoint why Carter is categorized as a country artist.
Priscilla Block made it clear where she's coming from. The singer, who recently signed to Universal, said before she even belted out one note, "Here's the thing. I will always be a curvy girl. No matter how many diets I go. I figured I might as well write a song about it."
With that she launched into "Thick Thighs," a humorous song where she makes no apologizes for her lack of diet ("I've been eating carbs since '95 and I've heard big thighs save lives"). And she had a good country vibe with her drawl of a voice.
Block, who quickly showcased a winning personality quickly, concluded her two-song gig with the more serious "Just About Over You," which she said had changed her life. Proving she was far more than a novelty song, Block demonstrated a commanding vocal presence, wringing out the sadness of the line "I'm just about over you."
North Carolina native Kameron Marlowe kicked off his stint with his first song that went to radio, "Sober as a Drunk." He rocked more than any of the other artists on the bill with a bit of soulful tick to his vocals.
Citing the "song that changed my life," Marlowe concluded with "Giving You Up," which he released independently in 2019. It sounded like the perfect sing-along at a concert, and he sang it earnestly, but he would not be accused of being unique.
McGraw closed out the first day of CRS 2021 with a three-song set. scored with "Shotgun Rider." Interestingly, it was of the most country songs of the hour with fiddle and his elastic vocal delivery paving the way.
McGraw managed to utilize the word "shotgun" again in his next song, the mid-tempo "7500 OBO" (it also mentions "where the green grass grows") from 2020's "Here on Earth." McGraw put a bit of grit on his vocals, but more importantly he was in full control.
McGraw picked it up a few paces with the well-conceived and delivered "Truck Yeah."
Sitting on a stool and accompanied by his acoustic guitarist, McGraw turned it down a few notches with "Gravy." In these tough times from Covid to national discord, McGraw sings of being appreciative for what he has in life in a great outing, a nice way to end day one.