Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
rett Eldredge had the right song for these times, "Good Day," in kicking off the Warner Nashville artist showcase at CRS 2021 in Nashville.
Of course, the conference for country radio is usually in person, but not this year. "I got a feeling it's going to be a good day," Eldredge crooned in his easy-going, soulful style accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. Looking ahead to better times, this might have been the right antidote for these times.
The mini-concerts – each artist typically did one song – are intended as showcases for the radio personnel in attendance. Some are known quantities, like Eldredge. Others, like new signee, Drew Parker from Georgia, were not. This was a quick 40-minute show of four established artists and four newcomers.
Parker, also on acoustic, mined the far more traditional country sound. Sporting a cowboy hat that looked it was not for show, Parker sang with a healthy dose of grit in delivering "While You're Gone."
Parker, who has written the songs "1,2 Many" and "Nothing Like You," was worthy of far more than one song.
Ian Munsick may not be your typical country singer – hailing from Montana (he wore a hat for King Ropes of Sheridan, Wyo.) can do that. Like Parker, he may be a keeper based at least on "Long Haul." With a fiddle player accompanying him, Munsick made a statement for himself.
Usually if a song is about trucks, you can rest assured that it has to do with good ole boys getting their girl. Or maybe not. At least not for Robyn Ottolini and her mid-tempo "F150." Seated on a stool and barefoot, she spun a different take on the genre. She misses her guy with his F150. And kudos for even employing the seldom-used pedal steel guitar – the only artist who used it during the concert.
For the second day in a row, Shy Carter was live. He went for a mid-tempo sound on "Good Love" with determined vocals. Catchy with Carter on keyboards and a cellist, Carter seemed more at ease than his debut. (but he's still not exactly all that "country," even if he has written songs for folks like Keith Urban).
As for the veterans, Cole Swindell has wracked up the hits over the course of six years, but somehow he has never moved to the next echelon. Swindell, a steady singer, turned in a good outing of "Single Saturday Night," which didn't vary all that much from a chunk of his other material.
Michael Ray went the ballad route with "Whiskey and Rain." Ray has endured a difficult year on the person (he and Carly Pearce split after eight months of marriage). So, it rang true when he sang "pour something on the pain/let it drown/try to wash away the past."
With songs tending to be on the more uptempo side, it was good to hear Ray get into the heart of tough material.
Star country duo Dan + Shay closed out, sounding lovely on "I Should Probably Go To Bed." With Shay Mooney handling the lead vocals, he soared vocally with Dan Smyers helping on backing vocals and acoustic guitar. They have a bit of a soulful sound (and like others, not rooted all that much in country).
They also offered their new single "Glad You Exist," in similar vein. No doubt about it – Dan + Shay's vocal harmonies are top shelf.
In these difficult times, however, it was a bad look for them singing in front of huge pool at some mansion. People are suffering health-wise and economically. Yes, music can be an escapism from tough times, but why throw luxury in people's faces. They would have been just fine doing the same quality songs in their living room.
Pre-Warner show, Juna and Joey launched the lunch-time gathering with a two-song pop flavored brand of country. The brother-sister duo from Florida offered a nice contrast in vocals, although Joey came off a bit tentative. It would have beef nice to see more interaction between them as an act should be more than their vocal dynamics.
On their second song, "More Than a Maybe," Joey poured a little more intensity, which paid off.