Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
good old-fashioned guitar pull spearheaded by Thomas Rhett showcased the beauty of the song as well as the back-end story.
Rhett, playing for the first time in about a year, went straight to the country imagery with his current hit "What's Your Country Song?" He may not have played that much, but his elastically soulful voice remained intact. The song cutely name checks a lot of country songs without the usual problem of country acts inauthentically calling out Cash, Williams and the like.
Rhett shared the stage with Parker Welling, who has written a slew of songs with Russell Dickerson. In the guitar pull tradition, each musician received a turn with one song before moving onto the next performer.
Welling showcased herself to be a strong singer in her own right with her reading of Dickerson's hit "Blue Tacoma."
The beauty of such events are the background of the songs. Welling, for example, was excited to tell her grandparents about "Blue Tacoma," but her grandmother was a bit perturbed. Given that she was part of a Nissan family where her husband was a high level executive at the car company, she wondered shy Welling didn't write about a Nissan.
Akins trotted his first hit at the outset, "That Ain't My Truck" from 1995. Akins may make his living more as a songwriter these days, but, at 51, his voice has aged well with a bit of grit.
Rhett turned in "Sixteen," causing him to think of his brother, who soon turns that age. "I haven't been this excited in six months," said Rhett about the chance to play more of a concert format than a show on Instagram.
The Dickerson connection for Welling continued with "Yours," a number one hit. Welling polished the song with more of a singer/songwriter shading. With her at the helm instead of Dickerson, it was a change of pace to hear a female voice with the material.
Akins joked about the difficulty of writing songs when out with his son on the road because he supposedly refuses to write with the AC on. But Akins then sang "Dirt on My Boots," a song he helped pen that was recorded by Jon Pardi. Nicely done by the songwriter.
Akins also recalled expanding his son's musical horizons with car rides to school listening to Paul McCartney, The Hag and others.
"That's what makes music better," said Akins, not being held down by musical genre.
Rhett soon offered a new song, "Growing Up," "a preliminary track to the (upcoming) album."
"I feel like I did a growing up from the time I was 20 to 30," he said of "Growing Up." During 2020, Rhett said, "I got so used to not being on the road and being a dad 24/7."
Well written, Rhett delivered an inspired folk-based reading of a song about recognizing the changes that one undergoes with the passage of time.
Welling has a tender, lonesome sounding voice, well equipped for the ballad, "Somebody Who Loves You." She once again would return to Dickerson-recorded material later with a pleasant reading of "Love You Like I Used To."
Akins said he went deep country with "I Lived It," a song cut by Blake Shelton. "We wanted to write a song that was so country that people wouldn't understand it," Akins joked.
"We never ever intended for that one to be cut," said Akins. "We wrote it about how we grew up."
"I'm going to write a song because I feel it," he said.
Akins soon closed out the hour-long show with "Boys Round Here," a big hit for Shelton. A bit soulful, Rhett took a stanza as well, outsinging his old man. Not sure that anyone surpassed Shelton's take though.
Before launching into his final song, "Things That Dads Do," Rhett said, "I think this is some of mine and your best songcrafting period," referring to writing songs with his father last year.
After giving a heartfelt reading, it was easy to understand why – especially given that Akins and Rhett hugged.
Rhett, Akins and Welling more than made their songs come alive.