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The song's the thing for writers Brett James, Stephony Smith, Shelly Fairchild, Richie Supa,

The Rutledge, Nashville, April 3, 2008

Reviewed by Jessica Phillips

Song lovers (and writers, and pluggers) showed up in force as hit songwriter Brett James ("Blessed" for Martina McBride "Jesus Take the Wheel" for Carrie Underwood) and friends took the stage. In familiar writer's round style, Shelly Fairchild, Stephony Smith, Richie Supa and James took turns performing a batch of new tunes as well as a few memorable favorites as part of Tin Pan South.

James started off with new tunes "Cover It Up," and "God Hates Ugly," a tongue-in-cheek gem about living by the golden rule. James' strong, coarse vocals and Supa's almost overbearing harmony only added to the grittiness of the songs, which they co-wrote.

Supa, a longtime friend of Steven Tyler, is best known for writing hits for Aerosmith and Gladys Knight. Supa repeatedly expressed his love for the songwriting community in Nashville throughout the night and seemed right at home in the small venue. A longtime collaborator with James, the two performed a couple of recently penned ballads, "Had to Turn Around" and "Blame Me for Everything."

While James brought modern country flavor to the evening, and Supa the rock sensibility, Fairchild claimed the soul category. Fairchild had an album out on Sony with the single, "Tiny Town." Easily offering the most powerhouse vocals of the evening, she launched into new ditty "Dreamstate," sounding like a cross between pop singer Pink and country crooner Jamie O'Neal. Later, she purred her way through the bluesy, sensual "Take Me Down," (not to be confused with the Miranda Lambert song). Her vocals crossed over into Joss Stone territory several times during the tune, eliciting several spontaneous ovations.

Smith was the most traditional singer/songwriter of the four, her airy, somewhat thin vocals easily infused with longing and pain. Instead of delving into her catalog of hit songs ("Go Away," Lorrie Morgan, "It's Your Love," Faith Hill, "How Was I To Know," Reba McEntire), she focused on newer compositions. She rarely strayed from this vein throughout, offering solid lyrics on "What I Wish You Were," about a relationship that never quite got off the ground ("With the heart of a lover and the soul of a friend/It's not who you are/It's who I wish you were"). One could easily hear a powerhouse like Trisha Yearwood singing the plaintive, "Love Ain't Supposed to Hurt Like This," a woman's stark realization of a love that isn't worth the pain.

Supa and James wrapped up the show with a few well-known tunes. Supa did a decent version of Areosmith's smash "Pink," ad-libbing some Stephen Tyler-like screams near the end. James contributed a sing along version of the Kenny Chesney with Uncle Kracker hit "When the Sun Goes Down," momentarily letting the crowd take over the vocals. "Tin Pan South gets hotter when the sun goes down!" he shouted near the end. The night ended with triumphant versions of James' Carrie Underwood hit, "Jesus Take the Wheel," (with Fairchild on harmonies) and Supa's Areosmith hit, "Amazing."

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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