I've said it many times before, but I'll say it again: I love Nashville. While commercial/mainstream country music is the single biggest driver of the economic engine in town, what truly makes this town Music City USA is the musical diversity that exists when you walk off the beaten path. I was fortunate enough to experience this on three different levels last night.
My first stop was at the Grand Ole Opry, where last night Old Crow Medicine Show were inducted as the Opry's newest member. The induction of Old Crow to the Opry is significant in many ways. As a string band playing an old-time style of music, Old Crow isn't your prototypical artist that one would think would be an ideal inductee. This thought isn't a stretch, given that the Opry typically inducts members who are in the middle of a successful chart run (Keith Urban, Darius Rucker) or have had significant chart success previously (Charlie Daniels, Mel Tillis, Charley Pride). While Old Crow has done well selling albums, chart success has been elusive. This clearly did not matter to the Opry selection committee, and it's a refreshing change.
It's with great hope that with the induction of Old Crow to the Opry, that this is a signal where the Opry selection committee has expanded their reach with respect to new prospective members. There are many great, well known and exceedingly popular entertainers in the broader country music landscape, which includes elements of Americana, that are stellar candidates for induction to the Opry. For example, Elizabeth Cook comes to mind.
It was a special night at the Opry to be sure. I would be remiss if I didn't mention how great it was to see Little Jimmy Dickens make an appearance for the first time at the Opry in a long time. Mr. Dickens has been in ill health of late, and it was a great moment when he took the stage. Mr. Dickens did not perform, rather he answered a few questions from the wonderful Eddie Stubbs. It is with great hope Mr. Dickens returns to performing again in the near future. Congratulations to Old Crow Medicine Show on their Opry induction. It was my first time attending an Opry induction and it was wonderful.
From the Opry I made my first foray in to East Nashville, where my friend Sloane Spencer of Country Fried Rock fame was co-hosting "AMA Eve" at the 5 Spot with Twang Nation's Baron Lane. I was looking forward to this event as the burgeoning music scene in East Nashville has been well documented but something I have not experienced. If you're coming to Nashville for mainstream country music, you won't find it on this side of the Cumberland. And that's not a bad thing. AMA Eve was my first showcase of music in East Nashville and it didn't disappoint. East Nashville mainstay Derek Hoke put on an absolutely killer set, with the great Robyn Hitchcock joining Derek on stage for a few songs. There's nothing like watching a group of solid, veteran musicians when they find their groove on a club stage. As emcee for the show, Derek was bang on when he called Great Peacock the best band in Nashville today. A solid group of young musicians, they delivered an amazing set that was worthy of the earlier praise effused upon them by Hoke. East Nashville is starting to become a happening place with its music scene leading the renaissance. It's truly great to see what music can do to help build a community.
My final stop of the night was in Midtown, where for the first time I'm taking up residence this week. About a mile or so away from the bustle of Lower Broadway, there is still plenty of music to be found on the west side of town. At Winner's, a young trio called Haggard's Halo were churning out some great old hits that I hadn't heard in a while. Songs like "Past The Point of Rescue" by Hal Ketchum and "Soulshine" by the Allman Brothers. It was near the end of the set when I happened upon Halo playing at this neighbourhood gem. Their closing set of the night was an outstanding version of "Takin' Pills" by the Pistol Annies. Haggard's Halo is a group worthy of your time and attention, and I would encourage you to be on the lookout for them on your next trip to Music City.
It was a great night to get one in the mood for the musical diversity that is the Americana Music Festival. The Opry induction of an Americana group. Some great rockabilly and other Americana music in East Nashville, mixed with a little mainstream hits to close off the night. Where else can you find that musical diversity on a Tuesday? I suspect nowhere.