Have you ever visited a place and felt at home right away? That's how it's been since I arrived in Nashville on Tuesday. I walk through souvenir stores and almost all of the stuff there interests me. There's things that I'd struggle to find at home in California, and they're stacked with it in Nashville. I have to stop myself from buying stuff I won't use later.
With the bars on Broadway, I've walked into most of them and it's great to hear the local bands. The lesser known places are the ones that I like the most like Nashville Crossroads, where I saw Mark Collie appear on Tuesday night. Remember my story about Doug Stone from Tuesday? I saw him again, and it turns out the guy really is Doug Stone. A local band was playing and kept pointing out Stone who was in the audience at the Crossroads. The bartender there was Jewels Hanson, a Nashville Star contestant in 2006.
There was a big commotion on Broadway last night when a television station announced that Brooks and Dunn would be appearing at The Stage. People were crowded outside the club, some banging on the window. It was quite a scene to see the famous duo play this little honky-tonk on Broadway.
The pre-festival activities, however, didn't all revolve around honky-tonks. My day started at the Hard Rock Cafe where I went to a party for Rissi Palmer. I think Palmer is going to be one of those artists with an appeal to fans outside the genre. She blends R&B and country without really crossing over. And "Country Girl" is a song that anyone can relate to, it's about country being a state of mind, not where you're from.
I wish I had the chance to hear Palmer sing more songs, but she only performed three or four, including an impressive cover of Patsy Cline's "Leavin' On My Mind".
From the Palmer party, I checked out the Charlie Daniels Store and Museum. The Museum is in back of the store, and there's plenty of pictures and memorablia of the artist in the shop. It's a free museum, which is cool because it's probably not worth paying for it, but if you're there it's cool.
Next on my agenda was the Brad Paisley Fan Club Party at the Ryman Auditorium. Just setting foot in the Ryman is an amazing experience, similar to visiting the old Boston Garden or Lambeau Field for the first time. You can tell that history's just oozing out of the place.
So it was fitting to see a star like Paisley, who respects history and in my opinion, bridges the gap between the neo-traditionalists and contemporary country. He also has a great sense of humor, which was apparent throughout the 90 minute show.
The show mainly focused on Paisley's upcoming 5th Gear album, which will be released later this month. I think it's his best album since the debut, which I had listened to non-stop back in 1999.
"Letter To Me" is a very touching song where Paisley writes a letter to the 17-year-old version of himself. It's very introspective, and if it's not a No. 1 single, somebody has some explaining to do.
Paisley also had a couple of funny songs, including "Online". That talks about a nerdy guy who is "so much cooler online" and then there's a tune about friends camping and saying it can't get any better. One of them says it could if a busload of beautiful women showed up or if Merle Haggard came by and brought Willie Nelson with him. Interesting stuff.
Haggard and Nelson weren't present at the BP Party, but two other legends - Little Jimmy Dickens and Bill Anderson - or as they call themselves Little and Po', showed up at Paisley's Party. How cool is it that Dickens, 86, is still touring and that he's played with everyone from Paisley to Hank Williams. And you have to credit Paisley for bringing Dickens to the modern country fan. Prior to that, he was on Opry regular, but few of the young fans knew about him.
The Kung Pao Buckaroos, which have been a staple on Paisley's albums, added Vince Gill, and they have a song on this album called "Bigger Fish to Fry". Dickens is part of the group, and he spent his segment telling several jokes. Paisley and Anderson sang "Too Country", and struggled with remembering the words to it.
Other highlights of the show were Paisley singing a gospel song then forgetting the words. A few ladies in the balcony filled him in, and he said they were good church-going people. Also, he allowed a little boy on stage to sing "I'm Gonna Miss Her", and the boy sang most of the tune.
Few things were going to top the Paisley show, so I decided to head over to the Country Music Hall of Fame. The museum was pretty impressive, but I knew a lot of the history thanks to a book I read sponsored by the CMHOF. The exhibits, however, were very informative and I especially enjoyed the ones on the Rays - Charles and Price. Charles expanded country's audience and proved that the roots of country and R&B are very close. Price is one of the best traditional country singers, and it was cool to see the exhibit chronicle his journey from honky-tonker to the Nashville Sound.
There were several interactive exhibits, my favorite one being the rare spins, which feature St. Louis Cardinals great Dizzy Dean singing "Wabash Cannonball". Let's just say it's good that Dean stuck to baseball and Acuff, once a New York Yankees prospect, was a singer, not a ballplayer.
The best part of the museum was the HOF Rotunda where "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" is written on the top. The rotunda is where all of the plaques are, and I spent time reading almost all of them. I noticed that there's a lot of room for new plaques, and started thinking about who the next inductees will be. I'd like to see Alan Jackson and Vince Gill inducted. E-mail me with who you think should be inducted into the Country Music HOF.
After the HOF visit, I met some fans, which combined two of my passions. Country music and talking to people. It's been interesting that a lot of people I've met are from the northeast. Many of them are making repeat trips to the CMA Music Festival. There are also folks from all over the world attending the show, and so far, I've met folks from Australia, Canada, England, Germany and Japan.
The rest of the night included a trip to Music Row, which isn't very impressive. That's where all of the record labels are headquartered. It's a nice, green area near downtown, but not really distinguishable from other areas, except for the fact that the buildings say BMI and CMA. So you know that there's some pretty important music decisions made in those buildings.
I was invited to the Dierks Bentley Fan Club Party at a good-sized bar called The Cannery, and it prompted me to ask, why don't I listen to Bentley more? This was my first time seeing his show, and I liked what I heard. I even some of his representatives walking his famous dog, Jake, outside the bar. Bentley really knows how to connect with an audience, and he showed a special video, for Fan Club members only, for "Free and Easy". It featured pictures from concerts and the road. I think Bentley sings with the outlaw spirit, but with a new, fresh twist. Hopefully, I'll get familiar with more of his music - now I only have his debut album.
Back downtown, I was really impressed with the Ernest Tubb Record Shop. It was pretty cool to see all of the country music-themed books they had along with a lot of albums I had never seen before. I liked the phrase on a bumper sticker, which was a quote from the late Tubb, "Be Good to Your Neighbors, and You'll Have Better Neighbors".
The first day of the Festival begins in a few hours, and I'm gearing up for the CMA Celebrity Close-Up with Neal McCoy, Montgomery Gentry and Charley Pride among others. Lorianne Crook, who I used to watch on Crook and Chase, will be interviewing for the event, which will air on GAC at a later date. There's also the big concert at LP Field with Alan Jackson, Brooks and Dunn and others headlining. Looking forward to another jam-packed day of country music.