In fact, of the 10 performers coming on and off the stage at the Berklee College venue, only 2 could rightfully be labeled as country. But if looking beyond the music that made Nashville famous, then you were in luck because there was a lot of on it on this evening.
This is the third configuration of the collective put together by Trent Dabbs. There were people do of differing musical tastes ranging from bluesy and funky to more singer/songwriter styles to more rocking sounds Under the format, a performer would sing a song accompanied by a chunk of their nine compadres playing along (and just what instrument they played could change from song to song) before quickly surrendering the stage to the next singer.
The obvious problem for the healthy crowd of about 110 people was that if you liked the particular singer, you were out of luck for a while because it would be a good half hour or more before they took center stage again.
The best pure singer by far on this evening was country artist Ashley Monroe. She had her big label moment with SonyBMG, but never had the pleasure of having her music released by the label beyond a single until after after she was gone from the label. She also is nominated for a CMA award for working with The Raconteurs and Ricky Skaggs.
That didn't mean Monroe deserved a free pass. However, the Tennessee native possessed a stellar voice, slowing it down to infuse the songs with a lot of emotion with a few hiccups along the way helping out (Has Anybody Ever Told You?). She was the most musically different performer out there.
The best musician by far was guitarist Jedd Hughes. That name could ring a bell with country aficionados because he once upon a tine had a label deal with Universal before going with Capitol, although the latter never released his album. The good-looking Australian native strayed from his country roots on this night for far more of a rock sound. His playing in backing up just about everyone else among the 10 was stellar throughout. He could thicken it up with rock sounds or go steely and softer. Hughes remained a big league player.
There were a lot of other good performers out there including the wild-haired Mikky Ekko, who quickly demonstrated a commanding stage presence.
K.S. Rhoads with fedora perched atop his head steered his music to more of a funky, hip hop, swampy approach. He displayed good energy. Andrew Belle also exhibited good vocal chops. Petit Joy Williams turned in a nice reading of Charmed Life, a song she wrote with Dabbs that was part of Grey's Anatomy season five finale opening scene.
Sarah Siskind has gained attention for her writing and album , but her singing was lacking, failing to stand out.
This was a night where the winners far far outweighed the losers. It also an evening where it was quite clear that there are a lot of different styles of musicianship going on around Nashville and pretty much something for everyone.