McCreery is now all of 18 (he pointed out during the show that he was in Vegas for an awards show in December, but being 17, there's not a ton to do in Sin City. So, he checked out Garth Brooks) with a hit debut CD and song under his belt. Not bad for a young gun.
But McCreery also showed he was no greenhorn during this WKLB radio show before a sold-out, but far smaller crowd than his normal gig. McCreery sings with a lot of confidence, and he has one full-bodied voice that definitely recalls his idol, Josh Turner. Doing the American Idol tour probably helped educate McCreery about stage presence, but fortunately he also didn't have the fluffiness musically of Idol.
McCreery pretty much kept it straight-ahead country on songs like Walk in the Country, Write My Number On Your Hand and his new single Water Town Town.McCreery may not quite have a distinctive sound just yet, but he does a good job of delivering the songs.
Justin Ward, who played pedal steel, slide guitar and banjo, was particular helpful in keep a more traditional country vibe going. Lead acoustic guitarist Matt Revere added much with a lot of sharp licks.
You can tell a lot about an artist based on the covers they choose. In the case of McCreery, he consistently hit the mark by playing country songs (for the most part) instead of going rock.
That included George Strait's Check Yes or No, Garth Brooks' The Dance, which McCreery told the crowd that Brooks told him after they met in Vegas that it was his favorite song, Travis Tritt's T-R-O-U-B-L-E, before closing the rocking (country?) of Montgomery Gentry's high-powered Gone, which McCreery performed on Idol.
For some singers, American Idol can be a double-edged sword given whether you're a fan or not. But in McCreery's case, he has gone beyond the limitations of American Idol to show that he's an artist with far more to show than winning a talent show.
This proved to be a strong double bill with current hit maker Jana Kramer starting off the late afternoon gig (a quite unusual 5 p.m. start). Kramer is in the midst of her second artistic career as she is best known for being an actress on the hit TV show "One Tree Hill" and "Friday Night Lights."
But she also parlayed that into a musical career with her debut out in early June. Now, she also has a hit on her hands with Why Ya Wanna, the closing song of her half-hour set. Kramer certainly is no position to look a gift horse in the mouth, but it was not even among her best songs.
One of the strengths of Kramer's debut CD, in fact, was the strength of the material, and she gave a window into that live. The bouncy, catchy What I Love About Your Love, I Hope It Rains, Whiskey (from "One Tree Hill"), One of the Boys and King of Apology were all better.
Kramer has a solid, powerful voice with a twangy element. It also helps that the material she put on her debut and performed was of high quality. Unlike a few other actresses who have gone country, Kramer shows she was no poseur.