This was the second go-round for the Country Music Association's Songwriter Series with Underwood being front and center following the highly successful outing of Kenny Chesney last year. Underwood was joined by show host Bob DiPiero, Luke Laird, Carey Barlowe, Hillary Lindsay and Brett James.
This was your old-fashioned Nashville guitar pull, meaning that everyone was seated on a stool on the stage with each artist (except for Underwood's guitarist and, for unknown reasons, songwriter Barlow not taking lead on songs) singing a song at a time in succession of where they sat on stage.
Each performer had a chance to introduce their songs as well.
Underwood was the reason the gig sold out so fast - there was no doubt about it with the crowd filled with young, mainly female teens. And with good reason. Host DiPiero called out Underwood as the best singer he has ever heard.
He just may be right. It is one thing to do the job in the studio where tricks can make the voices sound better than they really are. Underwood made it exceedingly clear she truly is a great singer. She was stellar on every song she performed, her voice soaring (Good Girl, the title track from her new disc) and laying a bit low (Temporary Home).
The acoustic setting gave Underwood the chance to change it up a bit from her band shows, giving a different interpretation of the songs from her CDs.
Underwood came off a bit understated, perhaps shy, in her comments introducing her songs. She tended not to amplify the origin of the songs too much.
Laird has a slew of hits and turned in a strong rendition of Drink In My Hand, a hit for Eric Church. Laird showcased a bit of a gritty voice, and it was easy to see the transition from his reading to that by Church. He also had a fun take on Blake Shelton and trace Adkins' hit Hillbilly Bone.
Brett James had by far the best of the male voices out there, probably not surprising that once upon a time the Oklahoma native had a recording career on his own. But he has done exceedingly well as a songwriter.
The only big misstep was his take on Cowboy Casanova, another Underwood hit. He said he had sung it in his living room and knew the song wasn't for him to sing. He proved all too accurate in a throwaway version that seemed not all that serious.
Hillary Lindsey has been Underwood's bedrock when it comes to songs. In fact, she has 14 songwriting credits on Underwood discs. Underwood had a strong turn on Two Black Cadillacs, from "Bad Girl," which she indicated hope for as a single.
Lindsey also had a strong voice, although you wouldn't know it based on her comments. She had the misfortune to follow Underwood's excellent reading of So Small in Underwood's first song of the night. Lindsey went overboard, knocing her own singing abilities, but the fact of the matter is, she has sung background vocals on many albums including Underwood's and has a good voice.
Lindsey also was borderline annoying in making three separate comments about needing to go to the bathroom. It was not funny on any occasion and needless.
DiPiero had the weakest voice of any of the performers, but fortunately his songwriting is commendable. He has the longest career as a songwriter and pulled out a few older songs such as Ricochet's Daddy's Money and more recently Montgomery Gentry's Gone and Tim McGraw's Southern Voice.
The night proved to be a real treat. Not only was it educational to learn the where the hits came from, but the chance to hear Underwood in a totally outside-her-comfort zone type setting also proved valuable. Underwood demonstrated quite clearly she was no studio creation. And she, in part, had her stage mates to thank for her success.