Year after year at the Country Radio
Seminar, the RCA Label Group (RLG)
showcases its roster of country acts
while gliding over the waters of the
Cumberland River. The company herds
hundreds of radio broadcasters onto the
General Jackson showboat and floats
them up and down the winding waterway
for a sort of hillbilly hydrotherapy.
“Once again, you’re captive, and you
have to watch the whole show,” Clint
Black said, putting it bluntly Thursday night (March 1) as he took his turn before
Like every other showcase during this high-stakes, four-day gathering, the RLG
soiree provided an opportunity for the firm’s acts to feature new and upcoming
material, in hopes of making a lasting impression on decision makers who
convene annually for the radio seminar.
Eager to give one of his creations a head start on the road to becoming a hit,
Black played a freshly written song titled “Money or Love.” So new was the tune,
however, that he forgot a good portion of one of the later verses. “I’ve got to write
these songs down,” he quipped after humming more than a few bars.
Incorporating RCA, BNA and the newly subsumed Arista label, RLG paraded a
total of 12 acts onto the General Jackson stage during the three-hour cruise,
beginning with new duet partners Tracy Byrd and Mark Chesnutt and ending with
Alabama, who did a three-song set from their latest album.
Two acts were not at full strength. Ronnie Dunn of
Brooks & Dunn was home ailing, leaving Brooks to
perform solo on “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m
Gone,” one of the few songs on which he sings the
lead vocal. Bassist and harmony singer Dana
Williams of Diamond Rio also was on the disabled
list. Lead vocalist Marty Roe asked that the
broadcasters remember Williams in their prayers.
“His heart doesn’t want to beat with the right
amount of beats, so he’s at home resting,” Roe said.
RLG chief Joe Galante used the occasion to
present Brad Paisley with his first platinum album,
for shipments of 1 million copies of his debut
album, Who Needs Pictures. Kenny Chesney also
received a platinum album for his recent greatest hits collection. Chesney
recalled walking the halls of RLG’s former headquarters, where he spotted a gold
album (for shipments of 500,000 copies) by Keith Whitley. He told a record
company executive he hoped to earn a gold album someday.
Lonestar tried out songs from an upcoming album, their follow-up to the highly
successful Lonely Grill. A drum machine provided rhythm for “Unusually
Unusual.” Singer Richie McDonald explained that a phone call from the road to
his son inspired a ballad, “I’m Already There,” on the new album.
Martina McBride, in a midriff-baring, hip-hugging outfit, gave the strongest
musical performance of the night. “It’s My Time,” from her last album, allowed for
grand vocal gestures. She also tried a new song, apparently titled “When
God-Fearing Women Get the Blues.” McBride is considering recording the song
for a greatest hits album to be released in the fall. “If you don’t like it,” she said,
“please tell me now.”
In addition to Chesnutt’s outing with Byrd, Phil
Vassar joined Chesney for a song they co-wrote,
and Sara Evans swapped lines with Alabama’s
Randy Owen on “Will You Marry Me,” a song the
group recorded recently with Canadian singer Jann
Arden. Evans cracked up the crowd by responding
to Owen’s final entreaty with, “No, I won’t.”
Lorrie Morgan and K.T. Oslin were among a
number of RLG artists on board who did not sing.
Evans, Paisley, Chesney and the rest took care to
thank the audience of radio professionals for their
career-building assistance. At the end of his set,
Andy Griggs said, “God bless y’all, man.” Later,
Diamond Rio vocalist Roe ribbed Griggs, arrested
recently for commandeering an ambulance. “I just want everybody to know,” he
said, “that Andy Griggs is driving the boat, and Kenny Chesney is shining the
But Black was the most consistently funny performer of the evening and perhaps
the most honest. “I’ve got so much I want to say to you this evening,” he mused,
“but it’s inappropriate, and you’d hate me for it.”
The Country Radio Seminar continues in Nashville through Saturday (March 3).