Three songs into his set at the MCA Records
luncheon Thursday (March 1) at the Country Radio
Seminar in Nashville, Gary Allan made it clear just
how intimidating singing for an all-industry crowd
“We do 250 shows a year, and I’m not normally
nervous, but I’m just trembling right now,” said the
usually self-confident Allan.
The main purpose of the annual luncheon is, after
all, to give artists a higher profile with country radio
programmers and DJs and to solicit their support
in the form of airplay. Unlike many CRS crowds,
the audience for MCA’s soiree paid close attention
as Allan ran through hits like “Smoke Rings in the Dark” and “It Would Be You”
before debuting a cut from his upcoming fourth album. “Lovin’ You Made a Man of
Me” is a raucous, guitar-driven song suited to Allan’s energy and attitude.
Headliner Trisha Yearwood
has a few more CRS experiences under her belt than
Allan. Taking the stage dressed to kill in a knee-length leather jacket, the
award-winning singer looked calm and collected, opening with a rocked-up,
bass-heavy version of “Wrong Side of Memphis.” In between tunes, she reflected
on her first seminar appearance 10 years ago just before her debut single, “She’s
In Love With the Boy,” was released.
“Back then it was ‘Hi, I’m Trisha Yearwood, I’m a new artist. You have no idea
what I’m about, but I’d like to have my picture made with you,’” Yearwood
cracked from the stage. “Now, 10 years later, it’s not that different. ‘Hi, I’m Trisha
Yearwood. I have a new album coming out, and I’d like to have my picture made
Yearwood took the opportunity to preview new
material from an upcoming, untitled album, the
follow-up to the critically acclaimed Real Live
Woman. The lead single, “I Would’ve Loved You
Anyway,” has been shipped to country radio for
adds on March 9. Written by Troy Verges and
Mary Danna, the tune is a soulful, mid-tempo
discourse on loving someone despite the pitfalls.
Yearwood sang it with conviction, her voice
sounding top-notch despite the early hour.
“I came off the road in October, and I went into the
studio in December just to cut some stuff for fun,”
she said. “We’re already finished. It’ll be out June 5.”
Don Henley, Rosanne Cash, singer-songwriter Buddy Miller and Andrew Gold
make appearances on the album, which includes songs by Nashville tunesmiths
Harlan Howard, Matraca Berg and “some new writers.”
The one glitch in Yearwood’s set came on a second new song, “Love Alone.” A
programmed drum track used with the live band went awry during the song,
sending a most unpleasant shriek into the performance hall.
“Well, that drum track works really well, huh?” she joked after finishing the song.
“That won’t be on the album, don’t worry.”
Yearwood wasn’t the only one cracking wise from the stage. Comedian T. Bubba
Bechtol filled the time between Allan’s and Yearwood’s sets, riffing on dieting,
working out and the recent Grammy Awards. Remarking that Faith Hill was
named “best dressed” after the broadcast, Bechtol said she should have been
named “most dressed” compared to R&B singer Toni Braxton’s skimpy dress.
“That dress looked like a box of Kleenex with a fan belt tied around it,” he
quipped. “I wasn’t sure if she was trying to get into the dress or out of it.”
A long-form video presentation shown during the meal before the show drove
home MCA’s marketing message. Anchors from ESPN’s Sportscenter hosted a
fake newscast that extolled the dominance of MCA and its multi-platinum artists,
including George Strait, Vince Gill and Yearwood.