Convention goers at the 33rd Country Radio Seminar got previews of forthcoming works by label star Lee Ann Womack and label hopeful Shannon Lawson at the MCA Nashville lunch on Thursday (Feb. 28) at the Nashville Convention center.
Lawson, making his CRS debut and coming off a radio tour to preview his forthcoming debut album Chase the Sun (due for release June 25), was extremely well received by the radio crowd in a six-song, 25-minute set. Sporting a tailored black and brown western shirt adorned with a winged guitar and a red rose, and strumming an acoustic guitar with a hand-tooled leather guitar strap emblazoned “Shannon,” he drew ecstatic applause for the title song from his album. Switching to a gold Les Paul Stratocaster (with an imitation leopard-skin guitar strap), Lawson switched gears into thumping R&B with a striking cover version of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.”
In his formative years, Lawson explained, he worked in both blues and bluegrass bands in his native Kentucky, and the influences showed. His tight five-piece band featured leads on banjo, mandolin, fiddle, electric guitar and Hammond B-3 organ, as well as Lawson’s own expressive lead guitar work on both acoustic and electric guitars.
Following a brief set-changing appearance by comedian T. Bubba Bechtol (“I hear Enron and Motown merged. They’re gonna call it Moron Records.”), Womack took the stage before an expansive stage set resembling an Eastern temple scene, with dozens of candles burning in front of ferns and temple arches and columns. She performed an eight-song, 40-minute set.
Clad in an off-the-shoulder sheer, embroidered, appliqued and sequined brown blouse and low-slung blue jeans, Womack drew warm applause for her hits and sometimes puzzled responses to the new songs she delivered, in part thanks to the murky acoustics of the cavernous performance hall. Opening with “Ashes By Now,” Womack switched to new songs from her forthcoming album, reading the words from lyric sheets taped to the floor. The material displayed R&B influences, as well as occasional rock leanings. She threw “A Little Past Little Rock” into the mix (“All right. Here’s one you know.”) and finished to an ovation with “I Hope You Dance.”