In the lyrics to one of her songs, “I’m a Survivor,” Virgin recording artist Julie Reeves vows she will “never give up, never lay down, never give in.”
Her record label will need similar grit to survive in the current, highly competitive country music climate. Virgin Records mounted its first-ever Fan Fair talent showcase Thursday morning (June 15) at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds. The EMI-owned company has managed some modest success with newcomer Clay Davidson. His “love endures” ballad, “Unconditional,” has become a hit and helped launch his professional career. Country music veteran Ronnie Milsap also has joined the label. He served as host and headline act for the day.
Jerry Kilgore opened the Virgin show with neo-honky-tonk tunes that connected with the crowd. Early showers held down the numbers some, but those who came were mostly prepared for the weather or able to find seats under the grandstand’s cover.
River Road, from Cajun country, did a couple of songs from a new collection, Something in the Water. For the most part, their harmonies hit home with the crowd, though a power ballad, “’Til Now,” drifted dangerously close to Whitesnake territory, and the uptempo number “Breathless” (not the Jerry Lee Lewis tune) was way over-amped.
Davidson sang with power. He positioned “Unconditional” second in his set. For the balance of his performance, he drew from the Southern rock side of his repertoire. “I Can’t Lie to Me,” for instance, included a good dose of slide guitar. Davidson ended with a rave-up, “We’re All Here `Cause We Ain’t All There.”
Milsap’s new release for Virgin is a double CD titled 40 #1 Hits. With only a half-hour to entertain the crowd, he couldn’t get to ’em all. He managed to weave into an extended medley portions of “What a Difference You Made in My Life,” “Almost Like a Song,” “Stand by My Woman Man,” “Pure Love” and “There Ain’t No Getting Over Me.” The segment drew some of the most extended, enthusiastic applause of the week. “Lost in the Fifties Tonight” inspired synchronized, doo-wop-style dancing in the audience and also prompted a passionate response. By the time Milsap finished his set — and Virgin’s first Fan Fair show — with “Stranger in My House,” the rain had long since ceased.