As has been the case for the past several Junes, Shania Twain is nowhere to be found at this year’s edition of International Country Music Fan Fair in Nashville. But no one was crying “That Don’t Impress Me Much” at her record label’s annual show Tuesday afternoon (June 13).
A respectable crowd showed up in the grandstands at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds to catch performances by Twain’s labelmates, Mercury artists Mark Wills, Kathy Mattea, Terri Clark, Eric Heatherly, Neal Coty and Jamie O’Neal.
At the moment, Mercury has only four singles — Heatherly’s “Flowers on the Wall,” Wills’ “Almost Doesn’t Count,” Wynonna’s “Going Nowhere” and The Judds’ “Stuck in Love” — among the 75 on Billboard’s country singles chart. Nevertheless, fans could sing along with a number of familiar songs and they certainly knew the show’s hostess, Naomi Judd.
Clark, making her sixth Fan Fair appearance, performed her hits “Emotional Girl” and Warren Zevon’s “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me.” Mattea, doing her best to beat the 90-degree heat with her hair pulled up, sparked the crowd with 1997’s “455 Rocket.” Heatherly, armed with his pastel green Stratocaster, milked “Flowers on the Wall” for all it was worth. Headliner Wills kicked off his six-song set with “Jacob’s Ladder,” the song that launched his career in 1996, and wrapped up the afternoon concert with “Back at One,” the Brian McKnight tune Wills turned into a Top 5 country hit this year. Coty covered Tom Petty’s “You Got Lucky.”
Each of the artists also took the opportunity to showcase new music they hope will become familiar to the Fan Fair crowd in the months and years ahead.
The Country Music Association’s Female Vocalist of the Year in 1989 and 1990, Mattea delivered “Trouble With Angels” and the title track from The Innocent Years, her 11th studio album and her first in three years.
Clark previewed three numbers from her upcoming album, including “The Livin’ Is All in the Gettin’ There” and “No Fear,” which she co-wrote with Mary Chapin Carpenter.
Newcomer O’Neal performed her first single, “There Is No Arizona,” as well as “No More Protecting My Heart” and three other songs from her upcoming CD.
After Wills delivered his current single, the Top 30 hit “Almost Doesn’t Count,” he introduced “Everything There Is to Know About You” as the next single from his latest album, Permanently.
In addition to covering the Statler Brothers’ “Flowers on the Wall,” Heatherly showed off his own songwriting abilities with “Wrong Five O’Clock,” “I Just Break ’Em,” “She’s So Hot” and the title track from his debut CD, Swimming in Champagne.
Making his first Fan Fair appearance, Coty performed “Breathe” and other songs from his forthcoming album. “Good God!” he yelped. “It feels good to be up here. I’ve been waiting my whole life to get on this stage.”