Urban Impresses and the Jenkins Shine

New Act Wins Support During Country Radio Seminar Performance

Nobody questioned the headliner’s talent, although there’s little doubt that the room full of radio programmers wondered if the opening act’s live performance could match the buzz created this week during the Country Radio Seminar.

His career still ascending, Keith Urban exuded nothing but confidence during Friday’s (March 5) lunchtime concert at the Nashville Convention Center. The Jenkins’ mission was to close the deal with the movers and shakers who will be deciding whether or not to play their music.

With some 2,000 registrants, the annual seminar provides record companies a prime opportunity to introduce new acts, move established artists another step up the career ladder and rekindle superstars’ relationships with country radio.

Both of Urban’s solo albums are now double platinum, and the momentum is likely to increase substantially in the coming months when he hits the road with Kenny Chesney — another act pulling in the younger demographic worshipped by country programmers. At the luncheon, Capitol Nashville chief Mike Dungan reiterated the record label’s continued commitment to move Urban to the superstar level.

As he demonstrated Friday, Urban projects the charisma of a rock star during his live performances. He also has a bag of catchy songs, including the hits, “Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me,” “But for the Grace of God” and “Where the Blacktop Ends.”

His concerts also support his reputation as a guitar-slinger of the highest caliber. Indeed, the Australian-born musician didn’t flinch when he broke a string during the last solo of his final song, “Somebody Like You.” Forced to improvise to overcome the handicap, it sounded as though he had merely drafted a different version to add a new twist on a familiar song.

Hailing from Sebastopol, Calif., the Jenkins are a family trio — mother Nancy Jenkins and daughters Kacie, 19, and Brodie, who turned 17 just this week during the seminar.

Judging from their performance, the Jenkins are the real deal. And judging from the response at Friday’s performance, the radio broadcasters recognize this. The trio’s brief performance featured their first single, “Blame It on Mama,” and other tracks from a Capitol debut album set for release later this year.

Good luck and a proper aligning of the planets are determining factors in a new act’s ultimate success, but the Jenkins already have the advantage of strong songs (primarily co-written by Nancy Jenkins), even stronger vocals and a natural knack for performing. They move around easily onstage — with no silly choreography to detract from the music. And sure, they’ve probably got a fashion stylist telling them what to wear, but their attire at Friday’s concert looked like it came from the closet of an average person who happens to have good fashion sense — rather than some “hipper than thou” outfits few women would ever wear on the street. They’ve also aligned themselves with a producer known for solid work — Rodney Crowell.

Even under the best of circumstances, there are never guarantees of success in the music business. As of Friday, however, it can be said the Jenkins started the first phase of their career on a high note with country radio.

Visit Keith Urban’s artist page at CMT.com to view photos of his Country Radio Seminar performance.

Calvin Gilbert has served as CMT.com’s managing editor since 2002. His background includes stints at the Nashville Banner, Radio & Records and Westwood One.