Alison Krauss, Brad Paisley and Charley Pride brought country music to the nation’s capital and apparently charmed the first family during a Tuesday night (July 21) concert in the East Room of the White House.
The performance, streamed live on the Internet, was the second concert in the White House’s music series hosted by President Barack Obama and the first lady. Eddie Stubbs, the disc jockey from WSM-AM/Nashville who served as emcee, complimented the president by pointing out, “It only took you six months to get country music to the White House. God bless you, sir.”
Following a brief welcome from the president, the hour-long event opened with Krauss singing “Let Me Touch You for Awhile.” Backed by her Union Station band and Dobro player Jerry Douglas, their performance was perfect — which is the norm for these particular musicians.
For the second song, Krauss put guitarist Dan Tyminski in the spotlight to reprise his vocal performance of “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow,” the song he recorded as a member of the Soggy Bottom Boys for the film, O Brother, Where Art Thou? Krauss followed with “Ghost in This House” and closed with “Every Time You Say Goodbye.”
Charley Pride, who was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000, was up next, opening his three-song set with one of his No. 1 singles from 1970, “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone.” With 28 other No. 1’s to choose from Pride had plenty of choices, but he settled on “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” and “Mountain of Love.”
Paisley emphasized songs from his new album, American Saturday Night. Beginning his part of the show with the title track, he performed his latest No. 1 single, “Then,” suggesting it would sound particularly good on Air Force One. Krauss returned to the stage for the duet, “Whiskey Lullaby,” before Paisley finished with “Welcome to the Future.” With lyrics about the technological, social and political changes America has experienced, the song had an additional resonance Tuesday night because of the Obamas.
Earlier in the day, Krauss and Paisley were featured in a workshop and question-and-answer session for 120 middle and high school students. Some 40 students from Nashville’s W.O. Smith Community Music School attended the session conducted by Jay Orr, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s vice president of museum programs.
The White House music series began in June with a jazz concert featuring Wynton Marsalis, his father Ellis and brothers Branford, Delfeayo and Jason. Also performing was saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera.
In Obama’s introductory remarks, he demonstrated his understanding of country music.
“I know folks think I’m a city boy, but I do appreciate listening to country music because like all Americans, I appreciate the broad and indelible impact that country has had on our nation,” the president said. “It’s touched countless lives. It’s influenced all genres of music. It’s helped us make the American people more hopeful. It’s captured our restlessness and resilience and told so much of our story in the process.
“After all, that’s what country music is all about — storytelling. It’s about folks telling their life story the best way they know how — stories of love and longing, hope and heartbreak, pride and pain. Stories that help us celebrate the good times and get over the bad times. Stories that are quintessentially American. After all, name me any other country that would have produced a Hank Williams or a Willie Nelson.”View photos of Alison Krauss and Brad Paisley at the White House.