Stars Shine at Universal Music Group's CRS Show

Eric Church, Keith Urban, Dierks Bentley and Little Big Town Play for Radio Programmers

Country’s biggest stars plus country’s biggest radio programmers and personalities at an all-star, midday concert? You could call it the ultimate power lunch.

Eric Church, Keith Urban, Little Big Town, Dierks Bentley and many more. Once again, Universal Music Group knows how to bring out the big guns to the delight of attendees at the annual Country Radio Seminar in downtown Nashville.

The beloved concert/box lunch special is a chance to introduce country radio’s gatekeepers to new music from rising stars and seasoned veterans.

From newcomers like Mickey Guyton to perennial favorites like the incomparable Vince Gill, the experience at the Ryman Auditorium on Thursday (Feb. 26) was one audience members will likely remember for years to come.

Josh Turner opened the show with his current single “Lay Low,” while Kip Moore followed with his latest, “I’m to Blame,” quipping to the audience, “I have to follow Luther Vandross,” on the subject of taking the stage after the bellowing vocals of Turner.

Kacey Musgraves looked darling and divine in a vintage dress as she served up her next single -- the delightfully cheeky and real “Biscuits.” The house was cheering from the first chorus. Can you blame them? With a line like “mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy,” carbohydrates and real-talk have never sounded so good.

Canaan Smith, who’s touring with Bentley this year, delivered the powerful tune “Bronco,” while David Nail also debuted a poignant song he revealed only a few people in the room had ever heard before. In doing so, he admitted it might be “a recipe for disaster,” but it was anything but that. Once again, the Missouri native proved why he’s one of the most gifted artists in the format.

Fresh new face and voice Guyton delighted the crowd with a new tune called “Nice Things.”

Darius Rucker debuted “Southern Style,” while Bentley brought out his writer pals Jon Randall and Jessi Alexander to sing on his latest “Say You Do.” Billy Currington and Easton Corbin also brought their incredible voices to the Mother Church stage during the show, too.

And though all the performances were special, there are always a few that qualify as downright magical.

Little Big Town’s haunting harmonies on “Girl Crush” reverberated off the walls of the Ryman with a beauty that had everyone cheering like I’ve never heard before. God bless them and that exquisite song.

And then Chris Stapleton took the stage, and the energy in the room began to shift. A longtime favorite of pretty much anyone who’s heard this masterful singer, player and songwriter open his mouth, Stapleton humbly began by addressing a piece of coal onstage in front of his microphone. Explaining it was a piece of coal his late father mined, he told the crowd his dad never got to see him play the Ryman.

Stapleton then sweetly plays a song I believe to be called “Daddy Doesn’t Pray Anymore,” and the room fell silent, in awe of his powerful vocals and the song’s heart-wrenching lyrics. Stapleton received the standing ovation he so richly deserved.

Also receiving a standing ovation were the Brothers Osborne, who had the crowd cheering and singing along to their fan-favorite newbie “Stay a Little Longer.” There’s lots of love for this duo, not only from the audience, but from Church, whom I spotted watching from stage left as the guys absolutely rocked it.

Church himself took the stage soon after, performing a powerful brand new song solo. Shades and grin on, he proved to everyone that, yes, he is every bit the wonderful and lovable badass he seems.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a CRS luncheon without an appearance and performance from country’s beloved ambassador, the one-and-only Gill. The icon still brings the masses to their feet and makes your heart melt the second he begins to sing. He performed his classic “Whenever You Come Around” and even regaled the audience with the story behind the song, but that’s a future blog in itself.

Urban closed out the show with a new tune, too, but the truly exciting moment for attendees was when Church returned for a performance of their new duet, “Raise ‘Em Up,” an appropriate moment for the new dad.

As tasty as my turkey wrap was, nothing was more satisfying and comforting than the incredible music we’re about to experience this year in the country world. Get excited. 2015 is looking and sounding good so far.

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