On Friday (1-24), the Country Music Hall of Fame announced the lineup for their annual “All For The Hall” concert benefit set for April 12th at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. For years the event has been the Country Music Hall of Fame’s premier fundraising function, and has been headlined by Hall of Famer Vince Gill along with Keith Urban. Though the event is for the Hall of Fame, it regularly features a lineup of today’s stars as opposed to Hall of Fame talent.
This year the lineup is especially stacked with the superstars of today, with Luke Bryan, Sam Hunt, Florida Georgia Line, and Jason Isbell all joining forces to . . . wait, what? Who?
That’s right. Jason Isbell—a.k.a. the current King of Americana—has found his way onto one of the hottest tickets in Nashville, and name placement right beside the biggest-grossing acts in all of country music. Emmylou Harris, Maddie & Tae, and Maren Morris also help round out the “All For The Hall” lineup.
So what in the hell are well-versed country and Americana fans who finds themselves in stiff opposition to folks like Luke Bryan and Sam Hunt supposed to feel about ol’ Isbell sharing the stage with these turkeys? I’ll tell you what they should feel, they should shut up and be happy because it’s yet another sign that the good stuff is breaking through, and is getting its deserved due on Nashville’s biggest stages.
This isn’t the “Some for the Hall” benefit concert. Americana, the influence of East Nashville, and the rising action of artists of substance is a very real thing right now, and institutions like the Hall of Fame and the promoters of the event are wise to incorporate this momentum and include those fans in these functions. For too long the other side of the country music divide was not given any representation at all in the mainstream. Now the independent musicians have increased so much in market share and influence, it would be irresponsible to ignore them.
It’s not as if Jason Isbell is going out on the road with these guys. This is a civic, not-for-profit event with other artists volunteering their time to make sure the history of country music and one of the biggest archives of musical memorabilia is preserved and promoted.
Things are changing, and the idea that it’s a anomaly for a guy like Isbell to be included in something like this should change too. On Sunday (1-24), The Guardian reviewed one of Isbell’s recent concerts in the U.K. and called him “arena ready,” while still carrying enough intimacy in his music to connect with the crowd. This Hall of Fame benefit might very well be the biggest crowd Jason Isbell has ever played to.
Think pieces on how mainstream country is a wasteland and there’s no end in sight are so 2014. Chris Stapleton is the biggest artist in all of country music right now, and Jason Isbell is finally getting his due. Undoubtedly there’s still a tremendous amount of work to do and nobody ever said waging a revolution would be pretty, but balance is beginning to return to the mainstream. Who knows where we might see Jason Isbell turn up next?