The Curious Curation of Country Music’s Recent Tribute Concerts
This story has been updated.
On Tuesday (7-18), Country Music Hall of Famer Kenny Rogers announced in a highly-touted press conference that he would be playing his final show, and in a tribute fashion at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville with a host of special guests, including his most well-known duet partners, Dolly Parton. Called All In For The Gambler: Kenny Rogers Farewell Concert Celebration, it is one of numerous recent tributes to country legends held at the Bridgestone Arena and other locations, and sponsored by concert promoter Blackbird Presents.
All In For The Gambler will feature performances from Kenny and Dolly, Alison Krauss, Jamey Johnson, Elle King, Little Big Town, The Flaming Lips, and other performers to be named closer to the October 25th event. You may be asking, why The Flaming Lips? But Kenny Rogers’ service time in music wasn’t completely isolated to country. As some may remember, Rogers started out as the bass-playing frontman of First Edition, which started somewhat in the psychedelic realm with their hit “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In).” Nonetheless, inviting The Flaming Lips to a Kenny Rogers tribute seems like a bit of a curve ball for what otherwise will be a fairly dedicated country music affair.
This is not unusual for events concocted by Blackbird Presents however, especially their tribute concerts. In fact adding The Flaming Lips to a Kenny Rogers tribute is probably one of their more tame decisions. Certainly the promotional company deserves incredible kudos for putting together these recent tributes for country legends in the first place. Similar concerts for Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Kris Kirstofferson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and others have been assembled over the last few years, and resulted in opportunities to discuss the contributions of these legendary country music performers that otherwise may not occur.
But to put it bluntly, the ability of Blackbird Presents to curate talent for events is pretty terrible, and appears to be done without any true understanding of the layout of the current country music landscape. Forget the nuances that separate different tastes and sensibilities of certain scenes under the greater country music umbrella that not everyone can be attune to. And yes, why not think a little outside of the box and invite some folks from other genres who may have loose ties to the artist being paid tribute to help broaden the audience and speak to the tributee’s influence outside of country? But some of the invites for these Blackbird Presents events seem so incredibly blind to the realities present in country music fandom, it’s remarkable.
In February, Webster PR put together a tribute to Randy Travis that included a star-studded lineup. Garth Brooks, Jamey Johnson, Ricky Skaggs, Wynonna, and some newer artists such as William Michael Morgan and Shane Owens performed. But someone decided it would be perfectly fine to let artists like Michael Ray and Chris Janson play, along with one of the most vilified newer “country” artists alive—the repugnant Kane Brown—who’s on record saying that country has moved on from older artists like Randy. You’ll never build a consensus around any specific artist, but among Randy Travis fans, you’re sure to find more vitriol for Kane Brown than favoritism, if Travis fans even know who he is.
Blackbird Presents recently released the audio and video recordings of a Waylon Jennings tribute held in Austin in 2015. The talent assembled for the tribute was nothing short of legendary. To have Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson share the stage, while Willie Nelson, Kris Kirstofferson, Bobby Bare, Jamey Johnson, and a bunch others anchored the tribute lineup was epic.
But when everyone was called to the stage to sing the finale “Luckenbach, TX,” you could tell Sturgill was visibly shaken to have to share a mic with the likes of a drunk Toby Keith, who took the occasion of Eric Church’s opportunity to sing a line of the song to play grab ass on stage in what was supposed to be a reverent moment. Toby Keith also had to be positioned on one side of the stage, and Robert Earl Keen on the other due to bad blood between the two over accusations from Keen that Keith lifted the melody from “The Road Goes On Forever” for his song “Bullets in the Gun.” Whether you’re pro or con Toby Keith, a Waylon tribute is probably not an appropriate venue for his demonstrative personality, and his presence sullied the experience for many tried and true Waylon fans.
Sometimes it’s not who is at the tribute, but who isn’t. On April 6th of this year, Merle Haggard finally received the Nashville tribute he deserved, and via Blackbird Presents. But where was Sturgill Simpson, the one artist that in his last year on Earth, Merle Haggard said was the only new artist he thought was worth a damn? Perhaps Sturgill was busy, or perhaps he learned his lesson at the Waylon tribute. Sturgill eventually asked Blackbird Presents to leave his tribute song to Waylon off the audio compilation from the concert for undisclosed reasons. Maybe Sturgill just didn’t want to be seen on stage with Toby Keith again, who seems to turn up at most all of these tributes.
In fact that another interesting observation when looking at the rosters of these Blackbird Presents events: there are certain artists that seem to play nearly all of them. Sheryl Crow, Jamey Johnson, Alison Krauss, Toby Keith, even The Avett Brothers and Alabama seem to show up in an inordinate amount in the lineups, even when they’re presence doesn’t really fit the bill.
In 2017, Blackbird Presents decided to go beyond the tribute concerts, and synced up with Willie Nelson’s camp on the self-proclaimed Outlaw Festival tour with six stops throughout July. Then in May, they added an additional five dates for September. Some of the names you would expect to play something titled the “Outlaw Festival,” such as Willie Nelson’s son’s band Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real, Margo Price, and select dates on the tour/festival with Hayes Carll, Jason Isbell, Nathaniel Rateliff, and Blackberry Smoke. These aren’t your typical “Outlaw” country bands per se, but they certainly fit on the periphery, and share a lot of the same fans.
But then you have bands such as The Avett Brothers, My Morning Jacket, and the always-polarizing and omnipresent Sheryl Crow. Does anyone consider these acts “Outlaw”?
One excuse given previously to the presence of Sheryl Crow at Willie Nelson events is that Willie just likes playing with her, and that’s understandable. But some of the slottings at these events smack much more about making certain promoters, managers, or publicists in the industry happy as opposed to putting forth the best lineup, or even an intuitive one. Of course beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to putting together a tribute concert, and sometimes schedules just don’t sync up. But that’s not an excuse to make a bad booking. There are plenty of artists who may not be big names, but would make better, more appropriate additions to a lineup.
Something else curious about the Blackbird Presents operation is the cozy nature they have with the Willie Nelson camp, which also has a history of making curious booking decisions for certain productions. At Willie Nelson’s 2016 4th of July Picnic in Austin, someone though it would be a good idea to put Brantley Gilbert on the lineup. This year the wild card was Sheryl Crow, likely because the whole Outlaw Festival lineup was partially rolled into Willie’s 4th of July Festivities this year. Meanwhile some reports from the Outlaw Festival dates are of very low ticket sales.
Also, Willie Nelson and Toby Keith share some of the same management. This may be the reason the two seem to be linked so often, especially at these tribute concerts, even though they represent polarizing opposites on the country music spectrum.
There has also been questions swirling around just how everyone is getting paid, and where the money is going for these Blackberry Presents tribute concerts. Are the estates of the artists being paid tribute seeing a penny? Do the artists themselves see anything? This was partially cleared up in a recent feature on the company by the CEO Keith Wortman.
“What I do is certainly not for the faint of heart,” said Wortman to Billboard Country Update in late June. “There’s tons of moving parts. On the financial side of things, it’s not the typical standard fee an artist might get for a concert — of course, they’re not doing a full concert; they’re doing a song or two. But we cover all the artists’ expenses, which often can be very significant if you’re the kind of artist that has private jets and things like that, and also all artists participate on a royalty basis in the release of everything from the show.”
Keith Wortman started Blackbird Presents in partnership with producer and legendary bass player Don Was, who often acts as bandleader and music coordinator for the events. Since each artist only plays one or two songs, they utilize a house band for the music as opposed to each artist’s personal band.
“The primary focus and the primary interest was really this labor of love of creating these once-in-a-lifetime, large-scale concert events celebrating my music heroes, and doing so by bringing out a who’s who of incredible artists and performers,” Keith Wortman says.
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It only takes an elementary understanding of the country music landscape to identify that a stark and undeniable cultural divide runs right through the middle of the genre. Concert promoters and tour organizers know this, and understand certain names act like Kryptonite with other artist’s fan bases. Robert Earl Keen and Toby Keith would be one example. Sheryl Crow and anyone who is truly considered an “Outlaw” would be another. That’s no offense to Sheryl Crow; she just doesn’t belong at the Outlaw Festival, or in country music, though sometimes fan bases identify more with artists outside the country genre than they will certain contemporary performers, or polarizing characters such as Toby Keith.
Should we all be able to come together regardless of taste and grievances to show respect to certain artists who came before and helped make country music into the force it is in American culture and beyond? Yes, we should. But one of the reasons some of these legends are being pushed out of the spotlight and such tributes are even necessary is the fault of some of the artists booked at these tributes.
It appears that Blackbird Presents is completely clueless to the cultural divide, and by reaching out to inappropriate artists to play these tributes and tours, are not helping to bring people together, but are instilling a polarizing element into their events and stirring up bad blood that is unnecessary, and probably somewhat bad for business.
This isn’t meant to be a blistering commentary on Blackbird Presents. If they weren’t curating these start-studded tributes to country legends, in all likelihood nobody would be. And for that, it’s not only a worthy cause, it’s a good business model that judging by their 2017 expansion, is working for them at least to some extent. As many of these artists are being left behind by the mainstream, Blackbird Presents is picking up the slack. But they most certainly need help on the curation side—someone who understands the chemistry of country music to create more memorable moments and legendary liuneups that leave your mouth agape, and ones not wrought with bad blood or divided loyalties, or just poor lineup decisions. It would also be good to know where all the money goes for the concerts. Certainly Blackbird Presents deserves a big cut, but so does the estate and the performers.
It is easy to look at any festival lineup and poke holes in it—who is there that shouldn’t be, and who got left out. It’s an annual exercise for so many promoters and festival goers that can get nauseating for everyone. It’s not even about including all like-minded acts, or even similar genre acts on a bill. Stagecoach in California has shown you can have both the independent and mainstream side by side and still make it work. AmericanaFest, Pickathon, and to some extent the new version of the Newport Folk Fest take often disparate elements of the music scene and somehow make them work together.
But there is a point where loyalties and appeal become strained, and Blackbird Presents seems to have a knack of finding that point on a consistent basis, as opposed to avoiding it.
There are also those moments where a lineup is so well-curated, it becomes legendary even before one note is played, like Willie Nelson’s 2015 4th of July Picnic lineup, or the lineup for this year’s Tumbleweed Festival. These are they type of lineups Blackbird Presents should aspire to. That way when fans look back at these tributes in the future, they’re not focused on who was on stage, but what happened because the chemistry between the performers was just about perfect.
July 19, 2017 @ 9:03 am
I was absolutely livid when they announced Jake Owen and Chris Janson at the Hag tribute and immediately suspected your typical Music Row dealing of “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”
That was the perfect opportunity for a piss break.
Save Austin Country
July 19, 2017 @ 9:46 am
I am not crazy about Toby Keith and these other pop tards. But imo Sturgill has gone a little over board with this anti mainstream country music tone. I get it but good gosh accept the fact you are hot and right now. He is isolating himself instead of in bracing the moment. Being a little cocky for my taste as of lately. I’m a huge Sturgill fan but he be better put out a more traditional or neo trad country record for his next album similar to High Top Mountain.
July 19, 2017 @ 9:54 am
Sturgill may be going overboard in certain circumstances, but that’s because he was very close to Merle and saw how they were riding his name upon his death while ignoring him later in his career.
I don’t see this issue being parallel to Sturgill Simpson’s anti-ACM Awards statements. Sturgill didn’t storm off stage or hard cuss anybody just because they told him he had to share a mic with Toby Keith. It’s more about the strange juxtposition the curation of the event created.
July 19, 2017 @ 4:21 pm
I watched that video and didn’t really see Sturgill being “visibly shaken” by sharing a mic with anyone. Maybe Trigger and all of these other people on here who think the guy is Jesus Christ were shaken by it,but he sure the hell wasn’t.
And the reason Toby and Willie are together so much may be because they both share the same management? Ever think maybe, just MAYBE, they’re friends?
July 21, 2017 @ 2:28 pm
Well, there was that post-9/11 duet they teamed up for.
July 19, 2017 @ 11:29 am
Agree and frigging love Sturgill and his badass attitude, but he needs to dial it back some. He can ride this thing straight to the top, but he needs to be careful about alienating. I’m speaking as a publicist, as a fan I love the badassery, but I don’t want to see it affect his career.
July 19, 2017 @ 11:34 am
Gina – maybe him adding the Rihanna cover to his set last week is a PR effort to reach a wider audience ; )
July 19, 2017 @ 11:41 am
Yeah, I saw that! Pretty ingenious 🙂
July 19, 2017 @ 11:32 am
I thought ASGTE was a completely acceptable concept record for Sturgill to do, especially after giving us two amazing, more traditional country – forward albums over a 12 month period. I do see how we might all start getting concerned with the direction that his live shows have taken with the new lineup. I am looking forward to seeing him in Sep, and looking forward to his 10 minute guitar solos and the jam sessions (especially love his bass player), but I am hoping when he goes in the studio next he will do so with a more traditional lineup and with a more traditional country sound in mind.
But who knows…..I think he will eventually put out another more traditional country album, but no telling if it will be his next one, or the one after that.
July 21, 2017 @ 8:50 am
“He better”? Good god.
As a huge fan myself, I am willing to go with the artist wherever his muse takes him. I’d have left Dylan in 1965 with that attitude.
May 30, 2018 @ 6:38 am
Kenny Rogers was a better rock singer to me he just an’t country to me but The New Edition was great.
July 19, 2017 @ 9:14 am
These tribute concerts are shit and I can’t believe anyone spends money on them.
Willie’s Outlaw Fest – I think he’s just playing with artists he likes. We are going to two of the Outlaw Fest dates in September. Van Morrison is on the bill for one. No one is going to argue Morrison is country. But, we forget Willie has released many pop albums that have noting to do with country music. He just won a Grammy in the pop field for that Gershwin album. His influence covers many genres. Outlaw Fest is Blackbirds’ branding, but theses shows with Bob Dylan, My Morning Jacket, Van Morrison, and Eric Church are reflective of Willie’s influence. I love it!
July 21, 2017 @ 8:52 am
Yep. And Van has done many, many, many country covers. His album Pay The Devil is all out trad-country.
July 21, 2017 @ 10:18 am
Thanks, Mule! I was soliciting Morrison album on social media that I need to checkout before the concert, because I know nothing about Morrison. I’ll definitely get this one! Any others besides the first two?
July 21, 2017 @ 10:34 am
His catalog is so vast and deep, it’s a near impossible task to recommend only a few, but for the casual fan and someone into country, I would say go with the Moondance album naturally, and then Tupelo Honey. He put out a wonderful duets album a couple of years ago worth checking out called Reworking the Catalog. From there, go back to Astral Weeks which is his masterpiece and move forward to the late 90s for Back on Top, a strong late period album.
Happy listening! But be aware: Once you start with Van, it’s a lifelong journey.
July 19, 2017 @ 9:19 am
I was at the Emmylou Harris show several years ago. That show had a better roster than some of the latest ones. None of the newer bro-country or R&B country artists were there. There were a number of the Blackbird regulars including Jamey Johnson, Alison Krauss, Buddy Miller and Sheryl Crow. It also included the logical choices of Rodney Crowell and Vince Gill. LeeAnn Womack, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Patti Griffin and Kris Kristofferson among others were also there. Newer artists included Shovels and Rope, Milk Carton Kids, Iron and Wine and Trampled by Turtles. These newer artists did justice to Emmylou’s songs. Overall the lineup made sense.
I liked the show overall but due to the constant artist and stage changes the show never really built any momentum. It was a lot of shuffling in and out. It was the first time I attended a show like that and considering the price, probably the last. Best performance to me was Alison Krauss doing “Till I Gain Control Again”.
July 19, 2017 @ 9:21 am
I was at the Waylon tribute and from my perspective, Toby Keith was actually very respectful through the whole thing and performed better than half of the artists. Having Eric Church in the line up was grossly more egregious than having Toby Keith. I’m sure the final editing has something to do with your opinion, but in my mind, Eric Church and Kacey Musgraves were the two “odd men out” on the bill. Church was drunk and couldn’t remember the words and Kacey couldn’t even articulate why Waylon is such an icon. I’m sure you had seats a lot closer than I, but there’s no way I could tell that Sturgill was disgusted by Toby or that there was an intentional plan to have REK and Toby Keith on opposite sides of the stage. What was missing in the final editing was W. Earl Brown’s story telling and narration in between songs. I’d pay money again just to sit and listen to him talk about music.
July 19, 2017 @ 9:35 am
Toby Kieth grabs Church’s ass or something in that vicinity to throw off Church during the encore. They both were lit (and very disrespectful). When you watch the encore, Sturgill looks like he wants punch someone. I’d bet his fist were clinch.
July 19, 2017 @ 5:32 pm
I wasn’t there and I didn’t see the video, but if Sturgill Simpson clenched his fists and was ready to punch Toby Keith, he certainly made a wise decision aborting the mission. Toby Keith’s music might suck, but he is one big hoss, and I’d lay money down that he would drag Sturgill Simpson all over that stage.
Lil Dale boring country music comentar of the yeer
July 19, 2017 @ 6:13 pm
just keep yur dad gum hands off my wife u here me boy
July 20, 2017 @ 6:11 am
Yeah, man. Isn’t funny that these folks are so enamoured with the guy, that now they’ve convinced themselves he’s a potential world class brawler?
“I love his music, so he must be qualified for MMA! There’s nothing Sturgill Simpson can’t do! Why, I’ll bet he could even perform brain surgery with the best of them!”
July 20, 2017 @ 9:59 am
I haven’t seen anyone here say Sturgill has any sort of fighting prowess. On the other hand, I’ve seen people that don’t like Isbell, call him whiny, a wimp, etc.
July 19, 2017 @ 9:46 am
Actually…. he TK gives Church a wet Willie or messes with his earpiece (maybe pulls it out), throwing Church off. I went back to watch the clip. I don’t know why I thought it was the latter.
July 19, 2017 @ 10:14 am
I’ll go back and watch it, but I still think I prefer TK there instead of Church. You should have seen how quick the bathrooms filled up when it was Church’s turn to sing.
July 19, 2017 @ 10:24 am
But why have either of them as part of this? As you’re illustrating here, for some, Eric Church is the polarizing personality as opposed to Toby Keith. So don’t invite either of them. It seems that these promoters think they need big mainstream names to somehow validate their event when in reality they’re taking away from it. People who like Waylon Jennings are very likely to not like Toby Keith or Eric Curch, or both. Randy Travis fans don’t give a shit about Kane Brown. You’re not selling more tickets, and you’re not drawing more interest by inviting these people, unless that interest is negative. You’re also killing the vibe in the room for many.
July 19, 2017 @ 10:32 am
I agree with you wholeheartedly. I would prefer neither being there, including everyone’s darling Kacey Musgraves.
July 19, 2017 @ 3:48 pm
I am pretty sure most Waylon fans like Church
July 19, 2017 @ 4:25 pm
Not even close. Church, like Toby Keith, is an extremely polarizing character in music. Even if you like these artists personally, you have to have a radar, and a finger on the pulse about public sentiment about artists if you’re going to task yourself with curating events such as these. For example, Saving Country Music started as an organization called Free Hank III. I’m a big Hank3 fan, but he is extremely polarizing. Chris Stapleton is beloved by many, but is very polarizing and vilified among underground fans. The reason I can speak to these things is because I’ve written over 4,000 articles and read all the comments folks leave about artists. Blackbird Presents and other promoters seem to think, “Well this is a popular name, they’ll work just fine.”
July 19, 2017 @ 6:22 pm
I get they’re polarizing but I love Waylon but I also love Church, went to see him in Southhaven for his Holding My Own tour and he put on a hell of a show, no glitz or glamour, just him and his band for over 3 hours. I think the older generation likes and respects him so he is included in these events. Dont you think Waylon wouldve respected him as well for doing things his way? Waylon at a time wasnt considered country
July 19, 2017 @ 10:26 am
July 19, 2017 @ 11:23 am
I agree. I thought Toby Keith was great and one of the people who should actually sing Waylon’s songs. I also couldn’t tell that Sturgill was shaken at all during the finale. I have the DVD and he looks like he’s smiling so I’m not sure about that one either. His version of “Memories of You and I” was about as gorgeous as they come and he should have included it in the CD, IMO. I don’t know his reasoning for that one. He also should have sung Waylon’s part on the Highwayman instead of Shooter but I get why he didn’t. Yeah, Eric Church looked drunk but he was still good. There were a few people I would not have included in the tribute, not because they aren’t talented, but because their voices don’t suit Waylon’s songs.I’m not talking personalities here, I’m taking pure talent and service to Waylon’s songs. Of course, Sturgill should have been part or the Merle tribute, but I’m kind of not surprised he wasn’t either.
July 19, 2017 @ 11:24 am
I meant to reply to JT’s post about Toby Keith.
July 19, 2017 @ 9:35 am
To some extent, their choices may be coming back to bite them. The newspaper report for the Outlaw Music Festival in Detroit mentioned “a disappointingly spare crowd that filled maybe a third of the venue” As much as I like Isbell and Willie, I wasn’t willing to kill time for hours waiting for Sheryl Crow (and Dylan) to perform between them.
July 19, 2017 @ 9:38 am
I was going to comment that the ticket sells have been poor – Detroit was a bust. I thought about driving up to Detroit, but I wasn’t sitting in dumpy Joe Lewis in the middle of summer.
Because of the lackluster ticket sales, I was surprised to see them add dates in September.
July 19, 2017 @ 10:35 am
Here’s the newspaper report:
I think this is what you get when you get multiple incredible acts that would draw well individually, but put them together with poor curation where they equal less than the sum of their parts. I really think you could make an argument that more people would have attended without Sheryl Crow on the lineup. Again, that’s not necessarily a knock on Sheryl Crow. That’s just not what Willie Nelson and Jason Isbell fans go to a concert to see, despite the friendship that may exist between them. To have a venue only fill to 1/3’rd capacity is pretty telling. In the mainstream, they would have canceled a tour so poorly sold before it even started.
July 19, 2017 @ 10:46 am
I would love to see a show with Crow & Willie. I have no desire to see full sets by Isbell, Dylan, or Willie’s children.
July 19, 2017 @ 11:33 am
That’s why I normally stay away from these kind of festivals (Willie is the exception). You only get 30-45 minutes each artist, an hour headliner. So, Sheryl Crow unnecessarily on the bill, takes away time from Isbell, Margo Price, Avett Bros. There’s more value without her on it (except to go to the bathroom and buy beer).
July 19, 2017 @ 12:25 pm
Sheryl Crow was one of the reasons I bought a ticket to the Outlaw Festival stop in Rogers, Ark. It was a nearly sold out show and she got a really great response from the crowd. Very few people sitting near me even knew who Jason Isbell was, but as a sign of their appreciation for good music they gave him a lot of love at the end of his set. Especially with his amazing cover of Whipping Post.
Sheryl played for an hour, Isbell played for an hour and Willie played for about over an hour and a half. I do wish Margo’s set had been longer but the festival started late.
I’m guessing the varying geographical interest in artists/festivals has as much to do also with how much the artists have toured there and how well the festivals have been promoted on different media outlets. The world would be really boring if everyone liked the exact same music, and I’m glad there was variety on the Outlaw Festival tour. Someone doesn’t like an artist? Go get a beer and use the time to stand in the merch line. It’s not that heavy.
July 19, 2017 @ 8:45 pm
You must have caught Willie on a real good night. The reviews for Syracuse and Detroit report he played an hour (I can’t find an Arkansas review). I’ve seen Willie a dozen times the past 3 years and only once did he play over an hour and that was at his 4th of July picnic in Austin last year (about 80 min).
July 19, 2017 @ 9:39 am
I’ll agree that some of the artists are chosen to attract a television audience. However, these shows are really enjoyable. I’ve attended both the Kristofferson and Haggard shows and enjoyed them both immensely. Even the artists who I would normally never give two shits about, I enjoyed their performances.
For example, I cannot stand Jennifer Nettles. I hate her fake nasal country accent. At the tribute show to Kristofferson, she performed an obscure song called “Worth Fighting For”. It was incredible, and I cannot wait to hear it on the DVD/CD release.
I’m not sure where all this pissing and moaning about Toby Keith is coming from. I’m not a big fan, either. However, he and Haggard were legitimately friends. At the tribute to Hag, he performed a couple Hag songs solo, and then a duet with Willie.
Also, the Randy Travis show was not a Blackbird Presents show. I believe it was put together exclusively by Webster PR, just like the tribute to George Jones a few years ago. Both of those shows were great productions, but featured more out-of-place acts than the Blackbird shows.
July 19, 2017 @ 10:01 am
Sorry, I meant to clarify that the Randy Travis tribute was not Blackbird Presents, which I think shows this issue is more broad based. We’ve also seen similar bad pairings as part of the tributes at award shows.
July 19, 2017 @ 11:20 am
I’ve only attended the KK show, and it really was incredible just how awesome Nettles’ performance was. I raved about it for days, and have been waiting for them to release the show so I could show my wife what I was talking about.
On that same note, quite a few of the performers that I didn’t care to see beforehand – and have a feeling would make the list of “doesn’t belong” – were the ones I remember from that night. Darius Rucker blew me away, for godssake!
July 19, 2017 @ 9:42 am
Interesting and informative article, Trigger.
I’m quite excited about the lineup for the upcoming Outlaw Fest in Hershey, PA. Willie, Van Morrison, Sheryl Crow, Avetts, Lukas Nelson…..I get that none of these artists apart from Willie can claim any real connection to the Outlaw movement, but this is just a great collection of artists in one place. Blackbird chose a poor name for the tour.
Van Morrison is a legend and this is his only east coast US show in 2017. Sheryl Crow is more country than most everything on radio these days, The Avett Brothers are incredible live performers and have great respect for traditional country music. Check out their Crossroads with Randy Travis from a few years back and tell me I’m wrong.
Gonna be a great show!
July 19, 2017 @ 9:47 am
Sheryl Crow isn’t country, but she sure is Americana
July 19, 2017 @ 9:50 am
Sheryl’s country album she had out a couple years ago was incredible. She was disappointed that it wasn’t a big hit at radio, but she actually recorded a country album… so of course it wasn’t.
July 19, 2017 @ 10:41 am
Sheryl’s country album she had out a couple years ago was very meh, in my opinion, and smacked of Darius Rucker-style career resurrection and carpetbagging via the country mainstream that ultimately failed because the mainstream doesn’t accept anyone these days that’s female, even artist’s with established names.
July 19, 2017 @ 10:52 am
Sheryl’s record was pretty far from “mainstream”. Take a listen to “Homecoming Queen” or “Callin Me When I’m Lonely”. It was more of a mid-90s country record than anything.
July 19, 2017 @ 11:03 am
I’m very aware of the Sheryl Crow “country” album. You can read my review if you wish:
As I’ve said numerous times, I don’t really want to dog on Sheryl Crow here. It’s not that she’s bad, it’s that she just doesn’t fit. I think these events do much better commercially and creatively if she’s not on the bill. That may sound mean, but that’s just the reality of the situation that a promoter like Blackbird Presents should be in tune with.
July 19, 2017 @ 9:47 am
Sturgill a douche about a lot of things. Plays high and mighty then jumps the fence. Toby ain’t that bad at all.
The real question is how many Waylon tributes does it take before u realize it’s not about Waylon, it’s about $$$$$
July 19, 2017 @ 10:00 am
Just to clarify, I did not say or imply that there was some incident between Toby Keith and Sturgill Simpson on stage or off at the Waylon tribute. That seems to be a sexy conclusion some want to come to. I’m simply saying that if you have your finger on the pulse of the polarization that exists in country music, you know these guys are polar opposites, as is Toby Keith with Robert Earl Keen, and probably a dozen other artists that were up on that stage for the Waylon finale.
Remember the whole saga of Kris Kristofferson cussing out Toby Keith at a Willie Nelson birthday party show? Kris was on stage with Toby too:
July 19, 2017 @ 10:55 am
Listen to Chris Shiflett’s interview with Sturgill. I used to think he had a perpetual chip on the shoulder, but he says beucase he got such a late start as a pro, he has to be 100% on it, all the time. I gained a lot of respect for him. Like all artists, if he wants to eat or feed his family, he has to hustle.
July 19, 2017 @ 11:38 am
I have also gathered that from his latest interviews over the past year or so. I think the Merle Facebook thing was kind of his last hurrah as far as big public shit talking about the country music establishment goes. It sounds like he has wised up on that front (probably from a combination of prodding from his wife and the label folks!).
July 19, 2017 @ 10:22 am
I was at the Merle tribute in Nashville, and it really was a great show. I could have done without Jake Owen, but it was an opportunity to get a beer and my friend said he was better than she thought he’d be. Miranda’s cover of Misery and Gin was magic.
Ben Haggard and the Strangers played an after party at Nudies on Lower Broadway after the show and they brought Toby Keith with them to sing. Noel and Theresa were there and all of them hugged and high fived Toby so he certainly had the Haggard family blessing to participate. Yes Toby was drinking (as was everyone else on stage ) but he was on pitch and knew every single word so I can’t fault him for wanting to have a good time celebrating Merle.
One thing to remember is that they can ask people all day long to participate, but it’s up to the artists also to agree to play. I talked to Margo Price after her show in OKC back in March and asked if she was playing the Merle Tribute. She said she had been asked and would love to have played it but it would have meant losing at least $3,000 that night. So instead she was playing a full show up in Michigan I believe. Which kudos to her – she’s self employed and has to pay her bills at the end of the day.
As far as Sheryl Crow and country music, Sheryl did release a country album a few years back and has lived in Nashville for quite some time. She played a great set at the Outlaw festival stop in Rogers, Arkansas and was very entertaining and engaging with the crowd. Isbell followed her and he doesn’t even consider himself to be a country music artist at all. So yes, these people are on the “outlaw” fringes. They are also respected Grammy winning musicians and if they are good enough for Willie to put them on the bill, then that’s fine by me. I’m happy to support live music and buy albums because traditional radio has become such a shit show when it comes to supporting quality music.
There never will be a perfect lineup that everyone can agree on. But Blackbird should get a hell of a lot of credit for putting on these tributes and festivals to honor our music icons. Because no one else is damn sure doing it.
July 19, 2017 @ 11:35 am
Agree about Blackbird. And it was my impression that Shooter and Jessie Colter had a major hand in the Waylon tribute. I applaud them for what they’re doing. I was wondering why Margo wasn’t at the Merle tribute, but that explains it. Folks gotta tour.
July 19, 2017 @ 12:21 pm
Ben & Theresa Haggard had a big hand in the Merle tribute show, as well.
July 19, 2017 @ 4:20 pm
Living in Nashville, especially these days, doesn’t make Sheryl Crow or anyone else a country music artist.
July 19, 2017 @ 10:48 am
“Curate” is probably too strong a word. “Collating contracts,” more like.
July 19, 2017 @ 11:26 am
I’m on board with the tribute shows. Great opportunity to get Legends together under one roof. It’s a win for music fans. As for the Avett Brothers, I’m still trying to see the ” greatness ” I saw em live back in the day when they were the rage at Ohio University but nationally unknown. Obnoxious was the word. Two hyper caffeinated bearded guys with banjos strumming not picking mind you, furiously, and screaming causing the intoxicated ladies to scream with em. Yecccchh…Then a few years later they are riding that train Mumford and Sons generated of fake bluegrass for hipsters. And they had that song ” my heart is a kickdrum” being played on the alternative rock stations and became alt. rock folk darlings for a hot minute. One of my music buddies loaned me there albums and I gave em a listen but ehhh…
Now there showing up in these tribute shows to country legends and I even saw em with Asleep at The Wheel on Austin City Limits.So I guess they have been a band chasing trends more than keeping a distinct style. Definitely not Outlaw.
July 19, 2017 @ 12:29 pm
I was unimpressed with The Avett Brothers at the Haggard show, and quite disappointed that “Mama Tried” was wasted on them. It also took them forever to get their stage setup and mics correct. All of the legends performed their song in one take and left. While these kids took up valuable stage time being unprofessional.
July 19, 2017 @ 4:41 pm
For the record, there are You Tube videos of the Avetts doing Hag songs long before he died. They’ve been around since 2001-2002 and when alt stations started playing them, it was when Rick Rubin produced their “I and Love and You” album.
July 19, 2017 @ 11:33 am
So much of this involves who you know more than it involves agents, managers, etc. When Blackbird puts together a show, which do you think is more likely to happen: them finagling with an agent about profit sharing, etc, or picking up the phone and calling Sheryl direct and just asking her, “Hey, do you think you could get a babysitter for the 19th of next month? Yeah, it’s a school night, but we’ll get you home by 11, I swear.”
Nashville is a small town, and everyone knows everyone. Eric Church is on all of the Blackbird shows because he has a long history with Blackbird; they had him curate an Americana festival in Raleigh a couple of years back, in an attempt to get a yearly thing off the ground. Why not ask a singer you know to perform at a Waylon tribute – knowing that he’s not *really* going to chase off anyone who would be likely to buy a ticket – that will actually likely get you more press coverage from mainstream outlets?
To put it a different way: if you need your buddy to help you move something on Saturday afternoon, are you going to ask him directly, or are you going to ask his wife (who has a never-ending “Honey Do” list)? In her mind, it may occur to her that she’s getting nothing out of this, so why say yes? So when one of the promoters knows that he’ll probably bump into Sheryl Crow at the Farmers Market this weekend, yeah, he’s probably gonna cash in that favor.
Also, don’t forget that these tickets are expensive as hell. I don’t know that you can really put all of your eggs in the basket labeled “only listens to Outlaw country artists” when you are trying to fill Bridgestone Arena at $75 a head.
July 19, 2017 @ 12:25 pm
The ticket prices for these shows are pretty much on-par or cheaper than any other single act that plays arenas. You’re getting a bill of 25 different artists (with a handful of them being bonafide legends). It seems to be quite a value.
July 19, 2017 @ 3:09 pm
Exactly. It’s lazy, and connected to the intrinsic cronyism that riddles Nashville. All I’m asking is that if you’re going to pay tribute to someone, think of who the BEST artists may be to do so, not just who will be easy to book because they always play these sort of things.
July 20, 2017 @ 6:59 am
But as mentioned above, one of the artists that hands down received the most praise from the Kris Kristofferson tribute show was Jennifer Nettles, who performed a deep cut from one of his (basically forgotten) albums from the 90s; another was Darius Rucker. Would you consider these two to be two of the BEST artists to pay tribute to him?
The painful fact of the matter is, a lot of the acts that *would* be considered more appropriate aren’t going to move tickets. I’ve attended the last two Oprys that Billy Joe Shaver appeared at; it pains me to say it, but he was basically met with indifference and puzzlement from an audience that was more psyched for Montgomery Gentry.
To put it another way: one of the best tribute albums I’ve heard in recent years was the one for John Prine that was produced by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. Among the artists on it are My Morning Jacket, the aforementioned Avett Brothers, and Deer Tick. I don’t know that it would have been improved if T. Graham Brown were on it instead.
To put it yet another way: if Willie wants to perform with Sheryl Crow, let the man perform with Sheryl Crow. If Kris Kristofferson wants to sit onstage with a grin on his face while Lady Antebellum butcher one of his songs, let him. No one is holding a gun to someone else’s head, forcing them to buy tickets to the show.
I love your site and really like your writing most of the time, but this really reeks of – at best – Monday morning quarterbacking, or – at worst – the screed of a sixteen year old bitching about his favorite punk band “selling out”.
July 21, 2017 @ 9:12 am
Nailed it. Amen. Done.
July 19, 2017 @ 12:26 pm
The Laid Back Festival that Gregg Allman started a few years ago just recently announced another artist to the line up. Guess who? SHERYL CROW
July 19, 2017 @ 12:27 pm
Crow and Isbell are good pairing.
July 19, 2017 @ 1:39 pm
I don’t get what everyone’s issue with Sheryl Crow is. Yeah I wouldn’t consider her a country artist but I would definitely consider her an americana artist. Also, it’s not like she’s just randomly at these tribute concerts, Crow has a long history of including several country-influenced tracks on her albums and she certainly has a respect for the genre so, in my opinion, if she wants to pay tribute to some country artists, we should let her. I feel like she fits in alright with Isbell, Nelson, Simpson etc.
July 19, 2017 @ 3:00 pm
Frankly I am stupefied by the amount of support Sheryl Crow is receiving in this comments section. I’ve had scores of people reaching out over the past few months screaming at me to rant about Sheryl Crow’s inclusion on these events. I guess they’re not the same folks who would be interested in reading a 25-paragraph article. I think Sheryl Crow is an extremely polarizing character in music, and has been for many years, specifically because she’s so ubiquitous and seems to be necessary to include at ALL of these events regardless of genre. It’s not that she’s terrible, but that her omnipresence grates the nerves. And frankly, Jamey Johnson is beginning to grow into that distinction as well.
July 20, 2017 @ 12:33 am
I’m fine with Sheryl. She’s a native Missouri girl too, so maybe I’m biased, but I like her and she definitely has country roots. There are very few women included in these shows, so I try to celebrate them when I can.
July 20, 2017 @ 7:02 am
Re: “very few women”, aint that the truth. As I pointed out to a friend when this year’s lineup of Dylan Fest at the Ryman was announced, “Well, I guess I’m just happy that they found room for three women on a thirty act bill that includes a dude currently being investigated for multiple sexual assaults (Danny Masterson…yes, the actor).”
July 20, 2017 @ 7:17 am
I’d say she’s roots music friendly, but I’ve always found her music to be a bit on the lightweight, underwhelming side. For example, I don’t think her music is anywhere near that of such Americana/Root Music heavyweights as Patty Griffin, Lucinda Williams or Gillian Welch. I like her as a singer sometimes, like her version of Hank Williams’s Long Gone Lonesome Blues or her duet with Emmylou Harris on the Flying Burrito Brothers song Juanita, but her original music leaves me cold for the most part.
Toby in AK
July 27, 2017 @ 12:12 pm
Sheryl Crow generates no feelings for me, good or bad. Perhaps a little bit of drowsiness.
I feel this way about Rucker though, he’s a good singer, has mostly been paired with good songs, and sounds country enough to me. Doesn’t necessarily bother me when rock singers go country, as long as they do it well (usually not the case). It may be opportunism, but then again sometimes it may be genuine.
I’m not looking for an explanation from Trigger though, I understand his feelings there
July 19, 2017 @ 1:46 pm
I think more artists will be announced for the Kenny Rogers show. It seems logical that Kim Carnes, a Nashville resident, would be there. If this is a REAL tribute show, how about adding acts that toured with Kenny for years, namely the Oak Ridge Boys. Linda Davis has been touring with Kenny for years. How about a Linda/Lady A (Hillary Scott) duet? It seems acts other legend acts like Ronnie Milsap or Reba should be a part of the show.
Dolly will sell a lot of tickets, so that is great news that she will be there. Alison K should be there to sing her hit with Kenny, “Buy Me a Rose.” I saw Kenny a few years ago in Nashville and his voice was very hoarse and his appearance frail. He depended too much on the audience to sing the chorus to many of his hits. I am glad he knows it is time to “know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em.”
These shows will only succeed if the artists and the music align. Several months ago, singers from all genres performed a tribute to the Bee Gees on CBS. Granted it was taped a few days after the Grammy Awards in LA, but love or hate them, the Bee Gees’ music transcended genres, with great production and featured diverse artists like Keith Urban, Little Big Town, Demi Lavato and John Legend.
Best of luck to Kenny in his retirement and to show being a success.
July 19, 2017 @ 4:27 pm
Love the Bee Gees. Hated the tribute. Demi Lavato singing Stayin’ Alive made no sense whatsoever. Which is kinda the point of this article from what I infer. A good tribute will have artists that make sense to the honoree and the songs.
Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk
I’m a woman’s man: no time to talk
Music loud and women warm, I’ve been kicked around
Since I was born
And now it’s all right, it’s okay
And you may look the other way
We can try to understand
The New York Times’ effect on man
July 19, 2017 @ 2:16 pm
When we like an artist’s music and dislike another’s it’s faulty to assume that the one we like could not possibly like the one we dislike. Unless you have a close, personal relationship with the favored artist, you don’t know
July 19, 2017 @ 3:07 pm
When you write an article like this, you have to go in knowing people are going to inherently misunderstand what you’re trying to convey. Nobody is criticizing Blackbird Presents for putting on these tributes. The point is attempting to curate a lineup where the chemistry is such that magic and “moments” can happen on stage, as opposed to stifling the magic because you go to the default folks that always show up to these tributes.
For example, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson have a history together. Willie Nelson and Toby Keith have a history together.
But Robert Earl Keen has a history with Toby Keith that is bad, as does Kristofferson. Why not put a lineup together that may have slightly less start power, but a greater ability at capturing the spirit and essence of the artist being paid tribute, and will find more of a favorable consensus from the audience?
If you’re going to do these tributes, do them right. Put a little more effort in curating the performers as opposed to just posting the default lineup of Sheryl Crow, Jamey Johnson, and whomever because those are the names in your Rolodex.
July 20, 2017 @ 7:05 am
For what it’s worth, Jamey was invited by Kris to join him, Willie, and Shooter Jennings on performing “Highwayman” in the encore of his tribute show, so I’d guess that Kris would say that the tribute was “done right”.
July 19, 2017 @ 3:20 pm
In no way did I misunderstand. Just saying that there could be a chance that artists are there because they may be liked and respected. Just because you don’t think “they fit” doesn’t make it gospel
July 19, 2017 @ 4:29 pm
Nobody’s opinion is gospel, and I tried to express not just that, but the difficulty curating these events. However saying that Robert Earl Keen and Toby Keith hate each other is not an opinion. Saying that Toby Keith is a polarizing figure in music is not an opinion. Saying Sheryl Crow and My Morning Jacket have absolutely nothing to do with Outlaw country is not an opinion. There is never going to be the ideal lineup. But what you can ensure is you don’t include something so out of left field that you alienate certain elements of the listening public and cut your own legs off. Promoters of these tributes seem to be doing this to themselves quite often.
July 19, 2017 @ 8:31 pm
I have to say this about My Morning Jacket: when I was fed up with country radio in 2004, I turned to those guys and Band of Horses and Neko Case and Deer Tick to get my through. I don’t listen to those guys as much anymore or attend their shows, but they filled the void till Hank 3 released Straight to Hell and I found Saving Country Music. So, seeing them on the bill isn’t as strange as Brantley Gilbert (too me).
July 19, 2017 @ 8:52 pm
I’ve got no problem with My Morning Jacket, The Avett Brothers, or even Sheryl Crow. The problem is when you try to curate them somewhere where they don’t belong, or sell them as something they’re not, i.e. “Outlaws.” What it does is it makes me want to hate them.
Whenever I post about these events, social media and the comments sections fill up with people freaking out over Sheryl Crow and others being invited. It sullies the entire thing for many fans. That’s why I’m dumbfounded by the amount of apologists that have come here in droves on this article. I remember the imbroglio Eric Church caused when people were trying to consider him an Outlaw. Sheryl Crow and My Morning Jacket? I mean come on.
July 20, 2017 @ 7:09 am
I don’t know that we are standing up for Crow as apologists. I’m reading it more as you may be wrong in this instance?
Or to quote the character Marlo from The Wire: You want it to be one way, but it’s that other way.
Or to quote my dead grandpa: If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas.
July 20, 2017 @ 8:40 am
We’ll it’s an opinion that having Sheryl Crow at these events is unhelpful, and by nature opinions can’t be wrong, or right. Though the low attendance numbers at some of these “Outlaw Festival” dates would seem to indicate there is some validity to my argument. I think if the title of this article would have been, “Why the Hell is Sheryl Crow Playing All These Tributes?” this comments section would be filled with Sheryl Crow hatred. But that’s not what I wanted to do here. I turned this into an intellectual exercise and tried to be constructive by conveying how I believe these promoters are not understanding the nuances of fan bases and demographics, and it’s resulting in bad bookings. Really, it’s the commenters who have made this into a referendum on the artists themselves, which was what I was trying to avoid. There was a time on SCM when Toby Keith and Eric Church were public enemy #1 and #1A here. The fact that folks are even defending them tells me this articles is being read by the type of folks who can actually pay to attend these events as opposed to the people who love to hate on them from afar. I got attacked from promoting the Outlaw Fest and not making more about Sheryl Crow’s inclusion. We have people discussing who would take who in a fist fight between Toby Keith and Sturgill Simpson when the point here was attempting to avoid conflict across the cultural divide by not booking polarizing artists.
I will take responsibility for perhaps couching this article in the wrong manner to where folks are focusing more on the personalities than the subject matter. But I think the premise is still valid, and important.
July 19, 2017 @ 4:37 pm
I don’t think he believes it’s gospel. This is an opinion blog. Opinion being the key. His credentials speak for themselves and his opinion is just that.
IMO, tributes suck. No one (IMO) can perform a legends song(s) as well as the legend. I appreciate the attempts, if sincere, but, again my opinion, most performers are ego driven and need attention and will do it in any manner they deem will garner them publicity, good, bad or indifferent. However, I think what Trigger is saying might be something the “curators” would want to take into consideration.
July 21, 2017 @ 1:34 pm
They cancelled the “Outlaw” show in New Orleans (Metarie) altogether. They said it was due to scheduling conflicts but we all know better. I was foing to be in the area and had tickets.
July 21, 2017 @ 5:03 pm
If they’re canceling events, and having other stops with only 1/3’rd attendance, I think it lends very deeply to my opinion that “Outlaw” country music fans don’t want to go see Sheryl Crow and others being put on these rosters. They would rather wait and see Willie Nelson solo on the next go ’round, or see Sheryl Crow by herself. It’s a bad pairing. And though there may be some outliers to that opinion in this comments section, the vast majority of folks that otherwise might be into this type of event are going to take a pass.
July 19, 2017 @ 6:48 pm
Was fortunate enough to attend the Keith Whitley tribute last month in Nashville. Was great to see so many artists pay tribute to Keith. Beyond the confusion of Lorrie Morgan and Jesse Keith insisting on drinking so heavily, it was a great show. Davis Daniel, Wesley Dennis, Ken Mellons and Mo Pitney were highlights. I even got to meet legendary Whitey Shafer. Even though not a fan,Billy Ray showed up and and sang a song. I am sure not a ton of money was made, but it was an enjoyable night and all artists seemed genuinely happy to be there. I assume they were paid something, but it did not feel like it was only about money.
July 19, 2017 @ 7:52 pm
Sheryl Crow has always been “a little bit Country.” From her very first hit in 1994 (All I Wanna Do) with it’s prominent pedal steel, she’s worn her Country influences proudly. I’ll admit, I raised an eyebrow when I saw her name on the roster of this Outlaw Country festival but if she doesn’t “fit”, then what about Dylan and Morrison? Dylan’s been mired waist deep in Adult Contemporary for awhile now and that last Van album was tasteful folk, lovely but limp when compared to the one before it, which was all hard charging Rhythm & Blues. The Outlaw Country genre is a home for artists who don’t “fit.” If anything needs changing, it’s the festival name.
Sheryl gets asked to do these tributes because she more than a star, she’s a musician who can hold her own harmonizing on a stage in the background or leading from up front. She’s also relatively well spoken and can deliver a speech if needed. She’s also earned the respect of her elders after almost 3 decades of doing it and doing it well. From Tuesday Night Music Club (’94) she’s stood for writing your own songs, crafting them in the studio yourself with professionals, touring relentlessly. And there she is on the covert art, fully clothed, getting her co-creators a shout-out via the album title. Now that I think about it, All I Wanna Do was probably the last time we heard a pedal steel in the Hot 100. Her hits were also probably the last time we heard Hammond B-3’s and Fender Rhodes or actual instruments being played by actual musicians in the Hot 100 period.
Which other female rock stars of a certain age are they gonna call anyway? Stevie Nicks? Chrissie Hynde? They don’t do those things. St. Vincent? Haim? We can all think of a hundred people we’d prefer seeing in the Sheryl spots but what are we faulting her for? Wanting to pay homage to her heroes? How dare they give her a platform so she can tribute her mentors? These events are always a mixed bag. Always have been. Wayne Coyne’s Flaming Lips at the Kenny Rogers one? Wacky. I’d like to reserve judgement until I actually hear their 3-4 minutes but that’s just one band. Who else? Those left-field acts are the exceptions and rightly so. These latest Tributes are about as well curated as any of the ones that came before. Maybe a little less but what to heck?
There are some people who only listen to Country music. I can’t do that. I need a little variety. I’m sure I’ll be singing a different tune when they do a Lucinda Williams one and ask anyone but Blake Mills to do “Fruits of my Labor.” Not seeing Sturgill at the Merle tribute was odd but I assumed he had a previous engagement, like he did the night he won big at the Americana Awards but couldn’t attend. Not unheard of. The fact that these legends are getting the special treatment is good enough. Other genres just toss their oldies acts under the bus, never to heard from again. It’s not perfect but what is these days?
July 19, 2017 @ 7:58 pm
These things, in any genre, are always SO BAD…and aren’t a tribute to anything but the bank accounts of the promoters…
July 20, 2017 @ 5:35 am
I actually liked a lot of the Gregg Allman tribute show except for a couple of performances(Church, Gilbert, etc). But you’re right, most of them aren’t very good. The concerts often fail to gain momentum throughout the show.
July 19, 2017 @ 8:10 pm
A Toby Keith tribute
July 20, 2017 @ 1:23 am
The Flaming Lips? Great band, I’ll take them over Little Big Town any day!
Paul W Dennis
July 20, 2017 @ 3:30 am
While some of these guests seem far-fetched, I don’t think Michael Ray (a/k/a Ray Roach, the name he used before adopting his stage name) is such a stretch. Ray grew up on real country and I’ve seen him perform the traditional stuff – I suspect that he could perform much of the Merle Haggard canon at the drop of a hat.
July 20, 2017 @ 4:33 am
Really loved the Haggard show. Where can you see the level of talent,new and old. That’s the last time I will be able to see some of these legends.
July 20, 2017 @ 5:32 am
I thought the Merle show was incredible. Some of the once in a lifetime collaborations are worth the price of admission. Willie/Richards, Johnson/Lynn and anytime I can hear Johnson and Krauss….cmon.
The only what for me was Jake Owen.
And, from what I could tell it was Sturgill played exclusively preshow and intermission.
July 20, 2017 @ 7:46 am
Love Waylon! Love Eric Church!… why the hate for Church? Can’t really compare Church with Keith c’mon!
July 20, 2017 @ 10:29 am
Exactly, I dont get why they hate on Church either, does things his own way and makes good music
July 20, 2017 @ 3:18 pm
Nor do I. He’s a talented guy.
July 21, 2017 @ 4:32 pm
Eric Church has talent, I just don’t fall for his act.
July 20, 2017 @ 6:53 pm
While I disagree with probably 80% of the article, I’ve kinda lost the desire to really do so publicly with Trigger, because at this point I just see the poor guy sitting in front of the computer, head in hands, saying out loud, “You gotta be shittin’ me” after reading the 20th defense of Sheryl Crow…
July 20, 2017 @ 6:54 pm
I will ask this, though, while I’m thinking about it and someone asked about Church just above me: when did the Chris Janson hate start? I thought he was considered “one of the good ones”?
July 20, 2017 @ 9:32 pm
The entire premise of this article was to attempt to highlight the knowledge gap between the organizers of these tribute concerts, and the realities present within the country music fan base. Because the focus has been on personalities as opposed to the broader premise, that objective somewhat failed. However, the fact that someone, anyone, believes that Chris Janson is “one of the good ones,” is a glaring example of that knowledge gap more than anything.
July 21, 2017 @ 8:25 am
I guess I just hadn’t noticed where Janson was considered one of the bad ones, I guess. Honestly, I’ve never heard the dude’s music outside of Opry appearances, so maybe his songs are worse when recorded vs played live?
July 21, 2017 @ 8:27 am
Just ran a search for Janson on the site. Gotta say, you seem to run 50/50 on the guy, so it’s not hard to come to the conclusion that you might be a fan.
July 21, 2017 @ 4:18 pm
I went to a Super Bowl party this past winter, and after the game, we ended up watching part of a Toby Keith concert, then Tim McGraw. I have liked Toby’s earlier work, from the early to mid 90s, but this concert he appeared drunk and kept a “Red Solo Cup” of what was probably alcohol close to the mic stand and appeared quite drunk. You couldn’t understand half the lyrics because he appeared so drunk. And this is the guy you want doing a tribute to you? For the record the Tim McGraw concert was much better.
Big Texas Mike
July 22, 2017 @ 8:51 pm
It’s like the fucking European Union; get a bunch of distinctive people and tell them to assimilate and lose their distinctiveness. This makes me sick, and it’s too bad the old timers can’t see that it’s not cozy up to the corrupt establishment anymore that will fulfill you, but then again maybe seem feel compelled after first taking industry dole. Once on the dole always on the dole.
July 23, 2017 @ 6:12 pm
If anyone is interested the Keith Whitley Tribute Show is online at Vimeo .com From Nick Latto. I was fortunate to attend and thought it was an honest and touching tribute to Keith. Peace.