A Word from Cheryl:

Thank you for visiting my Concert Review Blog. I have enjoyed attending, photographing and writing about a variety of concerts over the past several years. I hope that my reviews and photos have made you feel like you were right there with me.

At this time in my life I've taken a step back, looked at what’s truly important and have begun to prioritize my time, energy and resources.

I retired from nursing in 2012 and was then able to be with my aging father, who later passed away in June, 2013.

My family is growing dramatically! We now have eight grandchildren and I take every opportunity to be available to help when needed. I also make sure I carve out plenty of time for my husband so that he knows how important he is to me.

Because of this I don't attend many concerts anymore. I try to be selective in choosing a show and do my best to relax and enjoy the experience. I no longer stress about getting the perfect photo or remembering some occurrence so I can write about it.

If you want to view a collection of some of my favorite photos from the past several years you may find them here:
Cheryl's Pearls Photos - Concerts

Thanks again for visiting my site.

May God Bless,

Monday, November 8, 2010

Tenth Avenue North in Woodbridge, VA


            Tenth Avenue North played the Hylton Memorial Chapel in Woodbridge, VA on Thursday, November 4.  Promoted by Dan Donehey, father of lead singer, Mike Donehey and sponsored by Mike’s alma mater, Fredericksburg Christian School, it was obvious Mike was thrilled to be playing at a venue so close to his hometown with family and friends in attendance.

       If you purchased a deluxe ticket you were allowed early entry for an informal question and answer time with Tenth Avenue North’s band members: Mike Donehey, Jason Jamison, Jeff Owen, Rueben Juarez and Brendon Shirley.  This is different from your average “meet and greet” where you have a brief encounter with the band, perhaps obtain an autograph and get your photo taken with them.  During the Q&A we learned that all the band members listed “The Truth Is Who You Are” as a current Tenth Avenue North song favorite; Mike wrestled with writing “Empty My Hands” for over one and a half years before he was satisfied with the finished product; they have to be creative where family time is concerned while on tour; and in case you thought Mike stole his hairstyle from Justin Bieber he claims he’s had it since before Justin was even born.
      The concert was full of songs off their current album “The Light Meets the Dark” and selections from their first album “Over and Underneath.”  When asked how the band is able to keep their performance fresh night after night Mike Donehey replied that the set list is thoughtfully prepared allowing for some flexibility. The ability to challenge audiences to a deeper walk of faith while simultaneously encouraging them with the truth of God’s grace has propelled Tenth Avenue North to the forefront of the Christian music industry.

            I couldn’t help but be impressed by the band’s sincerity and commitment to share their faith through music.  They are also willing to put their faith into action.  Jeff and Jason took a moment to encourage support for organizations against human trafficking and slavery.  Mike later challenged us to support the needy in third world countries through Compassion, International – something each of the band members already do.  According to Mike “worship is something we do with our whole life.”

            Opening for Tenth Avenue North was Matt Maher who proved to be a great choice as he interacted with the audience while sharing his music, encouraging audience participation.  Matt was followed by the contemporary Christian group Addison Road.  I confess I was a little disappointed when they didn’t perform their hit “What Do I Know of Holy” but there were those in the audience more familiar with the songs on their self titled album that didn’t seem to mind.

            All in all it was a wonderful night of praise and worship with a personal challenge for me to live out my faith in everything I do.

Go here for more photos from the concert.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Adam Brand performs in Bristow, VA


I always enjoy catching the side stage performances at radio station sponsored festivals.  In the past some side stage performers have gone on to become huge names in country music (Jason Aldean and Zac Brown Band come to mind).

A few weeks ago during the Fall Festival in Bristow, Virginia, I was delighted to see singer / songwriter Adam Brand perform on the side stage.  Who is Adam Brand, you ask?  He’s no stranger to country music, just a stranger in our country.

Adam Brand hails from Perth, Australia.  He has numerous Platinum and Gold Australian Country Music Record Awards, plus several CMAA awards - the most recent being “Male Artist of the Year” in 2009.  He’s also been nominated for 2010 CMAA’s Album of the Year, Single of the Year and Male Artist of the Year.

Brand was featured in season nine of the Australian “Dancing with the Stars” and won!  His partner, professional dancer Jade Hatcher, became his wife on May 31, 2010.  They decided to take an extended honeymoon in the United States.

Brand has recently signed with U.S. label Arista Nashville (a subsidiary of Sony Music Entertainment) and has a single available on iTunes called “Ready for Love.”  In a video created for the song you will see glimpses of his beautiful wife, Jade.

Check out the newly released video here.

What a treat to be able to have Adam Brand at such a small setting as a side stage and hear this seasoned performer share his wonderful songs with us.  In addition to “Ready for Love” one song in particular stands out in my mind.  “Kissing the Phone” was especially poignant for those listeners missing a loved one far away from home.  This song talks about people attempting to convey their emotion and longing over the phone.

I can’t imagine what it must be like for Adam Brand to go from tremendous stardom to being a virtual "unknown" here in the states.  As Brand sings his way across America I hope many of you will get the opportunity to hear him before he heads back to Australia.  If you don’t hear him this tour, perhaps next time when he returns to “Brand America.”

Photos from Adam's performance in Bristow: here

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sugarland with Little Big Town - Bristow, VA

As a member of Sugarland’s Fan Club I had the unique opportunity to be one of the few fans selected to attend their afternoon sound check in Bristow, VA before their performance that evening.  About 12-15 of us were checked through security and led to our seats in the pavilion.  No cameras were allowed so I’ll do my best to paint a verbal picture for you.

The band members were already warming up when Kristian Bush casually walked on stage wearing a white t-shirt, torn jeans, flip flops and a ball cap.  He waved to us and proceeded to discuss songs with the band.

We were treated to instrumental renditions of “Little Miss,” Every Girl Like Me,” and “Tonight” – all brand new songs from Sugarland’s “Incredible Machine” album to be released October 19.  They discussed measures and counts and at one point Kristian turned to us and said, “See, we really do work!”

With 15 minutes left in the sound check Jennifer Nettles arrived barefoot in a khaki colored jumper over a sports bra.  She and Kristian adjusted their wireless mics and ran through the song “Settlin’.” Kristian played guitar and Jennifer walked through the steps on stage.  They worked out a dance move and did a hamstring stretch to warm up.  As they rehearsed “Incredible Machine” Jennifer walked over to Brandon Bush (Kristian’s brother) on the keyboard, picked up a pair of drumsticks and began playing to the beat.

The last song they rehearsed was “Sigh No More” – one of the encore performances they do with Little Big Town.  Finally they bid us good bye and said “See you at the show!”

Having seen Sugarland perform the week before in Charlottesville, Virginia, I was truly looking forward to experiencing their concert again.  Every time you go to this show you see something different and new.  It is evident a lot of thought went into creating the set with its machine-type mechanisms and contrasting romantic, Victorian feel with lamps, lighting and visual effects.

Sugarland is energetic and fun.  Jennifer Nettles is such a joy to watch, playfully toying with the audience, cracking jokes with that deep southern drawl of hers and casually moving from song to song.  She has a way of embodying the music – it seems to come from a place deep within her.  She can be graceful as a ballerina one minute and funky as a street dancer the next.

Kristian Bush is a wonderful side kick for Jennifer.  His face is always full of expression as he plays guitar or mandolin and sings.  When he’s not mixing it up with Jennifer he’s frequently moving about the stage and interacting with the audience.

If the songs “Stand Up,” “Incredible Machine,” and “Stuck Like Glue,” performed in concert are any indication of the new album coming out in October, I think Sugarland has a huge hit on the horizon.

Sugarland’s opening act, Little Big Town, played several songs from their current album “The Reason Why.”  They opened with the harmonious “Why, Oh Why” followed by “Little White Church,” as well as “Runaway Train,” “The Reason Why,” “Shut Up Train,” and “Kiss Goodbye” which is lovely and will be their next single off the album.  They also performed some crowd favorites “A Little More You,” “Bring It On Home,” and the ever popular “Boondocks.”

Little Big Town returned during Sugarland’s finale to perform London-based folk rock quartet Mumford & Son’s “Sigh No More.”  The harmonies were beautiful but personally I preferred their Charlottesville finale performance of “Walkin’ In Memphis” with Sugarland.
The final song of the night was Sugarland’s rendition of The Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive,” which received a tremendous response from the audience and appeared to have everyone up on their feet singing and dancing.  I left Bristow with a smile on my face and a bounce in my step.

Thanks for the incredible time Sugarland!

Additional Photos the Bristow Concert here

Published: Star Exponent

Monday, September 6, 2010

Josh Turner at the Shenandoah County Fair


As Josh Turner sings in his song “All Over Me,” – “Well the weather man said it’s gonna be a hot one, heard it on the radio…” it was indeed blisteringly hot on Wednesday, September 1, at the Shenandoah County Fair in Woodstock, VA where Josh brought his “Haywire” Tour.  Lots of folks were overcome by the 95+ degree heat (myself included) and I’d like to personally thank the Woodstock Fire and Rescue department for their prompt assistance.  All I can say is when it’s extremely hot and sunny outside be sure to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate if you’re gonna be out there in it!

Aside from the heat, the concert was most enjoyable.  Josh sang a mixture of old and new songs in that deep, rich baritone voice of his that sets him apart from anyone else.  Familiar songs like “Everything is Fine,”  “Firecracker,” “Would You Go With Me,” “Long Black Train,” “Me and God,” plus songs from his new album: “Why Don’t We Just Dance,” “As Fast As I Could,” “I Wouldn’t Be A Man,” “Eye Candy,” “All Over Me,” “Haywire,” and “The Answer.”  It’s refreshing to hear an artist whose songs consistently reflect his convictions on family values, love and faith.

Josh introduced his wife, Jennifer, who plays keyboard with the band and is currently pregnant with their third son.  I noticed the two of them exchanging eye contact and smiling at each other during the concert.  It was sweet to see.

The crowd was very receptive to all the songs Josh played but it seemed to me that his spiritually based songs got the most enthusiastic response.  Josh was warmly embraced in this rural area and he appeared to be grateful for it as well as humbled by it when acknowledging the standing ovations, frequent cheers and applause.

Photos of Josh Turner at Sheandoah Co. Fair by CWalker

Published: Star Exponent

Monday, August 30, 2010

Trace Adkins in Harrisonburg, VA August 18, 2010


Trace Adkins certainly had his “game on” recently at the Rockingham County Fair in Harrisonburg, VA.  It was August 18, and his new album, “Cowboy’s Back In Town,” had just been released the day before (available on iTunes).  Trace was in rare form, joking and laughing with the audience between songs.

Trace had a little fun with the Queen and Princesses of the Fair asking if they thought their crowns were real.  He then turned the joke back on himself saying his wife and daughters believed they were born wearing crowns.

Trace performed a wide variety of his many hits and crowd favorites, plus his new single, “This Ain’t No Love Song.”  He also introduced some additional selections from the new CD – “Hell, I Can Do That,” “Hold My Beer,” “Brown Chicken Brown Cow” all of which had us rolling in the aisles with laughter.

Eventually Trace pointed to a young lady in the crowd and said “Stop all that jumpin’, you’re making me tired.”  Then he looked at us, shook his head and with that lopsided grin of his declared, “That girl’s been jumpin’ up and down all night!”   Later Trace singled out someone waving a hat and asked, “Is that my hat?  Well come on up here!” and proceeded to autograph the hat.

Toward the end of the evening Trace laughingly proclaimed “My album just came out yesterday and I don’t know who scheduled this concert but it musta been a mistake!  I gotta go to New York tomorrow morning for the Today Show and I’m gonna sound like crap!”  Everyone laughed, cheered and applauded.
It’s impressive that Trace kept his commitment to a small county fair, gave it his all and still planned to appear on national T.V. the next day.  I made sure I watched Trace Adkins on the Today Show.  It was mentioned that he drove through the night to get there and you know what?  He didn’t sound like “crap” at all.

Trace Adkins Concert Pics by CWalker

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Rascal Flatts - Bristow, VA August 14, 2010


Rascal Flatts rolled their “Nothing Like This Tour” into Bristow, VA Friday, August 14.  Catching a break from the sweltering heat and ferocious thunderstorms attacking our area recently, the weather was delightfully balmy with reduced humidity – just perfect for a concert.

RCA recording artist, Chris Young, opened the show with his rich baritone vocals and country boy charm.  Chris appeared to enjoy himself on stage, joking with his band mates during “Beer and Gasoline,” and easily shifted gears, appealing to family values singing “Voices” and “The Man I Want to Be.”  The ladies in the crowd certainly seemed “thunderstruck” as Chris sang his number 1 hit “Gettin’ You Home.”

Kellie Pickler sure brought the heat when she arrived on stage.  Dressed in a little black dress that had the guys following her every move, Kellie danced and pranced through songs like “Best Days of Your Life,” “Didn’t You Know How Much I Loved You,” “Don’t You Know You’re Beautiful,”  and “Red High Heels.”  When she slowed things down with “I Wonder,” I noticed a lot of bling – her microphone sparkled and so did the engagement ring from her fiancé, Kyle Jacobs.

Rascal Flatts promised ‘Nothing Like This Tour’ and they had a couple of roving reporters with a film crew seeking people to interview and project on the hi-def screen between artists.   Let me just say we saw folks with very unique “talents” in addition to some cute couples – one teenage couple on their first date managed to get that awkward first kiss out of the way early.  Oh my!

Rascal Flatts (Gary LeVox, Jay DeMarcus, and Joe Don Rooney) finally took the stage to thunderous applause and sang hit after hit.  Celebrating 10 years of music they mixed old and new songs together like: “Praying for Daylight,” “I’m Movin’ On,” “Mayberry,” “I Melt,” “These Days,” with “Me and My Gang,” “Fast Cars and Freedom,” “Here’s To You,” “What Hurts the Most,” “Here Comes Goodbye,” and “Unstoppable.”  They also introduced their newest single, “Why Wait” about a guy who’s already bought his girl a diamond ring and can’t wait to get to church and get married.
I was impressed once again with Rascal Flatts’ rich harmonies, showcased even more beautifully when they talked about how they began singing in church at an early age and broke into the hymn “Oh the Blood of Jesus.”  They continued to demonstrate their versatility singing snippets of “Take It To the Limit” (Eagles) and “Open Arms” (Journey) then followed up with a classic Rascal Flatts song “Bless the Broken Road.”
Up-tempo “Life Is A Highway” and encore “Summer Nights” which included Chris Young and Kellie Pickler had the crowd on its feet singing loud and strong.  There’s nothing like those Flatts boys…

Click to view Cheryl's photos from the concert

Published: Star Exponent
Article re-posted: Urban Country Blog  and Got Country?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Brooks and Dunn in Bristow, VA August 1, 2010


Brooks and Dunn came to Bristow, VA on August 1 to present their Last Rodeo Tour before they part ways.  It was a rousing, fun-loving, charming, and bittersweet performance for the duo.

Adding some edge to the country sound for the evening was opener Gary Allan.  Mixing rockier tunes such as, “Get Off On the Pain,” “She’s So California,” “Learning How to Bend,” with tender ballads like “Best I Ever Had,” and “Today” Gary seemed to enjoy seeing and hearing fans sing his songs back to him.

However Gary was upstaged by his own dog, Lucy, when he brought her on stage for his final number.  I was amazed at how well Lucy obeyed her master, sitting close to his feet at the end of the catwalk amid thousands of cheering fans.  I could only shake my head and imagine how my dog would react in that situation, possibly doing some serious damage to someone.

The crowd enthusiastically received Brooks & Dunn apparently forgiving them for postponing their originally scheduled show June 19 when Ronnie Dunn had vocal problems.   During the concert both Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn took the opportunity to thank their fans for making their ride to country music fame and fortune possible.  In return they did something daring in the middle of their set – they let the audience pick a song for them to sing that was not already on the set list.  With Brooks & Dunn’s deep repertoire that was a risky move but when someone called out “That’s What She Gets for Loving Me” they sang it flawlessly although Ronnie certainly breathed a sigh of relief when it was over.

There was a lot of humorous banter between the two men all evening long.  At one point in the show Ronnie Dunn bemoaned the fact that he never got to wear a cowboy hat like popular country music artists Tim McGraw or Kenny Chesney, purposefully leaving his hat wearing partner, Kix Brooks, off the list.  Ronnie said that in order to show he’s a real cowboy he had to do something drastic and proceeded to show us his arm with a tattoo of the word COWBOY in big black letters.

As always Brooks & Dunn made sure they honored the various branches of our military.  Servicemen stood at attention during “Only in America” as celebratory streamers fell reminding us of the cost of the freedom we enjoy.

When Brooks and Dunn sang “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone” – I thought, “We sure will, country music won’t be the same without you guys!”

See Brooks & Dunn Concert Photos by CWalker

Brooks & Dunn Set List:
  1. Play Something Country
  2. You Can't Take The Honky Tonk Out Of The Girl
  3. Momma Don't Get Dressed Up For Nothing
  4. Hillbilly Delux
  5. Put A Girl In It
  6. You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone
  7. Ain’t Nothing ‘Bout You
  8. Last Rodeo
  9. Lost and Found
  10. That’s What She Get’s For Loving Me
  11. It’s Getting Better All The Time
  12. Cowgirls Don’t Cry
  13. My Next Broken Heart
  14. How Long Gone
  15. Red Dirt Road
  16. Believe
  17. She Likes To Get Out Of Town
  18. Neon Moon
  19. Rock My World Little Country Girl
  20. Only In America
  21. My Maria
  1. Brand New Man
  2. Boot Scootin’ Boogie
    Article Published: The Star Exponent  
    Reposted: Urban Country Blog and Got Country?

I've had a few folks ask the name of the young couple who opened the show before Gary Allan & Brooks & Dunn took the stage.  That would be Thompson Square comprised of married couple Keifer & Shawna Thompson.  They sang their first single "Let's Fight" but I enjoyed their newest release "Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not?" a lot more.  Best of luck to this talented duo who will be going on tour with Jason Aldean from October 21 through November 20.

          Thursday, July 15, 2010

          Tim McGraw in Bristow, VA


          I enjoy the challenge of concert photography.  Some concerts are more of a challenge than others; Tim McGraw’s concert is a case in point being a very popular show with many adoring fans in attendance.  Instead of reviewing his concert I thought I’d give you a glimpse of what I experienced behind the lens of my camera.

          Opening the show was Love & Theft.  Who are they you ask?  Well if you’ve heard Taylor Swift’s song “Hey Stephen” you’ve been introduced to the lead singer Stephen Barker Liles.  That leaves Brian Bandas and Eric Gunderson to round out the group.  Their set was short so I had to make the most of my photo opportunities moving around to get a variety of angles.  I discovered the end of the cat walk yielded the best photos and since not all the concert goers had taken their seats I had an unobstructed view.

          It was a bit more challenging to get photos of Tim McGraw’s next opening act, Lady Antebellum comprised of Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott, and Dave Haywood.  When you have a group of 3 it’s nice to get both individual and group shots.  Thankfully Lady A came together often and long enough to capture although the crowd was beginning to thicken and I was finding it harder to maneuver.

          If I thought it was hard to move before Tim McGraw came out it was nearly impossible once he hit the stage!  I thought I found a secure spot at the corner of the main stage and attempted to focus on Tim through my lens but he kept moving.  I adjusted the focus several times and was vaguely aware of girls screaming around me.  When I finally looked up I was shocked to find Tim McGraw standing directly above me laughing at the look of surprise on my face.  I was practically mauled by fans trying to climb over me to get to Tim and decided that probably wasn’t the best place to stand for photos.

          I made my way to the end of the catwalk and had good success until Tim decided to venture to the end and sit down.  Once again I was surrounded by eager fans and got pushed, elbowed and doused in beer.  I backed away from the mayhem, captured the moment from a safe distance and continued to move looking for a good spot without heads, hands and arms obstructing the view.

          In case you’re wondering – yes, I did manage to enjoy the concert.  I found myself singing along frequently.  I stopped to watch often, laughed with my girlfriends, and appreciated the efforts of all the artists to connect with the audience and reach out to fans.

          Tim McGraw Concert Photos by CWalker

          Published : Star Exponent   Reposted: Urban Country Blog

          Friday, June 18, 2010

          Country Throwdown Review - Bristow, VA


          The Country Throwdown Tour is traveling all over the United States this summer giving country music fans a lot of “bang for their buck.”  There are at least twelve side stage artists and eight additional artists performing on the main stage.   Throw in opportunities to meet many of the artists with personally autographed posters and CDs and it feels like a mini CMA Fest!

          If I were to highlight every single performer on the Throwdown Tour my review would be very lengthy indeed and of course everyone has their favorite (myself included).  I’m just going to mention those that stood out for me that day or caught my attention for some reason…

          The Bluebird Café tent is where all the singer/songwriters perform.  It is an intimate setting where people sit around and interact with the artists between songs.  You are given the chance to see them up close and personal early in their careers.   It was here that Walker Hayes caught the eye of many of the young ladies with his flashy smile, winning personality and witty songs.  I’m not sure if country is ready for his rap or funk but it certainly was entertaining.

          The Outlaw Stage is a bit bigger format and I eagerly anticipated seeing Jonathan Singleton and The Grove perform at this venue.  Their video "Look Who's Back In Love" is currently on CMT and I enjoy their style of classic country blended with rock country and truly hope they catch a break in the near future.

          Emily West is another lesser known artist on the Outlaw Stage who was stunning in both looks and ability.  She reminded me of Faith Hill in many ways with her willowy figure, brown eyes, long blond hair and big voice.  Emily is best known for her song "Blue Sky" which features Keith Urban on background vocals.  I was also captivated by her song “Mississippi’s Crying.”  This girl must have a thing for lost love and rain since both are reflected in these 2 songs.

          I’d never before seen Eric Church perform so I was unprepared for his fierce intensity as an entertainer.  I think it took me several minutes before my mouth closed and I began to snap photos.  Goodness, this young man really gets into his music and encourages both himself and the crowd with fist pumping, shouts and exclamations.  He worked up quite a sweat and had a large majority of the crowd on their feet during his entire set.  Impressive.

          I’ve always been a fan of Little Big Town and once again they did not disappoint with their wonderfully rich harmonies.  In addition to many of their hits they sang their newest single “Little White Church” from their highly anticipated album “The Reason Why” to be released August 24 and also gave us a sneak preview of a couple more songs.


          Jamey Johnson stepped onto the stage and seemingly threw down the gauntlet with his quiet, unassuming yet intense presence.  He simply stood there and sang powerful songs, letting the words speak volumes.  The stage lighting was dark and as I walked around to get a photo from another angle I was surprised to see his right arm in a cast with fingers just free enough to strum his guitar.

          For me the highlight of Jamey’s set was when Little Big Town joined him on stage to sing his new single “Macon” from his upcoming album “The Guitar Song” set to be released September 14.

          Wrapping up the evening was the seasoned duo Montgomery Gentry who kept everyone entertained to the very end remembering to recognize our service men and women along the way.   With familiar hits like “My Town,” “Something To Be Proud Of,” “Lucky Man,” “What Do You Think About That?” “Gone,” “Back When I Knew It All,” “One In Every Crowd“and “Roll With Me;” Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry left us with a song on our lips and a smile on our faces.

          Photos from Country Throwdown Tour by CWalker (click to view)

          •    Bluebird Café
          Troy Olsen, Ashley Ray, Brad Tursi, Dave Pahanish, Heather Morgan, Walker Hayes, Sarah Buxton, Jedd Hughes
          •    Outlaw Stage
               Tyler Reeve, Emily West, Jonathan Singleton and The Grove, Heidi Newfield
          •    Main Stage
               The Lost Trailers
               Ryan Bingham and The Dead Horses
               The Eli Young Band
               Jack Ingram
               Eric Church
               Little Big Town
               Jamey Johnson
               Montgomery Gentry

          Published: Star Exponent   
          Re-posted:  Urban Country   Got Country?

          Monday, May 24, 2010

          Brad Paisley's Water Tour - Bristow, VA


          I should have known.  With a name like “The Water Tour” and its ominous beginning with most of Brad Paisley’s equipment lost during the Nashville flood we were destined to get wet when the weather forecast called for a chance of rain.  Sure enough just as they opened the gates for the concert it began to pour.

          At least the performers on the side stage “Water World Plaza” were covered but all of us concert goers were left to fend for ourselves.  Ponchos, caps, umbrellas, tarps – whatever could be found was used to defend against the rain.  Many just gave up and got wet.

          The fact that we showed up and endured was not lost on the artists.  Over and over again they expressed their appreciation for all the people who supported them and their music enough to stand in the rain and sing along.

          Steel Magnolia, Josh Thompson and Easton Corbin all did a great job on the side stage and the crowd never diminished, in fact it was constantly building despite the falling rain.

          Finally it was time for the main stage acts.  Justin Moore was full of sass and swagger and a deep southern boy drawl as he kicked things off with his current hit “Backwoods.”  He seemed comfortable interacting with the crowd and moving about.  There were times during his set when I saw a hint of Dwight Yoakam in his body movements.

          Darius Rucker credits country radio for his current success and seemed genuinely happy to be performing for his fans.  His emotion was contagious.   Whether he was singing the fun-loving “Alright,” a tender ballad like “It Won’t Be Like This For Long,” a song from his Hootie & the Blow Fish days “Hold My Hand,” or even a Prince cover like “Purple Rain,” Darius had folks dancing in the aisles, singing and having a great time right along with him.


          Brad Paisley promised to “rock our faces off” and indeed he went the extra mile for his fans.  Brad rarely stayed in one place all night long frequently walking the catwalk, venturing down into the crowd to play a guitar solo, later leaving the stage walking through the audience playing and singing then camping out on a little satellite stage way out in the 300 section for a couple of songs before returning to the main stage.  Looking out in amazement at all the people packing the lawn Brad was extremely appreciative for their perseverance as the rain continued to fall.

          I’m always impressed by Brad’s animations and high tech video screen.  I wasn’t the only one who did a double take when the spotlight landed on Alison Krauss sitting on a stool in the corner of the stage during “Whisky Lullaby.”  For a moment I thought she was really there.  Having Andy Griffith appear on screen during “Waitin’ On A Woman” was equally as much fun especially the outtake after the song.

          I have to give kudos to Brad Paisley and his team for pulling together and getting this wonderful show on the road in such a timely fashion.   Rain or shine, this concert is a must see.   It’s brimming with talent, overflowing with fun and even if you get soaking wet when you go – they sell really nice t-shirts!

          Link to Water Tour Concert photos by CWalker

          Published:  Star Exponent   Reposted: Urban Country Blog

          Wednesday, May 19, 2010

          Dierks Bentley & The Travelin' McCoury's - Richmond, VA


          Dierks Bentley has a new album coming out June 8 entitled “Up On The Ridge” which is reported to have a more “bluegrass” feel to it.  Dierks co-wrote five of the 12 songs and enlisted artists Tim O'Brien , Alison Krauss, Chris Thile, The Punch Brothers, Kris Kristofferson, Vince Gill, Miranda Lambert, Jamey Johnson, and Del McCoury to assist him.

          “I’m a songwriter and a musician; my roots are in acoustic country and bluegrass music,” said Dierks. Bluegrass is very wide ranging, according to Dierks, and it goes from “hard core traditional” to “way out there” – it’s just as diverse as country music.

          Dierks is touring smaller venues giving a preview of his new album and I had an opportunity to see him with The Travelin’ McCoury’s at The National in Richmond May 18.  I wasn’t sure what to expect but from the creative opening notes of Rob McCoury’s banjo and Jason Carter’s fiddle leading into Dierks’ “Free and Easy,” followed by a brilliant rendition of “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” I knew this was going to be a magical night.  The 2 other Travelin’ McCoury’s: Ron McCoury (mandolin), Alan Bartram (bass) plus Dierks’ band mates Steve Misamore (drums) and Tim Sergent (steel guitar) made up the band for the evening.

          Dierks introduced 4 songs from his soon to be released album:  the title cut “Up on the Ridge,” a version of Bob Dylan’s “Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)“ “Fiddlin’ Around,” and “Draw Me A Map.”  I found the songs enjoyable, toe tappin’, and meaningful.  I’m counting the days until I can purchase a copy.

          Not only did Dierks mix it up by playing several of his hits (see set list) but he and the Travelin’ McCoury’s did some great cover songs. “Just Breathe” by Pearl Jam is such a lovely song and they performed it beautifully!  “Midnight Rider” (Allman Brothers Band) started slow but changed pace with a bluegrass tempo adding quite a twist.   Hayes Carll (opening act) was invited back onstage to join them singing “All My Ex’s Live In Texas” by George Strait.  This ended up being a fun sing-along song and had the artists on stage grinning at the enthusiastic audience participation.

          Finally Dierks and the Travelin’ McCoury’s closed the show with “Eastbound and Down” (from Smoky & the Bandit – a Jerry Reed cover).  A rousing and fitting finish to an evening packed with extraordinary musicianship.   I couldn’t help but notice how much they appeared to enjoy playing music together; giving a nod at a good performance, yielding the floor for a solo, challenging each other to go faster, laughing and patting one another on the back.  But even more amazing was the speed of their skillful playing and the endurance required to sustain it.

          Dierks Bentley has said many times that if he hadn’t discovered bluegrass, he’d never have become a country singer or landed a record deal.   His love for country was kindled by the energy and artistry of bluegrass, and he’s never lost his passion for it.  Personally, I think he’s kindling a brand new interest in bluegrass, Bentley-style.

          Set List (The National - Richmond, VA)
          * -  selections from the new album "Up on the Ridge"
          1.    Free & Easy (with instrumental intro)
          2.    Foggy Mountain Breakdown
          3.    Fiddlin’ Around *
          4.    Feel That Fire
          5.    Rovin’ Gambler (traditional bluegrass)
          6.    Draw Me A Map *
          7.    Lot of Leavin’ Left To Do
          8.    Good Man Like Me
          9.    Up On The Ridge *
          10.    Settle For A Slow Down
          11.    Midnight Rider (Allman Brothers Band cover)
          12.    Sideways
          13.    Señor (Tales of Yankee Power) *
          14.    Evangelina
          15.    Come A Little Closer
          16.    How Am I Doin’
          17.    All My Ex’s Live In Texas (George Strait Cover)
          18.    Just Breathe (Pearl Jam cover)
          19.    What Was I Thinkin’
          20.    Eastbound & Down (from Smoky & the Bandit – Jerry Reed cover)

          Dierks Bentley Concert photos by CWalker (click to view)

          Published : The Star Exponent    Re-Posted: Urban Country Blog

          Sunday, May 16, 2010

          Billy Currington at Celebrate Virginia Live in Fredericksburg


          The weather forecast called for a chance of thunderstorms May 14th during the Celebrate Virginia Live concert featuring Billy Currington so my friends and I packed our rain gear just in case and headed to Fredericksburg for the evening.  What we weren’t prepared for were heavy winds and dirt blowing all over the place.  By the time Billy took the stage I felt like I had dust and grime over every inch of my body.  I can’t imagine what it must have been like performing under those conditions.   I did wonder though, as the wind increased and thunderstorm warnings were issued, if Billy had flashbacks of his horrific experience in Alberta, Canada back in August 2009 when the stage collapsed during a wind storm and he suffered a concussion.  However Billy Currington is a true professional and he gave a great performance despite the threatening weather – now THAT’S how a country boy rolls!

           Billy sang many of his hits during the first half of his set – “Must Be Doin’ Something Right,” “Why, Why, Why,” “Don’t,”  “That’s How Country Boys Roll.”  His vocals were unaffected by all the dust.  He even managed to sing “I Got A Feelin’” without missing a beat while an over-sized cow mascot danced among the crowd right in front of him.

          Billy really came alive in the second set after taking a short break and returned to the stage energized, ready for some fun.  He gave tribute to Kenny Rogers with “Lucille,” got funky with Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” and pumped up the crowd with Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason.”  He finished the concert singing crowd favorites like “Good Directions” and “People Are Crazy.”

          Kip Moore opened the show for Billy.  I couldn’t help but notice that Kip seemed to be poured from the same mold as Billy, so to speak: a blue-eyed Georgia native, singer/songwriter with a delightful southern drawl and easy laugh.  His songs are catchy and my friends and I were disappointed we couldn’t get a CD.  “Faith When I Fall” is especially good and “Drive Me Crazy” has a strong beat and tends to stick in your head.  After seven long years of hard work Kip has finally landed a contract so I hope it’s the beginning of good things for this young man.  You can find him on MySpaceKipMooreMusic so give a listen and watch for this newcomer.