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Saturday, July 05, 2008
Bluegrass at the Ryman: The Steeldrivers & Vince Gill
What a difference a year can make. Last year, I wasn't the biggest fan of Vince Gill's set as part of the Ryman's summer bluegrass series.

This year's show was tremendous. The biggest thing last year was that Gill would talk to the audience, sharing stories of people he'd shared a microphone with and teasing you about how much he'd loved the experience and the sound. And then, just when you figured he was going to say, "And here is...." he'd launch into the song. Now, I know that the audience is there to see Vince, but it seemed a bit of a tease to get our curiosity up like that.

This year, Vince had a plethora of special guests with him, in addition to his own bluegrass band and they all put on a tremendous show. For me, the highlight was hearing Vince and his daughter, Jenny, sing together. Vince had bragged about the way their voices blended last year and then again this year, so when she came out on stage, expectations were high. And the duo delivered. They sang together on "A River Like You" and did a superb job. Vince also had Ricky Skaggs on hand and the two jammed together on mandolin. He also had two sisters, whose name eludes me, from his early days in the business, who helped sing a couple of songs. After a performance that got better with each song and went on for close to two hours, Vince and the entire group of guests ended the show with "Go Rest High on That Mountain" as bluegrass. Now, I know Vince has released this on a previous album, but I think the bluegrass version with his daughter helping would be a huge hit. I know, I'd run out and buy a copy of it. Or even a bluegrass version of the song, which is pretty powerful no matter what "format" it's performed in.

As if that weren't enough, the show opened with the Steeldrivers, a new bluegrass group that nearly brought the house down. Their lead singer has a deep, rich voice and it reminded me a bit of Travis Tritt. They performed a variety of songs from their first CD, all written by two guys in the group. The most memorable song of the set was one from told from the perspective of an old tree, watching a Civil War battle unfold around it.

I have to admit, of all the shows, I was really the least enthused about this one. However, both performances really delivered and as one guy shouted out during Vince's set "Bluegrass rocks!"

Thursday night at the Ryman, there were no truer words spoken...

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 7/05/2008 09:30:00 AM | |
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