Sing­ing for Nashville’s hall

Los Angeles Times - - Calendar - Randy Lewis

Tay­lor Swift, above, sang with other mu­sic icons at a con­cert at Club Nokia to ben­e­fit the Coun­try Mu­sic Hall of Fame.

Af­ter sell­ing more than 10 mil­lion al­bums in the last four years, the last thing Tay­lor Swift needs is a raise. But Thurs­day night, the young coun­try-pop hit­maker got a ma­jor pro­mo­tion in terms of her sta­tus as a singer and song­writer.

There she sat on­stage at Club Nokia for the an­nual All for the Hall con­cert ben­e­fit­ing Nashville’s Coun­try Mu­sic Hall of Fame and Mu­seum, ac­corded an equal place along­side such es­teemed coun­try mu­sic fig­ures as Kris Kristof­fer­son, Em­my­lou Har­ris and Vince Gill, as well as the event’s spe­cial guest, ’70s and ’80s pop-R&B king­pin Lionel Richie.

“These are the best role mod­els I could have,” Swift, 20, told the crowd of about 2,000 who had paid up to $1,000 a seat to wit­ness the “gui­tar pull,” for which each mu­si­cian took a turn in­tro­duc­ing and play­ing a song.

Pre­vi­ous edi­tions of the fundraiser have em­pha­sized vet­er­ans such as Har­ris, Gill, Kristof­fer­son, Dwight Yoakam and oth­ers. The ad­di­tion of Swift to this year’s show trans­lated into a large, vo­cal con­tin­gent of teen and pre­teen girls, who erupted in a cho­rus of squeals when mas­ter of cer­e­monies Gill brought her on­stage.

As the shriek­ing sub-sided,- Gill quipped: “Thank you, thank you! I get that a lot.”

That set the tone for an in­ti­mate liv­ing-room-like at­mos­phere, which is the way these events be­gan decades ago, by most ac­counts in the liv­ing room of Johnny and June Carter Cash.

The idea was for song­writ­ers to try suc­ces­sively to top one an­other creatively as an evening wore on. On Thurs­day, the mood felt less about com­pet­i­tive­ness than mu­tual ad­mi­ra­tion, as 74year-old Kristof­fer­son and 61-year-old Richie grinned broadly while Swift de­liv­ered solo acous­tic ver­sions of her lat­est sin­gle “Mine” and one of her biggest hits, “Love Story.”

The coun­try el­ders of­ten took on the role of good-hu­mored sages. At one point, Swift ex­plained how she was in­spired to re­write Shake­speare’s “Romeo and Juliet” with a happy end­ing af­ter her par­ents dis­ap­proved of a boy she wanted to date. “I iden­ti­fied with ev­ery­thing about it — ex­cept the part where they die,” she said. Gill, who never missed a beat with a punch line dur­ing the two-hour per­for­mance, turned his head to the right and told her, “That’s when it’s coun­try!”

The life ex­pe­ri­ence that Kristof­fer­son, Har­ris, Gill and Richie brought made for a fas­ci­nat­ing jux­ta­po­si­tion with Swift’s songs of star­ryeyed love. Har­ris, 63, sang a new song from a forth­com­ing al­bum that she said was in­spired by the work of Fa­ther Charles Stro­bel, a Nashville priest who works with the home­less. That segued to Gill of­fer­ing up a new song of his own, one he said grew out of watch­ing his older brother strug­gle to find his place in the world.

Kristof­fer­son set the bar high, start­ing the show with “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” which in­cluded a spon­ta­neous aside that may have been di­rected to the kids in the house. Af­ter sing­ing the line, “I don’t care what’s right or wrong,” he quickly added, “Yes, I do.”

Har­ris and Gill en­gaged in the only real duet of the night, a ver­sion of the Lou­vin Broth­ers’ “If I Could Only Win Your Love,” which gave Har­ris her first Top 10 coun­try hit in 1975. Swift mostly just watched with rapt at­ten­tion while the oth­ers sang, but when Kristof­fer­son launched into “Me and Bobby McGee” late in the pro­ceed­ings, she qui­etly started strum­ming her gui­tar along with Gill and even timidly sang along on a few of its fa­mil­iar lyrics.

Richie spoke of grow­ing up un­aware of di­vi­sions be­tween mu­si­cal gen­res. “By hav­ing no con­cept of cat­e­gories, I slipped through, and now they talk about ‘a body of work.’ ” He turned the gui­tar pull into a pi­ano pull, ac­com­pa­ny­ing him­self at the key­board as he sang “Three Times a Lady,” “Hello” and “Stuck on You.”

The cross-genre, cross-gen­er­a­tional as­pects of the event were what Hall of Fame and Mu­seum di­rec­tor Kyle Young said were most re­ward­ing to him.

“We made money tonight — there’s no mis­take,” he said af­ter the mu­sic ended, which would help, given about $2 mil­lion in dam­age the fa­cil­ity ex­pe­ri­enced from the re­cent floods. “But this is ex­actly the kind of thing that makes this so spe­cial: Who but coun­try mu­sic would be crazy enough to bring Kris Kristof­fer­son and Tay­lor Swift and Lionel Richie to­gether? But in coun­try mu­sic, the only thing that mat­ters is the song.”

Allen J. Schaben


Allen J. Schaben

Lionel Richie, left, Tay­lor Swift, Vince Gill, Em­my­lou Har­ris and Kris Kristof­fer­son.

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