Chris Wallin, Tony Lane and James Slater – Commodore Grille

It’s not everyday that you gather three hit songwriters in one place for an intimate showcase of defining songs in country music, but that’s just the beauty of Tin Pan South. Three of country’s most accomplished songwriters Chris Wallin, Tony Lane and James Slater all joined together for a round at the Commodore Grille during the songwriters festival to perform cuts by George Strait, Garth Brooks, Martina McBride and more.

Wallin boasts an impressive song roster, penning tracks like “Something to be Proud Of” by Montgomery Gentry, “People Loving People” by Garth Brooks and Kenny Chesney’s “Don’t Blink” and “Crazy Last Night,” the latter of which he thoroughly amused the crowd with the story behind the song. Wallin revealed that the song’s titled is inspired by the craziness that ensues from having one too many drinks, but the kind of crazy that leaves one “smothered in peanut butter with chicken under your arm” – which apparently is a true story.

He also charmed the crowd with a performance of “People Loving People,” a song that after he was done writing knew it was a perfect fit for Brooks – if he ever came out of retirement. Much to his surprise, he did, and the legend cut not one, but three of Wallin’s songs on his “Man Against the Machine” record.

Lane and Slater were just as entertaining, with Slater performing the poignant “In My Daughter’s Eyes” by McBride and the upbeat “Mexicoma,” a cut by Tim McGraw that he originally passed on until he heard Slater’s Billy Joel, Elton John-style demo that caught his ear. Lane warranted applause with the opening lines to the lovely McGraw and Faith Hill duet “I Need You” and had the audience completely transfixed during his performance of “Run,” a chart-topping hit for Strait, proving how the most powerful of songs can come from the most humble of people.

Tony Lane performs during Tin Pan South. PHOTO BY KAYLA SCHOEN

Sam Palladio, Sarah Darling, Jay Black and Thad Cockrell – Hard Rock Cafe

Fans know him as Gunnar Scott on “Nashville,” but Sam Palladio truly held his own as a songwriter during a round with Sarah Darling, Jay Black and Thad Cockrell at the Hard Rock Cafe. One of Palladio’s standout numbers of the evening came in the form of “Wake Me Up in Nashville,” a beautiful ballad based on a true story about his grandfather who met a girl from Nashville while he was stationed in Florida.

In order to get back to his native Europe, his grandfather had to take a cross-country train that stopped in Nashville at 3 a.m. where he told his girl to wait for him on the platform and he’d meet her there. Sadly, the conductor forgot to wake him up and he missed his opportunity, but what resulted is a sweet song about finding love unexpectedly. He also paid homage to the show that made him famous with a performance of “Fade Into You,” one of the “Nashville’s” signature numbers that Palladio brought to life with his vocal ability.

Palladio invited Nashville songstress Sarah Darling to participate, which was a perfect choice for the set. Darling charmed the crowd with several of her dreamy country songs, capturing everyone’s attention with the haunting “Where Cowboys Ride.” She also whisked us off to Paris with a stunning track called “Montmarte,” with its gorgeous melody, beautiful lyrics and Darling’s whimsical voice to match, making us all feel as if we’d been transported to the City of Love.

Black also performed several standout songs of the evening, particularly on “Guilty by the Jilted,” which he co-wrote with one of Nashville’s top songwriters Natalie Hemby, and the equally lovely “Where the Mountains Don’t Go.” Palladio and Cockrell joined forces on the beautiful song “Great Rejoice,” which they had recently sung at the Grand Ole Opry where Cockrell made his debut on the sacred stage.

Palladio closed out the set with the stormy, yet enrapturing “I Just Can’t Get it Right,” showing how this town has a special gift of turning talented singers into amazing songwriters.