Country’s future stars commandeered the stage Friday night, Feb. 24, for the traditional closer to Country Radio Seminar week in Nashville: the New Faces of Country Music show. Since the seminar’s beginning in 1970, the New Faces show has been the most important showcase for rising talent. The artists chosen for the event play in front of the true movers and shakers in the industry, including radio executives and members of the national media.
This year’s performers were Drake White, William Michael Morgan, Granger Smith, Jon Pardi, and Maren Morris. Each played a short set backed by their respective bands.
White served as leadoff man, displaying his bluesy touch on “It Feels Good,” “Livin’ the Dream,” which seemed appropriate for the evening, and others. The set was especially livened up with some finely-timed band choreography.
Morgan, considered one of the new saviors of traditional country, crooned his way through his smash hit “I Met a Girl” and his current single “Missing.”
“CRS New Faces, man. This is so cool,” announced Smith, who proceeded to give one of the more explosive show performances in recent memory.
He appeared to close out with “Backroad Song,” even walking off the stage while his band continued playing. But Smith returned as his alter ego Earl Dibbles Jr., clad in overalls and a cut-off tee shirt, certainly evidence of his skill as a quick-change artist.
He took the anthem “The Country Boy Song” to its literal heart, as declared in the line, “Wake up, put a good dip in, crack a cold one.” Smith, or rather Dibbles, grabbed a couple of beer cans and smashed them together, spewing their foamy contents in geyser-like fashion all over the front of the stage. It was both hilarious and jaw-dropping at the same time. The crowd went crazy.
That may have been a tough act to follow, but Pardi did the trick. Pardi was coming off a breakthrough year, riding the critical and commercial success of his 2016 album “California Sunrise.” So not surprisingly, he peppered his set with two songs from the album, “Head Over Boots,” his first career No. 1, and “Dirt on My Boots.”
Morris has also achieved major success, winning the CMA New Artist of the Year award and recently copping a Grammy.
“It’s so cool to be on this stage,” said the 26-year-old dynamo.
Morris shared the news that “I Could Use a Love Song,” from her No. 1 album “Hero,” would be her next single, which she then performed.
She followed that with the hit that launched her to national prominence, “My Church,” belting it out with revivalist fervor, and closed with the playful “Rich.”