The New Faces of Country Music show is always the most-anticipated event of the annual Country Radio Seminar. The event, the official closer to the seminar, showcases five rising acts that are headed for country stardom. They get the chance to perform before the folks who have a lot to say about that future, namely radio executives, media members and industry insiders.
This year’s New Faces class starred Jimmie Allen, Russell Dickerson, Lindsay Ell, Lanco and Dylan Scott, performing from the Omni Hotel in downtown Nashville. Along with the New Faces, a couple of familiar faces popped up to surprise the packed ballroom. Tim McGraw kicked off the evening with a rendition of the song that he debuted at the very same New Faces show 25 years earlier, the plaintive “Don’t Take the Girl.” His moving performance back at that 1994 show helped catapult McGraw to superstar status and the tune eventually became his first No. 1 single. Keith Urban also took the stage, not to perform, but to present legendary radio figure Bill Mayne with a special award for his contributions to the country genre.
As for the New Faces show itself, Dickerson was first to go on and delivered hits like “Every Little Thing” and “Yours.” His biggest ovation came with the lively number “My Girl’s Night Out,” which took folks on a time travel ride through the 1980s. The multi-talented Ell followed and gave what most observers agreed was the powerhouse performance of the night. Her vocals shined on “Criminal” and “Castle” along with a new song. But she truly rocked the house with “Space,” highlighted by a shredding guitar solo that left no doubt that this lady can wield an ax with the best of them. Big things are surely in store.
Other top moments saw Allen’s emotional rendition of “All Tractors Ain’t Green” and Lanco’s new tune called “Save Me.” Scott’s acoustic version of Keith Whitley’s “Don’t Close Your Eyes” was met with rousing approval.