More Notes from Nashville: The Grand Ole Opry

30 Apr

One to-do that was a must-do during my inaugural trip to Nashville: the Grand Ole Opry. I’m not being hipster snarky ironic about this: for real and for true, I looked forward to it.

Grand Ole OpryThe Grand Ole Opry has broadcast a radio show on WSM 650 AM for the last 90 years. Now situated in a performance space next to a humongous shopping mall – which was fully rebuilt following the 2010 flood devastation – the Opry features country musicians of all types over four 30-minute sets. Programming is as devoted to tradition as Top 40, featuring old-guard Members as well as more recent Guest Artists doing two or three songs each, interspersed with comedians and commercial spots for Cracker Barrel. The back-up musicians are no slouches, either.

As much as I genuinely love lap pedal steel guitar (and I teared up when the square dancers hit the stage), this is far from being a museum piece. It’s a continuing celebration of all that Nashville represents.

I came to see Rhiannon Giddens. She is a phenomenal fiddler and banjo player with a thrilling, classically trained voice that can wrap around Piedmont folk songs and Bob Dylan lyrics with equal ease. A founder of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, she’s embarking on a solo career supported by T Bone Burnett, who fell for her fearlessness when she performed “Waterboy” as part of a star-studded concert prior to the release of Inside Llewyn Davis. Here she is, singing that song for David Letterman:

Midway through the evening, she strode onto the Opry stage, tall and barefoot in a twilight blue dress. She only did two numbers – the Patsy Cline song, “She’s Got You,” and Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s gospel tune, “Up Above My Head” – but that was all it took to turn my family into fans. It was a pity she didn’t play an instrument, too; maybe next time.

Chris Janson

As far as my younger daughter was concerned, though, the highlight of the evening was Chris Janson, a scrawny singer/songwriter in a motorcycle jacket whose teeth and hair made up half his body weight. Janson exemplifies what rock music typically lacks: a charming sense of humor. To wit, here’s a non-Opry version of the song that won my daughter’s heart:

Take it from me: you go to the Opry, you’ll enjoy yourself, even if you’re more a fan of Johnny Cash than Johnny Paycheck … and speaking of the Man in Black, Nashville’s Johnny Cash Museum is worth a visit, even if you just want a cup of Bongo Java coffee. More on that later.

See you on the flip side …

P.S. Just a few days remain to sign up for the 2015 Detroit Working Writers Conference, taking place May 16 in Troy, which includes a workshop about “Finding Your Writing Niche” led by yours truly. Hope to see you in a darkened conference room soon!

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2 Responses to “More Notes from Nashville: The Grand Ole Opry”

  1. Roy Sexton (Reel Roy Reviews) April 30, 2015 at 8:26 am #

    Fun reading! Saw Carolina Chocolate Drops at The Ark – so good!

    >

    • lpon45 April 30, 2015 at 7:09 pm #

      I remember you’d seen them – and I wish I had known about them then. I’m really wanting to see her in concert again – let me know if you hear she’s coming to town.

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