It was one of those events that make me proud to live in Music City: a free star-studded early evening concert outside the Country Music Hall of Fame. The occasion was the celebration of the release of a delightful 2-CD set of music honoring the current Dylan/Cash and the Nashville Cats exhibit at the Hall.
The show was anchored by Nashville’s best current “Cats,” The Long Players, who had also the honor and pleasure of being accompanied by several of the original “Cats” themselves. The “Cats” moniker refers to a collection of uber-talented musicians who played on many fabulous records back in the late 60s when a bunch of hip artists came to town to record and remind the public how cool country music can be!
Starting at 6pm on what looked to be a hot and muggy night, it actually cooled down to a pleasant comfortable evening. However that didn’t last long since after 30 minutes of music, a fast-moving rain shower brought about an hour rain delay before things could resume for the final hour of music.
In usual Long Players style, there was a top-notch cast of guest vocalists who ran through a total of 15 songs from the new CD release. He’s a photo-journal of the set list:
1. Absolutely Sweet Marie (Jason Ringenberg)
Local Jason started the night off with a Dylan track that he and his band, the Scorchers, turned into a cow punk anthem back in the 80s. Jason also won the award for the Best Dressed Singer of the night. Al Kooper played keys on this one just like he did back on the original Blonde on Blonde take.
2. Harpoon Man (Charlie McCoy)
Perhaps the best harmonica player on the planet, Charlie got downright gritty on one of his own numbers. What a treat to see him on stage for most of the evening.
Gayden kept things gritty on this J.J. Cale classic on which he originally played slide guitar. It was a family affair with Mac joined on vocals by his lovely daughter.
4. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry (Tracy Nelson)
Another song right from the record with Nelson performing her faithful version of the Hank Williams classic.
5. Bird on the Wire (Julie Christensen)
The last song before the rain delay featured the one-time Leonard Cohen back-up singer on one of his signature tunes. Ron Cornelius who played on the original recording accompanied Julie.
6. I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight (Charlie Daniels)
A surprise unbilled guest after the rain, Charlie, who played on several Dylan recordings, gave a lovely laid-back take on perhaps Bob’s best county-flavored love song.
7. It Ain’t Me Babe (John Carter Cash & Ana Cristina)
This visit from country music royalty was special in that Cash and his girlfriend reprised the first song his Mom and Dad ever sang together. He told the tale of how when singing it cold, they both already knew all the words of this Dylan tune first made famous by The Turtles.
8. Silver Wings (Britt Ronstadt)
More family ties with Linda’s pretty young niece Britt, covering Merle Haggard’s song that Aunt Linda covered with Earl Scruggs.
9. Gentle on My Mind (Jamie Hartford)
Still more family business with John Hartford’s son Jamie doing justice to his Dad’s classic that will forever be known as Glenn Campbell’s theme song.
My personal highlight of the night, and one that I predicted. I knew that Beatle-file Lloyd could not resist doing this one of the two songs that Sir Paul McCartney penned during his 1974 visit to Nashville. It is a song that belongs in a text book as a perfect example of a county song. Kathy Mattea served as Bill’s “Linda’ for this performance.
11. Hickory Wind (Radney Foster)
I’m a Gram-file and sure have heard a lot of people think they can sing a Gram Parson’s song. Well, the other half of Foster & Lloyd sure can deliver passionate vocals like Gram could!
12. Heart of Gold (Kathy Mattea)
I believe that Kathy had practice having once before sung this when the Players did the Harvest album. With McCoy on a chilling harmonica, this song may have never before sounded better.
13. You Ain’t Going Nowhere (Jeff Hanna)
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Hanna seemed to be gloating that he was lucky enough to get to sing this great Dylan tune made popular by The Byrds on Sweetheart of the Rodeo. He did not disappoint and Pete Finney killed it on pedal steel!
14. Some of Shelly’s Blues (Mike Nesmith)
It was obvious that many in the crowd were there just to see a real live Monkee. He also happens to be the one who was also a trendsetter in the world of country rock. His fans went home happy, and Jeff Hanna joined in with backing vocals vocals on this Nesmith tune that his Dirt Band once covered.
15. Matchbox / Will the Circle Be Unbroken (ALL)
The all-hands-on-deck finale had a few missing faces since the rain sent some of the early performers away. Nonetheless, a great choice for a medley that sent everyone home smiling.
P.S. See my companion piece spotlighting some of the “Cats” who appeared with The Long Players.
Its PETE Finney on pedal steel with Jeff Hanna. Pete was also a co-curator for the “Cats” exhibit at the HOF and contributed to the liner notes on the dbl CD set.