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Jerrod Niemann, Josh Thompson Beat the Heat

Jerrod Niemann photo by Jeremy Cowart, courtesy of

Jerrod Niemann photo by Jeremy Cowart, courtesy of

It was called Live On The Lawn. But with the heat index challenging 100 degrees these days in Nashville, outside concerts aren’t really all that attractive. So Sony pulled a couple of new artists indoors and showcased Jerrod Niemann and Josh Thompson Wednesday for a bevy of industry folks in its Music Row headquarters.

Only in Nashville can you “turn a record label into a honky tonk in the middle of the afternoon,” Jerrod quipped. It wasn’t quite a honky tonk — there was no sawdust on the floor, no neon sign and very little chatter during the singers’ sets. There were, however, frozen margaritas and a serve-yourself fajita bar. And some pretty good music.

The setting carried some weight with it. The performance offered music publishers and some media types — including a handful of GAC decision makers — to sample the new artists as Sony eases them into the limelight. And the guys clearly recognized the pressure that accompanies that kind of scrutiny.

“I feel like there’s a lot of people watching, a lot of people judging,” Josh observed.

Neither Josh nor Jerrod wilted under the microscope. Josh, in a plaid shirt and jeans, delivered four songs that showed his outlaw tendencies. Two acoustic guitars lit into hard-edged rhythms on his opening “Blame It On Waylon,” the cadence of “Beer On The Table” set a hypnotic atmosphere and the hell-raising kiss-off song “I Won’t Be Lonely Long” was the swaggering antithesis of Clay Walker’s similarly titled “She Won’t Be Lonely Long.” Josh managed to blend a cool demeanor and an almost-snarling, Eric Church tone with songs that really do belong in a honky tonk.

Jerrod was quite the wind-up comedian with a drop-dead impression of John Anderson — who co-wrote “How Can I Be So Thirsty,” one of the four songs in his set — and a self-effacing summation of his years of struggle in Nashville: “I couldn’t get arrested — and believe me, I tried a lot!”

Jerrod worked a clear, reedy vocal tone that bears some resemblance to Joe Nichols and leaned on drinking themes, closing with a rendition of his current Top 10 hit “Lover, Lover.” The song felt a little naked without the stacked blue-eyed soul harmonies on the chorus, but its greasy little melody and his well-suited texture more than made up for the loss.

Fortunately, cutting the lawn from the performance plan eliminated the perspiration that most of the party-goers would have developed. And Jerrod and Josh? They handled the pressure with no sweat. It’s a good bet they’ll be playing plenty more shows for movers and shakers… and for real people in real honky tonks, too.


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