The building that houses country music’s family treasures just got a big infusion of cash.
Keith Urban and Vince Gill played hosts Tuesday night at All For The Hall, a multi-artist concert at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Country Music Hall of Fame. The arena and the hall share an intersection in Music City, and the artists who paraded across the Bridgestone stage shared a love for the district’s best-known genre.
Billy Currington threw judicious moments of vocal ferocity into his version of Kenny Rogers’ “Sweet Music Man,” Martina McBride emulated Reba McEntire well with a few well-placed trills at the close of “Is There Life Out There,” and Dolly Parton resurrected George Jones’ funereal “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”
“Country music has these sad songs,” Dolly laughed while introducing the classic, “and some of ‘em are just plum pitiful.”
Much of country, of course, is built around “brokenness” and “healing” — a couple of important tenets in “The House That Built Me,” likely to win Song of the Year when the Country Music Association hands out its annual awards at the arena next month. Miranda Lambert gave the song a new twist Tuesday as the lyrics took on an extra layer of meaning, given that country music built the house being honored.
“It’s not every day,” Miranda beamed, “you get Keith Urban and Vince Gill to back you up.”
It’s also not every day that pop-rock artist John Mayer pops in from Milan to celebrate country and its major figures. He joined Keith and Vince in a blues-inflected version of his own “I’m Gonna Find Another You.” And he chipped in a tribute to Dwight Yoakam with a cover of “Ain’t That Lonely Yet.” Appropriately, John did exactly what Dwight does when he remakes a song: give it a significant makeover. John phrased “Lonely” behind the backbeat, much as Hall of Famer Willie Nelson would do, and he gave it a wheezy thread by playing with a harmonica rack — a “Dylan kit,” as Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Neil Young likes to call it.
Alison Krauss sang the haunting “Ghost In This House,” her clear voice cutting through the entire arena. And it put another spin on the place. Ghosts were recognized during the evening when Alan Jackson romped through “Mind Your Own Business,” a 60-year-old milestone recording by the late Hank Williams; and when Charley Pride figuratively tipped his hat to the deceased Conway Twitty with “Hello Darlin’.”
Last year’s inaugural All For The Hall event raised $500,000 for the Country Music Hall of Fame, and this year’s edition is sure to approach or even surpass that figure once all the receipts are counted.
The whole thing came to a rather timely close. Keith has frequently cited Don Williams as the biggest influence on his music, and he closed the night with a rollicking version of Don’s 1978 hit “Tulsa Time,” trading vocals and guitar licks with Vince and welcoming Alan, Martina and Dolly back on stage for the final verses.
Don is, in fact, the next musician slated for induction into the hallowed Hall. On Oct. 24, he’ll be welcomed alongside the late Jimmy Dean in an official ceremony. The house that built country music will have a couple more significant tenants.