First off, the Ryman. Whoa. What a venue. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a comparable space for hearing live music. Not just how my history is there but the sound quality was astounding.
We lucked into Nelson playing at the Ryman while we were in town. He had an opener, Meg McCree. She had some novel chord progressions in her songs but none of her songs are stuck in my head.
Nelson, on the other hand, does have a gift for the ear-worm. I was immediately excited for the band to go one when I saw the stack of Magnatone amps behind his humbuckered Tele. To me that combo is a bit like putting a lift and 4-wheel drive on a sports car, but it works. All that tube distortion with a humbucker pickup is like the opposite end of the spectrum from how I typically imagine or use a tele, but he worked that sound so well. Partly it was the venue but the guitar tone was exceptional even if his chops were a bit on the safe side.
His bass player, Corey McCorkmick stole the show though. Dude brought such energy and pocket and good vibes to the stage, you almost couldn’t wait to see what his next move was or what bass he’d pick up next from his collection of crazy axes.
Nelson rotated between his tele, a 335 and a very interesting Les Paul Jr. The magnatone’s gave all a very similar sound but Nelson clearly had a differently level of dexterity on each axe and really was able to stretch out a bit more on the Les Paul.
It’s not just the history and sound of the Ryman that made the show super but the audience was also a major factor. Similar to the audience at bluegrass shows that are knowledgeable, know the history, know how to listen, etc. the audience at the Ryman seemed more sophisticated than most. At one point, Nelson led the crowd in a sing a long to Roger Miller’s King of the Road and most of the audience know most of the words which was pretty cool.
As for ear worms, Forget about Georgia was memorable, for sure, especially the piano intro. Piano sounded amazing in the Ryman. The low end was SOOO powerful but still almost clear.
He then brought out Meg McCree and two other female vocalist to assist on Find Yourself which really got the crowd up. The whole special guest thing was weird in part because a couple of blocks away the CMA’s were being held and you get the sense that anyone who’s anyone was there, not at the Ryman.
The band did a few encores stretching out the energy level by playing a couple of slow/acoustic pieces between he encores.