Artists: Oak Ridge Boys, Donna Meade, Brad Spivey and the Honky Tonk Experience, Lynne Carnes and Tony Jackson
Venue: Carpenter Theater - Richmond, VA
Date: Sunday, April 3, 2016
Photo credit: Jennifer Smith / Lovin' Lyrics
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This past Sunday was a pretty big day for country music (and sausage ...) fans in Richmond, VA. It was the day of the Jimmy Dean Music Festival, celebrating the life and music of their favorite local hero. The event was supposed to happen last year, however, due to Hurricane Joaquin, had to be rescheduled. The festival paid homage through song, story and appreciation to one of country music's legends, a well known television host and of course, the king of sausage. Jimmy Dean is perhaps best known for his classic hit "Big Bad John" and for hosting The Jimmy Dean Show which kick started the career of the Muppets' creator, puppeteer Jim Henson.
The show was an early afternoon show consisting of some amazing country music talent including Dean's former wife, Donna Meade, a wonderful honky tonk band, Brad Spivey and the Honky Tonk Experience, local performer Lynne Carnes and a new artist that left me completely without words (and that's a rare happening, ask anyone who knows me), Tony Jackson.
The opening performances of the festival paid respect to traditional country music, which was such a wonderful thing to hear. You don't hear much classic country anymore and each of the artists did a great job of taking us back in our minds to a time when the music itself was important and the quality of a song really mattered to the listener and the artist. Brad Spivey and the Honky Tonk Experience gave us just that, an experience. As they picked the strings of time and strummed their way through country hits like Emmylou Harris' "C'est la Vie", Merle Haggard's "The Runnin' Kind", and Kenny Rogers' "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town", I couldn't help but smile and get a little wet around the eyes with memories of road trips with my parents as a young girl in our 70's Pontiac Bonneville with the local country stations playing these fabulous songs. If I had only known then how much those songs would mean to me now and oh how I miss the whine of a steel guitar.
Next up was Donna Meade and Lynn Carnes with stories of Jimmy and performances of songs like Kristofferson's "Help Me Make It Through the Night" and the late Lynn Anderson's "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden." The audience was smiling, you could feel the energy in the room as we stepped back to a simpler and more thoughtful time in the world of country music for a few short hours. Donna took the microphone and introduced us to a new artist who was, well, for lack of a better word, outstanding. She came across Tony Jackson on Youtube and immediately reached out to him and helped him with recording. His current single, "Drink By Drink", is at #45 on the Music Row Charts and I can tell you that Tony is exactly what country music needs. He performed, in true classic country style, "Swingin' Doors" but it was when he took us on "The Grand Tour", that the room went silent. If you closed your eyes, you could feel the spirit of the Possum singing along and smiling that mischievous smile that we all miss so much. Donna came back out on stage and she and Tony sat on two stools and sang the George and Tammy duet, "Golden Rings" and it was perfect. To wind up the set, Donna, along with a fantastic church choir made us all ask the question "Why Me Lord" and "Put A Little Love" in all of our hearts.
Finally, it was time for the Oak Ridge Boys, the reason I made the four hour drive from the NC coast. I know y'all hear me go on and on about these four men and I talk your ears off about them and I won't apologize for that. Joe, Duane, Richard and William Lee are the reason I fell in love with music. They came along at a time when I hadn't yet really discovered how wonderful music is and to hear those undeniable harmonies and feel good songs really made me see why music meant so much to people and to them I am grateful for that. It's been a long ride from that time to now and it's one I wouldn't trade for the world. The Oaks are so much more than their music and the harmonies they sing, they create harmony for those around them and are the picture of kindness, generosity and of faith. They "get it". Their shows are always family friendly and project a fun and positive atmosphere. Their band members and crew reflect the same. When you go to an Oaks show, you KNOW you're gonna get a good time and take home memories that will last a life time. This show was no different.
The audience was in full swing, ready for more country goodness and the Oaks delivered from the minute they stepped on stage to the minute they left it. Their energy is contagious, making you dance in your seat and making some get up out of their seats and dance. Very few artists of their era still tour as regularly as they do and you can tell they sure do enjoy it. They bring over forty years of music to the stage every night and they sing those songs like it was the first time, every time. They don't just sing a few songs, they sing a set list that goes for nearly 2 hours! In that time, we celebrated being "American Made", took a trip down the legendary "Red Dirt Highway", felt the love "Down Deep Inside", sat down at "Mama's Table", took time to "Thank God for Kids", raised our glasses at the "Y'all Come Back Saloon", joined an "Ozark Mountain Jubilee", heard the story of "Big Bad John", rolled down the Tennessee River, and got reacquainted with "Elvira". As the song goes, "Time Has Made A Change in Me", but time hasn't made a change to the Oak Ridge Boys at all. They're the same guys with the same infectious attitudes and the same great harmonies you remember and they still love to tell their stories. I have to mention the Mighty Oaks band. What an amazing collection of talent. I really don't think there are any better musicians or people. The Mighty Oaks are just as much a part of an Oak Ridge Boys experience as the boys themselves.
Thank you to all of these amazing artists for a night that brought back so many memories that time had long locked away and for giving every one of us in attendance a reason to believe that although times have changed, the heart of country music still beats strong.
- Jennifer Smith
Follow Jenn on Twitter at @lovinlyrics