Venue: Jones County Civic Center - Trenton, NC
Reviewer: Jennifer Smith
Follow Jenn on Twitter at @lovinlyrics
Fans been missing tradition in country music for awhile now - the twang, the heart and the very soul of what makes country music so different than any other genre. Well, I was lucky enough to find those missing elements this past Saturday night in Trenton, NC with a phenomenal performance by Mark Chesnutt. The genre that means so much to it's fans was brought the genre back to life while simultaneously taking fans back to memories of what country music was meant to be and gave them a big reason to smile.
Saturday was a day to celebrate the heritage and history of this small rural community. The day began with the Heritage Festival which paid homage to rural agricultural life in southeastern North Carolina. Activities included a parade, a vintage car show, a "Little Miss Heritage Festival" pageant, and hands-on heritage skills including looping tobacco, basket making, making butter, spinning yarn and quilting among others. There was a stage that featured local talent and lots of locally prepared foods. The star of the event and the reason for Saturday night's main event was Brock's Mill which was originally built in the mid 1700’s and the beautiful surrounding pond which is a favorite for canoeing and kayaking.
A little background on the importance and relevance of Brock's Mill Pond, which is located on Highway 58 South in Trenton, NC. There was a Revolutionary War deed to a pond in this particular area dated around 1738 or 1739. Records show that in 1779, Richard Sharp and Elizabeth Reynolds of Craven County sold the land to Lewis Bryan, who in turn, sold the property to Anthony Hatch in 1796 and was known as Hatch’s Mill. There were several sales of the property in the following years until 1899 when J.P. Brogden sold it to W.H. Hammond and Furnifold Brock. A year later, Mr. Brock bought out his partner’s share and had the deed signed over to his wife, Myrtle Foscue Brock. This sale included the onsite grist mill. Goods produced at the mill included corn meal, grits and cracked corn for livestock or chicken feed. The saw mill operated on the site until the early 1940’s. In 1917, Mr. Brock installed a turbine generator to provide electricity for the town of Trenton. Late in the afternoon, the turbine was turned on creating power for Trenton’s residents. At 10 pm the lights blinked twice signifying that the power would be cut off in fifteen minutes. This service continued until Tidewater Power Company purchased the franchise. The pond itself is fed by underground springs as well as Crooked Run Creek. Only a small portion of the 133 acres can be seen from Highway 58. The total area of the pond is 122 acres of water and 11 acres of land including small islands. The outlet for the pond drains the water into the Trent River southeast of the town of Trenton. From what we understand, there are no events currently being held at the pond which is why private funds are being raised to restore the pond, building and surrounding area for community use. There will be no tax supported dollars to make this happen, it is solely based on community efforts in fundraising.
Mark Chesnutt joined the fundraising efforts this year along with NC's own Bryan Mayer. Funds raised will go toward the maintenance and the possible formation of a foundation to run the facility. If that comes to fruition, then there could potentially be a longstanding series of events and activities to continue to bring people to the area.
Before the show, VIP ticket holders were treated to some one on one time with Mark and I have to say, his meet and greets are so much more than that. They're stories told between fan and artist, memories long forgotten ... they're personal connections with a true, humble country gentleman. Mark made every person feel appreciated and didn't rush them in and out like the usual cattle call. I really thought highly of him for that. These days, during most meet and greets, fans are treated like numbers, very insignifcant for the sake of time. Mark made time and that went a long way with those of us who were lucky enough to shake his hand and thank him for his contributions to country music.
Bryan Mayer kicked off the show with an energetic set which included covers and originals. The Nine North Records artist is a hometown favorite around this area and had a huge turnout of friends and family. The crowd was dancing along and singing every word. It was great to see such a big amount of support for this guy, he's a really good artist. Covers included Eric Church, Chris Janson and Johnny Cash among others and he performed music from his own album including his latest single "Lil' Bit Naughty" and the one that started it all for him, "This is Me". Bryan's voice is just as towering as his 6'7" stature. There's nothing small about this guy or his talent. Bryan is currently recording in Nashville, working on his upcoming CD to be released later this year.
Mark Chesnutt took the stage to some of the loudest applause I think I've ever heard. These people were ready for some serious country music and Mark is just the one to deliver it. He kept this show pretty emotional by reviving old heart tugging favorites like "Too Cold At Home", "Almost Goodbye", "I'll Think of Something", "Thank God for Believers" and the familiar lonesome whine of the steel guitar during "Rollin' with the Flow". He may be older, but his love of country music hasn't changed at all and his voice hasn't aged a bit. His music found a place in me that I'd long forgotten existed, a place deep where the lyrics of a great song combined with the perfect vocal emotion hits pretty hard, right smack in the middle of my soul and when he hit the chorus of "Almost Goodbye", before I knew it, the tears rolled down my cheeks. What a delivery! He kicked it into high gear with his other country radio hits like "Brother Jukebox", "Bubba Shot the Jukebox", "Goin' Through the Big D" and "Gonna Get a Life". This show made me long for the days when dancing the Texas Waltz around a sawdust floor was what everyone was doing on a Saturday night. It made me miss the two step, the days when Stetson hats were in, and where it wasn't a country song unless there was fiddle and steel. Where did those days go? Those days seemingly retired with Strait and died with Jennings and Jones, however more and more traditional artists are making comebacks and more new artists are taking the traditional route such as William Michael Morgan, Mo Pitney, Sturgill Simpson, Whitey Morgan and others, Sure would be nice to "sang" to "twang" again.
Thank God for those who still believe in the twang, the tradition and the stories. Those are my heroes. Mark Chesnutt is my hero.
Mark recently released a new CD, "Tradition Lives" and his new single, "Oughta Miss Me By Now" is currently #44 on the charts. Please call your local stations and let them know you want to hear it!
Many thanks to Mark, Bryan, Jones County and WRNS FM for making another memory for me and for a room full of die hard country music fans.