CRS 2021: The Virtual Experience officially ended on Friday, February, 19 with an exceptional New Faces Of Country Music showcase. The annual concert, sponsored by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the Academy of Country Music, featured performances from Tenille Arts, Travis Denning, HARDY, Ashley McBryde and Matt Stell. The five artists were chosen from a group of nine artists that were voted on by members of country radio.
HARDY kicked off the show on an energetic note with an amped up version of his country rock song, “Boots.” After thanking the members of country radio, he launched into his first No. 1 single, “One Beer,” sans duet partners Lauren Alaina and Devin Dawson. The singer closed out his set with the raucous “Unapologetically Country As Hell,” but prior to that, he took a more emotional turn with his current single, “Give Heaven Some Hell.”
“No matter what happens with this song, the only wish that I have is, whoever you are, I hope that this song plays a little part of you getting over someone you love that you lost,” HARDY said before playing the tune.
Next up was Stell, who showed two videos expressing how country radio has changed his life in different ways. The first video found Stell driving a girl home after a date gone wrong. She’s ready to leave the night behind, but when she hears the country singer on the radio, her tune changes. After a surprise kiss from his date, Stell looks at the camera with a smug look and says, ‘Thanks country radio.’
The video led into Stell’s set, during which he sang “That Ain’t Me No More,” “Everywhere But On,” and his No. 1 hit, “Prayed For You.” After his performance, a second video showed Stell’s mother speaking about her son’s Christmas gift of paying off her horse trailer. He is also seen in the video watching with teary eyes before once again thanking country radio.
After Stell, the virtual audience saw a performance from Arts, who kicked off her portion of the show with good-time tune, “Everybody Knows Everybody.” Dressed in a multicolored fringe jacket and surrounded by neon lights, Arts showcased her strong vocals as she sang the up-tempo track. This was followed by the blunt breakup song, “Give It To Me Straight,” and she finished her set with the Top 20 hit, “Somebody Like That.” A standout moment in her performance occurred with her third song, a poignant new tune about moving out of her first Nashville apartment.
“I recently moved out of that one bedroom apartment, and I just kept thinking if those walls could talk, they have seen so many ups and downs, so much laughter and a few tears as well,” she said before playing the song. “So, I just got really sentimental about it and wanted to write a song kind of like a letter to the next dreamer that moves in.”
Denning appeared next, opening his performance with a humorous video in which he compared trying to pursue a country career to the pitfalls trying to catch a fish. The Georgia native then lit up the CRS stage with an electric performance featuring his upbeat breakup single “ABBY,” a piano-driven tune called “I’m Gonna Love You,” and his No. 1 song, “After A Few.”
McBryde took the stage for the final performance of the night, starting with the sentimental “Girl Goin’ Nowhere,” a fitting song to sing amid the accomplishment of being part of the New Faces show.
The Grammy nominee then sang “Little Dive Bar In Dahlonega,” followed by a version of Johnny Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere,” which featured her own twist in the second verse. “I like every beer man, I like every beer man, just bring it over here man, I’ll trade you my brassiere man,” she sang, substituting the original lyrics. McBryde then ended the show with “One Night Standards” and a lively performance of “Martha Divine.”