On Friday night (Feb. 21), Ingrid Andress, Morgan Evans, Riley Green, Runaway June and Mitchell Tenpenny delivered one of the most soul-baring New Faces of Country Music shows at Nashville’s Country Radio Seminar (CRS) in recent memory.
Held at the Omni Hotel’s Broadway Ballroom, the three-hour concert marked the finale of CRS 2020. It signified that the future of the music on country radio is in the hands of some gifted artists on the rise.
Those who perform the annual concert are voted on by members of the country radio community and are considered the format’s superstars of tomorrow. Prestigious alumni include Reba McEntire, Vince Gill, Lyle Lovett, Keith Whitley, Dwight Yoakam, Randy Travis, Eric Church, Sam Hunt, Florida Georgia Line and Taylor Swift.
Fun fact: Tim McGraw and Faith Hill initially met at the 1994 New Faces show when they were on the bill with Toby Keith, John Berry, Clay Walker, Doug Supernaw, Lari White, Gibson Miller Band, Brother Phelps and Joy Lynn White.
Each act on this year’s lineup performed a four-song set that included their breakout hits and songs that exhibited their emotional depth as storytellers.
Andress arguably stole the show as the event’s most dynamic performer. Wearing a floral-patterned pant ensemble, she effortlessly moved from the low-end of her vocal range to its pinnacle while at times dancing barefooted and playing the piano. Before “Lady Like,” she debuted “The Stranger,” a song about getting back to the basics of love by initiating a fresh start at the bar. She was the first artist to receive a standing ovation for her performance of her debut single “More Hearts Than Mine.”
“How am I even here,” she quipped. “It’s because of you. If there’s anything I’ve learned the most, it’s that country is a huge family that wants everybody to do well, and that’s so unique [when compared to] any other genre. That is so rare.”
Evans dedicated “Things We Drink To” to his late manager, Rob Potts, who died in a motorcycle accident three months after Evans’ debut single “Kiss Somebody” was released. “He was the first person to believe in me besides my mom and dad, and he was the first person to bring me to America,” Evans said. “One of those times was in February during CRS, and he told me the significance of this show. I understood the significance of that night, and I understand it now. I think Rob would be pretty happy tonight.”
Runaway June’s Naomi Cooke, Hannah Mulholland and Jennifer Wayne delivered an arena-ready set with an attitude all their own. Their portion of the show included “Trouble With This Town,” “Head Over Heels” and “Buy My Own Drinks.” During “We Were Rich,” they paid homage to their first fans by sharing childhood photos that featured their respective families in a video that played in the background.
As the first performer of the night, Green delivered an amped set that included his first No. 1 “There Was This Girl,” “In a Truck Right Now,” “Different Round Here” and an acoustic performance of his latest single, “I Wish Grandpas Never Died.”
Tenpenny closed the evening with “Anything She Says” with surprise guests Seaforth, “Can’t Go to Church” and “Slow Ride.” He dedicated his performance of “Walk Like Him” to his late father, James Mitchell Tenpenny Jr., who died in 2014 after battling cancer.
Country Radio Hall of Famer Charlie Monk opened the proceedings with a satirical prayer that blessed all those involved in country radio.
The night also spotlighted St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital with patient Eli, recognized the Academy of Country Music’s 2020 broadcast winners ahead of the upcoming 55th annual ACM Awards and celebrated the recipients of the 2020 CRS/Country Aircheck Awards.