The annual Team UMG Live at the Ryman concert is arguably one of the most musically sacred experiences that Nashville’s Country Radio Seminar (CRS) offers. Thursday’s (Feb. 20) 11th-anniversary concert did not disappoint, hosting performances from 16 acts starting with the Dierks Bentley-fronted Hot Country Knights, and concluding with a moving finale by the label’s newest signee, Reba McEntire.
No one forgets the artist who receives the event’s first standing ovation. This year’s roar went to Mickey Guyton as the third artist to take the stage for her soul-stirring ballad “What Are You Gonna Tell Her,” a song due on her upcoming EP. The inspirational track vividly questions the legacy that’s being inherited by future generations while encouraging them to dream higher than their personal aspirations despite any possible adversity.
Sam Hunt returned with his band for an acoustic performance of his confessional “2016.” Caylee Hammack showed the Ryman’s mystical acoustics during an off-mic moment for the finale of her new single “Small Town Hypocrite.”
Luke Bryan broke from his American Idol duties to premiere his latest ode to country life, a ballad titled “Born Here, Live Here, Die Here.” Brothers Osborne’s John and T.J. Osborne channeled the complex guitar work of Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds on the duo’s new jam “Skeletons.”
Kip Moore delivered an intricate transition from “She’s Mine” into new song “Baby Blue.” Before introducing her breakout single “I Break Things,” rising artist Kylie Morgan held her face in her hands to collect herself before her Ryman debut.
Everyone in the pews got on their feet to welcome McEntire’s finale. Those seated closest to the stage were able to notice the audience’s applause made her visibly emotional as she lit into “How Blue.” She followed up with “And Still” and recalled one of her earliest Ryman experiences at seven years old.
“I just remember feeling that I was going to be really sick,” she said. “I went up to [my momma], and I said, ‘I’m not feeling too good.’ And without taking her eyes off the stage, she said, ‘Go find a bathroom.’
“I did, and I got lost. I was meandering around everywhere, and I found the front door. And right on the steps of the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium, I vomited. A nice stranger walked up to me and handed me his handkerchief. He said, ‘Here little girl,’ and I said, ‘Thank you.’ I said, ‘Here you go.’ And he said, ‘You keep it.’ I don’t know where that guy is, but one of these days, I hope I get to thank him for being so nice to me while my momma was on the second row.”
McEntire closed the event with her signature song, “Fancy.” Others who performed the event included Brandon Lay, Travis Denning, Jon Pardi, Parker McCollum and Adam Hambrick. Chris Stapleton was expected to perform. However, it was announced that he had three sick children at home and couldn’t make the gig.
CRS is a three-day educational conference for country music professionals and country radio personnel that’s put together annually by the non-profit, Country Radio Broadcasters. The event hosts panel discussions and presentations by key business leaders in various radio and music industry fields, as well as a plethora of music showcases.