Hey gang, sorry I’m a couple of days late on this but when you’re 80 year-old father-in-law takes a tumble and breaks a hip, family obligations take over. He’s had surgery and is recovering. Get well soon, Smiley!
In other exciting news, I will be heading to Craven Country Jamboree this July! I am still waiting to hear if it will be as media or not but I have decided to make the trip with some friends anyway. Watch out for some great coverage and maybe even some Periscope action!
On with the show…
Garth Brooks Winnipeg Concert Review:
Last weekend in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada (my hometown), Garth Brooks and wife Trisha Yearwood did a four show, sold-out engagement. I was fortunate enough to be able to catch the Sunday night Show. So rather than do some kind of news bit, I figured I would bring you a review of one of the most incredible concerts I have ever seen.
Brett Kissel opened with an amazing acoustic set, admitting to the crowd “I’m shaking like a leaf up here.” I love Brett! So this concert was like a double down of awesomeness for me. Like most contemporary country singers, Brooks was a huge inspiration for Kissel. I can confidently say (and I’m sure others would agree) that he sounded fantastic. Kissel opened for Brooks Friday and Sunday night but on Saturday he made a quick trip back to his hometown in Alberta to do a homecoming show.
Next up was a short set by Nashville singer/songwriter Karyn Rochelle. Rochelle also happens to be one of the backup singers for Brooks and Yearwood in the group of three that they refer to as the “Wall of Sound”. Singing some of her original music, Rochelle put on a fine performance for everyone attending. Although she is no stranger to the stage, she also admitted to having nerves based on the fact that she rarely performs for crowds of this size. In both the cases of Kissel and Rochelle, I have to say, they looked like old pros who have been performing on this scale for years. Congratulations to them both!
The day after the show, I had an early morning call with a well-known Canadian country singer. Who? Well…that is a surprise of course! I told him I was coming down off a Garth Brooks high and he asked how the show was. In two words – maniacally beautiful. The way the countdown built up the almost 19 years of anticipation was borderline sadistic. The clock hit zero, the house lights go off and there it was – the shadow of the man, the legend. The screens lift and the man who had been absent from Winnipeg for almost 2 decades kicks off in to “Man Against Machine” and immediately rolls into his mega-hit “Rodeo”.
The crowd was electric yet as he spoke, every single one of us was riveted. “I’m just like you,” Brooks started, “When I go to a concert, I like to hear the old stuff. So that’s what we are going to do!” The crowd erupted. Brooks delivered what he promised. Hit after hit, “The Dance”, The River”, “Callin’ Baton Rouge” (his self-proclaimed favourite to perform), every song a sing-a-long and everybody knew every word. Brooks gave 150%, even huffing and puffing, bent over and spouting, “You guys need to remember I am 117!” You would never have guessed that just a few days earlier that the couple had lost a dear friend and band mate to cancer. Brooks was quoted as saying, “It was almost like the crowd knew and they lifted me up.”
During “In Another’s Eyes”, out came Trisha Yearwood. Her voice clear and beautiful. In short, heavenly. On the screens above played outtakes of her show “Trisha’s Southern Kitchen” while she belted “An American Girl”. The true highlight for me was hearing “How Do I Live” in person. It was awe-inspiring. When you hear some 15,000 people hit a note that few can hit while driving alone in their car, it sends chills down your spine, especially when you see the surprise and pleasure on her face when you do. To end her set she called out Karyn Rochelle to help her sing “Georgia Rain”, a song that Rochelle wrote for Yearwood. Brooks came out to complete the harmony. It was breathtaking. As she left, and Rochelle made her way back to “The Wall”, Brooks took the stage once more full of energy and jokes like, “The guitar isn’t plugged in. I just hold it to hide my gut.”
Despite the explosive nature of Brooks’ performance (watching him run around and holler at the top of his lungs is exhausting), my favourite moments were when he would just stand there, eyes closed, face up to the heavens, smile on his face, listening to us sing his music with no accompaniment. They were moments of unadulterated joy, for him and for us.
I’ve seen some fantastic shows in my short 41 years of life. But I can say, without hesitation, that Garth Brooks is unequivocally “The Master”. If you ever have the opportunity to see him live, beg, borrow, beg some more, do what you have to do to see this country music icon in person. On a scale of 1 to 10. I would give it a 25.
I wrote an article about an incredible band out of Calgary called TwoShine County. If you go back in my archives you will see that they did an email interview for me in September of 2015. Well…At the beginning of the month I had the opportunity to actually sit down and have a face-to-face chat with the super talented Daron Schofield and Dennis Hann IN PERSON!! I happened to be in Calgary and they were gracious enough to take some time for me (thanks so much Brent for hooking that up)!
When you sit down to do a follow-up interview with someone, especially when it hasn’t even been a full year, there are a couple of things you can expect. A new album or single, maybe an award. Perhaps a tour. Not with these two! Dennis said, “You almost measure your years from CCMA to CCMA.” So much has happened for these guys since the release of “I Love This Song” last year, that we had tons to talk about. “It has been a whirlwind of being involved as heavily as we can in the country music community, which is such a fun and amazing community to be a part of.” Daron said, “We’ve been focusing mainly writing and recording, getting a bunch of singles ready for the next bit.” This includes a writing trip to Nashville, a city that both of them love. We talked about being immersed in a place where there is so much music around that even the mall has a recording studio. Dennis said, “It’s just what you do there.” Daron added, “Even the grocery store clerk is a singer.” They have been doing co-writing there and here in Canada. Both of them expressed that the talent pool is just as impressive here as it is in Nashville, something that Dennis wasn’t expecting. “I was expecting it to be so different from Canada and you realize pretty quickly that the writers down there are just like the writers in Canada.”
They took on travelling from coast-to-coast doing radio shows. We joked about our previous interview because it became common knowledge that as far as road trip companions go, Dennis is definitely the sleeper. Daron laughed, “#sleepingdenny is probably the largest campaign we’ve done!” Dennis added that no matter where he goes, people comment that they are impressed to see he is awake. “I can’t go anywhere anymore!”
And as if that wasn’t quite enough to keep them busy, the guys were also a part of the 2016 CCMA Discovery Program in Toronto in April. Knowing what a huge step this is for any artist, I asked them to tell me about their experience. Dennis started, “I think Daron and I had really high expectations going in. I know, at least for myself, my expectations were blown out of the water.” Daron agreed. Dennis continued, “The coolest thing about it is just how genuinely the CCMA and the people who were putting it on, they genuinely want to help who is involved in the program.” Daron went beyond and said, “You’d think these things would be a little bit of competition kind of thing but we really got along with everyone. It was such a family, encouraging and supporting one another.” There were many long days, songwriting circles and interviews. All of it was designed to see if the participants are up to the challenges that they would face in this type of career. One thing that both Dennis and Daron expressed as an interesting part of the week was spending time at the Canadian headquarters of Facebook and Twitter. So much of the job is social media focused now that they were grateful for the workshops that they had with them.
In September at the CCMA Awards week, they will be performing in a CCMA Discovery Program Showcase, after which a winner will be announced. They both feel, however that the real win was doing that whole week with the other artists. Daron commented, “It’s such a short time. It’s pretty amazing to look back because it seems like a long time ago. Even though it’s only been a couple of years but it seems like a lifetime ago that we started this thing.”
Things are just gearing up for the summer for TwoShine County, especially with Stampede just around the corner. The ball got rolling on June 10th with the release of their latest single “Love On Fire”. Daron said, “Being local it’s fantastic so we are going to be doing a bunch of shows over Stampede.” Dennis furthered that by saying, “Right now our focus is Stampede and a lot of gigs in Alberta and the Western area.” (For those of you in Calgary, you should also know that TwoShine County will be playing Ranchman’s on New Year’s Eve. It SOUNDS far away, but hot tickets are hard to come by.) With so much on their plate, I asked them how they cope with stress. Daron laughed and said, “I don’t think that you do!” Dennis, who is extremely high energy added, “It’s way more difficult to be idle.” That from him, I totally believe.
Both of these guys have no doubt in their minds that they would be doing something music related if they weren’t members of TwoShine County. I found them both to be so grounded and easy-going. Then I was told that while the guys were in Toronto they took some time from their busy schedule to volunteer at a homeless shelter. We talked about that for a while. I find it incredible that in the midst of a career where everything is so calculated, right down to image, that they took time out to help others. They lent a hand and performed for the patrons and it is something that really touched their hearts. So on top of being these down-to-earth nice guys they have giant hearts of gold.
I can’t say enough great things about these two. Please make sure you like them on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/TwoShineCounty), follow them on Twitter (@TwoShineCounty), go to their site (http://twoshinecounty.com/#hello) and you SURE AS HECK need to check out the latest single “Love on Fire”. Request it, buy it, listen to it. It is such a great song, guys! I have ever steered you wrong?