Here’s a challenge for all of you music enthusiasts out there – if you had to choose sixteen songs to represent the entire output of music from Nashville, the capital of country music, what would they be?
I am certain that most lists would be significantly different from the selection used as the basis for Adelaide Fringe show, The Nashville Story.
British performers Hannah Richards and Alex Beharrell, set themselves that task and have come up with an odd mix of classic and modern country tunes, which is a little too heavy on predictability.
Friday’s first show of the show’s short season, unfortunately, had more than its fair share of misfires and false starts, and one can only hope that the duo iron out these flaws before next week’s second show.
Night Owl Shows have built a well-deserved reputation for presenting first class musical tributes, and those who have attended shows under this company’s banner before would attest to it being a company that serves up consistency and quality.
This show, however, based on tonight’s evidence, falls short of the standard we have now come to expect.
Night Owl’s tried and true ‘show-umentary’ approach – mixing audio visual historical information with live performances of key songs – was shown to have glaring limitations in this incarnation. The information conveyed was often too basic, sometimes merely quoting Billboard chart positions and the number of Grammys earned, which anyone could look up on Wikipedia within a few seconds.
Occasionally, however, some gems of information and insight were proffered, such as the mention of the controversy around Kitty Wells’ song (It Wasn’t God Who Made) Honky Tonk Angels and the hostile reception it received upon its original release. In my opinion, more time should be spent digging up similar nuggets of information in order to make these segments more consistently engaging.
Richards certainly has a pure, sweet voice, but her performance is too static. She stays rooted to the spot for most of her time on stage and doesn’t appear to fully inhabit the songs she performs. As a result, the lyrics sometimes come across as faithfully delivered but often missing their full emotional power. For example, the yearning in Patsy Cline’s rendition of Crazy, or the defiant declarative tone of Tammy Wynette as she sang Stand By Your Man, were not apparent in the young British singer’s delivery.
Richards did appear more comfortable and in control of her material when the selection moved on to an exploration of more contemporary country hits. Her take on Taylor Swift’s Mean was very faithful to the original arrangement and was sung with greater conviction than those she had chosen from the established canon of classics earlier.
Alex Beharrell’s guitar work was proficient throughout, albeit he did struggle with achieving consistency of tempo at times. His vocals were also a little ragged in places, and he struggled to summon up much power, or volume, when singing in the lower register. This was especially evident during his rendition of Garth Brooks’ hit, Friends In Low Places.
To his credit, however, Beharrell delivered an impressive version of Chris Stapleton’s breakthrough hit, Tennessee Whiskey, a song which clearly suited his vocal style and tone and gave him the opportunity to play some meatier guitar lines.
The selection of songs, from Hank Williams through to Kacey Musgraves, did provide a reasonable overview of the shifting forms and styles that constitute the history of American country music, albeit paying short shrift to some key developments in the evolution of the genre – such as Americana.
Both performers will be involved in other shows during the Fringe, and clearly have a great deal of talent. I am sure this talent can, and will, be harnessed more effectively in their remaining shows.
By: Ken Grady
Rating: 2 1/2 stars
The Nashville Story will be performed on Friday 21 & Friday 28 February at the Regal Theatre, 275 Kensington Road, Kensington Park. Shows begin at 7:00pm.
Tickets are available here: The Nashville Story