I have lived in the USA since July, 2000. I have visited many places here, lived on both coasts, enjoyed California summers and New York winters (or vice-versa). I've been to heavy metal, world music and jazz festivals, rock concerts, and classical performances. I've seen rap and hip-hop performers. Yes, I've been here for over thirteen years, but had never been to a country music event. Not a single one. Really and truly, not one... until 23rd July, 2013. Just how bad is that? This is the country of Country! OMG.
But why? Why the lack of interest or motivation? Maybe I'd just dismissed Country as it's-all-the-same-song-about dead-dogs, broken-down trucks, Ruby-taking-her-love-to-town, and calling your boy-kids stoopid names. Like Sue. And wearing cowboy hats and boots even if you've never even seen a horse in real life.
So what changed?
Another confession. Guilty secret. I watched Nashville. Every episode. Some of them more than once. It opened my ears. And mind. (When does the next series begin??? If you're wondering, the soundtrack stands up--the actors all do their own singing, and the production is wonderful.)
So... I just had to go and see LeAnn Rimes at the California State Fair. And I am so very glad I did. (Not that LeAnn is part of the Nashville TV series: rather, due to Nashville, I now truly wanted to see country music, live, in person. And LeAnn's life history, from child star to now, reminded me that musicians are all human, like the rest of us. And LeAnn puts her whole being into her songs, and that, to me, is what makes music real.)
LeAnn brought tears to my eyes, three times: that's emotion in the music.
First time: when LeAnn saw the little girls dancing just in front of the stage. The look of pure joy on LeAnn's face was contagious, beautiful.
Second time: when LeAnn sang "Borrowed", from her new album, "Spitfire". Must have been hell to write, hell to go through, and hell to replay every time you sing it. Much applause.
And third time: almost at the end of the show, when LeAnn sang "Summertime". IMHO, very few people should attempt, or even think about attempting, that song. I didn't think anyone had the voice, since Janis Joplin, to do it. LeAnn does, and did, and I'm so very glad I was there to hear. (While LeAnn's "Summertime" is very much based on the Joplin version, rather than going back to the roots of the song, it is still unique.)
LeAnn sang other songs from "Spitfire" and earlier recordings: "Blue", the major hit from when she was just thirteen years old (and how the heck does a thirteen-year-old cope with that kind of public exposure?): a cover of Elton John's "Rocket Man", (I sang along, I did!): "Just a Girl Like You", "Spitfire", "How Do I Live", "What Have I Done?", and more. She is emotional, open and natural, with a big vocal range and real power in her voice.
LeAnn drew the biggest crowd I've seen so far at the State Fair concerts this year. People were massed outside the enclosure. Some were asking, "who is this?" because they had come to the fair for the rides, hadn't checked the concert schedule, and were just drawn by her voice. LeAnn has some new fans to add to the ones who have been with her since day one.
Anyone who has only listened to her earlier recordings--go listen to "Spitfire". I think you'll enjoy it. I do.
Thank you, LeAnn and Nashville both, for opening my ears. Hope you come back to Sacramento soon! And my mind. I haven't bought any cowboy boots yet, but I have been hanging around horses a lot...