Friday, April 25, 2014

Country Music Cruise 2014

It has been a while since my last blog…I was having major technical difficulties but my multi-talented I.T.  guy has got me back online and back to blogging…

My last blog was about our 2014 cruise…it was about the ship, the food, the islands, and the fun…this blog is about the entertainment…and it was outstanding!

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The comedian Jon Reep was hilarious…we have heard most of his jokes before but he surprised us with some new ones…and we actually saw one of his shows from the front row….(close enough that I could have spit on him if I wanted to…but I didn’t want to)…a usual no-no for us while watching comedians (the sitting up close-not the spitting)…we took the risk and it was worth it…he is very funny…even more so up close and personal. He also was the bingo number caller and made that really fun too…I think he did some other games but that is the only one we watched…


Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers…I am sure you have heard of them…listening to their music brought back a lot of childhood memories for me..all good ones. Their first concert was a gospel sing along with The Roys.  It was great…we felt like we had been to church.  We all sang Amazing Grace together and it was awesome.  And they always open all their concerts with the Star Spangled Banner…it was quite patriotic and spritual at the same time….

When we got to this first concert I knew it would be good because I saw a bass, a fiddle, and a banjo…and we were not disappointed…they sang some of our favorites…and some we had never heard…”It rained in Heaven on Crucifixion Day” was a beautiful song that I had never heard.

I was not expecting to hear my favorite Gatlin song at this concert since it was a gospel sing…but then I heard the music and Larry Gatlin began to say…some may not consider this a gospel song…but just ask the Baptist preacher that gets my tithing check each Sunday and he will say it is definitely a gospel song…and they busted out with All the Gold in California…reminded me of my cousin Jeff, who is now a preacher…we taped ourselves singing this song one summer at my Granny’s house at Suwannee River…I wrote the words down so we could sing it correctly….many years later while singing Christmas carols to my great-grandmother,  Mommer Avant, we were wondering what to sing and Jeff busts out with “who knows All the Gold in California?”  he looked at me and I lost it…could not stop laughing so I had to lip sing Silent Night…great memories…

All in all the Gatlin Brothers gave a great show the gospel sing as well as their other concert…full of humor, they sounded great, told really cool stories about themselves and other great country music artists…Larry was very good friends with Johnny Cash and said he called him J.R. and he called Larry “pilgrim” and told of how he sang to Mrs. June Carter Cash on her death bed and how he was a paul bearer at Johnny Cash’ funeral.

I saw Larry around the ship quite a bit. Mostly around the buffet lines…in the mornings he was walking around looking like a deer caught in head lights, bed head and slightly dazed and confused…in other words he looked just like us!! I also saw him one time sitting off to himself.  He was jotting down notes and singing to himself…concentrating a lot on something…later at the George Jones tribute he sang a song that he said he had just written…I wonder if I saw him writing it??

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Vince Gill…need I say more…he is a legend…great musician, great song writer, great singer, and seems to be one of the nicest people ever…we followed he and his band back on the ship in San Juan…did not recognize him at first until I heard him talk and then knew it was him…very kind and considerate.  He and Pug went to walk through security at the same time and he motioned for Pug to go ahead and Pug declined and said…no you go ahead…two southern gentlemen…makes my heart happy…

He was sick and it was obvious because his voice was deeper than usual…but he still sang like an angel as far as I am concerned…singing all my favorites…as usual I was afraid he might not sing my most favorite but he started telling the story of how when he met his now wife Amy Grant…he said he met her and then went home and wrote a song about her…told his friend/musician about her smile and then wrote “When You Come Around”…my favorite line is the beginning…”Face of an angel, pretty eyes that shine, I lie awake at night wishing you were mine”…it is so sweet to know he wrote that for his wife…makes me love the song even more…

He sang a lot of great songs and played the heck out of his guitar…his band was awesome…they have been together for a very long time…that says a lot about Vince Gill…his concert was amazing…but I knew it would be.

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Jo Dee Messina…a great singer…never been a favorite of mine but she put on a great show.  She is very energetic and was all over the stage…her band was really good too.  She told some personal stories that made the show even more enjoyable…my favorite song she sang was the Christian song…Lord, I Need You…and she has got some pipes and sang the heck out of it…she did one of the best versions of Natural Woman, and ended with Don’t Stop Believing.  She was really talented…She wrote a song about motherhood called “Me”…you should definitely listen to it…it is great.

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We only saw the Roys at the gospel concert and they were very good!  I would compare them to Ricky Scaggs and Alison Kraus…yes they were THAT GOOD.  And I am sure they can sing Bluegrass like nobody’s business but I could listen to them sing gospel all day long….”Will the Circle be Unbroken?”….was great. 

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Kenny Rogers…over 50 years singing and he has still got it!!! I am a big fan from way back…I had the LP records and watched all his movies and thought he was fantastic…and I still do…everyone asked me…how does he look?  Well we got to see him up close and he looked really good…it is obvious he has had some work done but he looked normal…last time I saw him on t.v. he did not look so good…I think he had just had some work done and was still swollen or had some bad botox

…anyway his voice was beautiful and he sang ALL his great songs and there are a lot of them…he is also what I call a true entertainer…he made them turn the house lights up so he could see his audience…talked about how he didn’t get to do that very often and made it known that the artists would actually like to see who they are singing to.  So we sang along to every song and of course my favorite is…The Gambler…I just about lost it when he started…”On a warm summer’s evening, on a train bound for nowhere”…loved each and every note he sang…he sounded just as good as he did 50 years ago…can you tell I am a big fan :)

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Bryan White…I have to say my favorite song he ever sang was “From This Moment” with Shania Twain…I have never really listened to him much…his voice actually sounded a little strained but he was pleasant to hear…he seems to be a really nice and down to earth guy.  I really enjoyed hearing him talk about his wife and kids and he did a guitar seminar with Wade Hayes that was very good…it is obvious how much he loves to play guitar and it was fun to see him doing what was obviously one of his favorite things.

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Restless Heart….I LOVE them… always have…we played two of their songs at our wedding as we came up on horse back….so they have a special place in my heart.  This band has also been together for a very long time and it was obvious…they were amazing and again such true entertainers because they interacted a lot with each other and with the audience …It was the first time seeing them live and I would surely go and see them again.

We were kind of bummed when we found out that Restless Heart was only doing a concert late at night in one of the bars…then we found out that Ronnie Milsap was not going to make it because he was sick…they announced that T. Graham Brown was going to replace him and while I was excited, my sweet honey was not…it turned out that Restless Heart actually replaced him on the big stage instead of T. and it worked out great because I think it was best to have Restless Heart on the big stage and T. in the smaller place. We were sorry to miss Ronnie Milsap but I had seen him before and had not seen either of the other two singers…IT’S ALL GOOD!!


T. Graham Brown…oh my gosh…I have loved him forever!!!  Yes, even back when he was a raging alcoholic…I love his style of music…oh the soul this man puts in his songs…he sounds just as good now as he did way back when…he has since turned his life around and is a Christian, helping many missions and building churches…his concert was in a smaller bar and it was packed…what I loved was the fact that all the other acts were talking earlier (i am an eavesdropper and i totally admit it) about how they were going to see him sing…and we saw them in the bar jamming and singing just like regular people…standing  because it was standing room only and enjoying every minute of it…as we left I heard Any Griggs say…that was soothing like a pacifier to a baby…I looked at him and said “what a great way to put it”… and he just smiled at me…T. sings many good songs and he sang most of them and to my good luck just before he ended he sang my favorite…”If You Could Only See Me Now”…my night was made…many times over…probably one of my most favorite concerts while on the ship.

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I have no idea who this is with T. Graham but I liked the picture.

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I will admit my favorite concerts were the jam sessions with all the not-so-big acts….no Vince, Kenny, or Jo Dee jammed but that is okay because these other people completely rocked the ship!!! They would get up to the mike and start yelling out names to come sing and play various instruments…it was so dang awesome.  Bryan White on the drums, Andy Griggs and Wade Hayes on the guitars, Restless Heart and Jamie O’neal singing…it was so dang cool. And they would just pick random songs to sing…the first of which was ZZ Tops Sharp Dressed Man and they killed it in the best way possible.  Ty Herndon sang a version of  "Crazy" that would have made Patsy Cline very proud and I do believe she would have "swooned"…they always seem to have fun but when its more laid back and natural like this was…they just seemed to be extra happy…it was my favorite times and I can just imagine how it is when they get together at each others houses and jam…what I would not give to be there.  oh yeah and someone played the harmonica…YOU HAD ME AT HARMONICA….. big fan….whoooge fan of the harmonica…

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Jamie O’Neal had a beautiful voice and her husband plays in her band which I thought was cool.  I knew a lot of her songs but just did not know her…She is a sweetheart and really fun to be around…and this girl can belt it out let me tell you…they had to turn her mike down a few times…she got pipes…

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Andy Griggs…again I knew some of his songs but not him…I am a huge fan now…he is just cool, his concert alone was in the small bar, just he and his guitar…he was really really real…he told a lot of stories and sang some Hank jr. and Waylon Jennings…he seemed more old country to me which is what I like…he also had some of that soul like T. Graham Brown has. He was one of the ones I would see around the ship and he was always happy and having a good time…he is kind of gruff and loud and boisterous…in a good way…and very funny…like I said I am a fan…

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Wade Hayes…I did not know his story at all…he was diagnosed with like stage 4 cancer a while back and not given much time to live…and here he is…and he is very humble, and grateful, and thanked God for nothing less than a miracle.  And he can play the guitar better than anyone I have ever seen, writes, and sings.  He is nothing less than a dreamy tall drink of water…when I think country music this is what I think of…he has a really deep beautiful tone to his voice and has some really great songs…I just fell in love with him…we saw him after the cruise waiting on a ride and I told Pug I wanted to take him home with us…but instead of being all stalker like I just told him that I hoped and prayed God continued to bless him as He had been blessing him…and he smiled that big ol country boy smile, tipped his black hat and said “thank you ma’am”…….I almost died…

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Anita Cochran was very talented…she played guitar and had a beautiful voice. She also played a singer in the original Dukes of Hazzard movie.  She and Ty Herndon were really good friends and sang and interacted so well together.  I really enjoyed hearing her sing…she was very laid back and humble and I am surprised she is not a bigger star…she was really good. 

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Ty Herndon….I had heard many of his songs but had never seen him or any of his videos.  He is really fun to watch.  He grooves and dances when he sings even for a white boy…and I am all about a cute guy who can sing and dance and groove and STILL sound good…he has a beautiful voice that reminded me of Steve Wariner.  He traveled with a few people…one of which was his mother and a guy who looked as though he could have been his brother. He always seemed to be having fun whether performing or just hanging out.  He is one of my new favorites..I loved his singing and the way he engaged the crowd..he knows how to work it.

Jett Williams, daughter of Hank Sr. was on the cruise….we never heard her sing but we did hear her tell her story about her Dad…she was born five days after he died and he had put her in his will and made it known that he wanted to claim her as his own…but she somehow ended up in the system and in foster care until her adulthood and did not find out who her father was until her early 20’s…very interesting story.  She works to keep her fathers music alive and sings his songs and they have even found some songs he wrote but never recorded. 

We did go to the pictionary game on the big stage.  It was Ty Herndon, Jamie O’Neal, and Andy Griggs…they were against 3 ladies from the audience…it was hilarious and we thoroughly enjoyed it and laughed so hard…really funny and entertaining….really showed the personalities of these singers and made me like them all the more.

I grew up listening to country music…old school country music…and in high school I loved it too…but the music they call country now is not what I call country music…not all that booty shaking, rapping, hard rock sounding stuff.  I am all about Hank Sr. and Jr. Waylon, Willie, Charlie Daniels, so for me this cruise had the best singers…Not only did they sound good with a full band…they sang “naked” just them and a guitar and a mike....I am assuming this is how they all got started and why they were so natural sounding in these small clubs…they sang from their hearts about their lives and they sounded clear and toned and it was very refreshing.

It was really cool walking around and seeing these “celebrities” inter acting with their fans.  Maybe it is just their job but everyone we saw were pleasant and letting people take pictures and signing autographs.  I am not one for pictures or autographs…but I did my fair share of eavesdropping on their conversations which was very interesting to me…once while hearing Mrs. Nancy Jones (widow of George) telling a joke…I laughed to myself and she was looking right at me…she waved at me, laughed and said “hey baby”…this lady was a sweetheart and had a great laugh…she is a class act…George knew what he was doing when he married her…

There was a George Jones tribute concert that was amazing…these singers sang all his songs to his wife Mrs. Nancy…it was very moving and they showed pictures up on the back of the stage…it was equivalent to the tribute shows I have seen on television…but better because I was actually there.

This was the first Country Music Cruise and they are already booking for the next one…I am just not sure they will ever have this caliber of talent in this quantity ever again…so we have not yet booked again…this one will be really hard to beat…now if George Strait ever does one…I will probably be on it…

My only complaint was that sometimes there would be two singers singing at the same time in different places so we had to choose who we wanted to see the most.....we were never disappointed...even when we had to stand because of limited space...This cruise was more expensive than our usual ones but considering the entertainment it was worth it...I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys country music...especially "old school".

It has been a while since I have even listened to country music but this cruise made me remember why I loved it so much and makes me want to listen to it again....well at least to some of it... ; )