Personal Tributes Stand Out at Country Music Hall of Fame’s 2020 All for the Hall Concert
It took just two songs to appreciate the sincerity of each performance at the 2020 All for the Hall concert in Nashville on Monday night (Feb. 10). All for the Hall: Under the Influence — a benefit for the Country Music Hall of Fame — asked hitmakers like Blake Shelton, Luke Combs, Tanya Tucker and Ingrid Andress to choose a cover song that has influenced them.
After opening with "Wasted Time," host Keith Urban introduced his cover of Linda Ronstadt's "Blue Bayou," explaining that while there are other popular versions of her 1977 hit song, it's this one he heard as a teenager in Australia. Prior to the show he shared how it was while watching the star's documentary that he came to fully understand and appreciate how Ronstadt moved him musically. Urban grew up playing a lot of her songs live.
"I realized she was an artist I loved, of course, because she kind of fused pop and country," he told Taste of Country.
That set the tone for a night that alternated between men and women, established stars and newcomers. Carly Pearce's cover of Shania Twain's "Man! I Feel Like a Woman" was a sold out Bridgestone Arena singalong, and Morgan Wallen's enthusiastic, gravely vocal on the Eagles' "Take It Easy" played well for an audience that still might be learning of the "Chasin' You" singer.
"She was such a visionary for even aesthetically what a woman in country music (can do)," Pearce shared pre-show, speaking of Twain. "She pushed the boundaries by showing her midriff ... she wore the infamous cheetah outfit for 'That Don't Impress Me Much' and then, obviously, nobody ever sounded like her."
All 11 artists played the All for the Hall show for free — a pertinent note during Shelton's introduction. He flew into Nashville for the show and was hopping a plane to fly out immediately afterward. His casual performance of "Ol' Red" and Alan Jackson's "Dallas" came after a few good-natured jokes at Urban's expense.
The crowd got what they hoped for from Nashville's truest A-List celebrity, but his cover served as a humble reminder of the show's stated purpose:
Not every cover was country. Tenille Townes chose U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," and Christian artist Lauren Daigle covered Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly" after a beautiful piano-led version of her own "You Say." The roads between country and pop music have never been more free of construction, but just as clear are paths that join country and Christian music. Daigle's warm presence on stage was a reminder of that, and a welcome break from the names and songs we've heard on Top 40 radio for years.
Sandwiched between Daigle and Tucker, Chris Stapleton's masterful vocal performance of his own "Millionaire" and Willie Nelson's "Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground" could have been overlooked, but that's no critique of his acoustic performance. Tucker's recent Grammy success and her stunning new album brought a lot of fans to the arena on Monday night. She solidified not only her place in the contemporary conversation, but also her legacy with personal covers of songs by George Jones, Merle Haggard and Tammy Wynette. "Bring My Flowers Now" was as good as you hoped if you saw her on TV last month.
Brothers Osborne stirred the crowd up with Haggard's "The Bottle Let Me Down" and their own "It Ain't My Fault" that featured dueling guitar solos with Urban.
Combs closed the two-hour-plus show with "Even Though I'm Leaving" and his well-known cover of Brooks & Dunn's "Brand New Man," but most refreshing on this night was that no one artist "stole the show." It was the collective's sincere tributes to artists that truly shaped them that resonated. Unlike other tribute shows, no one had to settle for a second or third option. There were no deep cuts, and breaks between sets were easily filled by Urban riffing with fans.
"Willie Nelson is one of my greatest influences," Stapleton told Taste of Country before the show. "For me, that whole era of country music ... those are the things as far as country music songwriting and the whole vibe of it that I really love. It's very important to me."
"If you wanted to have a bar for writing country songs, this is (it)," he added.
The same could be said (and likely has been said) of every cover performed at the 2020 event. In the end, tickets sales from the seventh-annual All for the Hall raised more than $800,000 for the Country Music Hall of Fame's education programs.
See the Best Pictures from the Seventh All for the Hall Concert: