Excerpt from Peter Jurew in Elmore Magazine’s review of “Nashville to New York” at The Cutting Room on July 12, 2016. For the full review and photographs, follow the link.
Georgia Middleman and Gary Burr’s Nashville To New York
Beneath the Cutting Room’s ornate proscenium, Nashville came to Manhattan in the form of four working country music songwriters who also happened to play and sing pretty dang well. Georgia Middleman and husband Gary Burr co-hosted the semi-regular event, promoted as “Nashville in New York.” The couple was joined on this particular evening by Tony Arata, a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and Dennis Matkosky.
The names might not be familiar even to hard-core country fans, but the songs they have written over the past few decades certainly are. Big-time stars like Keith Urban, Trisha Yearwood, LeAnn Rimes, Patty Loveless, Martina McBride and Boz Scaggs have recorded songs penned by these writers. With Matkosky on piano and the others on acoustic guitars, the foursome traded off performing their compositions and sharing stories about the songs and the songwriting business.
And, oh, the stories they told. Today’s Nashville scene is not unlike New York’s Tin Pan Alley of the early 20th century or Carole King’s days in the Brill Building where tunesmiths toiled and pitched their songs to producers and artists, hoping that one of their compositions would be recorded by someone of note and become a hit. The Nashville writers also shared how certain songs came into being, from an actual experience to a toss-away line or a sentence pulled from a magazine. Phrases such as “Don’t Make Me Laugh” and “I Thought You’d Never Leave” can be turned into clever and bittersweet songs in the hands of a talented songwriter.
Originally posted on On Tap:
Gary Burr and Georgia Middleman Charm Infinity Hall Crowd
May 4, 2015
by Holley Dey with photography by Louise Uznanski and Richard Uznanski ©2015 On Tap Blog All rights reserved.
From the back of the merchandise line it was clear that nearly all of the audience had decided to join the queue. As I watched the line slowly advance and then reverse direction, I realized that the Infinity Hall crowd now had their hands full…..full of music. When the time came to reach for my own wallet, copies of Gary’s newest CD were long gone, long gone. Instead, I purchased an older live recording that features several of the Hall of Fame songwriter’s #1 songs as well as a 2008 album that includes many of Georgia’s early hits. It was an incidental but very satisfying purchase when I later compared the recorded vocals to that evening’s live performance.
Gary Burr and Georgia Middleman came from Nashville to New York and then to Norfolk last month to perform for an audience that laughed easily, smiled broadly and enjoyed greatly. The music was drawn from the couple’s catalog of songwriting hits, from their own recorded music and from yet unreleased songs to be included on an upcoming duo album, the husband and wife’s first together. The show was patterned after the famed singer-songwriter sessions at the Bluebird Cafe where each songwriter in turn performs one of his/her hits, supported by instrumental and vocal back-up from the other.
Each song was introduced with a tale of inspiration, with behind-the-scene details from the Nashville music scene or….with a story of what could only be divine providence (or sheer dumb luck). Take Gary’s history with Garth Brooks, for example. Original song “What Mattered Most” was written for the country superstar. “He hated it,” explained Gary curtly, “didn’t record it.” (Ty Herndon later took the poignant love song to #1 on the country music charts.) Happily, fate intervened. In studio to record a Bob Seger song, Garth was forced to switch gears when the details of that song failed to arrive via FAX. “Might as well record that song I’ve been hearing around the studio this week.” Done. That’s Gary Burr for you; he’s lucky (and talented) like that.
Georgia’s eyes misted as she described her late father’s favorite song, “While He Still Knows Who I Am.” A tender story of memory loss and reconnection, the Dave Berg-Tom Douglas-Georgia Middleman co-write went unrecorded for eight years until Kenny Chesney made an emotional connection to the lyrics. It was the last song Georgia’s father requested, and the first song recorded for Chesney’s 2012 album release.
The Infinity Hall audience had no trouble connecting to the songwriters’ performance. There was an enthusiastic back-and-forth between those on stage and the many more in the audience. Laughter and good-natured teasing were exchanged; several song requests were accepted and performed. It was like an evening with your closest friends, if only your friends had both talent and your rapt attention!
Among the joys of this acoustic-based singer-songwriter performance was the opportunity to hear that talent unfiltered. Compared to recordings that are now several years old, the tone and clarity of the vocals have not changed. Gary’s voice has a richer quality; maybe it’s maturity. Well then again, maybe not. That cheeky humor hasn’t changed either!
Nor has the quality of the duo’s songwriting wavered. At Infinity Hall the audience was treated to a preview of new songs intended for the couple’s debut album. “You Roll By” and “This Song” share the same well crafted melodies and lyrics as previous works, but marry Gary and Georgia’s voices in a warm and welcome harmony.
Here’s hoping the songwriters will return those harmonies from Nashville to New York, to Norfolk and beyond when the new album is released. Might consider taking the show to Naperville, Newton, Norman or New Orleans….or go crazy! That’s right. Pick another letter.