Four artists presented songs and stories in a songwriters round

Carlton Anderson, Carly Pearce, Jimmie Allen and Ashley McBryde took to the stage of Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace Tuesday night (Apr 9th) for a first-of-its-kind songwriters showcase. Bakersfield’s Best Country, KUZZ, presented its first — and most likely annual — Class Of event featuring the four singer/songwriters sharing songs, stories and an abundance of jokes to a sold out crowd.

The station invited each artist whose careers are on the rise and will likely extend to new heights this year. Pearce, who’s debut single “Every Little Thing” made history in 2017, is prepping to release her sophomore album sometime later this year. She was also recently engaged to fellow country singer Michael Ray. Anderson has released a three song EP that is tingling the ears of traditional country listeners. McBryde, who was told she’d amount to anything, saw her debut record, Girl Going Nowhere, become the biggest debut by a solo country artist in 2018, and was crowned New Female Artist of the Year at the 45th Annual ACM Awards last week. Jimmie Allen made country history twice within a month late last year as the first black artist to launch their career with a No. 1 at country radio with “Best Shot” and then saw it return to No. 1 again less than thirty days later.

Each artist performed four songs, including one cover tune, in an intimate acoustic setting. Each stripped of their full bands, they performed new and familiar music while sharing stories behind those songs. The four often joked with each other and the crowd, making it a fun and entertaining night. Midway through the show, they played True or False with station talent, making for some really funny and embarrassing moments that will be left to the imagination.

Anderson kicked off the night with “Drop Everything” — his debut single that made it to No. 46 on the charts, but “No. 1 in our hearts” — the name dropping “Country Music Made Me Do It” and “Keep Abilene Beautiful.” It wouldn’t be a show in Bakersfield without a little love to Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. During the “cover song round,” he performed Owens’ “Act Naturally” that went into Haggard’s “Silver Wings” with McBryde accompanying him on vocals. Anderson is as traditional country as it gets. His instrumentation remind me of George Strait and Midland with lyrics that are personable and relatable.

Pearce was second during the round and sang her new single “Closer to You,” “Hide The Wine” and “Every Little Thing.” Her cover was a re-imagination of her former boss, Dolly Parton’s, “9 To 5.” A little slower and more spunky than the original. Pearce left school at age sixteen to sing professionally and purse her dreams at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN, but received her diploma after being home schooled. Pearce has quite the control over her voice. She can belt it out when needed, but tone it back when necessary.

Allen was third for the night. He opened with “Make Me Want To,” before slowing things down with “Warrior” — a song he dedicates every night to his grandma — and closed with a sing along version of “Best Shot.” Allen’s cover was a very nice take on “Shallow” from the Lady Gaga/Bradley Cooper led A Star Is Born. Allen is not only one of the funniest guys in country music, but he also has one of the nicest and most soothing voices. He’s got a lot of talent that is sure to take him far.

“I get a lot of crap for wearin’ jeans and a t-shirt, so sometimes I put a vest on,” McBryde shared to laughs before performing her first song of the night, “Rattle Snake Preacher.” McBryde also sang “Girl Goin’ Nowhere” which brought cheers from the crowd and “American Scandal.” Her cover was Johnny Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere, Man” in which she includes her own lyrics, “I Like Every Beer, Man,” had lyrics faster than I could process. It brought the crowd to their feet, and even a member of the audience bringing her a beer to the stage. Allen requested McBryde do a verse and chorus of “A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega” to close out the show, which the crowd absolutely enjoyed!

It was great to see these artists showcased in ways that typically only happen at Nashville songwriters nights, and long before any major success has them playing stadiums, arenas and award shows. Each one was great with their immense vocals and relatable songs, but McBryde was the crowd favorite. It seemed the audience cheered the loudest for her, even though everyone received a considerable amount of applause. Either way, this show made me a big fan of all of the artists and I look forward to covering more of their work in the future.

Following the show, the KUZZ staff presented each artist with their very own Buck Owens red, white and blue commemorative guitar as a welcome gift into their family. It was a touching moment to see the artists’ faces tear up as they were presented the guitars on stage.