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CMA Music Fest/Fan Fair - A Retrospection
God Bless the Indie Artists and Thanks!

by: Cheryl Harvey Hill


Although the CMA Fest/Fan Fair only lasted, officially, from June 9 - 12th, anyone who has ever attended knows that Nashville kicks it into high gear several days before this event begins and the festivities go on for at least a full week. In addition to all the great concerts and special events within the CMA Fest, there are a variety of extra concerts at venues outside of the fest, numerous fan club parties going on all over town, many concerts and special events that benefit a wide variety of charities, and so much more. From early morning to early morning, literally, there is something interesting going on in Music City .


I just turned in my final interview last night so this morning when I sat down at my desk, all I had to do was file things away and organize the things that I brought home with me. As I began sorting through the CDs, the magazines and assorted flyers and pamphlets that I collected, I started recalling all the artists, the fan club presidents, the managers, publicists, the hard-working volunteers from the CMA, the staff from the CMA, all those other media people (from all over the world -- especially the BBC and Germany), and the fans that I met that I hadn't even hardly mentioned in my features.


I especially wanted to emphasize all the incredibly talented artists that are on independent, AKA indie, labels now. The indie artists are definitely what made the greatest impression on me this year, starting with the always delightful Daniel Lee Martin. He was my very first interview and his agreeable personality and mega talent set the tone for the rest of my week.


I was happy to reconnect with some long-time favorites like the matchless, always interesting, John Berry and excited to finally meet Chris Young, a new artist who I'm certain is going to impact Nashville in a very major way. I'll always remember Glenn Cummings, the handsome 6' 5" singer whose heart and talent are equal to his stature. He is such a gentle man and so exceptionally talented.


I can't forget Brad and Shelly, the extraordinarily gifted brother/sister duo, whose incredible vocal harmonies are beyond awesome and their label mates, the very charming Jerry Burkhart and delightful Memarie. All of them are impressive in their own way and I really liked the owners of their label, Cupit Records. They are truly nice folks with real heart and great vision.


I will never forget the captivating and prodigious artist, Kelly Lang, and the adorable Crissy Cummings, a delightful new artist from Arizona . Both of them have traits and talents that leave you in awe. I also can't forget the very cordial John Arthur Martinez or Lynne Taylor Donovan, their great singing voices were just an added plus to their fascinating character traits. Martinez was so sweet and so funny and Donovan was simply stunning.


I also met another new artist, Anthony Michael James. He greeted me every single day with the biggest smile and the kindest words. He was so nice to me and to everyone else too. I wish I could have fit him into my interviewing schedule but I just couldn't. He really made an impression on me and I'm sure we will be hearing more about him. I had a chance to listen to his album since I've returned home and his voice is as memorable as his personality.


Last, but certainly not least, I want to mention Paul Gregg and Dave Innis from the magnificent group, Restless Heart. They are absolutely adorable and amazing. They sat down with us, representing the entire group (missing members Larry Stewart, Greg Jennings, John Dittrich) and were utterly captivating. They are about to launch their comeback album and we got a sneak preview. They are sounding better than ever so their new album is definitely one you want to watch for.


I guess that about sums it all up. I just wanted to give the fans of country music a "heads up" about the independent artists and I wanted to say thank you to everyone I encountered at the CMA Fest; from the security guard who enthusiastically opened the door of the media center for me every morning to Scott Stem, of the CMA, who was usually the only one left in the media center as we left each night.


The CMA Fest, AKA known as Fan Fair, is a magical, unique event that makes me glad that I'm part of this industry. In closing, I want to say a special thank you to the fans who are the root of this whole crazy business and whose interest allows me to do a job that I love.


Keepin' it country,


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