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Universal-South Artists Capture The Trap

Concert Review: Helen Neal
Photographer Journalist: Jo-Ann Poharcyk, Photographer

With a take no prisoners powerful display of talent, Joe Nichols and opening act McHayes laid down the law about country music in their recent appearance at The Trap in Nashville.

Whether with heart-snaring ballads, boot stomping rhythms, or tongue-in-cheek tunes, Nichols and McHayes (Mark McClurg and Wade Hayes) made the case for country music to a willingly captive audience. Studio quality musicianship coupled with some of the best country music ever written - yesterday or today - sealed the verdict. Country music, with its melodies and lyrics of substance, is the music of the people.

McHayes hit the stage with "Tele-man," a rip-roaring indictment of a "country band" that played a gig with a "fiddle out of 
tune" and no "Tele-man" (a Telecaster-toting sideman). No question about the validity of the evidence. This duo's extraordinary display of raw talent - instrumentally and as switch-hitting vocalists - is more than solid - grabs you hard.

Their set included pieces from their upcoming album, Lessons in Lonely, as well as the Bob Wills' classic, "Roly Poly." 
Whether Hayes was singing the lead on their opening romper or the title cut's aching ballad with McClurg delivering the high harmony, or whether McClurg was handling the lead on the plaintive "Don't Wait Till It's Gone" or the catchy "Mr. Right Now," with Hayes furnishing background, the duo "pins your ears back."

They don't just sing and play them - the sprightly "Nothing But a Cloud," the endearing "She Loves Me Anyway," and the 
mesmerizing instrumental, "McBoogie," certifies their song writing skills.

There's not a better Merle master than Nichols. He wraps Haggard tunes with a styling and voice that often exceeds the 
mentor. But he doesn't stop there. As a gold album and two number one singles attests, he's got his own goods. And he superbly laid them all out for the crowd.

Nichols' show neatly ties together a gamut of country songs - Whitley's "Adam's Rib," Williams Jr.'s "Honky Tonk Woman, and "Blues Man," Haggard's lesser known "Farmer's Daughter," the Dean Dillon penned Strait hit, "Unwound," Paycheck's "A-11." Obviously, he knows the reservoir he's drawing from very well. His renditions never deny their roots, but he makes each song his own. In the future, I predict, many of these will be known as Nichols' standards.

Home in Nashville for this show after a whirlwind eighteen months of chasing the rocket of a hit single, Nichols thanked those who used to come hear him at Rippy's when he was singing for tips. As he finished his first number one single, "The Impossible," he emotionally told the crowd, "It means the world to me to come back to Nashville and play that song for you."

Of course, he couldn't do a show without those other hit singles from his gold-certified album, Man With a Memory
"Brokenheartsville," and "She Only Smokes When She Drinks." He showed he has a "writing side" too when he sang the self-penned current single, "Cool to be a Fool," and his jaunty, "Everything's a Thing." And Tom T Hall's satirical "Life Don't Have to Mean Nothin' at All" shows Nichols' deft touch with the often missed humor in country music.

Looking back over the docket, you recognize that this was an evening with the "real deal." No con men here! Take Nichols, McClurg and Hayes - set them in a room (or a honky tonk) and they could perform days of proof that they know their music and better yet, know how to deliver it for a great evening of entertainment. Take your friends who say they don't like country music to see either of these acts. They'll be "captured."


And while we're at it, let's cite The Trap for it's great sound, plentiful free parking, crowd-welcoming atmosphere, and 
outstanding entertainment .


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