Country music can be a harsh mistress. An artist may have the best intentions and a wealth of talent and still not deliver the goods live.
It always comes down to charisma - charisma that George Jones had Saturday night at Bell Auditorium and that Chalee Tennison lacked.
Ms. Tennison might be an authentic country talent. She seems to have the voice, reminiscent of Reba McEntire and Martina McBride, and her songs seem to possess the kind of world-weary introspection of great country music. But she was unable to ignite the crowd.
Some blame might be placed on the radio-friendly pop arrangements and over-polished musicality that all but robbed the songs of their grit, but the responsibility ultimately has to fall on the performer, and Ms. Tennison never commanded the stage the way a true star can.
She might consider taking lessons from George Jones, who, after more than 30 years, still lights up a stage with his velvet voice and the simple elegance of his songs. Opening his set with a lively version of the novelty hit High-Tech Redneck, Mr. Jones proved that he was still a master of the live performance. Visibly battling a cold, he was still able to infuse each song with the distinctive dynamic vocal delivery, the pulse, that has made him famous.
Mr. Jones' music seems to have maintained its purity. His songs were all of the sort that exist in a place where the big pop crossover hasn't invaded and artists know that the best music is mined from personal experience. He remains true in his approach to the genre and sings with the conviction of a man who still believes in the power of a great tune simply sung.
The cornerstone of Mr. Jones' Saturday performance was a heartfelt reading of his classic He Stopped Loving Her Today, a song Mr. Jones could have easily mailed in. Instead, he crafted a story of longing and unrequited love that caused the lighters to spring up like flowers in springtime.
Chalk it up to charisma.
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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