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Country Unplugged Starring Joe Diffie, Mark Chesnutt & Lorrie Morgan at the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix, AZ
Photos by Glenda S. Paradee

Country Unplugged Starring Joe Diffie, Mark Chesnutt & Lorrie Morgan was held at the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix, Arizona on January 13, 2017.

It was a packed house with fans wanting to hear some real traditional country music. The three entertainers didn't disappoint as they sang hit after hit.  It was a guitar pull type of concert with each performer taking turns singing their songs.  It was fantastic hear some great country music.

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More on Lorrie Morgan

One of the most eloquently emotive country vocalists of modern times is launching her first new solo album in five years.

Lorrie Morgan, the first woman in her genre to begin her career with three consecutive Platinum albums, re-emerges on Shanachie Entertainment with Letting Go....Slow. It is a collection that showcases a rainbow of emotions, from darkest heartache to bright, shiny humor.

"Where I am in my life right now, I'm not afraid to express what I feel, or what I don't feel," she comments about the collection's varied moods. "I'm not afraid to express my views on anything, especially on being a woman.

"I have been a daughter, a bride, a mother, a divorcee, a widow, a single mother, a breadwinner and, ultimately, a survivor. In many ways, I am a living, breathing country song, and I know what I sing.

"I didn't want this to be just another album. I wanted it to be something that really moved me. When I listened to songs for it, I'd think, 'No, not that one. I'm not going to be able to sing that one, because I'm not going to be able to feel it.' It was very important to me for this album to reflect the things that I am feeling today."

Morgan has long been the envy of her peers for her lustrous vocal phrasing and the down-to-earth believability of her torchy performances. On records such as "A Picture of Me Without You" and "I Guess You Had to Be There," she ached with pain. She was feisty and sassy in "Watch Me," "What Part of No" "Five Minutes" and "I Didn't Know My Own Strength." She has kicked up her stiletto heels in fun on her hits "Except for Monday" and "Go Away." On her epic "Something in Red" she was an anguished, struggling everywoman.

Her performances on Letting Go....Slow can match any of her earlier efforts, for they are among the most vibrant of her career. The collection is divided equally between new songs and her reinventions of country classics.

This peerless song interpreter brings a soprano lilt and a cha-cha retro tempo to the Patsy Cline favorite "Strange." Bobbie Gentry's Southern-gothic saga "Ode to Billie Jo" is taken at a slow, swampy pace with Morgan dipping into her deep alto register. She brings enormous tenderness to Vern Gosdin's "Is It Raining at Your House."

On Bob Dylan's "Lay, Lady Lay," Morgan is pert and jaunty, riding a reggae groove. She resonates sadness in her version of Larry Gatlin's "I've Done Enough Dying Today," but rises resiliently in her reworking of Earl Thomas Conley's "What I'd Say."

Each of the new songs she has chosen for Letting Go...Slow is a small revelation. "Something About Trains" is a highly inventive arrangement and a contemplative lyric, both of which fit this singing stylist like fine couture. "Slow" is a power ballad that she gives a torrid, emotional undertow. "Jesus and Hairspray is "one for the girls," a humorous, upbeat and highly entertaining ditty incorporating the old aphorism, "the higher the hair, the closer to heaven."

Morgan co-wrote "How Does It Feel" in response to her divorce from singer Sammy Kershaw several years ago. The sublimely country "Lonely Whiskey" is the penultimate barroom weeper. The stunning "Spilt Milk," on the other hand, finds the singer exploring a jazzier tone as she adopts an after-hours cabaret mood.

To record this remarkable return to disc, Lorrie Morgan reunited with producer Richard Landis. He has helped craft many of her prior hits, as well as acclaimed recordings for Vince Gill, Neil Diamond, Ronnie Milsap, Juice Newton, Eddie Rabbitt, Poco, Kenny Rogers, Dionne Warwick, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and dozens more.

"Richard is so creative," says Morgan. "It sounds like a cliche, but he really is a musical genius. And he believes in what he produces so passionately that it scares people. He's very intense. We feed off of each other in the studio. We push each other to be better. He has a way of making me try harder.

"We recorded in a former church that has been turned into a recording studio on Music Row. It had a great vibe. We had all the musicians in there with me. I wanted it to sound like me and the guys just sitting and playing. It's a very warm sounding record, with the steel, the harmonica and the dobro 'answering' my vocals. I like to sing 'live' with the musicians. A lot of the vocals on this album were done in one take, because I feed off the musicians. And Richard encourages that.

"I have been living with some of these songs for more than a year. 'I've Done Enough Dyring Today' and 'Is It Raining at Your House' are songs I have wanted to record for 10 years. I sang 'Ode to Billie Jo' in my live shows for a long time."

"Slow" is co-written by Ashlee Hewitt, who is Lorrie Morgan's daughter-in-law and former backup singer. Hewitt now performs in the up-and-coming Nashville trio Post Monroe. "How Does It Feel" is even closer to home, since Morgan co-wrote it herself.

"I have always written songs, and I do love to write," she comments. "But I don't like to pair up with a lot of people. It's more of a personal thing with me. It usually bothers me to co-write, and I don't like appointment writing, at all. Plus, I'm not one of those people who says, 'If I didn't write it, I'm not going to record it.' If somebody else's song is better, I'm going to record it and not mine."

Lorrie Morgan has been around great songs all her life. She is a Nashville native who is the daughter of Country Music Hall of Fame member George Morgan. She made her debut on the Grand Ole Opry stage at age 13, singing "Paper Roses." Her father died suddenly of a heart attack at age 51. She was l6 at the time and just beginning her musical career. Lorrie Morgan began making records shortly thereafter. She was honored with induction into the Opry cast when she was just 24.

Morgan married fellow country singer Keith Whitley in 1986. She was signed to RCA Records in 1987, and her onslaught of hits began the following year. Whitley's tragic death of an alcohol overdose in 1989 left her a widowed working mother. Their duet "Til a Tear Becomes a Rose" earned her a 1990 CMA award.

Her first three albums, Leave the Light On (1989), Something in Red (1991) and Watch Me (1992), all earned Platinum Record awards. Her Greatest Hits collection (1999) is also Platinum. War Paint (1994), Greater Need (1996) and Shakin' Things Up (1997) are all Gold Record winners.

She sang "The Sad Cafe" on Common Threads: Songs of the Eagles, which was named the CMA Album of the Year in 1994. Country fans voted Lorrie Morgan their TNN/Music City News Female Vocalist of the Year in 1994, 1996, 1997 and 1998.

Lorrie Morgan maintained her recording pace in the new millennium, releasing collections in 2002, 2004, 2009 and 2010. In 2012 and 2013, Morgan starred and sparkled in the lavish Enchanted Christmas productions at the opulent Opryland Resort in Nashville. She took that show on the road in 2014.

In 2013, she teamed with fellow Opry star Pam Tillis for the duet CD Dos Divas. The two hit makers then embarked on a two-year joint tour that sold out every appearance.

"We had a blast," says Morgan with a chuckle. "It wasn't until the Grits & Glamor tour that we really connected. We connected as working mothers, as businesswomen, as second-generation performers." Pam is the daughter of Country Music Hall of Fame member Mel Tillis, who co-wrote "Strange" on Morgan's new CD. Both women also share a finely honed sense of humor.

"I pride myself on my humor. My dad used to say, 'You should never take yourself too seriously,' and I got my sense of humor from my dad. I love to have fun. I've reached the age where I feel that I deserve good company around me, people who can make me laugh, who love music and who love to have a good time.

"On the outside, I'm very lighthearted. But on the inside, I have a lot of pain that I deal with. Singing is my therapy, and that is what this album is all about. 'Lonely Whiskey' says it all. Like I said, I'm at the point where I'm not afraid to sing about what I want to sing and to be creative. And this record gave me that chance.

"I didn't want to record just another nice little album that gets put away on a shelf. I wanted to record a Grammy Award winning album. That was my goal.

"But no matter what happens, I think these recording sessions were just magical. It was the most fun I've ever had doing an album."

More on Mark Chesnutt

Mark Chesnutt is one of Country's true musical treasures. Critics have hailed him as a classic Country singer of the first order and some of Country music's most elite entertainers, from George Jones to George Strait, echo the sentiment.

Mark Chesnutt's stature is easily gauged.  He has 14 No. 1 hits, 23 top ten singles, four platinum albums and five gold records to his credit; he maintains a front-and-center presence with a hefty tour schedule year after year.

Country music critics and fans alike need look no further when it comes to Country music basics. If you ask Chesnutt, he'll tell you, "It's the music and the fans that have kept me around this long.

"In a creative forum that sometimes confuses style with substance, Mark Chesnutt possesses both. Remaining true to himself as a traditional country artist, while keeping the pace with the ever-changing country recording landscape, Mark Chesnutt has a knack for picking great songs, delivering them with world- class style and a heart-felt emotion that's lived-in.

With a trademarked voice, Chesnutt has set the bar for his generation and those that follow in his footsteps shaping the music of today's country music newcomers and the new country music format.

"Mark Chesnutt gave honky-tonk music back its soul,"noted music critic Robert K. Oermann. "When Chesnutt appeared on an arid musical landscape back in 1990, I dubbed him the hillbilly messiah." Oermann stated.  "I still feel that way today and I'll feel that way decades from now."    

Now, some twenty-odd years later, Mark Chesnutt marches on to preserve and honor the splendid works of the sculpturing forefathers, George Jones and Waylon Jennings, to bring music from the honky tonks right back to where country music began.  

Dubbed as one of the "most reliable country artists" (Craig Shelburne/CMT.com), Chesnutt does not disappoint. He is masterful in his natural ability to let his voice shape the words to create a moving musical motion picture (reminiscent of traditional country music standards such as Charlie Rich's "Behind Closed Doors" and Vern Gosdin's "Is It Raining At Your House") and his current single, entitled "When The Lights Go Out (Tracie's Song)" is the very essence of Chesnutt's musical fiber as an autobiographical reflection of his life and loves-- country music and his wife, Tracie.

Chesnutt got his start in the honky-tonks of Beaumont, Texas, learning from his father, Bob Chesnutt, a singer, record collector and major fan of classic country music. Playing alongside his dad, Mark embraced his father's influence one set at a time and to begin making a name for himself.  Mark sang covers by Lefty, Merle, George and Waylon to develop his unmatched crowd- pleasing rapport and his authentic country style.

Bob Chesnutt often traveled to Nashville to record and to broaden his exposure. He began taking Mark along to record when he was just 17. After nearly a decade of recording on regional labels, word got out about this young country vocalist.   Music Row executives came to hear Mark on his own Texas turf and recognized the depth of Mark Chesnutt's raw talent.  In 1989, he was signed to MCA Nashville and his list of accolades tells the rest of his story. With the release of his first single "Too Cold At Home," Mark established himself as one of country's most authentic and talented vocalists. He won the CMA Horizon Award attracting the attention of country legend [and Mark's greatest mentor] George Jones who introduced him as "A boy from Beaumont, Texas who is the real deal.

"That recognition and initial success opened the door to offer Mark his chance of a lifetime, to do what he loved most-sing country music for country fans; this time, on a national level.    "The first couple years it was non-stop." Mark says.  "I can remember one time during a tour, I didn't step foot on the front porch for ten months, with exception of a day or a day-and-a- half, then, it was right back out again.

"Mark's dedication paid off. He developed a true blue fan base.   "Fans", he confides, "are the reason for my success."  His fans helped his records to climb the charts one right after the other making him one of Billboard's Ten Most-Played Radio Artists of the '90's.  Mark's singles were some the decade's most memorable; from the fun tempo "Bubba Shot The Jukebox" to emotional ballad "I'll Think Of Something."  Mark is easily identified for his string of hits including "Brother Jukebox," "Blame It On Texas," "Old Flames Have New Names," "Old Country," "It Sure Is Monday,"  "Almost Goodbye," "I Just Wanted You To Know," "Going Through The Big D," "It's A Little Too Late," "Gonna Get A Life," and one of his biggest, "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing;" a song that held its position at the top of the charts for four consecutive weeks.

Of all the recorded highlights Chesnutt has enjoyed, they take a back seat to his first love; Mark Chesnutt lives to perform on stage.  "I just make records because I want people to come see my show," he says with a grin. "Recording music for folks to just listen to music is great," he says, "but I've got to be out there on stage making it."  Fans who have seen him perform agree.   Known as one of the industry's hardest-working concert performers, maintaining a hefty tour schedule and steady presence in front of his fans, Mark's dedication to deliver live music is unsurpassed. Mark has been on the road since 1990.   Whether you hear Mark Chesnutt with a new release on the radio, or see his face on the cover of a new CD, folks can always find Mark doing what he was born to do playing. "The clubs and honky tonks are home for me; it's comfortable and I'm always with friends," says Chesnutt.

Married since 1992, Mark and Tracie Chesnutt are the loving parents of three boys, Waylon, Casey and Cameron.

More on Joe Diffie
 
With the recent release of Jason Aldean's hit "1994" that name-checked many of Joe Diffie's twelve Number One hits, the legendary singer found himself squarely back in the hearts and minds of country fans. The multi-platinum-selling artist has never slowed down - writing, touring and recording a myriad of projects including his critically acclaimed 2010 bluegrass album "Homecoming," and his upcoming "Country Unplugged" acoustic tour with fellow hit makers Mark Chesnutt and Lorrie Morgan. The video for his most recent single "Girl Ridin' Shotgun," which features cameo appearances from such superstars as Blake Shelton, Brad Paisley, Toby Keith, Lee Brice, Tim McGraw, and Keith Urban has amassed well over 7 million views on Youtube.

With chart-toppers like "Pickup Man," "Third Rock from the Sun," and "John Deere Green," and 13 albums and over 20 Top 10 singles to his credit, Joe has little to prove at this point in his career, yet he still has a fire in his belly to make good country music. A renowned songwriter in his own right, Joe has hits for artists like Tim McGraw, Conway Twitty, and Jo Dee Messina to his credit.
 
"We had a good time writing and recording my new song "Girl Ridin' Shotgun,' that features guest vocals from D. Thrash of the hick-hop group Jawga Boyz," says Joe. " I've been writing with a lot of new artists and I never thought that collaboration with one of them would lead to this, but I'm really glad that it has. It's a different sound for me and I'm having so much fun with it all. I can't wait to see what the future brings!"

Joe Diffie is a Grammy and ACM award-winner. He is a member of the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame and has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry for over 20 years.

Thanks for the Music Lorrie Morgan, Mark Chesnutt and Joe Diffie!


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