Show Reviews

Show Review: The Nash News Presents...Whitney Duncan & Friends




Ft. Whitney Duncan, Jonathan Singleton, Michael Carter, Cole Taylor, Brinley Addington, Lee Starr, Jeb Gibson, and Jenna LaMaster

Thursday June 2, 2022

@ Assembly Food Hall in Nashville, TN

(Review by: Jeffrey Kurtis)

Just one week before CMA Fest officially kicked off, The Nash News set up shop inside the Assembly Food Hall at the Fifth + Broadway complex in downtown Nashville to deliver another amazing, featured performance of their weekly songwriter round, “The Nash News Presents...”

Among the many different dining experiences inside the South Hall sending out delectable aromas that soak your senses, and with the Mother Church of Country Music looming over the background of the stage and acting as a perfect backdrop, hit song maker Whitney Duncan invited some her favorite co-writer friends to join her for an unforgettable night of the country music you know and love from the folks that breathed life into the songs.

“I got a Canadian cut some years ago, and now that song has become a Bonnie Raitt cut on her last album,” began Jonathan Singleton as he opened the first round with “Made Up Mind,” which he followed with “Things A Man Oughta Know,” the breakout smash for Lainey Wilson, which he really allowed to speak for itself as he delivered the solid, strong lyric with just enough of gravel tilt to his voice that it elevated the perspective to unique territory in comparison to what we’re used to hearing on it.

“I haven’t played this song this week,” confessed Jonathan with a smile on his face as he tuned his guitar. “So, I just figured I would demolish it right here in front of everybody tonight,” he finished with a laugh as he dripped edginess and a swampy punch into “Cold as You,” the Luke Combs hit that he drove to the #1 position last year.

In a showcase of their strong, lifelong friendship, Singleton and Whitney Duncan shared some stories of their youth and growing up together, which eventually led to a humorous exchange when she revealed that Singleton played her prom, laughing together when she reminded him that he and his band even played “The Thong Song” that night.

Jonathan then closed his portion of the first round with “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools,” the tremendously well-written song that Tim McGraw took to the Top 5 in 2015.

FULL SET LIST (Jonathan Singleton)

1) Made Up Mind

2) Things A Man Oughta Know

3) Cold As You

4) Diamond Rings and Old Barstools

“I wrote this first one with Jonathan and Cole (referencing Cole Taylor who sat to her left),” said host of round #1, Whitney Duncan, as she began her portion of the round with her latest single, the ultra-catchy “You and the Horse,” during which the packed crowd could be seen bopping along with her as her voice encapsulated the entire venue.

Like Jonathan Singleton before her, Duncan mostly allowed her songs to do the talking as she kept the center of her set squarely focused on songs from her latest EP, including its spark inducing title track “I’m The Fire” and “Tomorrow Girl,” the latter which carried a softer pace and allowed Duncan to put on a bold display of her powerful vocal as she fused it into an emotionally vulnerable state while singing us through making the tough decision to walk away from an old lover to protect herself from the inevitable hurt and pain in the future.

“I’m gonna throw it back a bit with this last one,” revealed Duncan. “Jonathan and I played this one a whole lot together back in the day.” 

“Yeah, we did! We probably played this one in every conference room at all the country radio stations,” Singleton mused as he fine-tuned his guitar.

“Ya’ll sing it with us if ya remember it, “ Duncan encouraged as she delivered her breakthrough single, “Skinny Dippin’” and immediately had the crowd full of her friends, family, and longtime supporters belting out the playfully sultry song with her.

FULL SET LIST (Whitney Duncan)

1)You and the Horse

2) I’m The Fire

3) Tomorrow Girl

4) Skinny Dippin'

“So, they have all the other writer’s Instagram handles up here on the screen behind us, except mine,” said Michael Carter as he pointed at the screen. “I’m not on there, but I do have a Myspace account,” he chuckled as he opened his set by getting everyone in the venue singing along with the first of the four #1 songs that he’d play, “Hope You Get Lonely Tonight,” the uber popular song which Cole Swindell would experience his first career #1 with back in 2014. 

“The next one I’m gonna play, I wrote about the promised land…” Carter explained with a dramatic pause. “….Panama City Beach,” he finished as the crowd clapped in approval of the popular destination getaway while he delivered “Rollercoaster,” the first of two Luke Bryan #1’s that he would play during his set; “One Margarita” being the other, which he’d close with two songs later.

“I’m gonna play the first #1 I ever had and that’s always asking for trouble,” Carter stated as he kept the crowd singing along with “Get Me Some of That,” the Thomas Rhett smash that earned the artist his second #1 back in 2013.

FULL SET LIST (Michael Carter)

1)Hope You Get Lonely Tonight


3)Get Me Some of That

4)One Margarita

Continuing with the impressive display of #1 songs being played by some of Nashville’s strongest songwriters on one stage, Cole Taylor started his part of the set with “Sippin’ On Fire,” the Florida-Georgia Line #1 that came right in the middle of their incredibly impressive run of chart-topping hits.

“I thought that maybe Luke Bryan or Jason Aldean, or maybe Cole Swindell might even cut this next one, but they didn’t think so!” said Taylor as he laughed. “A guy named Frank Ray did think he should cut it, though, and it’s his current single at radio right now,” he finished as the crowd cheered and he hit the opening notes of “Country’d Look Good on You,” instantaneously getting everyone swaying along with the sexy groove.

“Does anyone here watch Yellowstone?” Taylor asked. “There’s an episode in season one where Beth Dutton says, “that's why you're sitting in a bar instead of standing in a river.” Me and my wife were a little wine drunk when we were watching that episode, but I ended up writing a song because of that line and leave it to country music to love a song about fishing and drinking,” Taylor smiled as he delivered the recent Jake Owen release “Fishing on a River.”

“I wrote this last with dear friends of mine. I was literally landing at the airport, coming home from my honeymoon and I got a call to tell me that this song had just gone number one,” Taylor said with a pause as the crowd cheered. “Of course, this would be a better story if this were a love song, but it’s not. It’s about taking a payback picture with a new person at the bar and then sending it to your ex,” he finished as he delivered “Home Alone Tonight,” the Luke Bryan smash that saw him and Karen Fairchild coming together to portray the roles of both characters on the recorded (and released) version of the song.

FULL SET LIST (Cole Taylor)

1) Sippin’ On Fire

2) Country’d Look Good on You

3) Fishing on a River

4) Home Alone Tonight

While Brinley Addington would deliver a huge smash #1 to close out his set, for the most part he represented the emerging artists and songwriters with his 4 songs during the first round, opening with “Burn ‘Em All,” a song that hot-rising artist Kameron Marlowe recorded, but one that also aptly introduced Addington’s deeper registered vocals to the unsuspecting crowd, delighting them and immediately capturing their attention.

“Do we have any Parmalee fans in the house?” asked Addington. “You know them; they have that “love you just the way God made you, girl He don’t make mistakes,” song. I wish I wrote that one, but I did write this one, which comes right after that song on their album,” he finished with a smile as he played the summery vibed, “Back Road Girl.”

“I wrote this next one by myself, so if you don’t like it…well, then that’s my fault!” he said with a sarcastic hint as he played “Come Back,” the softer paced song he released as a single himself back in 2019 that draws you into the lyrics as she sings us through incredible emotions of having to let your better half go and do what they’ve got to do to chase their dreams, ending the chorus with the amazing showstopping hook of, “ain’t trying to make you stay, I just want you to come back.”

“I wrote this last one 7 years ago and Keith Urban put it on hold the week after I wrote it and said he was putting it on his next album….he didn’t. And so started my first lesson in learning about the music and songwriting business,” he remembered. “Then Tim McGraw took it, but he didn’t put it out either. A guy named Ryan Hurd did hear it though and he told me that if he ever made a record that he wanted to record it. I was like sure buddy! We were both fresh out of Belmont College and didn’t even know what we were doing, but I’m so glad I was wrong because he got together with his wife and they gave me my first #1 with it,” he finished to a rousing ovation as he closed out the first round with “Chasing After You.”

FULL SET LIST (Brinley Addington)

1) Burn ‘Em All

2) Back Road Girl

3) Come Back

4) Chasing After You

Where the first round of the night featured some of the well-established heavy hitters of the current crop of country music’s hitmaking songwriters, the second round was a bold introduction to some of the next generations songwriting stars.

Lee Starr – who kicked off the round - signed a worldwide publishing agreement with Sony Music Publishing Nashville and KP Entertainment late last year and opened with “Missing Right Here,” before securing the middle of his set by sliding into the strong work he’s done for some of country music’s young, emerging talent.

“We were driving to see my wife’s family in Louisiana, and we were on a stretch of I65 in Alabama, and she broke the silence in the car when she said, “I hate Alabama.” Now she meant just driving through it because it’s kind of boring sometimes, but I got really excited and said, “Me Too!” thinking that she meant football,” he told as the mostly Vols tiled audience cheered. “But this song came out of that, and we knew we couldn’t just write about football, so we added a girl and came up with this one,” he finished as he played the song that would become Conner Smith’s viral hit, “I Hate Alabama.”

“A newer artist on the scene, Drew Green, he had a kid back when we wrote this next one. I didn’t have a kid at the time, but I do now, and this song has taken on a whole new meaning for me ever since,” he explained as he delivered Green’s current single “Good Ol’ Man.”

“I wrote this last one with a guy named Elvie Shane,” Starr said as the audience cheered knowingly. “Elvie had seen something on Facebook earlier that day that said “I don’t have a stepson, but I do have a kid that was born before I knew him,” and that inspired us to write this song one night and I got my first #1 out of it,” he excitedly shared as he strummed the opening chords of “My Boy” and pulled everyone in the audience a little closer toward the stage as they hung on each and every word Starr sang until the final notes were played.


1) Missing Right Here

2) I Hate Alabama

3) Good Ol’ Man

4) My Boy

Georgia native Jeb Gibson sat in the center chair during the second round and was the true up and comer of the bunch, but absolutely stood up to the challenge to deliver songs that captured the audience’s attention while acting as a great introduction to who he is as an artist/writer.

Without saying too much as far as song introductions were concerned, Gibson tugged on our hearts through the pop country tinged “Lonely Me” that sang of running into an ex and the flood of emotions that come with it; a similar feeling that came through on “Something In The Whiskey,” a song that while absolutely performed in a very good way, was originally released as a duet with Megan Moroney which adds a whole different feel and depth to the lyrics as we get both perspectives.

After delivering the toe-tapping rhythm and catchy mid-tempo melody of “Sitting On Empty,” Gibson then rose up another level when he played his brand-new single “Damn Good Liar,” a slower paced song that leaned on his familiar theme of running into an ex, but contained an incredible chorus that saw the two of them talking to one another as he ran down a list of all the moving on things he’s been doing since they split, only to flip the entire script with the truth wrapped hook that delivered the punch when he reveals, “but if I’m being honest I’m a damn good liar,” cleverly revealing that he isn’t moving on from her at all.

FULL SET LIST (Jeb Gibson)

1) Lonely Me

2) Something In the Whiskey

3) Sitting on Empty

4) Damn Good Liar

In what began much like a confessional that saw her revealing that there are two sides to her when she drinks, Jenna LaMaster opened her set with “Drunk Thoughts,” before delivering “Your Momma Still Does,” a song that landed on the debut album from Ashland Craft that was inspired by the times when her ex’s mom called her after they had broken up just to tell her that she doesn’t think her story with her son is over.

“I think when anybody makes a big decision, you wonder if you did the right thing or not. That’s how it was for me when I left California and left everything behind,” LaMaster solemnly said as she delivered “I Bet You’ll Love Tennessee,” before closing with what has become her signature song, “Make A Cowboy Cry.”

FULL SET LIST (Jenna LaMaster)

1) Drunk Thoughts

2) Your Momma Still Does

3) I Bet You’ll Love Tennessee

4) Make A Cowboy Cry


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