Show Reviews



w/ Jake Worthington & Cody Lohden

Tuesday November 28, 2023

@ Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN

(Review Written By: Jeffrey Kurtis)

When it comes to country music’s foundational tapestry, as synonyms to its rich history are the names such as Hank, Cash, Willie, Waylon, Merle, and Loretta, so too are the hallowed structures that radiate the echoes of the many iconic artists who’ve graced their stage.

No other venue in all of country music holds that aura quite like Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium – The Mother Church of Country Music!

The most recognizable stage that the Grand Ole Opry has called home, and the place that’s commonly known as the birthplace of bluegrass, the Ryman Auditorium stands adjacent to a neon crowded Lower Broadway as the strong centerpiece of the country music family, bridging the past and the present by still hosting shows week in and week out, which today, features many of the hottest artists of the new class of country and Americana.

Much like the Ryman itself, Ernest creatively toes the lines of the genre’s past and present.

He leads the songwriting charge of the modern era with several hits already credited to his name, which includes a healthy amount with Big Loud Records labelmate Morgan Wallen; “Everything I Love,” “One Thing at a Time,” “Warning,” “Wasted on You,” “You Proof,” etc.

But as an artist himself, the Nashville native has outlined his beginnings with the traditionally laced “Flower Shops” and the addictive melody of “Miss That Girl,” while recently opening his next chapter with new single “Kiss of Death,” fusing an insatiably western kissed flare with traditional modern flashes that immediately has your toes tapping and shoulders bouncing.

On the first of back-to-back nights during his ‘This Fire Tour,’ Ernest delivered a nearly two-hour performance for his headlining debut at The Ryman in front of an excitedly receptive crowd as he flavored the most famous stage in country music with the hits that layered the steps of his career, the fan favorites that his gathered diehards wanted, and a few extra surprises along the way.

Cody Lohden and Jake Worthington both satisfied their roles in heating up the already electric crowd with their respective opening sets, though each walked decisively different treks. 

Where Lohden stood his powerful voice and crisp songwriting alongside dueling acoustic guitars, Worthington transported the crowd to a Texas dancehall with a full band style ripped straight from your favorite 90’s country cassettes as he weaved through songs such as “Night Time Is My Time,” “Single At The Same Time,” “The State You Left Me In,” and the traditional bent of “Pop Goes The Whiskey,” the latter which earned a huge ovation when he mentioned that Ernest had been one of its songwriters.

As the house lights dimmed in a signal that Ernest was now only moments away from hitting the stage, the excitement of the crowd’s anticipation thumped the floors and rattled the bench seat pews as “Sweet Caroline” blasted from the PA Speakers, eliciting a deafening sing along that turned the Mother Church into a Broadway honky-tonk just as Ernest hit the stage with “This Fire,”  bringing everyone to their feet as they swayed along, shouting out the lyrics to meet their hometown boy done good with a tremendous response when he asked, “Are y’all with me?”

As one would expect with a crowd this lively, the hit songs that Ernest has already experienced huge artist success with saw him trying to match his vocal output with that of the exuberant audience’s, who aptly brought a big smile to his face throughout the entire night as he instigated snapshot, sing along moments during very strong performances of “Miss That Girl,” “Kiss Of Death,” “Feet Wanna Run,” “Classic,” and set closer, “Flower Shops.”

Likewise, the smashes that he’s experienced so much success with as a songwriter were perfectly placed into the set to keep the crowd energy at an ultra-heightened level. The obvious hits by Morgan Wallen were plentiful, including “Wasted on You,” “Heartless,” and a lit version of “Cowgirls,” as well as acoustic takes on “Somebody’s Problem” and “More Than My Hometown,” during which the crowd vibrated the stained-glass windows when country megastar Hardy appeared on stage mid-song to duet with Ernest on one of which they co-wrote.

“I wrote this next song with a guy named Jason Deford…who y’all professionally know as Jelly Roll,” told Ernest over a rousing ovation at the mention of the CMA New Artist of the Year’s name, before he then  shared their different backstories and what would eventually lead them to writing together, holding the crowd in the palm of his hands during an incredible rendition of “Son of a Sinner” that provided an inspiring showing of his incredible abilities to craft within different feels of the modern era.

Humbly holding tight to two repeated sentiments throughout the night, that it’s a dream come true to be headlining The Ryman and that he’s so grateful for all the fans who packed out the place, Ernest laced the moments between his biggest hits with a set of mostly fan favorites that expertly satisfied his longtime diehards while giving newcomers the entire scope of who he is, what he does, and why he’s on everyone’s list as someone who could be country music’s next big thing.

With hip-grooving melodies on songs such as “Did It With You,” “Sugar” and “I Think I Love You,” Ernest kept everyone’s toes tapping with the beat as they swayed in rhythm and sang along, while he softened into modern traditional vibes on songs such as “Nothin’ To Lose” and “Tennessee Queen,” a song in which he dedicated to his wife that was backed by prominent steel guitar and a waltz infused melody that ignited slow dancing for the in-love couples across the crowd.

Soaking in the strong connection between him and the fans helped lead to several memorable moments of audience participation that lent to the overall atmosphere of him performing in this particular venue in front of a core of mostly hometown fans, friends, and family.

“Are they allowing drinks in here tonight?” he asked as several then rose into the air in a toast like presentation. “Do I have anyone in here getting drunk with friends tonight?” he knowingly asked as the place went wild, enthusiastically screaming back the chorus of “Drunk With My Friends” as he whisked away to Hawaiian island with everyone swaying back and forth, arm in arm with the breezy melody.

Embracing small-town life and the feeling of being back home in Nashville through “Sucker for Small Towns,” just a few songs later he’d veer off his set list, feeding off the energy of the crowd to serenade them with “Locals Only,” hushing them for the only time of the night as many mouthed the words but stood in heartfelt admiration as Ernest poured his all into the performance with just he and a guitar.

Sticking with the idea of veering from his set list, while several audience members had been shouting out “Comfortable When I’m Crazy” in request line fashion, he satisfied their request late in the set by dripping into that definingly addictive traditional bent that he does so well as the crowd showered him with a sing back on every word.

In what was the biggest surprise of the night, as he wrapped his raspy, dusty flare around “Slow Dancing In A Burning Room,” megastar Keith Urban joined in on guitar, shredding though licks that snaked their way through the stunned ovations of the crowd to inject the night with an overwhelmingly stellar moment that saw the country legend offering his high praise to the next generation star.

Engaging the entire crowd as he moved to the front edge of the stage in his efforts to be as close to them as possible, allowed Ernest to meet them eye to eye and to sing directly to his fans, masterfully moving his voices through its impressive ranges while pulling them deeper into his set one passing note at a time.

On what was the exact day of the 98th anniversary of the Grand Ole Opry’s debut, it makes sense that the venue carried similar vibes of knowing that you were witnessing something special; like you were in on the specific moment that the fabricated layers of country music had shifted.

While writing some of the biggest hits for other artists of the current crop, it’s safe to say that Ernest also clearly discovered his own voice and specific lane as artist, which he unapologetically showcased throughout his set by balancing both sides of his musical resume in what acted as a bold stamp that upheld the words spoken by Keith Urban earlier in the night…Ernest is here and he has arrived!


1) This Fire

2) Wild Wild West

3) Did It With You

4) Tennessee Queen

5) Son of a Sinner

6) Drunk With My Friends

7) Slow Dancing In A Burning Room

8) Sugar

9) I Think I Love You

10) Nothin’ To Lose

11) Sucker for Small Towns

12) Wasted on You

13) Somebody’s Problem

14) Locals Only

15) More Than My Hometown

16) That’s The Way Love Goes (Merle Haggard cover)

17) Comfortable When I’m Crazy

18) Kiss Of Death

19) Classic

20) Feet Wanna Run

21) Bottles Bout Dead

22) Some Other Bar

23) Heartless

24) Miss That Girl

25) Cowgirls

26) Flower Shops


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