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CLAY WALKER - Celebrating 30 Years Of Hits!

(Review Written By: Jeffrey Kurtis)

It’s hard to believe that it’s been thirty years since Clay Walker emerged onto the national country music scene with his self-titled debut album, beginning his very quick rise to superstardom on the back of his first three #1 songs, “What’s It To You,” “Live Until I Die,” and “Dreaming With My Eyes Open.”

The platinum selling artist has been a consistent mainstay ever since that monumental release, staying on top with 8 more #1’s and charting a whopping 40 singles which have layered their stronghold on the definition of country music’s modern era - “If I Could Make A Living,” “This Woman and This Man,” “Rumor Has It,” “Fore She Was Mama,” and many more!

His most recent album Texas To Tennessee plays out like an intriguing road journal of his storied career; a career which was celebrated in front of an invite-only crowd this past week inside the boutique Virgin Hotel at their mysterious underground venue, The Late Great.

Holding tightly to the spirit of the old-school B-rooms that were once the happening spaces inside the classic recording studios, the Late Great presents a laidback vibe that carries a speakeasy quality about it as it surrounds you with its throwback aura, invitingly setting the living room atmosphere for an intimate night of conversation and great music with one of country music’s most renowned artists.

His memorable songs expectedly earned ovations from the gathered crowd of industry representatives, taking their spotlighting centerpiece as Walker, armed with only an acoustic guitar and his incredibly gifted vocal, ran through a career retrospect that saw him gifting the audience with his most recognizable hits, including those three first #1’s, “Live Until Die,” “What’s It To You,” and “Dreaming With My Eyes Open,” as well as “If I Could Make A Living,” “This Woman and This Man,” “Who Needs You Baby,” “She Won’t Be Lonely Long” and the night’s closing song, “Then What?”

When fieldling questions about what made 90’s country music so good and why it’s still hailed today as one of the greatest eras of the genre, Walker spoke very highly of the healthy competition back then that always made the artists strive to be better and better, while also giving a nod to the great country music that paved the way to inspiring him and so many others as he dropped into a stunning version of Keith Whitley’s “Don’t Close Your Eyes” and a snippet of his cover of Earl Thomas Conley’s “Holding Her and Loving You.”

But as much as this was a celebration of the past 30 years, there was also an air of what comes next embedded into the night. Satisfying a question about new music, Walker retrieved his phone and pressed play on the recorded demo of an amazing new song that he had written with Jaron Boyer, “Cowboys In Heaven,” providing a breathtaking moment that hushed the entire crowd to total silence, leaning them in for a closer listen to each turning of phrase as the strategically woven words packed powerful, descriptive meaning into what makes a cowboy the salt of the earth type who will find their truest glory in the end.

However, while the music naturally carried the drawing in factor as to why we all gathered in the room to celebrate, this night dug so much deeper than to only be a showcase of the songs that have defined his 30-year career, to instead place the true takeaway on the humbleness of who Clay Walker is.

Answering questions from the gathered guests, Walker shared anecdotes of his entire career; whether it be on how much trusting producer James Stroud helped shape those early albums (and hits) or by taking us directly into the selection process for which songs would become those defining pieces of the overall puzzle.

In true telling from today’s perspective of a more mature understanding, Walker also didn’t shy away from sharing about his own missteps. He stated that he wished he would have trusted his team even more than he did back when he was still just a kid, while openly sharing that the one miss in his entire career was when he gave up the song “Austin” to Blake Shelton.  

Though presented with opportunity to be led into negative territory through several questions asking him for comparatives between 90’s country music and that of today’s modern era, Walker took the much higher road to instead focus on the positives of today, mentioning some of the artists that he himself enjoys listening to while placing high praise on his current era co-writers, accenting his thoughts with the unapologetic truth that regardless of the production feels of a song, country music is (and always has been) about strong lyrics.

As the amazing night came to its closing song, “Then What?”, Walker gratefully introduced his team to the entire room to a tremendous applause - everyone from his current management to his PR team - showering them with the utmost appreciation as he thanked them for all of their hard work before tipping his cowboy hat to everyone in the room and to all his fans for their support throughout the years, expertly then hyping buzz for another potential gathering next year to celebrate again!     



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