Millions have come to know and appreciate Rodney Atkins as an entertainer. He connects with his audiences personally and directly; they are, to paraphrase one of his hit songs, his people, cut from the same cloth and guided by the values he celebrates in song.
On a crisp night in March, close to 200 Country Music fans sat quietly and respectfully as Victoria Shaw, sitting at the keyboard, sang, “The River.” Within a few notes, the fans recognized the tune from its days as a No. 1 hit, the fifth and final single from Garth Brooks’ 1991 album Ropin’ the Wind. What many in the audience may not have known about until that moment was Shaw’s participation with Brooks as co-writer of the song.
A similar epiphany followed, as Bob DiPiero, guitar in hard, strummed and sang the words to the George Strait hit “Blue Clear Sky.”
This scene is familiar to veterans of Nashville’s music scene. “In the round” is the usual term indicating a group of maybe four or five songwriters sitting in a circle, playing acoustic instruments and singing songs known primarily from their days as radio hits. In fact, this format got its start in Nashville, where the importance of the songwriter is well-known and appreciated throughout the music community. In these intimate settings, the songwriters pay homage to songs they created and, usually, others made famous. Often, before their “unplugged” performances, the songwriter tells the audience about the song’s origin and what inspired it, shares the story behind its lyrics and otherwise reveals details that are often left untold.