Natalie Stovall & The Drive Review
3rd & Lindsley, Nashville, TN
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Reviewed by: Patti McClintic for nashvillethreesixty.com and thinkcountry.co.uk
Photo’s by 90 East Photography
Is there anything Natalie Stovall can’t do? I’m beginning to ask that question more and more. I’ve seen her perform live now several times, and aside from her instrumental (she is not only a master on the fiddle, she is proficient on guitar as well) and vocal chops, she can now just about consider herself an activist of sorts. Her cause? Getting female musical artists the attention they deserve.
Prior to the Natalie Stovall & The Drive show on this rainy Wedneday evening in Nashville, a packed house sat and patiently listened to a panel of music industry experts from a group called “Change the Conversation”. This group, led by Leslie Fram, CMT Senior VP of Music Strategy, is on a mission to get female country music artists the recognition that they’ve long been lacking, and to help them with their uphill struggle to get and maintain record deals. In a genre currently dominated by males, it seems almost hopeless for new female artists to join the ranks of the very few that can currently boast headlining status, most notably, Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert, but in an industry that is known to be cyclical, change could be around the corner.
It would seem fitting that Natalie Stovall’s show would include such a passionate panel. The desire to give women an equal place in the country music spotlight couldn’t be more appreciated than a room packed full of Stovall’s fans, and along for the ride this night were a handful of other very talented women. While radio consultant, Keith Hill may have referred to female country artists as “tomatoes” in a salad, meaning, they aren’t nearly as important to the dish as the “lettuce” (male country artists), the audience at 3rd & Lindsley might have told you they prefer their salads with a generous helping of the red stuff.
Joining Stovall on stage were incredible artists, Sonia Leigh, Kelleigh Bannen, Jamie O’Neal, Ruthie Collins, Brooke Eden, Noelle Skaggs, Cailtyn Smith and Hailey Steele. That’s a crazy amount of talent, and not one of them resembled any variety of lettuce. Even the drummer sitting in for The Drive’s, James Bavendam (sidelined by a broken wrist), was a female. Megan Jane, drummer for Sonia Leigh, seamlessly played every song, with the benefit of only one rehearsal. That’s the power of the “tomato”.
With the esteemed panel starting the night off with their thoughts and graciously taking questions from the audience, the scene was set. I sure hope the music industry movers and shakers are hearing the voice of the audience at 3rd & Lindsley. They want more female artists on the radio and they want more of them headlining tours.
Stovall opened the show with a favorite, “Mason Jar”. A good choice to get things moving in a spirited direction, because this wasn’t a night for daydreaming. These ladies were there to make a statement – “We’re here, and we deserve to be.” As good as Stovall and her female guests are, I would be remiss not to mention that The Drive, consisting of Miguel Cancino and Joel Dormer on guitar, and Justin Schneider on bass, are excellent musicians, despite, and I say this in the best humor, their being of the opposite gender.
Prior to her original tune, “Not Goin’ Fishin'”, Stovall explained the inspiration for the song. An old letter from a long ago boyfriend, praising her for the giant bass she caught while they were on a fishing date. The only problem? Stovall has no recollection of ever going fishing with him. This could only mean one thing – there must be a song in there somewhere, and it’s a good one.
It was interesting to catch a glimpse of James Bavendam keeping time with Megan Jane’s drumming, as he stood along a wall. Arm in a sling and all, he was as present as he could possibly be. That’s the power of a band led by a “tomato”.
“Pour Me Out” is a song Stovall performed alone. The song was cowritten with noted songwriter, Nathan Chapman, and is a highly emotional number that saw one of the few quiet moments all evening. Here, Stovall’s insanely gifted range gets to shine and we see her more vulnerable side.
Songwriter, Ruthie Collins joined Stovall for “Dear Dolly”, a clever open letter, set to music, to country music legend, Dolly Parton, asking her for advice on coping with the adversities of life.
Kelleigh Bannen sang her new one, “Songs In Tennessee”, most easily described as purely southern cool.
“Like I’m Gonna Lose You”, performed by Caitlyn Smith, proved power ballads can be anything but schmaltzy, and judging by the crowd, this one may have been one of the overall favorites of the night.
Relative newcomer, Brooke Eden, signed with Broken Bow Records in 2014, sang with Sonia Leigh, followed by Jamie O’Neal, singing her well-known tune, “There Is No Arizona” with Stovall.
Surprise guest, Noelle Skaggs came out swinging with a beautiful rendition of the Fleetwood Mac hit, “Dreams”.
“Trainwreckin'”, a rousing Ruthie Collins tune, got the crowd pumped up, right after she made sure they knew that when life hands her lemons, she prefers to grab the tequila.
Hailey Steele told a story of taking stock of her life on her birthday last year (she’s a Leap Year birthday girl, and you can add that to your file of information you just might need someday, perhaps, while playing Jeopardy!). “I’m not the next Carrie Underwood Underwood. Crap.” Perhaps, not the next Underwood yet, but certainly paving her own road, in her own style. “Just Not Where I Thought I’d Be”, are words that may prove a bit premature if “Change the Conversation” continues to make headway.
The evening concluded with all of the artists on stage, dancing and singing to Sonia Leigh’s “Booty Call”. The entire audience came alive, and it was evident that the artists themselves were having a ball with it.
If I had to sum up the show in a few words, all I can say is, “Pass the tomatoes”.