Home   /   What's New  /  Reviews  /   Georgia On My Mind 2018
Georgia On My Mind 2018

The 5th Annual Georgia On My Mind show presented by Gretsch® and hosted by The Peach Pickers, Dallas Davidson, Rhett Akins and Ben Hayslip, was held on Tuesday, June 26, 2018 at The Ryman Auditorium.  It was a fantastic night of music with proceeds benefitting the Georgia Music Foundation.

Think Country was so thrilled to have been invited to attend this event and experience some of the best talent the great state of Georgia has produced and some artists that were guests via their various affiliations to folks from that fine state.  No matter how or why anyone ended up on the Ryman stage that night it didn’t matter to me.  It was like eating one sweet Georgia peach after another.  It was all good.

Of course, the entire evening wouldn’t be what it was without The Peach Pickers, the three outstanding songwriters that host the evening and play some of their biggest hits as well, so before I dive into anything else, I’ll give you a brief synopsis of who they are and where they all come from.

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic

Dallas Davidson, an Albany, Georgia native who left his home state in a small truck with $700.00 in his pocket has turned things around a bit since moving to Nashville by penning multiple #1 hits for artists like Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan, Keith Urban and the list goes on.  Industry awards and recognitions keep coming in, making him one of the most sought-after songwriters in Music City.


Born in Valdosta, Georgia, Rhett Akins resume is quite impressive.  With 27 #1’s to his credit (and counting) for big names such as Chris Young, Brooks & Dunn, Dustin Lynch, Luke Bryan, Jon Pardi and even his son Thomas Rhett, his songwriting credits alone are outstanding.  He is also recognized as a solo artist with numerous awards backing him up.

Ben Hayslip, originally from Augusta, Georgia is a hitmaker.  He won the CMA Triple Play Award in 2011, 2013 and 2014 for having three #1 songs in a 12-month period and has won the ASCAP Songwriter of the Year twice now.  He’s a songwriting force to be reckoned with.

It should be noted that all three of these extremely talented songwriters have collaborated many times on songs that have become big hits, essentially making them a hit making machine when they get in a writers’ room together.  The Peach Pickers are the best of the best and anyone that was fortunate enough to attend Georgia On My Mind should understand the impact these three guys have on country music.  I’ve sliced and diced their extensive careers to summarize, but I encourage people to look them up and really learn what they’ve done.  Grab a drink beforehand, it’ll take you a while.

Serving as emcee for the evening was Sirius/XM The Highway host Storme Warren.  A familiar voice to those who listen to satellite country radio, he took the stage to introduce Trea Landon.  Perhaps not everyone was familiar with Landon.  As Warren said, “If this is the first time you’re hearing him, it won’t be the last.”  Landon, of Claxton, Georgia, seems to have a bright future ahead of him.

The next artist up probably didn’t need much of an introduction, but he got one anyway.  Described as Jennifer Nettles’s other half in Sugarland, it didn’t take long for the audience to figure out Warren was talking about Kristian Bush.  Bush came out looking much like he usually does in a gray fedora, jeans and a black t-shirt with white lettering that spelled out “ATLANTA GA” in white letters.  He mentioned that he was probably the only artist of the evening who still resided in Georgia.

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic




Bush then went on to talk about the song he was going to sing.  “This song was literally written on the floor in Decatur.”  Breaking out in the Sugarland hit, “Baby Girl”, a song about a starving musician (who happens to be a girl) that finally hits the big time, the crowd couldn’t get enough.  Bush couldn’t either.  Having met and talked with him at length before, I know his true appreciation for his craft and his audiences.  Whether it’s an arena or an intimate room, this man loves what he does.  The smile on his face said it all.  He came to play that one song and he was more than happy to do it.  He’s a very busy guy.  That didn’t matter.  This event meant a lot to him.  It’s always fun to hear a guy sing a “girl song” or vice versa.  This was one of those times and there’s simply nothing negative to say.  Perfection.

Exit Kristian Bush, enter Storme Warren again.  Introducing The Peach Pickers, he said, “Talented idiots and beautiful people with over 70 #1 hits between them, The Peach Pickers!”

The Peach Pickers knocked out some hits alright.  Blake Shelton’s “All About Tonight” and “Honey Bee”.  Jon Pardi’s “Dirt On My Boots” and Luke Bryan’s “Play It Again”.   Yes, you can definitely say these guys have written a few everyone has heard of.

If we’re going to talk about songwriters that have written some big songs, the next two guys to grace the stage were certainly no strangers to that department.  They were about to receive the 2018 Flamekeeper Awards.  Pat Alger, who was born in Long Island City, New York but grew up in LaGrange, Georgia and Tony Arata who was born in Savannah, but grew up in Tybee Island, Georgia.  Both of these men have written enormous hits for Garth Brooks.  Alger wrote “The Thunder Rolls” and Arata penned “The Dance”, and between the two of them, numerous other hits for artists such as Dolly Parton, Trisha Yearwood, Randy Travis and Emmylou Harris.  Again, I’m paring this down for space and time.  Do your own research to truly get a feel for what each of these people have accomplished.  It’s very impressive.

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic

We were treated to Alger playing “The Thunder Rolls” and Arata playing “The Dance”.  Alger said, “I wrote this song with a kid from Oklahoma.  I came to the office on the right day.”  These are things that are often uniquely Nashville experiences.  Hearing hits performed by the songwriters and hearing those writers talk about the songs are why I always encourage people visiting Nashville to seek out a songwriter show.  Even if the songs aren’t hits yet, they might be someday.  There’s nothing like it.  This was a highlight of the evening for me and judging by the looks of the faces in the crowd, I think it was for many others as well.


Another 2018 Flamekeeper Award was given posthumously to the late Daryle Singletary (1971-2018).  It was presented to Singletary’s widow, Holly.  Singletary grew up in Cairo, Georgia and had more than a dozen songs chart.  He passed away suddenly on February 12, 2018 leaving the country music world in a state of sadness and shock.  This was a particularly poignant moment in the show.

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic


One of the most hauntingly beautiful male voices in country music, in my very humble opinion, belongs to Jamey Johnson.  He and his amazing voice came to Nashville from Montgomery, Georgia and on the night of Georgia On My Mind he paid tribute to Daryle Singletary by singing one of his late friend’s favorite songs, Johnny Paycheck’s “Old Violin”.

Before he did that, however, he told a little story about how he and Singletary were on the road one time in Alabama and weren’t far from where Hank Williams was buried.  Singletary wanted to visit Williams’s burial site, so they went there.  Apparently, the love for Williams was pretty intense because Singletary opened his guitar case at the gravesite and out flew a bottle of whiskey, which then proceeded to bounce off Williams’s tombstone.  Johnson relayed that story and simply said, “I love Daryle.”  He then added, “Paycheck was awesome, don’t get me wrong, but nobody could sing like Daryle Singletary.”  He then sang “Old Violin” and up until that point, it was the best performance of the night for me.  Johnson’s singing is so controlled and draws you in in such a way that you can’t help but be completely absorbed.  It’s spellbinding.


In the sharpest of contrast to Jamey Johnson, the next artist to just about fly into The Ryman was Chris Janson.  He had just come from The Grand Ole Opry across town and was still dressed in his traditional black (he generally wears all black when playing the Opry) outfit with an added ball cap and looked like he never stopped to breathe between venues.

His usual high-energy self, he mentioned that his wife was from Georgia (Janson is from Missouri) and that the last time he was on the Ryman stage, he was being invited to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry by Keith Urban.  Playing two upbeat numbers, “Buy Me A Boat” and “Redneck Life”, he never fails to electrify an audience, and electrify he did.  The place went crazy. Chris Janson is the one that brings the party every time.

The next performer, like Chris Janson, was not a Georgia native either.  Michael Ray hails from Eustis, Florida, but I didn’t hear anyone complaining about that.  In fact, Storme Warren, when introducing Ray, said, “Girls, I’m so sorry he’s so ugly.”  All very tongue-in-cheek, of course.  Ray came out with an acoustic guitar and sang a song from his latest album, Amos, “Her World Or Mine”.  So, wait!  There IS a Georgia connection.  This song was co-written by Travis Denning who happens to be from Warner-Robins, Georgia.  Imagine that.  A great ballad from one of the hottest country artists out there right now fit like a glove in that acoustic setting.  It should always be performed that way.

Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic

Athens, Georgia native John Berry who was celebrating his 25th year in a record deal came out next, followed by surprise guest Dustin Lynch, from Tullahoma, Tennessee (but a big fan of The Peach Pickers) who sang his hit “Smalltown Boy” (also written by Rhett Akins and Ben Hayslip).  Georgia connection secured.

He has one of the best voices in country music and his brother-in-law is Dallas Davidson.  He is Randy Houser.  Houser is from Mississippi, but there is that Davidson/Georgia connection.  He came out next and someone in the audience shouted out a request for “Like a Cowboy”.  Houser responded to that by saying, “I sing that enough.  I’d like to do something new if that’s alright with you.  It comes out Friday.  I don’t know where it’s gonna come out from.”  That generated quite a few laughs and he broke out into “What Whiskey Does”.  Houser’s voice is always good.  Those are simple words, but what more do I need to say?  Why get flowery when the message is straightforward?  Where this song will go chart-wise remains to be seen, but it sounded amazing at The Ryman.


Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic

Surprises are something Nashville shows are known for and another one was headed our way in the form of Charles Kelley, solo artist and one-third of super country group, Lady Antebellum.  Kelley, who came to Nashville from Augusta, Georgia, joined just about everyone who played all night to honor the memory of the late Gregg Allman (who rather ironically was born in Nashville and died in Georgia) by playing a rocking rendition of “Midnight Rider”.  If I had to relive this night, I would ask to have them do this number twice.  It was just that good.  I hope Allman was seeing and hearing it because they did it justice and then some.


What show called Georgia On My Mind would be complete without someone singing “Georgia On My Mind”?  The task was given to Jamey Johnson and I don’t have to go on and on about how well he did it.  If you know Johnson’s style, you know he couldn’t miss.

Again, the man is a bit like a magic mirror when he sings.  You look and you can’t look away.  He puts a spell on his audience.  It’s wickedly interesting.  I’m a fan because I think his voice is unique and one that country radio ignores and should not.  I’m also a fan because of this intensity he has in connecting with an audience without having to do anything but sing and play his guitar.  That, my friends, is something not everyone can do.  That’s stage presence in the most mystical sense.

The Peach Pickers rounded the night out by playing a few more of their big hits, Jake Owen’s “Anywhere With You”, Luke Bryan’s “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Everyday” and Blake Shelton’s “Boys ‘Round Here”.  It was a terrific night of fun, honoring those who give us the greatest gift, music.  Music is one thing we can all share.  It crosses all barriers, language, economics, you name it.  If you love how it sounds, you just love it.  It makes you smile, it makes you dance, it makes you want to share it with someone else.  Whether you’re from Georgia, Tennessee, New York or Japan, this music is meant for you.  Give these artists a listen.  If you like it, share it.  Tell a friend.



The best news is Georgia On My Mind 2018 raised a lot of money for the Georgia Music Foundation.  The Georgia Music Foundation, established in 1994, supports programs of music preservation, education and outreach.  If you want to attend next year’s event, get your tickets the minute they go on sale.  It will sell out!  It’s an amazing show for an even better cause.  I know Georgia will be on MY mind again.

Image courtesy of peachpickers.com






Related Article