Tuesday, February 27, 2018

CONCERT REVIEW: Chris Hennessee @ Riverfront Park - Cocoa, FL (2.25.18)

CONCERT REVIEW
Chris Hennessee
Riverfront Park - Cocoa, FL
(2.25.18)
___________________________________

They'd come to celebrate — throngs of
faithful fans — all soaking up golden
rays of warm Florida sunshine, as the
sweet sounds of pre-recorded, pre-
concert Southern rock classics filled
the air. Simply put, we were revved
and ready for bona fide, country-fried
soiree. And from my cool and breezy
"cheap seat" locale, way back near the
shrimp-on-a-stick stand, I recognized
in short order, once again, that the
most fascinating music artists don't
always necessarily play last.
___________________________________

It was an impressive roster, to say the least — an all-star current country collective featuring 11-time Grammy-nominated singer / songwriter, Jamey Johnson, along with chart-buster, Craig Campbell and rising name, Chris Hennessee.

Armed with nothing more than an acoustic six-string guitar, and packing a slew of well-crafted songs, a fistful of engaging stories and and a few insightful perspectives, Hennessee commandeered the massive outdoor stage precisely at 5pm. "Do we have any country music fans with us?" he inquired of the quickly growing early bird crowd — in a thick, authentic-sounding southern drawl. Resembling a cross between Bob Seger (circa '76) and Dave Grohl (circa last Tuesday), Hennessee pulled up a stool, plugged in his guitar and kicked off the 30-minute set with his tribute to "real" people and down-home living — 2011's "Waylon Jennings Song."

Since first arriving on the Nashville scene some 20 years ago, the Decatur, Tennessee native has built a distinguished reputation as a sought-after songwriter — contributing his tunes to various albums for an array of artists, from country music star Billy Currington to roots rockers The Wild Feathers. Along the way, Hennessee (who doubles as a member of Jamey Johnson's touring band) also has released several acclaimed solo records, including Hennessee Like Tennessee (2011), Revival (2012), and Greetings from Hennessee (2015).

"Make some noise for country music," Hennessee encouraged fans, as he segued into "Ramble," the title track to his upcoming new record. Offering a tragic tale of heartbreaking infidelity, Hennessee's 2012 epic, "Red Dress" made for another of his many riveting set list highlights.

"This one's 70% true. The other half, I made up," he confessed during the intro to "The Gospel According To Lane." And therein lies the true artistic appeal of Chris Hennessee — he's a gifted songwriter and a master storyteller. His songs don't require slick music videos to convey his messages — his irresistible melodies and well-crafted lyrics are all that's needed to show listeners his Hollywood-caliber "mini movies" — compelling stories of well-drawn characters. Truth be told, even if he "makes it all up," whatever Hennessee is "selling," I'm "buying" — in case quantities.

Chillin' with Chris Hennessee after
his Cocoa, FL concert performance.
(2.25.18)
Despite touching on a few of his longtime fan favorites, Hennessee leaned heavily on selections from his aforementioned new record, set to arrive in late March on Jamey Johnson's personal BigGassed Records label. Of the new tracks, "A Little Too Loretta" was a standout, as Hennessee revealed how the song was inspired by a real life experience with his wife who'd had some particular "concerns" regarding an Internet photo she'd seen (and misinterpreted) of her husband backstage with a female fan. Okay, maybe that story warrants a music video — LOL!

"Don't let other people tell ya what's good and what ain't good," Hennessee announced near the end of his show. "Just because you don't hear it on the radio doesn't mean it's no good. So support independent music." Well put, dude.

Pointing to his solution to "the things we shouldn't have to be dealing with in today's world," Hennessee launched into another new tune entitled, "A Few More Gospel Songs" — the perfect set up to his closing commentary. "If you hear me mentioning Jesus a lot in my songs," Hennessee began boldly, "it's because I love Jesus, and you should too." Wow, I could have hugged him for that one. Actually, I did!

-Christopher Long
(February 2018)

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