"Radical" is not a word that readily comes to mind when thinking about contemporary country music. But what better adjective can be used to describe Vince Gill's recent achievements?
For starters, the veteran singer/songwriter/guitarist has just done the unthinkable by releasing a four-CD set of music. New music, at that. Capitalizing on a prolific creative spurt, Gill wrote or co-wrote 43 songs for These Days, a dazzling collection that includes bluegrass; rootsy, guitar-driven country; traditional honky-tonk; and contemporary ballads and spirituals. What's most striking about this ambitious work is how organic it feels and sounds—the words and music ring true. For example, the poignant "If I Can Make Mississippi," featuring vocalist Lee Ann Womack, touches on Hurricane Katrina and beyond, while "A River Like You" makes a family connection blossom with the pure-sounding vocals of Gill's daughter, Jenny.
To further turn Nashville on its ear, Oklahoma-born Gill is playing three-hour concerts backed by a versatile 17-piece band featuring such Americana-tinged instruments as the banjo, steel guitar, organ, fiddle, upright bass and at least five guitars. Gill's reportedly losing money on the tour mainly because of the large overhead and relatively cheap concert tickets. But who—Gill's accountant notwithstanding—cares?
Gill says he's having the time of his life; he's able to explore and capture a variety of moods and genres, and that is what lies at the heart of These Days. He's inviting his fans to share in this remarkable journey, and the full richness of sound created by Gill and his touring band—featuring ex-NRBQ guitarist Al Anderson—is making all the difference. Besides, after selling more than 20 million albums, he's earned the right to be a little radical, no?
Vince Gill at the Wiltern LG, 3790 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 388-1400; www.wiltern.com. Sun., 8 p.m. $45-$75. All ages.
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