The Thrill of Gill
Country legend crosses genres to charm fans.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Vince Gill isn’t cool because he’s a country music star; he’s just cool. In his 20-year career, Gill hasn’t conformed to the stereotypes of the country genre; never once did he pick up a Southern twang or wear a 10-gallon hat. Audiences were more likely to see him dressed in a collared shirt and jeans than cowboy hats and spurs. At 6 foot 3, Gill is a soft-spoken dude whose warm speaking manner could make an announcement of world annihilation sound pleasant. (Well, almost.)
Gill’s smooth tenor and unpretentious style has put him on the map and kept him there. Over the course of his career, he’s sold more than 26 million albums and won more Country Music Awards than any other artist. But it’s not the numbers that make the man; it’s Gill’s musical talent and versatility that make the numbers.
Gill, who will be playing the Golden State Theatre on Thursday night, first came onto the scene in 1979 as the lead singer of Pure Prairie League. The band went on to release three albums– including the Michael McDonald-esque single “Let Me Love You Tonight.”
In 1983, RCA Records signed Gill to the label’s country division and his career took off. With a voice smooth enough to croon pop tunes and strong enough to tackle traditional country styles, Gill became a hot commodity for musical duets, working with artists ranging from Christian rocker Amy Grant to outlaw songwriter Rodney Crowell.
“I always root for the lines to be blurry,” Gill recently told Rolling Stone. “Music is so much more important than the label you stick on it.”
It’s no surprise to find that Gill is comfortable on the big stage: his easygoing manner and quick humor have made him a sought-after MC. He hosted the Country Music Awards from 1992-2003, setting the bar for televised music hosts everywhere. “He sprinkled his appearances not only with scripted jokes but also with quick-witted ad libs, some of which were stinging in their candor but invariably softened by Gill’s affable, ‘aw-shucks’ delivery,” one account of his self-effacing gigs said.
After winning a 2008 Grammy for Best Country Album of the year, and receiving the award from former Beatle Ringo Starr, Gill’s wisecrack aimed at perennially pissed-off rapper Kanye West was the talk of the night. “I just got an award given to me by a Beatle. Have you had that happen yet, Kanye?” (He later said he was just kidding.)
The year 2006 marked the release of These Days, a box set of Gill’s most ambitious songs. According to Rhapsody music reviewer Rachel Dewitt: “Four discs, 43 songs and just about every genre country has ever been in bed with: These Days is a massive fashion show of an album that… reaffirms the kind of Everyman/Jack of All Trades charm Gill’s built his career on.”
The album includes a rockin’ record, a groovy record, a country/western disc and an acoustic disc. With guest spots from the likes of Sheryl Crow and Michael McDonald, Gill proved to audiences that he isn’t just a man who loves country music– he’s a man who loves music. His efforts paid off in a huge way when he won Best Country Album at the 50th Grammy Awards in 2008.
In addition to his latest hits, Gill will reportedly be previewing un-released songs and new material at the Golden State Theatre during the all-acoustic show. To top off this rare musical treat, he will also take requests during the intimate concert. With Gill’s career spanning more than two decades, 26 million albums, dozens of hit singles, and enough music awards to melt into a life-size gold statue, any song is fair game. Here’s hoping he has a damn good memory.
Vince Gill performs 8pm Thursday, Oct. 30, at Golden State Theatre, 417 Alvarado St., in Monterey. $55-$135. 372-4555, www.goldenstatetheatre.com.