Following her first GRAMMY Award earlier this month, The New York Times-lauded “skilled curator, as well as a performer” Ashley McBryde, with her collaborators and special guests, brought two things to Music City the past two nights: her critically-acclaimed and GRAMMY-nominated project Ashley McBryde Presents: Lindeville to the Mother Church and sold-out crowds to their feet throughout the theatrical experience.
“I can’t even believe that Lindeville at the Ryman is something we were able to dream of and then DO,” McBryde shared after the show. “To have two sold out nights with the people that developed this project with me was unbelievable. It took a lot to bring Lindeville and all of its characters and charisma to life, and we’re all thankful that so many people wanted to be part of our little town.”
“As a musician, it’s rare when you play a show that really stands out as something genuinely special,” added bandleader John Osborne. “Something that reminds you why you picked up an instrument in the first place. Tonight, for me, was that night.”
As the lights dimmed, the girl in the red dress as seen on the album cover sat alone on stage, turning the pages of a book, following along with a narration from McBryde:
“Three little misfits had an idea one muggy as hell afternoon. The idea, it was weird, but they weren’t ‘a-feared,’ for they knew another weirdo or two. They figured they knew just exactly the few they would call to chorale and explore. The phone calls were made and if you ask them, they'll say, ‘The stars lined up too good to ignore.’ Soon there were six at a small kitchen table in a cabin, mysterious and quirky. They toiled away all hours of the day, helping themselves to tequila and jerky. It wasn’t long before song after song came falling right out of the ether – onto sketch pads and laptops and guitars and keyboards about pawn shops and strippers and preachers. What they had on their hands, through some kind of plan, was so magic, it grew legs and wings. So Ash called a friend who said he was in, he built the band and asked her who should sing. There was just one more dream these weirdos could dream, and it’s all yours tonight. You’ve got good timing. Ladies and gents, we proudly present: Lindeville Live.”
Introducing the audience to the wild and wonderful town, McBryde, Pillbox Patti, Caylee Hammack on night one and Lainey Wilson on night two, kicked off the set with album opener “Brenda Put Your Bra On” backed by the Lindeville Band, immersing the crowd into the NPR-dubbed “glorious detour into downhome character studies” that “sits at the intersection of storytelling country concept albums and musical theater,” as a flood of brassieres were hurled on stage.
The set was interrupted by a cheetah-print-clad Jenny from the floor of the Ryman, giving Aaron Raitiere an ear full as he strolled on stage, filling the air with laughter ahead of performing “Jesus Jenny,” with POLLSTAR noting “the regret, tenderness and embarrassment he feels for the woman was delivered as a complicated cocktail of compassion that’s easy to miss if working in caricatures.”
Led by Charlie Worsham, the Bluegrass band backed each jingle throughout the evening, with McBryde donning an apron for “Dandelion Diner,” followed by Pillbox Patti’s “The Girl In The Picture,” a heartfelt power ballad for a missing woman named Caroline that landed on Los Angeles Times’ “Best Songs of 2022.”
Dubbed by Stereogum as “a soft-glowing honky tonk lullaby,” Shelly Fairchild expressed the irony in “If These Dogs Could Talk” with ease as McBryde provided background vocals from a park bench, accompanied by Pete and his dog (a stuffed Husky later adopted by an audience member via the Lindeville Humane Society), from Brothers Osborne’s sentimental ballad, with TJ Osborne’s Esquire-dubbed “classic, sonorous voice” resonating through the auditorium reminding us to “go to church, love your momma and ‘Play Ball.’”
Queued up by What Fuzz Radio DJ Storme Warren, Raitiere, armed with a tank top, cargo shorts, socks, slides and a bag of avocados, along with Fairchild in her sparkly top, green leggings and case of Bud Light, transported the audience to Food City with “paired pidgin-level method acting with songwriting that made the entire proceeding feel – appropriately – like suburban community theater,” as noted by The Tennessean, in “The Missed Connection Section of the Lindeville Gazette.”
Hailed by Billboard “as one of the project’s most gripping, soul-searching pulses,” Benjy Davis began “Gospel Night at the Strip Club” to cheers from the audience, the lights coming up just in time for the chorus led by five local drag queens, Vivica Steele, Justine Van de Blair, Britney Banks, Vidalia Anne Gentry and Shelby Lá Banks, as the at-capacity crowd came to their feet to join. “That line, ‘Jesus loves the drunkards and the whores and the queers’ is crucial,” asserts PASTE, “because it makes explicit the project’s unifying theme: Everyone is flawed, and everyone is worthy of love and respect despite those flaws. Perhaps we should spend less time hiding our sins and weaknesses, and more time forgiving the same in others.”
With just two notes, the crowd remained standing and whooped for the all-female driven cover of The Everly Brothers’ “When Will I Be Loved,” as vocals soared from McBryde, Fairchild, Patti and Wilson before McBryde rejoined the Bluegrass band for the album’s final jingle “Forkem Family Funeral Home” with urn in hand for those “two-for-one cremations.”
Rejoined by Fairchild, Patti and Wilson, McBryde launched into “Bonfire At Tina’s,” celebrated as PAPER Magazine’s “No. 1 Country Song of 2022” noting, “the women of country continue to create fruitful collaborations and build each other up in spite of a system that has encouraged them to tear each other down. Light it up, indeed.”
The Bluegrass band, referred to as Levi and the Wranglers and Good Time and the Bad Decisions among other aliases throughout the evening, prompted the audience to join them for a classic Grand Ole Opry singalong with “I Saw The Light,” complete with rhythmic clapping and stomping.
McBryde then perched solo on a stool, a backdrop of shining stars behind her, for album closer “Lindeville” from the perspective of the town’s clock tower, laying bare “a lovely benediction for this place and its unresolved conflicts, a gentle reminder that we’re all a little messy and deserve a little grace as well,” observes Rolling Stone.
Written by the album’s namesake Dennis Linde, the entire cast returned to the stage for a cover of The Chicks’ “Goodbye Earl” as an homage to the songwriter whose methods inspired the “six weirdos” who sat around a kitchen table in a cabin outside of Nashville, giving their beloved characters a place to live.
Following the company’s final bows, McBryde returned to the stage solo to perform her GRAMMY-nominated hit “Girl Goin’ Nowhere.” As fans flocked to the stage, the Arkansas native paused throughout the performance to take in the crowd’s reaction to her line “I hear the crowd,” before concluding the evening with a heartfelt thank you to the sold-out audience for coming along on this journey, and especially, this joyous occasion.