Jewly Hight

The early experiments in COVID-19-era concerts have been watched closely, because the stakes are clearly high on both sides of the coin: the possibility of salvaging lost musical livelihoods has to be balanced against any potential exposure risks for all involved.

When Orville Peck's first couple of songs popped up on streaming platforms in 2017 and 2018, he was a virtual unknown, and not just because he constantly obscured his face behind a fringed, leather mask. Eventually, the seemingly contradictory elements of his image became a calling card, so that it didn't seem unfathomable that he'd be able to land Shania Twain as a singing partner for his upcoming, major label EP.

Artists who deliberately and publicly claim LGBTQIA+ identities and country or roots affiliations exist across a rich spectrum. Some performers, like autoharp-strumming drag queen Trixie Mattel and piano bar expat James Wilson of Paisley Fields, build their flamboyant identities just as much around the exaggerated cowpoke campiness of their stage wear and the winking humor in their demeanors as their stylistic sensibilities.

When Mickey Guyton signed a Nashville record deal nearly a decade ago, after growing up in Texas on Dolly Parton and Whitney Houston and doing a bit of work in the LA entertainment industry, she approached the country music scene with tremendous respect. Cognizant of her newbie status, she showed how serious she was about becoming a part of that professional community by learning its culture and customs and taking its conventional wisdom to heart. Soon, she came to see what she was actually up against.

Congregating in person for concerts is out of the question this spring and for the foreseeable future, so music fans have gotten used to watching performers livestream from home. What's less obvious is that segments of the Nashville music community that work out of view have been equally resourceful in finding virtual stopgaps during lockdown.

A few years back, a band called Hot Country Knights began opening amphitheater and arena dates for country star Dierks Bentley. The group stuck out as the most inept, inappropriate and unprofessional act in the lineup, with the most memorable hair, most energetic thrusting, and most zipper-straining Wrangler jeans.

While Nashville's standard studio music-making processes remain at a quarantined standstill, here's another roundup of compelling new and recent music from visitors, part-timers, newcomers and lifers alike.


Since new release season is rolling on while the Nashville music community and the rest of us remain holed up at home, here's another round-up of music that shouldn't be missed.


The arrival of the coronavirus to Nashville came early in March, but Joe Diffie's passing yesterday, at the age of 61 — just two days after releasing a statement about his diagnosis through his publicist — marked the first reported loss of a country star to coronavirus-related complications.

The fact that Nashville's famously bustling live music scene has temporarily gone silent — first partially interrupted by the March 3 tornadoes, then halted altogether in response to COVID-19 — makes this an opportune time to catch up with the loosies, EPs and albums that either went overlooked in the crowd of early 2020 releases or won't be getting signal boosts from now-canceled promotional performances.

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