by Michael Rampa
With the official departure of Taylor Swift from the genre, country music is eager to find replacement star power. Pittsburgh’s annual Girls with Guitars show is proving to be a nebula. This year’s crop of artists featured former “The Voice” contestants (one winner), a television star and some local flair.
Texas cutie Rae Lynn could replace Hayden Panettiere on ABC’s Nashville and the show would not miss a beat. The 20-year-old featured some youthful angst on “Boyfriend” and didn’t have to work too hard on her signature “God Made Girls” Female audience members took on both choruses in their entirety. For such a youthful performer, she features a good deal of old school western swing.
It is amazing that season Three “”The Voice” winner Cassadee Pope is permitted to sing indoors. The petite powerhouse’s voice has challenged the structural integrity of venues ranging from outdoor amphitheaters to Heinz Field’s massive Great Hall on this evening. She spent little of the set in her lower register and opted for a crystal clear full voice beat down on songs like “I Wish I Could Break Your Heart,” “Everybody Sings,” and of course, her career maker “Wasting All These Tears.” She took a moment to remind the crowd that she grew up in western PA and that her grandfather still races cars at a nearby speedway. When he saw the track list on “Frame by Frame” he pointed to “This Car” and said to his granddaughter, “This is my favorite.” without ever hearing a note. His premonition proved correct as it became a Top 40 hit soon after its release.
Former One Tree Hill star Jana Kramer has a star presence worthy of an arena show and a musical following equivalent to her television popularity. She was able to squeeze in five songs off of her 2012 self-titled effort. Ironically, one of the highlights, “Boomerang “was written by earlier performers Maddie & Tae. The teen duo is on an all-out media campaign to promote their megahit “Girl In a Country Song.” They have been on the late night talk show loop for weeks. Impressing the public with their atypical combination of youthfulness and songwriting talent.
Ditto with local talent, The Hobbs sisters. The recent high school graduates made the most of their time by showcasing their silky harmony on a cover of Kelly and Reba’s “Because Of You” bookended by a few originals.
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