Tonight at City Winery in Nashville, Tennessee, families filled the room for an intimate event starring the occasional ranting, sometimes stretched too thin Jo Dee Messina in honor of Mother’s Day. Making the show notably special was the presence of Jo Dee’s own mother who watched her high energy daughter with a gleam in her eyes and proud grin on her face.
I Am… The Intimate Story can best be described as the “director’s cut” of a quintessential concert, providing information about the artist and the creation of songs in a way that was especially unique. While artists frequently share short introductions to their music and include momentary explanations, Jo Dee Messina’s show was as much storytelling as it was singing, turning City Winery Nashville into the timeless musician’s living room.
For those of you who are loyal followers of Country Music’s #CMchat and Jo Dee Messina (first off, thank you), you have likely read my album, song, and show reviews, as well as interviews with my favorite sassy starlet. Therefore you know how much I respect and adore her talent and opine that she is, bar none, one of the greatest vocalists in history. Considering my repeated coverage of this artist who is unbelievably deserving, yet under-appreciated, I want to present this “review” taking a different route.
As always, Jo Dee elated the crowd with stellar performances of her signature tunes, such as “Heads Carolina, Tails California,” “That’s the Way,” “Downtime,” “Stand Beside Me,” “Bring on the Rain,” “Lesson in Leavin’,” and “Bye Bye,” but it was the atypical aspects that set this show apart from anything I have ever experienced. If there were only a few words to describe Jo Dee on this specific night, they would be emotive, passionate, sarcastic, resentful, and, most of all, blatantly honest.
Beginning the night with what seemed to be a strong and confident demeanor, Jo Dee stripped down layer after layer, exposing her innermost workings and revealing a vulnerable side that oftentimes artists bury beneath a blanket of thought-provoking lyrics. Sharing some extremely personal stories with the room, Jo Dee openly admitted defeat and wrongdoing, embraced her mistakes, and inspired her audience on a level that is unattainable for most. While the nature of her more personal stories will remain within those four walls, as certain skeletons were released from her closet and should stay on sacred ground, each of her more touching anecdotes led into powerful, religious songs, during a trinity in the set list that Jo Dee called “taking you to church!” Fighting back tears as her voice exploded throughout the small venue, this unparalleled vocalist held her mic-free hand up, closed her eyes, and freed herself of pent up emotion as spectators watched in stunned silence.
Of course, as with any Jo Dee Messina encounter, for each tear that rolled down someone’s cheek, there were ten bouts of explosive, venue-filled laughter. In her usual musician-turned-comedian approach, Jo Dee told tales about her home life, leading into “A Woman’s Rant” by talking about her husband sleeping through their babies’ crying spells. Raising the storytelling bar, Jo Dee came equipped with crying baby sounds and her own impressive snoring sound effects, throwing her husband under the bus with glee. As she played the wailing infant into the mic, she told us that her husband has asked her “don’t you know how loud that is?!” To which she responded, “yeah, I do. Do YOU?!” Employing one of her staple moves, Jo Dee burst into giggles, proving once again that she is the first to laugh at herself, even at times of adversity.
Jo Dee also playfully targeted audience members, even making it a mission to pinpoint those who were in attendance to review the show. Speaking to a fan who was sitting closest to the stage, she teased him about his head hurting and let him know that he could always “read the wonderful reviews from all the reporters who are here.” She then directed her statements to those of us at work and facetiously said “don’t let me down!”
Let you down, I hope I did not, Jo Dee, as you have never let me down. Contrarily, what has let me down is the current state of the industry and the close-mindedness when it comes to certain artists who were tastemakers when country music was not quite as affluent. The artists who expended themselves tirelessly and got their hands dirty to pave the golden path that is now so prominent. I have said it time and time again; country music fans are loyalists and will stand beside their favorites through thick and thin, but I can’t always say the same about the powers that be.
Jo Dee Messina is the same artist who was nominated for Grammys; who scored Number 1 hits; and who sold millions of records. The only difference in this particular artist is personal growth that has led to more truth behind the music — a quality about country music that most fans cite as their favorite thing about the genre. The vocals are every bit as intensely spectacular as they always were. The stage presence is leaps and bounds above others. The personality is raw and real, demonstrating that beneath the glamour rests a bonafide human being. Where the disconnect lies is an ongoing mystery to me and is also an unfortunate and inexplicable mistake on the parts of those with string-pulling power.
As I step down from my proverbial soapbox, I leave you all with this: Jo Dee Messina is one of the most special humans and artists this world will ever know. She is admittedly imperfect, a work in progress, and an absolute spitfire on and off stage. Aside from all that, she is inspiring, strong, and someone I feel blessed to call an influence in my life. Sharing this particular evening with her was an unforgettable experience, and I wish for all of you that she comes to your towns soon so you, too, can see firsthand everything Jo Dee has to offer.
Oh, and in Jo Dee’s words in response to a standing ovation she received after performing the song embedded below, “Florida Georgia Line, TAKE THAT!”