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Posts tagged ‘Gary Burr’

Gary Burr and Georgia Middleman Charm Infinity Hall Crowd

by Holley Dey with photography by Louise Uznanski and Richard Uznanski ©2015 On Tap Blog All rights reserved.

g&g from Richard 1From the back of the merchandise line it was clear that nearly all of the audience had decided to join the queue.  As I watched the line slowly advance and then reverse direction, I realized that the Infinity Hall crowd now had their hands full…..full of music.  When the time came to reach for my own wallet, copies of Gary’s newest CD were long gone, long gone.  Instead, I purchased an older live recording that features several of the Hall of Fame songwriter’s #1 songs as well as a 2008 album that includes many of Georgia’s early hits. It was an incidental but very satisfying purchase when I later compared the recorded vocals to that evening’s live performance.

Gary Burr and Georgia Middleman came from Nashville to New York and then to Norfolk last month to perform for an audience that laughed easily, smiled broadly and enjoyed greatly. The music was drawn from the couple’s catalog of songwriting hits, from their own recorded music and from yet unreleased songs to be included on an upcoming duo album, the husband and wife’s first together. The show was patterned after the famed singer-songwriter sessions at the Bluebird Cafe where each songwriter in turn performs one of his/her hits, supported by instrumental and vocal back-up from the other.

Each song was introduced with a tale of inspiration, with behind-the-scene details from the Nashville music scene or….with a story of what could only be divine providence (or sheer dumb luck).  Take Gary’s history with Garth Brooks, for example.  Original song “What Mattered Most” was written for the country superstar.  “He hated it,” explained Gary curtly, “didn’t record it.”  (Ty Herndon later took the poignant love song to #1 on the country music charts.)  Happily, fate intervened.  In studio to record a Bob Seger song, Garth was forced to switch gears when the details of that song failed to arrive via FAX. “Might as well record that song I’ve been hearing around the studio this week.”  Done. That’s Gary Burr for you; he’s lucky (and talented) like that.

Georgia’s eyes misted as she described her late father’s favorite song, “While He Still Knows Who I Am.”  A tender story of memory loss and reconnection, the Dave Berg-Tom Douglas-Georgia Middleman co-write went unrecorded for eight years until Kenny Chesney made an emotional connection to the lyrics.  It was the last song Georgia’s father requested, and the first song recorded for Chesney’s 2012 album release.

The Infinity Hall audience had no trouble connecting to the songwriters’ performance.  There was an enthusiastic back-and-forth between those on stage and the many more in the audience.  Laughter and good-natured teasing were exchanged; several song requests were accepted and performed.  It was like an evening with your closest friends, if only your friends had both talent and your rapt attention!

Among the joys of this acoustic-based singer-songwriter performance was the opportunity to hear that talent unfiltered.  Compared to recordings that are now several years old, the tone and clarity of the vocals have not changed.  Gary’s voice has a richer quality; maybe it’s maturity.  Well then again, maybe not.  That cheeky humor hasn’t changed either!

Nor has the quality of the duo’s songwriting wavered.  At Infinity Hall the audience was treated to a preview of new songs intended for the couple’s debut album.  “You Roll By” and “This Song” share the same well crafted melodies and lyrics as previous works, but marry Gary and Georgia’s voices in a warm and welcome harmony.

Here’s hoping the songwriters will return those harmonies from Nashville to New York, to Norfolk and beyond when the new album is released.  Might consider taking the show to Naperville, Newton, Norman or New Orleans….or go crazy!  That’s right.  Pick another letter.



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Nashville Shines Bright in New York City Lights

Words/video:  Holley Dey        Photography: Louise Uznanski and Richard Uznanski     ©2014 On Tap Blog all rights reserved


By the numbers alone it was a special evening.  One stage, two hosts, two invited guests, three Hall of Fame songwriters with dozens of hit songs, yet only four good knees among them.  Professional football takes the blame for the wear and tear on Mike’s bones; professional songwriting may be responsible for Gary’s.  Sometimes an earnest plea from a bended knee can get those soon-to-be hits recorded, don’t you know….

For the third installment of the Nashville to New York  series, co-hosts Gary Burr and Georgia Middleman welcomed award winning songwriters Mike Reid and Matraca Berg to The Cutting Room in New York City.  The hosts had promised the “best and brightest” for the September event, and they more than delivered on Tuesday evening when six voices, yes six, entertained from four sturdy chairs placed stage front.

No special effects were involved.  Ms. Berg has friends in all the right places, including The Cutting Room audience where husband Jeff Hanna of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and country singer-songwriter Allison Moorer were seated.  Called to perform, Hanna temporarily took the stage, and a chair, to perform his chart-topping “Bless the Broken Road”, and to harmonize with his wife on a soulful rendition of her own “Oh Cumberland”.  Ms. Moorer joined co-writer Matraca Berg to perform a new original song that the two had recently completed and that “hasn’t really been public yet.”  Oh, it’s public now. Once the duo began the chorus in earnest, “Jesus and Elvis, painted on velvet, hanging out at the bar here every night…” the audience clapped confidently to the beat of a traditional country story of whiskey, loss and redemption.

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Those are two of the many reasons that this singer-songwriter series offers a premium entertainment value. The shows draw not only from the talent on stage, but from unbilled talent seated in the cheap seats. A founding member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band on this occasion, and in June, Emmy winning songwriter Victoria Shaw was pulled from the audience to perform, adding her voice and vibrant personality to the mix. Then there is the potential to hear music “in the rough”, unfinished, unpolished, imperfect and real, well before it reaches the ears of the general public. A sneak peek into the creative process, it’s the adult version of Charlie’s wonder at the Chocolate Factory, without the chocolate mess.

And then there are the voices, the songs, the stories and the humor of the Nashville songwriters, the heart and soul of these shows.  There is something unique and special about hearing the music and its background directly from the writers.  Mike Reid introduced “Everywhere” as the song he wrote for Celine Dion, then raised a quick hand to stop the “oohs” and “ahhs” that followed, explaining, “No, she refused to record it”!  Happily, Tim McGraw layered his voice on this story of enduring love and wistful regret that span time and distance.

When Reid then performed the song, it was done with timing and expression – a conversation supported by fluid, flowing piano accompaniment.  The lyrics were given quiet emphasis.  The same was true when Georgia performed “Little Victories”, when Gary offered “Man of My Word” and the remarkable “A Thousand Wild Horses”.  As in June, hearing these songs directly from the songwriter brought a new understanding and appreciation of the music, and a deepening appreciation for the talent behind the songs.

Nashville to New York returns to The Cutting Room on January 6, 2015.  Co-hosts Gary Burr and Georgia Middleman will be joined by special guests and award winning songwriters Victoria Shaw and Mark Hudson.



Nashville Songwriters Score a Hit with “Nashville to New York”

by Holley Dey, photography by Louise Uznanski      ©2014 On Tap Blog all rights reserved

Gary Burr & Georgia Middleman at the Cutting Room, NYC

Gary Burr & Georgia Middleman at the Cutting Room, NYC

Let’s cut right to the chase.  Kurt Vonnegut once said that a good story should start as close to the end as possible.  So here it is – The End, the take home message, the down and dirty truth, the not-so-secret skinny.  The next “Nashville to New York” show will be held on September 9, and you should be there.

You’ll earn a rare glimpse into the mechanics of songwriting and a short course in the business of music.  You’ll hear songs that were hits, and others that just missed, directly from the songwriters.  You’ll laugh, you’ll sing and you may wonder – wonder why the remarkable, clear-voiced talents seated on the stage do not own the voices that play on the radio and replay in your memory.

“Nashville to New York” is patterned after the writer-in-the-round sessions held at The Bluebird Cafe, the same venue celebrated by the ABC television series Nashville.   Singer-songwriters Gary Burr and Georgia Middleman are the hosts of the quarterly event, held at The Cutting Room in New York City.  At each show two invited guests join the hosts on stage; all four trade stories and share their original songs in intimate acoustic performances, supported by instrumentals and harmony vocals from the others.  At the most recent show on June 10, the hosts were joined by award winning songwriters Gretchen Peters and Dave Berg to play for a jam-packed room.

First up was Georgia who prefaced her performance of “I’m In” with a delightful story of patience and providence.  Co-written with Radney Foster fifteen years ago, the song found a limited audience on release.  A subsequent cover by The Kinleys was a minor hit, reaching #32 on the country charts, and that was enough for Middleman to replace her broken-down car with a used Honda CRV.  “I was so grateful,” said Georgia.  Fast forward ten years and the plate on an aging CRV would soon read RIP.  The songwriter raised an earnest prayer to the heavens, and Keith Urban recorded “I’m In”.  Can you say Toyota Prius?  Quipped Gary Burr, “I do think that the country charts shouldn’t be numbers; they should be automobiles!”

A vibrant performance followed the introduction.   Know this:  if Snow White had a brain and a song, she’d be Georgia Middleman.  Petite with dark curls, fair skin and a generous smile, Georgia’s size belies the strength of her voice and the depth of her talent.    Joined by husband Gary on backing guitar and vocals, the pair offered a spirited rendition of “I’m In”, proof positive that in this family the vocal and marital blends are equally melodic.

They share a  lived-in, homegrown repartee on stage.  “You might want to move your chair,” suggested Georgia.  “Hey, you might want to stop smothering me,” came the perfectly cheery response.  The hosts were the focus of attention, charming the audience with their good humor and storytelling.  Gary alternately played rhythm or lead guitar for his wife; each sang harmony for the other.

Gary was important to the pace and complexion of the show; he kept the jokes coming, his songs upbeat.  When Emmy winning songwriter and producer Victoria Shaw was recruited from the audience to perform, Burr was typically helpful.  As Victoria introduced her original co-write “The River”, Gary quickly stooped to pick up the name she’d dropped (Garth Brooks).

Gary’s own song selections included “To Be Loved by You”, co-written with Mike Reid and a #1 hit for singer Wynonna Judd.  It’s one of a few positive love songs that Burr has written, he says, dwarfed by the number of psycho killer love songs he’s penned.  “He loved her, he lost her, he hunted her down…”  And when the laughter died down, the song was delivered with an unanticipated tenderness and a vocal tone that left no doubt why the former electrician is also the former lead singer for Pure Prairie League, former vocalist/guitarist for Ringo Starr.

Seated to Burr’s left was singer-songwriter Gretchen Peters who owns a storyteller’s voice, beautifully expressive across a full dynamic range, delivering poetic lyrics of layered complexity.  Gretchen surprised with her introduction to “You Don’t Even Know Who I Am,” wondering aloud why the audience would want to hear hit songs.  “Don’t you hear those enough?!”  Ironically, the show had been billed as an evening of hit songs, but then Ms. Peters offered two highlights – a poignant performance of “The Matador” from 2012 album Hello Cruel World, and a newly recorded, yet unreleased song with a chorus that rocked lightly, “When all you’ve got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” that might very well be another hit.

Between the two ladies sat singer-songwriter Dave Berg.  Introduced as a rocker, Dave began his set with the low key “One Can Be a Lot,” a song that Dave says “never really stuck,” but that stuck like glue with the audience in New York.  “Just one sun lights the sky. Just one moon turns the tide. And man can change the world with just one thought. One promise made can last forever….. Yeah, sometimes one can be a lot.”  A laid-back delivery and a light rocker’s edge to his voice, Dave followed with two of his best known originals: “Stupid Boy” (Keith Urban) and “If You’re Going through Hell” (Rodney Atkins).  He also performed a tune he’d written with Mumford & Sons; Dave wasn’t quite sure if his c0-writer was Mumford or Sons…

Nearly two and a half hours of song and story, insight into songwriting and the music industry, and the opportunity to hear new music from Nashville’s most successful writers – all of this came for an advance ticket price of $15.  Guests for September’s “Nashville to New York” were not announced, but Gary and Georgia have promised “the best and brightest songwriters” at every New York show.   Two quick suggestions for the next in the series…. The titles of several songs performed and enjoyed at the June show were never shared with the audience.  Giving the product a name makes it easier for customers to later purchase that product from home. While the arrangement of chairs was likely intended to showcase their guests, seating the hosts together center stage would visually enhance the harmonies and banter.

At the audience’s insistence, “Nashville to New York” sang well beyond its scheduled finish.  If you’d like to know why, begin here and read up.  Read until you come to “The End” ; then stop.


Gary Burr, Victoria Shaw, Gretchen Peters, Dave Berg, Georgia Middleman

Gary Burr, Victoria Shaw, Gretchen Peters, Dave Berg, Georgia Middleman

Georgia Middleman

Georgia Middleman

Gary Burr, Gretchen Peters, Dave Berg, Georgia Middleman

Gary Burr, Gretchen Peters, Dave Berg, Georgia Middleman

Gary Burr & Georgia Middleman Bring Nashville to New York for June 10 Show

Georgia Middleman and Gary Burr photo byValerie Fremin Georgia Middleman remembers the first time she met her future husband.  She and a date were seated front row at The Bluebird Cafe in her newly adopted Nashville hometown.  Singer-songwriter Gary Burr had just taken the stage, guitar in hand.  The room was quiet in anticipation of his performance, and Georgia respectfully waited until the song began to take a careful bite of the celery on her plate.  Took that bite; the music was abruptly halted and Gary asked, “You enjoying that?”

Now many years later, Hall of Fame songwriter Gary Burr and hit songwriter Georgia Middleman will bring Nashville to New York on Tuesday, June 10 at  The Cutting Room.  The husband and wife team will host a singer-songwriter show patterned after the “In the Round” writer nights at The Bluebird Cafe, the same venue featured in the popular ABC television show Nashville.

Gary and Georgia will be joined on stage by their guests, singer-songwriters Gretchen Peters and Dave Berg.  Each songwriter will perform acoustic versions of his/her biggest hits, supported by instrumentals and harmony vocals from the others.  Each will introduce their songs with the little known behind-the-scenes stories that few have ever heard.  It promises to be a special evening of music, stories and laughter, and a unique opportunity to hear some of the industry’s best known songs performed and interpreted by the songwriters themselves.

The four songwriters represent a wealth of experience and share an impressive record of success in the music industry – both as writers and performers.

Gary Burr has been honored with Songwriter of the Year awards by Billboard, ASCAP and the Nashville Songwriters Association; he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005.  His hit songs include “Nobody Wants to Be Lonely” (Ricky Martin & Christina Aguilera), “Love’s Been a Little Bit Hard on Me” (Juice Newton), “In a Week or Two” (Diamond Rio), “Before Your Love” (Kelly Clarkson), among many others.  Gary was lead vocalist for country-rock group Pure Prairie League and guitarist/vocalist for Ringo Starr in The Roundheads; he is now a member of the group Blue Sky Riders with Georgia Middleman and Kenny Loggins.

Georgia Middleman is an accomplished vocalist and recording artist, as well as a talented songwriter. She co-wrote the 2010 hit “I’m In”, recorded by Keith Urban, and the recent Kenny Chesney song, “While He Still Knows Who I Am.” Her songs have been recorded by Reba McEntire, Joe Nichols, Martina McBride and many others.  Her song “When the Right One Comes Along” was recently featured on ABC’s Nashville. Georgia is one-third of the acclaimed new trio, Blue Sky Riders, with Kenny Loggins and Gary Burr.

Dave Berg’s songs have reached the top of the country charts five times, including the 2008 most played country song of the year, “If You’re Going Through Hell” (Rodney Atkins).  Dave also wrote “Somebody” (Reba McEntire) and “Stupid Boy” (Keith Urban).  He has been honored as Billboard’s Country Songwriter of the Year, as well as ASCAP Country Songwriter of the Year. Dave has released three independent singer-songwriter records of his own.

Gretchen Peters is the twice Grammy-nominated, CMA Song of the Year winner for the groundbreaking “Independence Day” (Martina McBride). Gretchen also wrote “The Secret Life” (Faith Hill) and “On a Bus to St Cloud” (Trisha Yearwood), among other hits.  Peters has released nine critically acclaimed albums of her own.

Nashville to New York  brings four uniquely talented artists together for an unscripted celebration of song and story.  To join the June 10 party at The Cutting Room in New York City, purchase tickets here.  Pull up a chair, relax, enjoy the music and camaraderie.  Stay away from the celery.

N2NY songwriters                                                               Clockwise from top left: Gary Burr, Georgia Middleman, Dave Berg, Gretchen Peters

Blue Sky Riders: Rockin’ the Stage and the Social Network

by Holley Dey,  photography by Louise Uznanski    ©2013 OnTapBlog, all rights reserved

Georgia Middleman, Kenny Loggins, Gary Burr

Georgia Middleman, Kenny Loggins, Gary Burr

The discussion didn’t last long.  I insisted earnestly that permission had been given; the usher ultimately relented.  Photography was allowed for the band’s first few songs, then the cap covered the lens.  It was only after Kenny Loggins addressed the crowd that the camera came out to stay. “I don’t know what they told you here,” said Kenny to the audience, “but we want you to take pictures.” “Take lots of pictures,” he encouraged.   “Do you tweet?  Tweet one now!”  Hundreds of us did; held our cell phones in the air to share a digital, rock star memory of the Blue Sky Riders with our network of family and friends. Read more

Photo Focus: Victoria Shaw and Jim Brickman at Birdland

By Louise Uznanski for OnTapBlog.

©2013 OnTapBlog All Rights Reserved

Songwriters Jim Brickman and Victoria Shaw at Birdland Jazz Club, NYC, 4/22/13. Photo by Louise Uznanski.

LUznanskiVicJimHand 4

Birdland is a small, refined and intimate club near Times Square and on select Monday nights during the year the club hosts Nashville songwriter Victoria Shaw and other guests and friends of the headliner. Earlier in the year, Victoria shared the stage with country music songwriters Chely Wright and Gary Burr. If that was not memorable enough, a Cast Party was held after the show where singers unite from Broadway, jazz and rock clubs all over the city to entertain the ‘after the show’ crowd. In attendance that night was Bette Midler who is collaborating with Victoria on new music for a CD Ms. Midler is recording. Gary Burr was his usual extraordinarily wonderful self, singing and playing guitar on songs co-penned with Victoria in Nashville.

Last Monday night, Victoria again graced the Birdland stage bringing her original music written for the likes of Garth Brooks (The River),and John Michael Montgomery (I Love The Way You Love Me) and many tunes co-written and produced for numerous artists in Nashville and for her own CDs.

This Monday night became even more of a specialty when Jim Brickman, Victoria’s writing partner, was welcomed to the stage. The music produced by these two ‘dream team writers’ is a list too long to reproduce here. Suffice it to say, when these two writers and singers get together on stage it is a history lesson in pop country music and a labor of love presenting those songs they were instrumental in producing wrapped into a songfest of the friendliest kind.

Also brought to the stage was Broadway star Michael Eldred whose voice bounded to the back walls of the venue and then returned from behind our heads and caressed our ears with his bountiful joy in singing a special song.

Blue Sky Riders on Tour: Play That Funky Dulcimer, Georgia

by Holley Dey, Louise Uznanski, Richard Uznanski

The house was packed and primed for Blue Sky Riders on Sunday evening. Four rows from the stage sat a woman who had traveled all the way from Cincinnati to small town, Connecticut for the show. Stage left sat a smiling pair who had caught an acoustic performance at Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe and liked what they heard. Two rows from center stage, a man with a jacket had come to the show with razor sharp intent. He knew what he wanted, and he was hell bent on getting it. Read more