Listen: Hear the Entire Set by Wynonna & the Big Noise from 2016
Do you remember the 18th of September, 2016? If you were at Mountain Stage you sure do. It was a ladies’ night and the feeling was oh so right.
Recorded at Mountain's Stage home-base, the Culture Center Theater at the West Virginia Capitol Grounds, the show featured iconic folk heroes the Indigo Girls, up-and-coming alt-country roots rocker Lydia Loveless, songwriting and guitar goddess Patty Larkin, and the one and only wild-eyed Kentucky soul of Wynonna Judd.
Wynonna made her first trip to Mountain Stage, emerging that night with songs from her 2016 album Wynonna & The Big Noise, her first album in 13 years. Host and artistic director Larry Groce immediately made her feel at home framing her career in a hallowed light. "She is an American music icon, a country music superstar. She has won over 60 awards in country music. She has also won five Grammy Awards," Groce said as the crowd erupted for Judd, who has sold more than 30 million records, including more than 20 million with her mom Naomi as The Judds - the most successful duo in country music history.
Groce said perhaps the most incredible gift of Judd's is a voice so good she could sing any genre. "If you had never heard this woman before - and you know what she was in country music - she could have been the same thing in rock music and the same thing in blues music and the same thing in jazz music."
Throwing down the kickstand and revving up her band, Wynonna, who has notched up six No. 1 singles of her own as a solo artist, threw back her hair and let the crowd know they were in for a ride. "How many of you have never seen me in concert before? Well, it's about frickin' time!” The sold out audience had bought their tickets before the country icon had even been announced as part of the bill, and by the time this set wrapped up, they were all converts to her rock-infused style of country and soul.
Wynonna let loose a call of the wild growl and the band slid straight and hard into the good 'n' greasy blues belter, "Ain't No Thing," co-written by fellow country soul singer and Eastern Kentucky native Chris Stapleton with John Scott Sherrill.
Staying right in pocket in that slide-guitar blues rivulet carved through hearts by Bonnie Raitt, Wynonna burned up "Staying in Love," by Raphael Saadiq, famed R&B and neo soul producer and founder of Tony! Toni! Tone!
Wynonna gave a sweet confessional intro to "You Are So Beautiful" co-written by Ashley Warren with her husband and drummer Cactus Moser. "So, let's talk about me. I am in love with a concept. At my age, there is hope girls... Everything just looks different, it tastes different, and it looks like that, " Wynonna told the crowd pointing at her husband Cactus, formerly of Highway 101, on the drums.
Wynonna, who would share a total of seven songs from Wynonna & the Big Noise (Curb, 2016), was at her best viewing her visit through the lens of home.
"My people.” Wynonna cried out to the audience introducing the haunting song, "Keeps Me Alive." "My hometown is an hour from here, I have been thinking all day about the years we spent here in Appalachia. My mama raised me and my sister with nothing, but our hopes and dreams. I had my guitar and I would stand out on the back porch and sing to the heavens and beg God to take me off of that mountain and he did. But as life would have it, I have to return to the well. It reminds me of who I am - that 18 year old singing from my toenails and playing my guitar like it was on fire. That is where my dreams began. A girl that had nothing and that wanted everything and that is what this song is all about."
Then slowly, surgically and soulfully, she peeled back the emotional layers of Sarah Siskind's "Keeps Me Alive," which featured Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi on the recorded version. With a hushed acoustic burn and Charlie White's searing slide guitar, Wynonna cried out for all the lonely dreamers like her. "This is my story, this is my glory/this is what keeps me alive/This is me flying, this is me trying/This is what keeps me alive."
Ain’t No Thing (John Scott Sherrill/Chris Stapleton)
Staying in Love (Raphael Saadiq)
Keeps Me Alive (Sarah Siskind)
You are So Beautiful (Ashley Warren/Cactus Moser)
Cool Ya (Lisa Carver/Andrew Ripp)
Things That I Lean On (Travis Meadows/Mark Daniel Sanders)
You Make My Heart Beat Too Fast (Julie Miller)