First, let me say that you need to make it a point to see Travis Tritt live if you get the opportunity. I got the chance Friday (7/14), and it’s an incredible experience. You’ll get country, Southern rock, and even some blues, and you’ll leave amazed at the vocal ability and range of styles covered by Tritt, not to mention impressed by his own guitar picking and the talent of his whole band and drawn in by his infectious attitude onstage.
AT some point during many country shows lately, you’ll usually get some reference to the crappy state of modern mainstream music–Jason Eady made mention of this to considerable approval–and/or nods to older artists and perhaps covers of these artists’ songs–both Jason Eady and Dwight Yoakam covered Merle Haggard at recent events I attended. In these respects, Travis Tritt was no different; he asked us all if we were fans of “honest to God country music” and then quickly stipulated that he didn’t mean “a lot of what you hear today.” He went on to cite artists like Waylon Jennings, George Jones, and Loretta Lynn before introducing his song “Outlaws Like Us,” previously recorded with Hank Jr. and Waylon. He apparently doesn’t rate Luke Bryan too high on the list because after a couple minutes of downright impressive guitar picking, he finally broke into the song with a cheerful, “Eat your heart out, Luke Bryan!” to ridiculous applause.
But there is one new artist that Travis Tritt not only respects but actually covered later in the show. After remarking on the newer artists in country music and saying that it makes him feel good when they say he influenced them, he said, in order to honor that, he’d do a song from his favorite new country artist. That’s not something you see every day; it’s one thing for him to cover one of his own influences, but to pay respect to a younger, newer artist by covering their song at your show is the ultimate stamp of approval. And with that, he announced “a little Chris Stapleton song,” “Nobody to Blame.”
It’s not just that it’s Chris Stapleton he picked, although that’s certainly noteworthy in itself given Stapleton’s lack of radio support and traditional leanings. It’s that he’s showing leadership by choosing to cover a new artist’s song at all, especially one that doesn’t fit the mainstream mold. Like I say, it’s no small thing for an established artist to cover a newer one, even given the incredible streak Stapleton’s been on. And when he’s out there saying stuff like not all country that’s around today is real, and “eat your heart out, Luke Bryan,” he’s not just approving of Chris Stapleton, he’s setting Stapleton apart and saying that here’s an artist in 2017 who’s doing it right. That in turn sets Tritt apart from the “old farts and jackasses” who want country to stay in a box and never move forward. We all know Tritt has been vocal in the past about things like Beyoncé being booked on the CMA’s, but this support of an artist like Stapleton proves he’s not just here to complain. It’s a great way of doing his part to show leadership in the genre. Cool stuff, glad I got to witness it!