By Bill Copeland on April 23, 2019
Dedicated to chart topping country music star Kenny Chesney, No Shoes Nation is a tribute band on a roll. This act shines because of the professional musicians who render the songs in fine, emotive, energetic detail and the atmosphere created by their enthusiastic audiences. Last Saturday night’s show at the Hard Rock Café in Boston, Massachusetts clearly illustrated both qualities coming together to create one fine evening.
Opening song “Reality” spread the band’s talents wide. Lead singer Daniel Wray sang with a macho delivery and a chirpy timbre. Lead guitarist Rick Risti played a wonderful phrase that stretched out like a banner. That wideness of sound combined with the live audiences heart felt reception made one feel like it was an event, not just a bunch of guys playing in a bar.
“Summertime” found Risti seeming to coax the melodic phrase out of thin air, an arcing melody that gave Wray a bright platform to bounce his amicable croon off of. This singer has a way of making his vocal feel like a buoyant wave as well something that coats gold over all of Chesney’s lyrics. Created was a joyful feeling for the audience to react to with dancing, cheering, and whatever else filled the Hard Rock with a celebratory glee.
After the first two number it was clear that this band does not just get the Chesney songs right. This band makes people feel happy as one collective audience, strangers brought together by the allure of good cheer. “Til It’s Gone” was another No Shoes nation finessed with a Chesney kind of charm. Wray’s vocal traveled breezily over Risti’s brittle notes to build another momentum.
Risti’s lead guitar line purred with tender urgency on “Don’t Blink,” a number that tasked Wray with keeping the warm pace on just this side of tenderness. Wray draws the audience gently toward the chorus, an anthem that makes one feel respect and appreciation for family life, his handsome vocal making one feel what this tune is all about.
“Don’t Happen Twice” offered Leo Melanson’s purty pedal steel twang, a melody line that sweetened this mid-tempo dandy. Harmony vocals also widened the sound, making it feel like an embrace. Larry Novak’s simmering organ chords gave it more spirit, and Wray carried it home with a smooth vocal.
Wray’s assertive acoustic guitar work provided a nice slapping motion behind “American Kids.” Meanwhile, his voice skipped well throughout the snappy chorus. Watching the audience members sing along to this joyful ode to growing up in America was as much of the fun as following what the band was doing. Everyone there loved singing out “Growin’ up in little pink houses/Makin’ out on living room couches/Blowin’ that smoke on a Saturday night/A little messed up, but we’re all alright.”
Likewise, the lyrical references to the summer carnival in “Anything But Mine” was another high moment for the band to connect to its Hard Rock crowd. This theme of life in the heartland felt real when Risti’s lead guitar phrase went out wide to lasso in everyone in the house with its bright, shiny tone. Wray’s gentlemanly croon seem to inspire dancing as much as the rhythm section of bass man Bob Catalano and drummer Lenny Shea,
Feeling like a forlorn message amidst the din, “Noise” came across well as Wray sang it out with a slightly plaintive tone. Rocking guitar rang out the frustration of the Tennessee boy and the whole thing moved forward with a modern rock charge and southern country swoop. “How Forever Feels” let Melanson showcase more of his instrumental skills before the southern rock feel of “Pirate Flag” let him do his thing on mandolin, tiny, brittle notes that shined like crazy amidst the twisty turns in the rhythm. And talk about audience participation, one fan was waving the band’s black and white No Shoes Nation Band flag.
Melanson’s swiftly picked pedal steel notes flavored “She’s Got It All” with shiny, twangy little bits of sound. After dedicating “Boys Of Fall” to the New England Patriots, No Shoes Nation Band went into that sweeping, lilting number about growing up in a football town Wray’s considerate vocal allowed a puff of emotion in each verse, the guitars and piano notes, meanwhile, fell like a soft rain, landing on the listener’s sweet spot.
The rhythm section kept “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” bouncy, percussive fun, a groove that worked well with shards of lead guitar and twangy bright pedal steel. A local favorite, “Boston,” about the girl with the Red Sox cap, went over well. Its pop charm, warm vocal, and elegant guitar work each adding something special to this softly catchy tune.
Daniel Wray closed out the first set all by his own self, playing a mighty acoustic guitar to “Old Blues Chair.” Boy, did that voice, guitar, and message carry well in the wide open space of the Hard Rock’s music lounge.
Melanson got a nice country twang out of the pedal steel on “No Shoes No Shirt No Problem,” a sweet number that found a good home amidst dancing fans who sang out the chorus. The audience choral seem to inspired Wray to send his voice booming out over the easy going theme underlying this pretty, mid tempo number.
An electric guitar bleeding its emotive inspiration lead into “Somewhere With You,” a sad long of loss and longing complete with a twisty chorus and a feeling that feels like it will never end. More modern rock than country, it was a nice addition to the show. The unwieldy tune “Bar At The End Of The World” had more rock guitar influences, organ swirls, and a chugging groove that kept many fans moving their feet.
“There Goes My Life” was a popular with the crowd slow dance number with Saturday night’s crowd. Wray’s mellow vocal made the song connect with the audience, based on how many were singing along with bright smiles and a few wiping their eyes.
Getting back into more upbeat territory, No Shoes went into “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy.” Melanson got to whip up a whistling fiddle melody beside a frisky lead guitar phrase. Wray pulled all of the friendly quirkiness out of this song with understated delivery. Novack’s honky tonk piano tinkling and the tune’s shuffling two step kept this one firmly rooted in classic country as the band rocked things up.
No Shoes next turned in an energetic rendition of “Big Star.” Wray sang out beautifully during this ironic study of a rising singing star from a small town, injecting it with warmth as it traveled the lyrical territory of fame and fortune. Moving onto “All The Pretty Girls” kept things rocking. Risti’s lead guitar seemed to keep reaching new heights of fun, whipping out chord after chord.
The rushing fun vocals of “Beer In Mexico” moved the song through its large waves of guitar and groove, a crowd favorite injected with many highs.
The band closed with “Out Last Night,” a pop country charmer in which slivers of organ, a peppy rhythm section, and an arcing lead vocal came together in a sweet connection of fun. It was also a fine farewell for now from the band to their fans.
No Shoes Nation have turned their high caliber musical talents and their love for this music and adoration of their fans into one fine evening. Going to see this country tribute band isn’t just about the music. It’s a special event where happy, friendly people come out to meet and sing and dance with other happy, friendly people. It’s not just good music. It’s a guaranteed good time.
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The Song That Started It All
The Story Behind The Making Of "It's A Good Day"
" It’s A Good Day"
My daughter Elise was married in September of 2012. It was a Glorious day that I will remember as long as I am on this earth. About a year prior to that day, my daughter came to me to ask what song I would like to dance to, for the Daughter & Daddy dance at the wedding reception. I thought for quite a while on this and decided on “There Goes My Life” by Kenny Chesney.
I played the song for Elise and her mother Wanda in my studio, and as the song ended I turned around to find them both all teared up and sobbing on the couch. It’s an emotional song, with a great story, and a clever twist in the lyrics, reflected in the title of the song. At that moment I decide that this is my one opportunity in life to write a song, that would have the same emotional impact, but with a more personal story that would be about my daughter, and our relationship as Father and Daughter.
So I first made a call to my Good Buddy, Incredible Guitar Player and friend for over 35 years Rick Risti to help me with the construction of the Music bed behind the song. He came up with the opening guitar lick, which is absolutely beautiful. And we built the song around that, changed the arrangement to have a Chorus, a Bridge and a Guitar Solo and, and left me with a rough sketch to build the rest of the song. I added Drums, Bass and Keyboards, and then it was down to composing the lyrics. Writing the lyrics for this song is by far one of the hardest things I have ever done artistically. I spent the better part of the next 9 months writing, re-writing and editing, trying my best write lyrics that were heartfelt, emotional and tell a story that would give the effect of time passing too quickly. I also had to come up with a clever title. “It’s A Good Day” Was Born.
Now my only task was to record the lyrics. As much as I tried, and as many times as I have tried, I couldn’t get through the first verse without getting all emotional and tearing up. So I recorded it line by line as best I could, but felt the song needed a better vocal delivery. Emotionally, I just could not do it. So I made the call to one of the best singers I know, and have recorded and worked with for well over 20 years Daniel Wray Bergeron. Danny and I have recorded some amazing songs together. It was always a dream of mine to work with Danny in a band, and having been a closet Country Music lover, as of late, I thought he would be a perfect fit, as I have always told Danny, that a lot of his songs would sound amazing as country songs.
So I emailed Danny and told him the story above, and then I asked him if he would be interested in singing the song for me. He agreed and I sent him the song with my vocal on it to learn the arrangement and vocal phrasing. He came to the studio a few weeks later and recorded the vocal in one take. It was Amazing, all of the emotion that I wanted to convey, and the heartfelt delivery was there. Again, I had to wipe the tears from my eyes, as the song was nearly complete. But it was still missing that one defining instrument that gives a song a country feel. Pedal Steel Guitar. I just happened to know one of the best Pedal Steel Guitarists this side of Nashville, my good friend Bill Holbrook. I have worked with Bill in the Lexi James Band, went to Nashville with him and the band, and I have had him record his amazing Pedal Steel guitar on several of my client’s recordings. Bill is an amazing talent, and he willingly agreed to record Pedal Steel on It’s a Good Day. Bill has the uncanny ability to play on virtually any song, without ever hearing it, and produce amazing results. This recording session was no exception. He did three takes, all amazing, and I can’t thank Bill enough.
To put the frosting on the cake of an already great sounding song, I needed a guitar solo, so once again my Best Bud Rick Risti returned to add his amazing guitar playing to the song. He added an incredible electric guitar solo, and some electric guitar fills. At that point I thought the song was complete, except for mixing and mastering. About a month past and I got a call from Rick Risti. He felt that the song would have a better emotional impact with an acoustic guitar solo and some guitar harmony in the solo. I agree, and what he came up with that day was beautiful, the song was complete, the finished product is what you hear in the video.
But the fun wasn’t over yet! It was a week before the wedding and I thought I should break the surprise to my wife Wanda. Up to this point she thought that my good buddy Danny Wray was going to sing “There Goes My Life” to a Karaoke Track at the reception for the Daughter Daddy dance, and everyone would love it. I told her what I had been working on for the past few months, and handed her a copy of the lyrics. She read them as tears flowed from her eyes, and she had not even heard the song yet. I then brought her down to the studio so that she could hear what Rick, Dan Bill & I had labored over for the past few months. Again tears started flowing, and I knew we had succeeded in creating a timeless song for our Daughter Daddy Dance. Her reaction was priceless.
Then came the big day. The only people who knew were the band members, and my wife. As the time for our special dance came near, I wrapped my arms around my little girl, cued the DJ & Dan, and he said “This song was written by the Father of the Bride, This is for you Elise” ..and whispered in my daughters ear, “This Is For You baby girl”! I Love You! I tried as best as I could to hold my composure, and I did very well till the end when the song was over. We both turned around to the invited guests as the song ended to see a room full of teared up, family, and friends who gave us a standing ovation.
Its moments like this that live over and over again in your head. I will cherish that moment forever, and the entire year before the wedding as my friends and I crafted a beautiful celebration of a Father giving his daughter away, "to the Man She Married today" . And on the anniversary of that special day, I re-share the song on Facebook, and it all comes back to that Very Special Day.
Thanks for reading The Story Behind “It’s A Good Day”!