Surprisingly, Iowa native and country singer/songwriter Hailey Whitters was in no rush to gush about her upbeat song Happy People, recently recorded by super group Little Big Town (LBT), during her enjoyable set Saturday night at the Triple Crown Bar & Raccoon Motel. She was back in Iowa from Nashville with a job to do – entertain – and that is what she did.
Hailey and her ace three-piece backing band played about 90 minutes before a sold-out, SRO crowd of about 75 at the kitschy Davenport, IA, venue opened just a week earlier by local music man Sean Moeller. Sean prepped the lively crowd for Hailey by spinning a good bit of the vinyl version of Alabama’s “Feels So Right” album. I’ll bet he plucked that record from his folks’ collection.
That segue and Hailey’s high energy performance definitely gave the evening a honky tonk vibe. A couple of times as she was belting out country songs it flashed through my imagination I might have been perched by the tiny stage at Robert’s Western World in Nashville. My friend Cathy and her daughter Claire and I enjoyed the music. And like at Robert’s, there are lots of things to look at along the walls at Raccoon, including a Winnebago toy camper, a fox with cigarette hanging off his lip, a light-up cowboy boot and the odd fish with a megaphone, plus lots more you’ll just have to check out yourself.
Hailey and the band delivered a packed show with her own country rockers like Long Come to Jesus and Black Sheep; story songs like Legal Grass about her grandpa’s sod farm and Low All Afternoon (which Martina McBride recorded); plus quite a few pop country covers like Alan Jackson’s Crazy ‘Bout a Mercury and snippets of Dixie Chick’s “There’s Your Trouble, McBride’s My Baby Loves Me and Tricia Yearwood’s XXXs and OOOs. She also delivered some crowd pleasers like Sheryl Crow’s A Change Would Do You Good and Tom Petty’s American Girl.
But my favorite moments were the acoustic delivery of her poignant ballad One More Hell, a song she wrote after her 19 year old brother died in a car accident a few years ago, plus the aforementioned uptempo Happy People which she sang late in the show.
After the set I congratulated Hailey about Happy People’s early success. “Will it change your life?” I asked. “Yes, I hope so!” replied Hailey, who grew up about 70 miles from Davenport in Shueyville, IA, population 600.
Probably that song already has changed things for Hailey. Last week she flew to Las Vegas to attend the ACMs where she watched LBT sing her song on national TV and she got to rub shoulders with music industry legends including her famous co-writer Lori McKenna (Humble and Kind and Girl Crush).
According to comments Hailey made on the video below, she was asked to join Ms. McKenna in Boston last August for an enviable co-writing session. Hailey suggested the theme after watching folks hang out in a park the day before the writing session. The song is a nice antidote to the worry and fretting we all seem to be guilty of and it looks to be a hit, now moving up the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. Good for Hailey.
And good for Sean Moeller, who has booked Hailey a couple times, for once again demonstrating a knack for picking performers about to bust out. That’s good for smiles on the faces of music-loving Iowans.
Find Hailey’s latest album Black Sheep at iTunes here.
The video of Hailey Whitters performing Happy People is linked from her YouTube channel where it was uploaded March 1, 2017. It was originally recorded on February 2, 2017 at Music City Roots in Franklin, TN. I claim no rights to this content.
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