by Linda Burlingame
Down Home Country at the Grand Country Music Hall is filled with extraordinary talent and an excellent lineup of songs that make you smile, tap your feet, and think, “I love that song!” The pace of the show is grand, too; it’s well produced, fast-paced and entertaining from beginning to end.
When comedian Jarrett Dougherty (who’s quick and very clever!) chats with the audience before the curtain goes up, he asks, “Where y’all from?” Well, they’re from everywhere — New Jersey, Indiana, Minnesota, Colorado, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Montana — people come from across the country to enjoy live music shows in Branson. Recently named Morning Show of the Year, the Down Home Country show has an award-winning cast and band, too. Host Jamie Haage (Entertainer of the Year) kicks things off with fellow fiddlers Melody Hart and Wayne Massengale and a rousing rendition of Uncle Pen, that great fiddle tune — “You could hear it talk, you could hear it sing!” (Note: keep an eye on Wayne; whether he’s front and center or biding his time back with the band, he is having FUN, dancing in place, making eyes at the audience. But don’t let his antics fool you — he’s a seven-time winner of Fiddler of the Year!)
I especially liked Jamie’s upbeat version of Glen Campbell’s Gentle on my Mind. And everyone looks so nice, fellows in coordinated Western shirts, Melody in a variety of stylish outfits. I enjoyed the innovative band member introductions, too. As they’re introduced, each plays and/or sings a few bars from a favorite song. Larry Allred (bass guitar and vocals), Under Your Spell; Wayne Massengale (fiddle), Breakdown on the Freeway; Michael W. Davis (piano and musical director), Kiss an Angel Good Morning; Chad Cathell (lead guitar), Hot Wired; Rob Blackburn (drums), I Love a Rainy Night (love that Eddie Rabbitt song!); Greg Moody (steel guitar), Country Boy.
Jamie and Wayne do fantastic fiddlin’ work on Melody’s version of Welcome to My World. A favorite on Branson stages for many years, Melody not only has a beautiful voice but also a charming stage presence. She sings a fun “If-the-Beattles-had-come-from-Texas” version of All My Loving! Melody has several times been Branson’s Fiddler of the Year, and earlier this year she was voted Fiddler of the Year by Arkansas Country Music Awards.
Mel Tillis, who died last year, wrote and recorded so many hit songs and was on stage in Branson for many years. Kudos to Down Home Country for making a six-song medley tribute to Mel part of their show!
Watch the video closely during Larry Allred’s Golden Rings. From pawnshop to chapel, it’s a fun escapade with a surprise ending! More fun during the show with Jarrett’s characters — “Fannie Pack,” Jamie’s fan club president; “Freddie Fender” (I couldn’t keep my eyes off his boots!); “Richard Simmons” … and wait ‘til you hear “Cowboy Carl’s” eyeball story!
Jarrett’s patriotic poem and Jamie’s God Bless the USA are an appropriate tribute to our Veterans. A Gospel medley includes I Saw the Light and Walking in Jerusalem. One of my favorites, San Antonio Stroll, is part of their Sing Along Country Favorites. Great music all through the show!
Grand Country Resort offers grand amenities. There are other shows. There’s lodging — including rooms with Kid’s Clubhouse, how fun! Dining includes Grand Country Buffet and Papa Grand’s Pizza. With cooler weather here, kids will love Splash Country indoor water park. That will work up an appetite; luckily the Mining Company Grill is located inside Splash Country, with made-to-order burgers and fries, chicken and fish sandwiches, Caesar salads … even funnel cakes. It might be too cold to camp, but you can enjoy “camper food” at Minnie’s Camper, the 1950’s-inspired vintage food camper. Grand Country Resort is a one-stop vacation destination!