Live music is a great gathering tool, pulling people together to celebrate through song. Such was the case on January 9 at Nashville’s 3rd & Lindsley for the HerHRC benefit featuring Mindy Smith, Maggie Rose, Shelly Fairchild, Bonnie Baker, and Cheley Tackett singing for a room full of gay women and their allies.
Tackett got things rolling with a short, four-song set, then Baker was up. With cuts by everyone from Reba McEntire to Hunter Hayes, Baker is known primarily as a songwriter, but she steps into the spotlight on special occasions such as this. And, tonight, she really went for it right out of the gate. Accompanied by Shawn Byrne on guitar and background vocals, Baker preached some heartfelt truths with “Nothing in Between Us” and “Runway,” brought out guest vocalist Johnny K to lay his soulful voice all over “Sacred Ground,” and poured every ounce of heart she had into “Invisible.” It’s a powerful thing when a messenger believes so deeply in their own message.
After saying she was thrilled to be playing the night because she was “super gay,” Fairchild jokingly asked, “Did I just come out?” before offering up the first single from her first record, “You Don’t Lie Here Anymore,” which was also the first song she wrote after moving to Nashville a bunch of years ago. Talking about her “I Want to Love You” and how country radio had no idea it was a song about lady-on-lady love, Fairchild mused, “Country radio doesn’t know that a lot of songs are written by girls who like girls.” Her introduction to “I See You,” a song reminiscent in theme to Baker’s “Invisible,” called to mind a great Ash Beckham quote: “If you don’t see my gayness, then you don’t see me… If you do not see the struggle that is unique to my human experience because I am gay, then you don’t see me.” Fairchild has a heckuva voice, and she can belt it out or soften it up, depending on what the song requires.
The awfully chaming Maggie Rose, known for her recent “Girl in Your Truck Song,” did some belting out of her own on thoroughly soulful cuts like “I Ain’t Your Mama” and “Better,” which she set up by saying, “If you’re having a shitty time, this is for you.” Mindy Smith closed the evening by opening with a vibey, almost dark take on Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” a tune Smith cut for a 2003 tribute album. After rolling out the always popular “Tennessee,” Smith explained that she’d always wanted to have a gay anthem like the Indigo Girls’ “Closer to Fine,” but “Out Loud” was as close as she had come. Wrapping up her set, Smith went with the breakthrough song from her debut album, “Come to Jesus,” and she was met with hoots and hollers for the choice.
The night raised $4,500 for the Human Rights Campaign and, judging by the smiling faces, even more spirits.
Photo by Abby Frenes. This article originally appeared on No Depression.