It’s a rare and beautiful thing to see artists support each other so readily and joyfully as the members of Ten Out of Tenn do. The Nashville artists’ collective founded by singer/songwriter Trent Dabbs and his wife, marketing maven Kristen, is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year — part of which included an encore screening of their Any Day Now documentary and a reunion show at Ryman Auditorium this past week.
Dabbs — along with Gabe Dixon, Matthew Perryman Jones, Katie Herzig, Andy Davis, Andrew Belle, Butterfly Boucher, k.s. Rhoads, Erin McCarley, Tyler James, and Amy Stroup (plus drummer Will Sayles) — took to the legendary stage in front of a sold-out hometown crowd and it was hard to know who was more excited to be there — the audience or the artists. A TOT show isn’t your standard affair. Over the course of an evening, each artist steps to the front for only two songs, playing supporting roles for others along the way so that everyone benefits from the musicianship of the whole group. It’s a wonderful model, with a dynamic variety of styles ebbing and flowing over the course of a few hours.
Dixon started the night with a minimal set up, adding bass, drums, and more voices as he made his way through the jaunty “All Will Be Well.” With an injection of rock energy, Jones emerged second and cut it all loose on “Waking Up the Dead” to let everyone know we were in for a helluva ride. From the slinky groove of Belle’s “Pieces” to the folk-rock rumble of Dabbs’ “Mountain Song” to the rousing pop of Herzig’s “Lost and Found,” each artist brought their best to the performance. And every piece was equally effective, in its own right, making the most of the talent at hand — as evidenced by Rhoads’ 10-voices strong rendering of “Invincible Fortress.”
Other highlights included Jones daring Nashville‘s Sam Palladio to join in on “Can’t Get It Right” (which he did); Boucher bringing the house all the way down with a new song, “It Pulls Me Under;” McCarley soaring her voice up to the rafters on a gorgeous piano ballad, “Let Me Love You” (which included Rhoads on a classical interlude of Debussy’s “Clair de Lune”); Rhoads, again, rocking all the faces off with “Orphaned;” and Herzig stopping the show (quite literally) with “Wish You Well,” after which the whole gang returned for an off-mic encore of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released.”
Ten Out of Tenn is such a beautiful example of what is possible in music when artists join together to support each other and create a community, and everyone in that audience was a testament to the whole “If you build it, they will come” manta. And, though they might have not walked in with one, it’s hard to imagine that anyone left the Ryman that night without a huge smile on their face.