Earl Dibbles, Jr. dominates the New Faces stage at Country Radio Seminar


For decades, the New Faces show at Country Radio Seminar in Nashville has dared to predict who’ll be the biggest stars of tomorrow. But in 2017, the act who made the biggest impression of the night wasn’t even on the bill.

Drake White started his set with a comic video that pointed out he’s not the mega-superstar also named Drake. The energetic performer pummeled through his four-song set that included both his breakthrough hit “Livin’ the Dream” and his soulful current single, “Makin’ Me Look Good Again.”

Neo-traditionalist William Michael Morgan managed to squeeze in the most songs of the night — five — while keeping  the chat to a minimum and delivering his SamHunt-penned #1, “I Met a Girl,” as well as his latest release, “Missing.”

Then things really got interesting when Granger Smith took the stage. “If the Boot Fits” led into his cover of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’,” which morphed into his chart-topper, “Backroad Song.”

Then Granger disappeared– and his alter ego appeared.  William Michael Morgan returned in a video clip to explain that a song from Granger’s alter ego, Earl Dibbles, Jr., was essential.  Earl eventually emerged onstage, wearing only overalls and and a biceps-baring tank top. After performing his tune, he shotgunned two beers and autographed his shirt, before ripping it off and tossing it into the audience. As a bare-chested Granger Smith let both straps of his overalls hang to his knees, it was apparent he’d worked harder than anyone on the stage.

Jon Pardi had the unenviable task of following Granger’s revealing set, but he had the distinction of being the only artist of the night who has one #1 under his belt who is about to have another. His song list included both “Head Over Boots” and “Dirt on My Boots.”

Grammy nominee Maren Morris closed out the night, revealing that “I Could Use a Love Song” is her new single — and that “My Church” is an anthem that embraces both the history of country music and its genre-melding future.

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