Vince Gill @ Mesa Arts Center

Vince Gill's star has dimmed in the past decade. He hasn't scored a country Top Ten single since 2000's "Feels Like Love," but it certainly has more to do with Nashville's shift toward younger, pop-inflected artists than the 53-year-old Gill's having lost his golden touch as a writer and performer. Though country critics are justifiably gushing over neo-outlaw Jamey Johnson's just-released double album, The Guitar Song, Gill's whopping four-disc, 43-song, Grammy-winning 2006 album, These Days, cannot be overlooked as the heavyweight champ for multi-disc country sets this decade. Divided into four distinct parts spanning country rock, Western jazz swing, bluegrass, and traditional honky-tonk, These Days showcases Gill's prodigious talents as a songwriter, singer, and multi-instrumentalist. Long an advocate for Nashville's younger artists to honor the traditions and the Opry legends that shaped country music, Gill may not score chart-topping hits anymore, but he has established himself as something ultimately more important than just another hat-of-the-month country singer: He's become the same kind of legend and traditionalist he so fervently and outspokenly promotes in the press. Gill refused to cash in his integrity, took his chances on releasing a four-disc album that may have well have had a "commercial failure" warning sticker on it (come on, bluegrass?) and went from being the ultimate Nashville insider, hosting awards shows and winning plenty of awards himself, to being the ultimate renegade outsider. And he's all the better for it.


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