ROLLINGSTONE.COM — See Vince Gill, James Taylor’s Heavenly Take on ‘Bartender’s Blues’
By Joseph Hudak
On Tuesday night in Los Angeles, an all-star cast of musicians came together to benefit the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Vince Gill, James Taylor, Chris Stapleton, Joe Walsh and Kacey Musgraves anchored the ninth annual L.A. installment of All for the Hall, and the highlights were many, including a heavenly version of Taylor’s “Bartender Blues.”
Originally recorded for Taylor’s 1977 JT album, the ballad was later cut by George Jones and served as the title track to his 1978 Bartender’s Blues LP. Onstage at the Novo by Microsoft theatre, Gill kicked off the song, with Taylor joining him on the chorus and later taking “the smoke fills the air” verse. But it’s the harmonies that distinguish the collaboration, as Taylor’s lived-in voice complements Gill’s high notes.
Through it all, Walsh, Stapleton and Musgraves look on in rapt attention, aware that they too are privy to something special.
Musgraves even teared up at one point, after Gill asked Taylor to sing “You’ve Got a Friend,” in honor of golf legend Arnold Palmer, who died over the weekend. Said Musgraves, “I’m actually crying. That’s so sweet.”