When Gwyneth Paltrow decided to debut the title song from her upcoming film ‘Country Strong,’ her first-ever live musical performance, she could have slipped unnoticed into some small Nashville bar and worked out the track surreptitiously. Instead, she chose to close last week’s Country Music Awards, the biggest platform in the genre, and duet with veteran Vince Gill.
It was an audacious move, but one that paid off. Ken Tucker, managing editor for Country Weekly, was in the crowd during her performance. “As soon as she finished, the standing ovation started from the front where all the artists, producers and industry people are seated,” said Tucker. “It’s one thing to do something that you can do multiple takes on like acting or recording in a studio, but this was in front of a sold out arena with millions of people watching from home and the first 10 rows filled with country’s biggest stars, and she pulled it off. She was right up there with the other singers.”
Despite technical difficulties at the track’s onset, Paltrow garnered unanimous acclaim both within and outside the country music community for her authenticity and powerful vocal range. “She was very intense in her delivery, ” noted Jeff Remz, editor and publisher of online magazine Country Standard Time. “At first, she was getting her footing, but 30 seconds into the song, she seemed to be more comfortable. She did a solid, credible job of keeping a country vibe. She was closing her eyes and digging in deep to the song.”
This was a performance that Paltrow clearly did not take lightly, as the actress admitted to grilling Faith Hill and studying Beyoncé concerts to prepare for the performance. Paltrow learned to play guitar specifically for the movie and contributed four songs to the film’s soundtrack.