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The songs that make up Music City Hit-Makers, part of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra's 2017-18 Pops Live! season, are regulation three-minute, chorus-heavy tales of love, family and life lessons. It's the stories that accompany those songs that make the show's main attraction.

Grammy-winning Nashville, Tenn., songwriters Chris DeStefano, Marcus Hummon and Rivers Rutherford joined with studio musicians and Arkansas Symphony Orchestra musicians Saturday at Little Rock's Robinson Center to present an evening of interaction between performers and audience members.

The spark came from hearing the back stories of how some of the songs came to be. The stories dominated, proving more memorable than the glitzy pop music. None of these songs will ever be heard on Sirius' outlaw country station. After DeStefano belted out a soul-filled number, an obviously impressed Rutherford commented: "That's somethin'. But I don't know what it has to do with country" -- a joke, funny for its grain of truth.

From DeStefano's ingratiating praise of his colleagues to Hummon's rambling approach and Rutherford's folksy punch-lined sagas, it was as much a night of stand-up as it was a night of music.

Topics that intertwined with songs like DeStefano's "Hey Girl," "Little Toy Guns" and "Kick the Dust Up," Hummon's "Born to Fly" and "Cowboy Take Me Away" and Rutherford's rowdy "Real Good Man" and "These are My People" ranged from funny to poignant.

Family was much discussed, as when DeStefano gushed about his nearly year-old daughter Bella Luna and Rutherford charmingly reminisced about proposing to the girl who was his sister's college roommate, then driving from Memphis to southern Alabama to ask her daddy for her hand (they've been married for 25 years).

Hummon's escapades with the Dixie Chicks made for good copy, as did DeStefano's idolatry of Carrie Underwood, with whom he collaborates regularly (they wrote "The Champion," performed by Underwood and Ludacris, which was featured on the recent telecast of the Super Bowl).

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Geoffrey Robson, performed flawlessly; its contribution to the concert, arranged for symphony orchestra by Charles Judge, sounded like it was always meant to be there.

Music City Hit-Makers will be performed again at 3 p.m. today at the Robinson Center. More information is available at (501) 666-1761 or arkansassymphony.org.

Metro on 02/11/2018

Print Headline: Stories prove most memorable as Hit-Makers take center stage

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