Tanner Davenport, the co-director for the Black Opry Revue, was looking for a community. A biracial kid of a single mom who loved country music, Davenport was born 25 miles north of the heart of Americana, Nashville, Tennessee. He thought he had found community in his church until he came out as gay. A student of Christian music and working at a Christian radio station, he wasn’t accepted so he decided to give up his dream of working in the music industry in favor of being authentically himself.
Little did he know, his love for country music would be the thing that would bring community and music back into his life.
“Country music was a huge monumental thing for me,” says Davenport. “I always just associated the strength of my mom raising me as a single parent with the strength of women in country music. I relate my mom to that and it’s comforting for me.”
During COVID, he began to look for community and ran across Holly G, who was also live-tweeting about an episode of the podcast Color Me Country which focuses on the Black, Indigenous, and Latinx histories of country music. A Black musician herself, Holly was reevaluating her place in country music in the wake of George Floyd. She was asking herself questions like “How does this music apply to me?” and realizing that she didn’t see herself reflected in the world of country music.
An instant connection was formed as the two discovered new artists and new music that looked like them and Black Opry was born.
“We actually met in person for the first time at the 2021 CMAs,” says Davenport. And from there, well, it’s been a whirlwind. From coverage in Rolling Stone, to an induction at the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Black Opry Revue is still only in the early stages of making its mark on the industry.
“Both Holly and I are musicians and artists, but we don’t have any intention to make it about ourselves. That’s the beautiful part. The Black Opry Revue is artist-focused.” Every engagement of the Black Opry Revue is unique. Davenport books different talents and musicians depending on the area, curating an experience that feels tailor-made for the Fort Collins audience.
True to its Nashville routes, Black Opry Revue will have five artists performing in a Writers’ Round, or as some know it, a Guitar Pull. “Using the Writers’ Round showcases a side of Nashville that you might not see in other places,” explains Davenport. “It’s so popular that there isn’t a night that a Writers’ Round isn’t happening in Nashville.”
The Black Opry Revue isn’t limited to just new or emerging artists. Even older, established artists are known to join in on a Writers’ Round to workshop their new pieces. When asked who will be on the Writers’ Round for Fort Collins, Davenport gets notably excited as he lists the artist.
“The first is Garry Blackchild. He is a super creative artist with incredible guitar skills,” says Davenport. Indeed, Blackchild is well-loved in Taos, New Mexico, and known for his energetic shows. His style is described as train-hopping folk music.
Next, we will be treated to Nicky Diamonds. “If you can imagine a bootlegger’s barn situation in an old Wild West film, Nicky is providing that soundtrack,” says Davenport. “He’s super proud of being from Texas, and has an incredible softness to his voice which can be powerful at a moment’s notice. Anytime people see Nicky Diamonds, they are blown away.”
“One of the great parts of how we operate in Black Opry is that we provide a platform for anyone at any stage of their career,” says Davenport, and that is exactly how they became aware of Rachel Maxann. “She’s from Memphis, which has a rich history blues, folk and a little bit of rock. She has a great, powerful voice that will just leave you in awe.”
Next, Fort Collins will be treated to Ally Free. “Ally Free was a great discovery,” says Davenport. “We actually met him at an East Nashville karaoke bar called the Lipstick Lounge. It’s a safe space to escape to and feel welcome. When the Black Opry was on deck, we were told that we had to listen to Ally Free sing. He did a cover of ‘Creep’ by Radiohead, and it was the best cover/vocal performance I have ever seen. We invited him to sing with us for a benefit. Within three weeks, Ally Free went from singing at karaoke bars weekly to being mentioned in Rolling Stone,” Davenport says with pride.
Nick Tabron is the final artists, and Davenport is effusive about his talent. “Nick is a really sweet, gentle Teddy Bear. Winnie-the-Pooh personified. His sweetness when he sings brings a whole different style to country music that you would never expect, especially because his voice is very cool and raspy.”
Still, the Black Opry Revue is a show unlike Fort Collins has seen in a long time. People may wonder what to expect.
“When people go to a Black Opry show, one of two things will happen,” says Davenport. “One, they’ll think ‘I’ve never seen anything like this before’ and two, they’ll say ‘I didn’t know I was a fan of country music.’ It shows that this performance will expand people’s eyes, ears and mind to things that are different.”
“People often ask, ‘How do I continue to feel the way I feel right now?’ after they see a show,” continues Davenport. “You do it by supporting the artists. Please sign up for the artists newsletters, or buy their merch.”
Don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime experience to see artists that are beginning to make their mark on music history with the Black Opry Revue, coming to The Lincoln Center February 16, 2024. Seats from $15 at LCtix.com.