UPDATED 11:10 a.m. Saturday: If you missed the TV special “Garth Brooks, Live from Las Vegas” Friday night, you can watch the full show by clicking here.
A version of this review appears in Friday’s Weekend Life section of The Oklahoman.
Garth Brooks “Blame It All on My Roots: Five Decades of Influences” (Walmart exclusive)
For country music fans who have vowed to skip the crowds and chaos of this year’s earlier-than-ever Black Friday festivities, Garth Brooks seems determined to test your resolve.
The Oklahoma music megastar released Thursday an eight-disc box set titled “Blame It All on My Roots: Five Decades of Influences,” inspired by his recently completed – well, almost completed—residency at the Wynn Las Vegas resort and casino. Available exclusively through Walmart, the six-CD and two-DVD collection, which comes with a 68-page photo booklet, is priced at a ridiculously modest $24.96.
The new DVD “Blame It All on My Roots: Live at the Wynn” alone is worth that paltry sum, capturing the Owasso resident in full-on storyteller mode, commanding the stage with just his acoustic guitar, his smooth voice and his self-deprecating sense of a humor.
In a hyper and hilarious mood, the Tulsa native eagerly chats about his musical influences in between zipping through acoustic versions of 36 songs in two hours. Most of the selections are just snippets – often he sticks with just the first verse and chorus – but they tell the story of how the developed his signature sound. Growing up in Yukon as the youngest of six children, he got his love of old-school country from his dad (inspiring him to sample Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried” and George Jones’ “The Grand Tour”), his penchant for soul from his mom (leading into covers of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” and Otis Redding’s (Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay”) and his devotion to 1960s and ‘70s rock ‘n’ roll from his older siblings (moving him to play Bob Seger’s “Night Moves” and his hero James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James”).
Along with covers of George Strait, Billy Joel and Jim Croce, the Oklahoma State University alumnus regales the enthusiastic audience with tales of playing Willies Saloon in Stillwater as well as raucous one-man-band renditions of his hits “Papa Loved Mama,” “The Thunder Rolls” and classic closer “Friends in Low Places.” He also croons his beloved ballads “Unanswered Prayers,” “The Dance” and “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” but the romantic portion of the show reaches its peak when Brooks’ wife and fellow country superstar Trisha Yearwood joins him for their duet “In Another’s Eyes.” Their beautiful harmonizing on a long-awaited new song, “The Call,” is the highlight of the show.
The rest of the box set also mixes Brooks’ signature smashes with affectionate versions of his favorite songs by other artists. Each of the four new covers albums delves into a different genre and includes 11 tracks, many featured in his intimate Vegas shows, and his publicist provided The Oklahoman with a sampling of two cuts from each cover CD.
On the “Country Classics” album, Brooks and Yearwood make beautiful music together on the Conway Twitty-Loretta Lynn ballad “After the Fire Is Gone,” and the Oklahoma native brings the necessary attitude, if not the grit, to Jerry Reed’s story-song “Amos Moses.” Brooks’ supple voice is as well suited for his takes on Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” and Taylor’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight,” from “The Melting Pot” CD, as it is for his covers of Free’s “All Right Now” and Stevie Wonders’ “Superstition,” from the box set’s “Classic Rock” selection. All those hours listening to his mama’s 45’s as a child pay off on his expressive covers of Gladys Knight & the Pips’ “Midnight Train to Georgia” and Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” from the “Blue-Eyed Soul” CD.
The box set also folds in his 2007 “The Ultimate Hits” release, which includes two CDs and one DVD showcasing 33 of the superstar’s classic smashes and 33 of his memorable music videos.
Fans who venture out to snap up “Blame It All on My Roots” on Black Friday should make sure they’re back home by 8 p.m., when the TV special “Garth Brooks, Live from Las Vegas”—his last concert at the Encore Theater at the Wynn Las Vegas – airs on CBS.