It’s been more than 26 years since Keith Whitley performed his final song at the Grand Ole Opry, closing out a successful run on the show with his version of Lefty Frizzell’s “I Never Go Around Mirrors.” Decades later, Chris Young is keeping Whitley’s torch burning, thanks to a voice that packs a similar combination of smoothness and swagger. Just listen to his recent Opry performance of “When You Say Nothing At All,” the Don Schlitz/Paul Overstreet classic that became a major hit for Whitley, Alison Krauss and Ronan Keating.
“Keith Whitley was always one of my favorites growing up, so I had to do this,” Young tells the crowd halfway through the song, which was taped in August. With a vocal delivery that mixes bluegrass acrobatics with the deep-seated rumble of classic country, his appreciation for Whitley’s music is felt throughout the performance, from the grin he flashes before kicking off the song’s first verse to the way he wrings emotion from every line.
Young, whose I’m Comin’ Over hit stores last month, will kick off a busy 2016 with a performance at Green Bay’s Resch Center Theatre on Thursday, January 7th.