Rising country singer Mo Pitney triumphed at the release party for his debut album, Behind This Guitar, at the Station Inn in Nashville on Thursday night (Oct. 6).

The 23-year-old is a genuine, down-home country traditionalist, as he demonstrated with a strong set of songs Thursday night that showcased true songcraft, as well as top-notch instrumental and vocal ability.

Pitney opened with "When I'm With You," an uptempo song from the new album, which is out Friday (Oct. 7). The laconic singer addressed the audience briefly, thanking everyone for coming out before launching into "Come Do a Little Life," a mid-tempo number that he admitted he wrote before he met his wife, but says he came to realize was "prophetic."

He followed that with a slow heartbreak song titled "Clean Up on Aisle Five," which was among the starkest, most effective performances of the evening. Pitney and his band — which included his sister on harmony vocals and his brother on bass and vocals — ran through a number of selections from Behind This Guitar, including the title song, "Take the Chance," "Country," "I Met Merle Haggard Today" and "Boy & a Girl Thing."

Pitney also performed several songs in solo acoustic versions, including "Love Her Like I Lost Her" and a cover of the Don Williams classic "If Hollywood Don't Need You (Honey I Still Do)."

His brother and sister joined him for a trio vocal rendition of "Give Me Jesus," his album's closing track, before which Pitney took the opportunity to openly proselytize about his Christian beliefs. "I was in the pits of hell" before converting to Christianity, Pitney shared before the passionate performance.

Pitney is actually reminiscent of Williams in some ways — a soft-spoken, not-too-flashy performer who nonetheless is able to hold his audience through the sheer quality of his music. His songs all featured solidly traditional country arrangements that showcased plenty of pedal steel and hot guitar licks, and Pitney offered the crowd quite a surprise when he twice traded licks with his lead guitarist on acoustic guitar, demonstrating astonishingly adept lead guitar skills in addition to his singing and songwriting.

Williams is also a clear vocal influence on Pitney, as is Merle Haggard; he sings very well, but in an understated way that calls attention to the songs, not the singer. He spotlighted his sister, Holly — whom he lauded as "by far the best harmony singer in town, and I would argue one of the best lead singers" — on a duet of Vern Gosdin's "Till the End" before closing with "Everywhere," a song from Behind This Guitar that he says will be the next single.

As a performer whose music and earnest persona and presentation are reminiscent of a different, less cynical time, Pitney may well face an uphill struggle in the current climate of contemporary country music. But on Thursday night, he certainly demonstrated that he possesses the talent to make the long haul.

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