President Barack Obama hosted country stars for a concert that gave voice "to the emotions of everyday life."
Dierks Bentley, Alison Krauss, Lyle Lovett, Kris Kristofferson, Darius Rucker, James Taylor, The Band Perry, and Lauren Alaina performed inside the White House's East Room.
Obama said country music tied together many threads of the nation's immigrant heritage, from the Irish fiddle, the German dulcimer, the Italian mandolin, the Spanish guitar and the West African banjo. He said, "At its most pure, that's what country music is all about — life in America. It's about storytelling — giving voice to the emotions of everyday life."
Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, wearing a pink silk pantsuit, watched from the front row to a set list of country music past and present.
Dierks Bentley opened the concert by telling the audience that his thoughts were with members of the military and their families and then broke into a stirring rendition of "Home," his current hit.
James Taylor, wearing a tan Stetson hat with his blue suit, sang his 1970s hit "Riding on the Railroads," and performed a version of Glen Campbell's "Wichita Lineman." Alison Krauss performed an acoustic version of "When You Say Nothing At All," her 1995 hit song. Lyle Lovett reprised his 1994 hit, "Funny How Time Slips Away."
Willie Nelson's influence loomed large over the show. Kris Kristofferson and Darius Rucker performed "Pancho and Lefty," a 1983 hit by Nelson and Merle Haggard, while Lauren Alaina did a rendition of Elvis Presley's "You Were Always on My Mind," which Nelson turned into a Grammy winner, also in 1983.
Some of the most recognizable country standards were featured, with Alaina covering Loretta Lynn's "Coal Miner's Daughter," and The Band Perry performing Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You."
Darius Rucker, the former front man for Hootie and the Blowfish, got a shout-out from Obama — "Hootie's in the house". Later, Darius performed his contemporary hit, "I Got Nothin."
By the end of the night, the entire ensemble was on stage as Kristofferson led them in an uplifting version of "Me and Bobby McGee," the song Kristofferson co-wrote with Fred Foster and was later sung memorably by Janis Joplin.
"Country Music: In Performance at the White House" will be broadcast tomorrow (Wednesday) night at 7pm on PBS stations and shown at a later date on the American Forces Network to military service personnel around the world.