James Shaw Jr. and his best friend had just sat down in a Waffle House outside Nashville early Sunday when a loud crashing sound rang out in the restaurant. At first, Mr. Shaw said Monday, he thought a dishwasher had knocked over some plates.
It quickly became clear what was happening. Bullets pierced the restaurant’s windows. A man collapsed onto the floor. Waiters ran.
Mr. Shaw and his friend raced to the hallway outside the restrooms, taking cover behind a swinging door. As the gunman entered the Waffle House to continue shooting, Mr. Shaw recounted on Monday, he looked for a moment to fight back.
“There is kind of no running from this,” Mr. Shaw, in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday, said when asked about what he was thinking. “I’m going to have to try to find some kind of flaw or a point in time where I could make it work for myself.”
During a sudden break in the firing, Mr. Shaw sprinted through the door as fast as he could, slamming into the gunman and knocking him to the ground. He grabbed the rifle and tossed it over the restaurant counter.
The gunman, Travis Reinking, 29, then ran away, the authorities said, but not before he had killed four people and injured at least four more
.. Mr. Shaw said he eventually found out that the pause in the gunman’s firing came when he was trying to reload the rifle. It was a brief enough break, Mr. Shaw said, for him to make a move.
After Mr. Shaw wrested the weapon away, he said, the gunman left on foot at a jogging pace. Officials said the gunman shed his green jacket shortly thereafter. It was found with two loaded magazines in the pockets.
At the time, country music was still reckoning with its bro tendencies. For most of the 2010s, 20-something men in weathered baseball caps injected the genre with an almost comical masculinity — brawny, hip-hop-inflected sounds, lyrics that treated women as objects of lurid attention. Stars like Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line were making intriguing musical hybrids with often woeful gender politics.
.. Mr. Rhett sings gently, with the faintest hint of soul-music syrup in his barely-accented voice. “Die a Happy Man” was so straightforward it landed with a shock. It became Mr. Rhett’s breakthrough hit, topping the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart for 17 weeks.
As often happens, it also became a template: the country gentleman. And so Nashville’s bro tide is now receding, supplanted by a kindlier new generation of male country singers. They focus on uncomplicated, deeply dedicated love or, alternately, being hopeless on the receiving end of heartbreak.
.. They sing with voices light on drawl. They ooze respect, charm and, occasionally, dullness. At times they recall George Strait, the restrained cowboy superstar; at others, Earl Thomas Conley, the emotional ballad specialist of the 1980s.
.. More often than not, they have sturdy, approachable, single-syllable last names: Thomas Rhett, Brett Young, Chris Lane, Michael Ray.
.. They are the men next door, promising undying affection and emotional stability — a cliché, perhaps, but one more appealing than the last.
.. This surge also doubles as a response to the gender crisis that has been gripping country music the last few years, as captured in two parallel phenomena: the rise of the bro, and the disappearance of the female star.
.. For most of this decade, the genre’s male stars have been strutters: egocentric, bumblingly flirtatious, a little dunce-y.
At the same time, female singers have been getting squeezed ever more tightly
.. younger artists like Maddie & Tae and Kelsea Ballerini found success by positioning themselves in opposition to prevailing masculine narratives.
.. It dilutes the toxic levels of masculinity in the genre without offering women songs of their own to sing, instead plying them with ones that place them on a pedestal.
.. This is the emo side of the gentleman, looking inward for shortcomings, not outward.
In the bro era, women were objects to be chased. In these songs, they’re porcelain, gleaming and precious.