Alan Jackson brought Mystic Lake Casino’s outdoor amphitheater summer concert series to a close on Saturday night with a simple and straightforward performance to a full house of chilled (literally!) country fans. Although the Georgia native was frozen to the bone performing on a brisk Minnesota evening in September, his likable demeanor warmed him to the all-ages crowd.
Newcomer and Bigger Picture recording artist Craig Campbell started the frosty night off with a string of original music and classic country covers from Brooks & Dunn and Travis Tritt to Alabama. The majority of the show was family-friendly from the “Family Man” singer, aside from a gutter-worthy performance of his current innuendo-filled single, “Fish.” We appreciate a good play on words, but this song makes us cringe. The audience responded audibly (i.e. groans, laughs) as the realization of what he was singing about swept over them. As a new artist, he has worked to distinguish himself, but as “that guy with the dirty song” rather than “that guy with the great music.” Which would you rather be known as? Overall, our first introduction to Campbell’s music left us feeling that he lacked both sophistication and originality.
The lights darkened as an introductory video sequence of Alan Jackson’s number one hits began to play. Though it wasn’t particularly electrifying, the beginning notes of “Gone Country” raised fans out of their seats and made no misconceptions that we were about to see 90 minutes of indisputably true country music. He took the audience along on a musical journey through his life, from memories of his childhood with “Drive”, summer days on the “Chattahoochee” and the ups and downs of his marriage in “Remember When,” which was perhaps one of the most emotional moments of the evening. The most tear jerking performance however, was of “Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning),” a deeply touching and timely remembrance of September 11th, 2001.
While the stage setup was basic, we felt that the six large video screens were distracting at times. We caught ourselves watching the videos instead of Alan himself more than once, which either says that his music videos are engaging or his presence on stage is not. Throughout the night however, he tossed handfuls of picks into the standing-room “pit” crowd assembled at the front of the stage and freely laughed at the antics of the enthusiastic crowd.
The sound from our prime seats in the front row of the middle section of the grassy field was perfectly balanced, however it lacks the acoustics of a true “amphitheater.” It’s our hope that the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community decide to permanently install this amphitheater and develop another outdoor music venue in the Twin Cities area. While the ban on alcohol at the facility is a burden on the essential ingredient to a country show — we feel the benefit of a family-friendly environment strengthens the focus on the music.
In his three decade-long career, Alan Jackson has racked up thirty-five Number 1 country singles and established himself as a staple of contemporary country music by adhering to the prime elements of country music: God, family, and country. Alan Jackson is a modern country legend that showed us how a country boy that grew up to be a small town southern man can make it in the big world of country music.
Aly and Beth
Craig Campbell set list: When I Get It / That’s Music to Me / “Favorite Country Songs” medley (Brand New Man, Here’s A Quarter [Call Someone Who Cares], Mountain music) / Family Man / I’m Just Saying / Fish
Alan Jackson set list: Gone Country / Summertime Blues / Living On Love / Don’t Even Know Your Name / A Woman’s Love / Small Town Southern Man / Long Way To Go / Little Bitty / Country Boy / Drive / Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)? / Don’t Rock the Jukebox / Real World / As She’s Walking Away / Remember When / Good Time / Chattahoochee / 5 O’Clock Somewhere / [encore] Where I Come From
August kicked off the fall release season with a bang! Pistol Annies, Luke Bryan, Kevin Fowler and Eli Young Band all scored big on iTunes and we got new music from Lady Antebellum’s new project “Own the Night.” Amidst the joy, there was also heartbreak as six fans and one lighting technician lost their lives in a devastating stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair before a Sugarland concert.
As always, please let us know if we missed anything and let us know what YOUR favorites of the month were (ours are bold).
Lady Antebellum “We Own the Night”
Will Hoge “When I Get My Wings”
Scotty McCreery “The Trouble with Girls”
Vince Gill “Threaten Me with Heaven”
Luke Bryan “I Don’t Want This Night to End”
Billy Ray Cyrus “Nineteen”
Jason Aldean “Tattoos on This Town”
Eric Church “Drink in My Hand”
Casey James “Let’s Not Call It A Night”
Miranda Lambert “Baggage Claim”
Bombshel “Hallelu Y’all”
Steel Magnolia “Bulletproof”
Jason Boland and the Stragglers “Mary Ellen’s Greenhouse”
Shooter Jennings “Outlaw You”
The JaneDear Girls “Merry Go Round”
Josh Thompson “Change”
Trace Atkins - Proud to Be Me
Kevin Fowler - Chippin’ Away
Luke Bryan -Tailgates and Tanlines
Eli Young Band - Life At Best
Pistol Annies - Hell on Heels
Sunny Sweeney - Concrete
The McClymonts - Wrapped Up Good
Dale Ann Bradley - Somewhere South of Crazy
Jake Owen - Barefoot Blue Jean Night
Stoney LaRue - Velvet
Coldwater Jane - Marionette
Levi Lowrey - I Confess I Was A Fool
Connie Smith - Long Line of Heartaches
Jeff Bridges - Jeff Bridges
It seems as though there is a creative vacuum in Nashville in regards to music videos. The Band Perry’s “All My Life” was the only saving grace this month for their rustic cinematography and depression era ambiance; whereas Martina, though yes it gives you goosebumps, produced more of the same dull melodrama with “I’m Going to Love You Through It.”
View all videos in the player below
Country is lucky enough to have some of the best musicians and comedians in the business, which was evident in this month’s Lady A’s “Lady Haze” and The Dirt Drifters’ “Kovert Karaoke.” Eli Young Band gives us a look at their Life At Best album release week events and Texan Ali Dee, musician and cast member of CMT’s “Texas Women,” covers “Tainted Love” bluegrass-style. Dierks took a break from his regular shenanigans in episode 31 of DBTV when he gave one lucky fan a chance to give his girlfriend a new “Last Name.”
View all videos in the player below
I don’t know where the saying “piped a heater” comes from, but nice duck face Frankie…
Sunny gets a meet and greet with Willie’s guitar at WEFest
Pretty proud of this…
Listen to Will.
Sugarland’s stage collapses killing 7 at Indiana State Fair [article]
Trailer Choir loose weight [article]
Lady A releases two songs from new album [article]
Neal McCoy and the Newlyweds [article]
Billy Ray Cyrus to be a Grandpa, surprisingly not through Miley [article]
Pistol Annies shoot to number one on iTunes [photo]
Alan Jackson and Garth Brooks inducted into Songwriter’s Hall of Fame [article]
Whitney Duncan joins “Survivor: South Pacific” [article]
Miranda Lambert on Dateline [article]
Eric Church’s Chief goes #1 without a #1 single [article]
The Dirt Drifters “Give Blood” [article]
Lee Brice with special surprise guest Jerrod Niemann [post]
Eden’s Edge with Hitchville [post]
Rocket Club [post]
Whitey Morgan and the 78’s [post]
Sunny Sweeney with Lost Highway
Toby Keith with Eric Church and J.T. Hodges
To find out what is in store for next month, check out our calendar and twitter for updates for new music, upcoming concerts, and the latest in country music news.
Aly and Beth
Disclaimer: I have never seen a full episode of American Idol in my life. In fact, I despise the fact that a singer has to conform to a particular brand for entertainment's sake.
With that said, I was very excited for the chance to meet the current reigning American Idol winner, Scotty McCreery and runner up, Lauren Alaina, in the K102 studios, promoting their music and American Idol tour stop at the Target Center in Minneapolis. I was pleasantly surprised by both Lauren and Scotty's personable and light-hearted approach to the interviews.
Lauren Alaina of Rossville, Georiga was first to take the hot seat with the K102's Wake-Up Crew. She reported that she is recovering nicely after a tumble in a pair of dangerously high shoes, the haunted Idol mansion and that her album is nearly complete for its autumn release.
She also talked about her single, "Like My Mother Does" and its video, which premiers August 8th, contains family home videos and a cameo by her mother. She revealed that she still sings the song to her mother each night on the tour. It was astounding to hear how eloquently she spoke for being a girl of only SIXTEEN. I don't remember too much of being 16, but I know I was never as well spoken as she was on stage, though that didn't hinder from showing her true Southern girl personality.
She joked effortlessly with Donna and Muss, especially when t came to talking about her fellow tour mate, American Idol Winner Scotty McCreey. Muss asked what Scotty's most annoying habit on tour and after a beat of silence she announced it was his excessive sleeping. She said that he will just wonder off prior to a show then appear right before he's about to go on, looking polished in his button down.
Next up on stage was the reigning Idol Champion, Scotty McCreery from Garner, North Carolina. I wouldn't have been able to differentiate Scotty MCCreery dressed down in a Coca-cola vintage tee and camo baseball cap from a neighboring farm boy back home if he wasn't introduced properly. It was a shocking reminder of his age (ONLY 17) when he noted that he had to fly home right after the Idol finale to take an AP test for high school. The drive home also gave him one of the most unforgettable experiences in a musician's career, hearing himself on the radio for the first time.
He was polite, charming and even took quite a few jokes on his behalf with class when Muss and Donna played "who knows who best" between him and Lauren. Let's just say, the questions were definitely not skewed in his favor with questions like "what's her blood type" for him and "what city is he from" for Lauren.
Its easy to forget when you see people on tv and the radio that they aren't normal people. I can't reiterate enough how impressed I was by their maturity and down to earth they were; considering last year their biggest worries were chores, Geometry tests and passing their driver's license test, and now they are making records and selling out stadiums.
Its true, I have been vocal about how much I abhor Scotty's single "I Love You This Big." And I still believe its a half-hearted attempt at songwriting, but that has NO reflection on the abilities of the singer. Its easy to be an American Idol hater as its one of the top rated and over talked about shows on television. However, the much over-produced musical tv game show has uncovered some of the countries most talented musicians (and some not so talented), who if not for the show, would not been able to pursue their dreams. For that, I give American Idol credit.
And while I am a cautious pop/country supporter, I truly believe that if Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina want to have a lasting career in music they possess the talent to do so; just remember to always keep true to yourself and your music. I wish them the best of luck in their musical endeavors!
Enjoy the Music,
For a music festival preceding the Independence Day holiday weekend, we saw an abundance of American and even a few "Don't Tread On Me" Gadsden flags waving, fireworks popping, and heard songs about the awesomeness of this great nation proudly sung (like "All-American Girl" by Carrie Underwood and "The Dashboard" by Chris Young, etc). On Satuday, we slapped on some patriotic temporary tattoos (our blank skin feeling very out of place amongst the inked Fest-ers) and made our way back for another day of music at the Chippewa Valley Country Fest.
Wisconsin's own Josh Thompson was the first national performer to play the main stage of the festival, and his welcome was as warm as the heat on that summer afternoon! We had just seen Josh play at the Winstock Country Music Festival [post], so we knew he was going to put on a great show — and of course, we weren't disappointed. Josh's latest "Won't Be Lonely Long" was a hit with the crowd, who must be hearing it a lot on country radio as they were singing right along.
After a break during a set by Collin Raye, who I (Beth) admit is an older country artist I don't know much about, we staked our spot in the photo line for Chris Young to take the stage. The last time we saw Chris Young perform it was about a half-mile up in the nosebleeds at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul when he opened on the Rascal Flatts "Nothing Like This" tour in January [post]. The Country Fest photo line improved that view of Mr. Young by about 300%. There's no doubting that Chris isn't being marketed like a stud - he's County Weekly's Hottest Bachelor after all (and officially Independent Sky's as well, congrats Chris). His set was third to last for the day, but came at a perfect time for optimal photo-taking — so you can go ahead and thank us now for our shots! Once he hit the stage and began singing "That Makes Me," his deep baritone surely carried across the Chippewa Valley and stirred every living creature in the area. At the risk of sounding like crazed fans, we have to impartially attest that Chris Young... is... a... SUPERSTAR! He's already more than likely on his way to that status with numerous number one singles to his name. Chris even proudly announced to the Country Fest crowd that his most recent single, the sinfully tempting "Tomorrow," was certified Gold prior to his next album's release (Neon, July 12). He gave us a taste of that new record, including future hits "Save Water, Drink Beer" and "I Can Take It From There." Chris described another new one, "You," as what you'd get if you mixed an R&B song with steel guitar. We admire a traditional vocalist like Chris stepping from the boundaries most country fans feel the need to draw.
The entire festival could have ended then and there and we'd have been completely happy, but to our joy Dierks Bentley was still on tap. A little buzzed, dazed, and star-struck — we carried on in the marathon of music. Never have we been so lucky to take in such great music all at one time. Lost Highway rocked a great first round at the Miller Fest Zone beer tent stage between Chris Young and Dierks' sets, seamlessly keeping the night of quality country music going strong.
Dierks Bentley was our headliner of Saturday night at Country Fest; and others agreed. He did what he did best — entertained the country crowd with his solid string of hits and a great selection of covers (i.e. George Strait "All My Exes" and "Pride (In the Name of Love)" by U2) backed by an incredibly skilled band. Dierks transformed the festival crowd from a lot of strangers to a gathering of friends. His easy-going humble attitude resonated well with the Midwestern audience, and near the end of his hour and a half set he even painted the picture that we were all hanging out together in the back of the bus, when the band lets everything go and jams. We were glad to see Dierks throw in a dash of bluegrass from his project Up on The Ridge, like the single of the same name and "Fiddlin' Around." Mostly, he gave the people exactly what they wanted — sing-a-long drinkin' songs for a great party!
Then, Carrie Underwood. After an incredible performance by Dierks Bentley, Carrie had the difficult task of following a completely different kind of country music artist. Dierks was a perfect fit for the atmosphere of Saturday night's fest; a wild rockin' party that everyone could dance and sing along to. She also faced the pressure of following a fellow blonde female vocalist Miranda Lambert's headlining performance just the night before. Carrie Underwood came to the stage glittered and gorgeous — but just at the wrong place, at the wrong time. Fighting with technical difficulties from the start, once Carrie regained her sound she wandered down a road of slow ballads, abstract covers, religious references, and outdated vocal solos that left the Wisconsin crowd in the wake of her diva attitude.
It's common knowledge that festival line-ups are kind of a grab bag: you get some winners and some losers. It's clear that you can't please the entire crowd — but with a very young fan base and drastically different style, it would have been better suited for Carrie Underwood to perform earlier in the day. Unfortunately, we realize contracts and other politics of the music business makes that completely impractical.
We had the feeling the energy would decrease, due to the nature of Carrie's style — however it was shocking to see the nonexistent response from the crowd. I could count the number of people clapping in the vicinity. We witnessed the audience's attention evaporate, the excitement deflate, and the buzzes fade. The second song in her set "Quitter" from her album Play On might have been the worst thing we heard all day, and was a clear indicator of what was to come. Her upbeat hits like "Undo It," "Last Name" and "Cowboy Casanova" helped regain some momentum, but they were oddly placed throughout her set list.
We were not at all surprised to see that many, many, many people left the grounds early on Saturday night, or headed to one of the beer tents on site. We conducted an unscientific random poll of audience members during her set who unanimously agreed that Dierks should have been the evening's headliner. The general opinion was that Carrie's style was not a great fit for Fest, and that's putting it nicely.
It just goes to say that the best voices are not always the best performers. Not every country artist is right for a Festival.
Aly and Beth
to be continued... (Part III)
If you thought our raving about Miranda Lambert, Chris Young, and Dierks Bentley meant the rest of the Country Fest weekend couldn't be any better — you'd be wrong. On the final day of the 2011 Chippewa Valley Country Fest, we made the Day of Rest a Sunday Funday!
Bucky Covington started off the last day with a set of mediocre slow to mid-tempo songs, like "I'll Walk" and his first single after his stint on American Idol, "A Different World." While Bucky was an adequate start to what could have been a slower day of music on the main stage; it was Jerrod Niemann who proved that just because it was Sunday didn't mean we couldn't party!
This was my (Aly) third time seeing Jerrod in the last year [Class of 2010] [Rodeo] and each time his intro music comes on, I know I am in store for a phenomenal show. What I like about Jerrod is his easy going, yet commanding stage presence that captures an audience. Thankfully, the Saturday night party-ers were still shaking off their hangover and so we were able to make quite a few laps around the photo line. We high-fived, danced and held our Leinie's high in the air to "One More Drinkin' Song" and "For Everclear," then went to the rodeo with "The Buckin' Song" and "Good Ride Cowboy." Jerrod took the pace down a notch with his second single "What Do You Want," then closed it down with his breakout hit "Lover, Lover" which left us begging for more.
Riding our musical high, we headed back to the Miller Fest Zone tent for another cold beer and additional Sunday rowdiness with Lost Highway before Clay Walker's set. Like Collin Raye, some festival attendees might not immediately recognize Clay Walker's music, but song after song, even these two country girls were saying "OMIGOD. I love this song!" as he sang a string of hits from the early 90's "Live, Laugh, Love," "You're Beginning to Get to Me" and "If I Could Make a Living" up to his most recent single "She Won't Be Lonely Long," which is one of my (Beth's) favorites of his.
Opening for the last act of the festival, Josh Turner melted the ladies' hearts with his warm, rich vocals and charismatic smile. Josh is known for his crooning a la "Your Man," "Long Black Train" and "I Wouldn't Be a Man." However, unlike Carrie the previous night, he understood the venue and knew exactly what fest go-ers were looking for, playing the perfect summer tunes "All Over Me," "Firecracker." He finished out his set with his mega hit "Why Don't We Just Dance," which had EVERYONE dancing with friends and strangers alike.
As the lights went down for the final time at Country Fest 2011, the weary audience came back to life and gave the powerhouse trio of Lady Antebellum a standing ovation as the first riffs of "Our Kinda Love" echoed through the Chippewa Valley. Performing on a simple stage setup and backed by a small army of musicians, Lady A started their set off with the perfect festival tunes from their repertoire: "Stars Tonight," "Run to You" and "Long Gone" and kept the favorites coming throughout the night. Country Fest was treated with a sneak peek of their upcoming album with the title track "Own the Night" as well. By the flavor of the song, which has a hint of the Kelley brothers' "Georgia Clay" in the beginning chords, Lady A's third album (Own The Night, release date 9/13/11) will be more like Need You Now than their freshman album. We both agree the latter is the better of the two, but we digress until we can hear more of the latest project.
Hillary Scott, Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley have been at the height of success over the past two years, and although they are a relatively new group on the country and popular American music scene, they headlined on Sunday evening with all of the conviction of the legends they will eventually become. As a staple of radio, TV and music award shows, Lady Antebellum's image and sound risk overexposure, however humble roots and stripped down arrangements showcased the talents that have driven this group to where they have come to be.
Our favorite part of the set was a "Songwriter Showcase" where they each sang a sample of a song they had a hand in crafting. From Dave's rendition of "Do I" (recorded by Luke Bryan), Charles' "Georgia Clay" (written with and recorded by his brother Josh Kelley) and Hillary's "Stronger" (Sara Evans' latest #1 hit) it was an interesting and unique feature of their performance. As music fans, it's refreshing to see one of our favorite mainstream acts demonstrate that they are not only successful recording artists, but three of the top songwriters in their industry.
As the first time at Country Fest for the both of us, we saw many differences that festival organizers implemented that others in this highly competitive market should follow suit on, such as the beer tents. The downtime between main stage sets flew by thanks to a fantastic job by the four Beer Tent regional bands. In some cases, we even wanted bands like Lost Highway to keep playing instead of the night's headliner! The general admission photo line is also something unique that we really appreciated. If we weren't hanging in the Leinie Lodge or Miller Fest zone tents, we were in line to get down to the front of the stage. Most times we went through the photo line during the performances on the main stage, so we ended up sitting in our chairs for a total of about 15 minutes the entire weekend.
The people of Wisconsin were great hosts! The fans we met throughout the weekend were rowdy and incredibly friendly, other than the unfortunate experiences of having Beth's chair stolen (on the last day, thankfully) and Aly having a Clay Walker guitar pick stolen right out of her hand by a hairy half naked man. (Euw…)
We made it back from our excursion with both of our feet hurt from dancing and stomachs from laughing (not at all because of what we consumed…). Happy to report no sunburns or hangovers (other than the musical kind) here either. We want to thank K102 for making this experience possible, and we hope to see YOU out at a country music festival soon!
Enjoy the Music and keep rockin'
Aly and Beth
PS: Plan on coming out to Country Fest 2012 with announced performers Brad Paisley, Sugarland and The Band Perry!