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Classic country sounds featured at concert

Liz Byrum | Monday, September 12, 2005

When you’re heading to a show where the schedule of events includes a listing that tells what time the Miller Lite Beer Garden opens, you can’t be exactly sure what to expect.

On Sunday, the St. Joseph County Fair Grounds threw open its gates to country fans of all ages and walks of life. To celebrate its 11th birthday, Michiana’s top country station, B100.7 held its annual birthday party. There were quite a few give-away events on and around Notre Dame’s campus in the past week, but only a few students were spotted in the crowd that filled the Centennial Wireless Festival Park.

Like every other country concert in the U.S., a wide range of people braved the heat and came out for the show. The group ranged from girls wearing J. Crew cowboy hats to old men sporting tattooed arms and real Stetsons.

This varied fan base that makes country music what it is today. It is a genre of music that addresses many serious issues, such as the terrorist attacks that happened four years ago, but also manages to keep things light with songs about hillbillies, cowboys and the comforts of the South.

The performers at the concert included up and coming acts such as Jason Aldean, Hot Apple Pie and Shooter Jennings, as well as veteran country men Pat Green and the headliner, Tracy Lawrence.

In the opening acts, it was obvious that new sounds are coming out of today’s country music. Singers and their bands are beginning to pull away from the “pop-country” hybrid that has propelled the industry in recent years. Although some of the sounds coming from the stage during the concert were different than the audience was used to hearing, they seemed to be a welcome change.

Jason Aldean, a young singer raised in Georgia, was one of the first performs to hit the stage. He reached a low point in 2003 when he lost his recording contract and almost gave up on the music industry, but has been slowly inching his way up through the Nashville music scene since then. It wasn’t until he released his song “Hicktown” that he became a popular name in country music. The crowd at the concert today definitely showed him support by singing along to every word of the catchy song.

The band Hot Apple Pie seems to be making great strides in the area of “country groups.” This band knows how to play real country, and they aren’t afraid to show it. Unlike some of the other fairly new male country groups in the music industry today, such as Rascal Flatts and Emerson Drive, there isn’t a hint of pop in their country twang (not that there’s anything wrong with pop country).

Hot Apple Pie was formed by lead singer Brady Seals in 2002. All of the band’s members, which include Seals, Sparky Matejka, Keith Horne and Trey Landry, have had past experience in groups of their own, or in touring and performing with other country greats, such as Waylon Jennings, Trisha Yearwood, Charlie Daniels and Lonestar. Seals was a member of the band Little Texas before he began to formulate plans for Hot Apple Pie.

The band chose their unique name because, as Seals said, “it means so many things. It means home, it means comfort, it means country, it means rock ‘n’ roll. And it’s so American.”

The band’s self-titled debut album was released this past summer and includes the fun summer-time hit, “Hillbillies.” Although this is a great song, it was not the best one that could be heard from the stage as the band played at the B100 concert Sunday. “Annabelle” was a great southern ballad that had the crowd swaying, and everyone seemed to enjoy the bouncing sounds of “We’re Making Up.”

The most interesting act at the concert may have been the son of famed country legend Waylon Jennings While he is the son of a country legend, Shooter Jennings did not begin his music career in country music. He instead has slowly made his way from Rock ‘n’ Roll back to the music of his roots. After playing with a band called Stargunn for many years in Los Angeles, Calif., Jennings decided to turn his career around and work on the music that made him the happiest – true, old-school country. With a band he calls the 357s, he has recently released his first full-length country album, titled “Put the ‘O’ back in Country.”

That is exactly what Jennings wants to do. Some of the most descriptive lyrics in the song by the same name include “I’m rollin’ like a freight train, comin’ straight at you / I’m playin’ hillbilly music, like I was born to do / You know, it ain’t country music you’ve been listenin’ to.”

With tons of great new music being showcased like it was in South Bend this past weekend, country fans definitely don’t need to worry about the future of their favorite radio stations. The sounds may be evolving, but there’s something about country music and the dedication of its fans that will never change.