Richmond Concert Tickets

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Jake Owen became a star so quickly that he didn’t have time to memorize any Country Music Rule Book – which made it that much easier to toss it out the window.

Guided by sheer musical instinct, a drive for self-improvement and a willingness to experiment, the singer-songwriter has crafted Barefoot Blue Jean Night as one of the most innovative and refreshing country collections of the year. The CD’s title tune is already exploding as the biggest hit of Owen’s career to date.

“I never wanted to be the guy that did everything the way you’re supposed to do it,” says the candid and outgoing music maker. “And that led me to make this record, which I think really represents who I am more than anything I’ve ever recorded. If nothing else happens after this, I can honestly say that I did the absolute best that I can do. I’ve never felt this good about music, or anything in my career, as I do right now.”

His buoyant optimism is justified. Barefoot Blue Jean Night brims with vocal self-confidence and a superbly chosen stack of songs. The pumping energy in such country rockers as “Anywhere with You,” “Apple Pie Moonshine,” “The One That Got Away” and “Nobody Feelin’ No Pain” contrasts dramatically with the feverish thumper “Wide Awake” or the crunchy, edgy and atmospheric “Alone with You.”

“Keepin’ it Country” is a Jake Owen statement of purpose. “Heaven” is a smiling, seductive come-on. On the other hand, there’s the touching, lovely and philosophical acoustic ballad “The Journey of Your Life.” The frothing power, cascading rhythm and head-to-the-sky vocal shout of “Settin’ the World on Fire” mark it as a blue-chip, blue-collar rocker. And what more can be said of “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” surely the most joyous Southern celebration on disc today?

All of these sounds mean a new beginning for the hit maker. Jake Owen has previously enjoyed major-league success with such performances as 2006’s “Startin’ with Me,” 2008’s “Don’t Think I Can’t Love You,” and 2009’s “Eight Second Ride.” His revival of “Life in a Northern Town” with Sugarland and Little Big Town in 2008 earned him Grammy and CMA Award nominations. Owen was named 2009’s Top New Male Vocalist by the Academy of Country Music. But nothing, he says, compares to the impact his new music is making.

“Everything is amazing right now. I have other artists, song publishers, promotion reps, people at other record labels coming up to me and saying, ‘Jake, I really like your new song. We’re pulling for you, dude.’ That validates everything I’ve ever done up to this point. Now, I have people cheering for me and that is an awesome feeling.”

In 2005, Jake went from performing in Florida bars to moving to Nashville and within months he had a Music Row song-publishing contract. Less than a year later, he was signed by RCA Records and was on the charts with his first two singles, “Yee Haw” and “Startin’ with Me.” He went from being a speck in a stadium crowd at a Kenny Chesney concert to opening shows for the superstar. Then Brad Paisley took him on the road as Owen scored his third hit, 2007’s “Something About a Woman.” In 2008, Owen opened shows for Sugarland and this year, Keith Urban asked Jake to be his touring partner on the Get Closer 2011 World tour.

“I would say I have had a pretty great life,” he admits. “As far as me struggling in Nashville, I can’t say that I did that. A lot of singer/songwriter’s come to town and play all the honky-tonks and bars, hoping to meet someone and worrying and struggling. Mine’s not that story.

“For a long time, I tried not to really tell my story, because I felt like everybody thought, ‘Look at this lucky kid.’ So I’ve always been a little hesitant to talk about that, even to be a little ashamed of it.

“Then I started thinking. This is my story. This is what I did so I should be proud, not ashamed. Yes, I feel like I was very, very fortunate but I am also extremely grateful that everything happened the way it did. I truly believe that everything always works out the way it is supposed to.”

There was a downside to his good fortune. Because of being so suddenly thrust into the spotlight on the road, Jake Owen never really got to know the Nashville country community. Because he wrote his own songs, he knew only a handful of the hundreds of gifted song craftspeople in Music City. So in making his third album, he addressed the missing parts of his “Nashville education.” Jake Owen had co-written nearly all the songs on his first two records. For his third, he reached out into a songwriting community he had never tapped.

“I searched out songs. I searched out songwriters. I got to pick songs from this amazing community of writers, and I’d never done that. Before, I’d written everything because I felt like that was expected of me. On this record, I wanted to include the incredibly talented writers in this town.”

He also set out to find a more personal sound. In search of a new musical direction, he initially teamed up with legendary producer Tony Brown, who is famed for his work with George Strait, Reba, Steve Earle, Vince Gill and dozens of other hit makers. Brown produced the first five songs that Owen chose for his album.

But Jake Owen still felt restless. Since he had kept Rodney Clawson’s co-written “Keepin’ it Country” for more than a year without recording it, the singer felt obligated to the songwriter. So he approached Clawson about producing the song. Clawson’s songwriting credits include George Strait’s “I Saw God Today,” Big & Rich’s “Lost in This Moment” and Jason Aldean’s hits “Hicktown,” “Amarillo Sky,” “Johnny Cash,” “Crazy Town” and “Why.” So Tony Brown gave Owen his blessing to continue experimenting with the sound of his record.

To the singer’s surprise, Clawson suggested bringing in Canada’s Joey Moi as a co-producer. Moi is noted for his work with the rock band Nickelback. This is his first experience with country music.

“Joey came to town with all these extra ideas,” Owen comments. “I’d always listened to people say what you’re supposed to do and not supposed to do on a country record. He blew my mind.

“Instantly, when I started to work with these guys, I felt, ‘Wow. They get it.’ They had the sound I’d been hearing in my head.” So after two CDs, a big ACM award and a string of radio successes, Jake Owen has come into his own.

He observes, “When you get a record deal, no one hands you a manual or an instruction booklet and tells you how you’re supposed to conduct your professional life. I was a kid straight out of college, thrown out on these massive stages. I really didn’t know anything. I had to find out who I am.”

His roots are fairly easy to describe. Jake Owen was raised in the coastal town of Vero Beach, FL. He and his fraternal twin Jarrod grew up in the sand and surf. Both boys attended Florida State. That’s where music became Jake Owen’s true focus. He suffered a severe shoulder injury while wake boarding. This ended his days on the university’s golf team. During his recuperation, his left arm was in a sling. Jake realized that even with his arm in a sling, he could hold a guitar so he started playing guitar and writing songs.

“This scar that I have on my shoulder reminds me about the one dark time in my life,” he recalls. “It took that accident to make me realize that I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing. What I was supposed to be doing, was something that fulfilled me. Music.”

After his recovery, Jake became a regular club entertainer. He quit college just shy of graduation to make his pilgrimage to Music City. Then he was catapulted into the country-music spotlight. Now comes the real work.

“If you want to get better at your craft, you have to push yourself, take risks and try something different,” he reflects. “In order to grow and not be complacent, you have to open your mind, expand your horizons and be grateful. That’s what this record represents for me.”

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Heralded as one of the biggest independent rock bands in history, Dispatch hit a major career milestone when they played an outdoor concert in Boston that drew over 110,000 people and were dubbed by Rolling Stone as the hosts of the the largest independent music event ever. Three years later, the band continued to impress fans and critics alike with three consecutive shows at New York City’s Madison Square Garden in ties to their philanthropic work in Zimbabwe, becoming the first independent band to sell out the historic venue. In 2011, the band officially reunited to release new material, including a six-song EP and their first full-length studio album since 2000, Circles Around the Sun. They have since embarked on multiple sold out arena tours across the globe and have released their most ambitious musical effort to date America, Location 12 (2017).

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X Ambassadors

X Ambassadors – ‘Ahead Of Myself’ on YouTube

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Fitz and the Tantrums

Fitz and the Tantrums – ‘Fool’ on YouTube

Since forming in 2008, Fitz and the Tantrums have always been a band hell-bent on evolving. Having made a splash with the soulful R&B-revival sound of their debut album, 2010’s Pickin’ Up The Pieces (released on Dangerbird Records), the band offered up a New Wave-influenced dance-pop sound with its Elektra Records debut, 2013’s Heatseekers No. 1 More Than Just A Dream, which featured the gold-certified and #1 Alternative Radio singles “The Walker” and “Out of My League.” The album’s success sent Fitz and the Tantrums on a two-year touring odyssey, which enabled the Los Angeles-based sextet — known for its explosive, no-holds barred live shows — to cement themselves as one of the country’s hottest live acts.

“We felt incredibly validated by the reception to More Than Just A Dream,” says the band’s co-vocalist Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick. “We knew we could pull from many different styles and create a truly hybrid form of music, and do it in a way that felt authentic. At that point, we felt even more empowered to do whatever we wanted creatively.” But when it came time to write the songs for Fitz and the Tantrums’ third album, it became clear to Fitz and his co-vocalist Noelle Scaggs that they were suffering from a classic case of writer’s block.

It was January 2015 and the band, which also includes James King (saxophone, flute), Jeremy Ruzumna (keyboards), Joseph Karnes (bass), and John Wicks (drums, percussion), had barely been home since the release of More Than Just A Dream two years prior. Cooped up with each other in an insular environment on tour had taken its toll. “The last album was made super fast and in something of a bubble,” Fitz says. “This time there was a lot of massive change happening for all of us personally, so once we put our roots back in the ground at home, I needed someone to hold up a mirror and say, ‘Where are you right now, as a human being? What do you care about? What do you want to say to the world?’”

To hold up that mirror, the band turned to outside collaborators for the first time — the songwriters and producers Sam Hollander (Panic! At The Disco), Wallpaper’s Ricky Reed (Twenty-One Pilots), Jesse Shatkin (Sia, Matt & Kim), and Joel Little (Lorde), which gave the band an opportunity to answer some tough questions. “We relinquished control of ourselves,” Scaggs says, “and that enabled us to tell our story in a completely truthful manner.”

The result is Fitz and the Tantrums’ most emotionally connected record yet and one that centers on the theme of desire. “I wanted to explore this idea of desire in all of its forms,” Fitz says, “from primal, sexual desire on a song like ‘HandClap’ to the desire or need to belong on a song like ‘A Place for Us.’ Desire is one of those emotions that really forces you to turn your brain off and just feel. That’s just the nature of it. And that lends itself really well to us making a record that provides a soundtrack for people to access that emotion no matter where they are. If you’re getting ready for work in the morning and you’re thinking, ‘Ugh, I hate my boss,’ you have access to this music anytime that just changes the molecular structure in the room. It changes the energy.”

That transformative experience — further bolstered by the album’s diverse palette of musical influences including hip-hop, trap music, reggae, and world music rhythms played on 808s — is something Fitz and the Tantrums have always strived to deliver. “To me, the songs on this album offer a release from whatever is going on,” Scaggs says. “They help the listener shift their mood in that moment. Our goal was to make a record that makes anyone listening feel something from the heart and feel like they are a part of this community we’ve created.”

One of the first songs written was the first single “HandClap,” which garnered over a million streams on Spotify its first week out. A tale of lust and animal desire, contrasted with the desire to not be alone, “HandClap” set the tone of the album right away: “I was searching for something that felt visceral and edgy,” Fitz says. “As soon as that moment happened, I was relieved. It felt like the compass — that theme of letting go and losing control — had been set. And it found its way into the rest of the album.” “Complicated” is a story about the most basic form of desire: “It’s when you have no willpower against the pure sexual chemistry you have with someone you know is going to hurt you,” Fitz says. “Burn It Down” is about the desire to break down the protective mechanisms that one has in place but that are keeping you from being present in a relationship. “That comes from a very personal place for me,” Fitz says. “I carried the twisted family dynamics I saw as a kid into my adult relationships and found them to be a massive hindrance. So the question became, ‘Am I going to burn down this relationship with this baggage I’ve carried my entire life?’”

And finally, “A Place For Us” is about the desire to belong. “Whether you’re the jock in school, or you’re the Freaks & Geeks guy in the corner, I think everybody has, to some degree, this sense of not being accepted,” Fitz says. “And that is a super powerful message.” Adds Scaggs: “To me, the song is about building community. We’re all connected and once people realize that, it’s going to change the way the world works.”

In this way, “A Place For Us” continues to uphold Fitz and the Tantrums’ long-held worldview. With their lively sonic mix of ’80s New Wave, blue-eyed soul, disco, and dance-pop, the band has always used celebratory music as a way to break down social barriers and bring people together. Fitz, a longtime studio engineer and aspiring musician, formed the group in 2008, driven simply by “a need to be creative and not lose my mind over a breakup.” He found worthy musical partners in his bandmates, with King, Ruzumna, Karnes, and Wicks all being top-notch players, and the fierce, elegant Scaggs supplying the feminine emotional counterpoint to Fitz’s physical, masculine id.

“From the first second, we just connected,” Fitz says of Scaggs. “Our voices naturally blended together. And then, because so much of what we write about is the dynamic between a man and a woman, we started to sing toward each other onstage. And that energy just grew. Then we’d sing out to the audience and encourage them to not just be passive listeners, but to be participants, an actual rhythmical part of the music. And that became a huge part of our identity. Our live show became our calling card everywhere we went.” And with their third full-length release, Fitz and the Tantrums have made an album that captures that jubilant, enraptured spirit. “We wanted to give people permission to lose control,” Fitz says. “We want the album to be a call to arms and for people to come to the church of the song.”

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Billy Currington has come a long way from working construction and living in a tiny attic apartment during his early days in Nashville. In the decade since he made his debut with the top ten hit “Walk a Little Straighter,” the Georgia native has parlayed his rich, emotion-laden tenor and unerring song sense into some of the country format’s most memorable hits, including such No. 1s as “Good Directions,” “Must Be Doin’ Something Right” and “People Are Crazy.”

Currington’s songs have always been snapshots of life. His music is steeped in truth and possesses a relatability that makes his audience feel like they could drink a beer or catch a few fish with the curly-haired country boy. Currington has that heartfelt everyman quality that lends emotional weight to whatever he’s singing whether it’s a tender ballad or a rollicking party anthem. He demonstrates his ability to render both those scenarios and all points between on his fifth studio album We Are Tonight.

Led by the fast-climbing single “Hey Girl,” We Are Tonight is filled with songs that evoke both wistful reflection and boisterous revelry with equal conviction. Throughout the collection, Currington exudes the easy going charm that has become his trademark yet also possesses a maturity and confidence that comes from a decade of churning out hits and earning accolades. He won the “Hottest Video of the Year” honor at the fan-voted CMT Music Awards for “Must Be Doin’ Somethin’ Right” in 2006, the same year he received an ACM nod for Top New Male Vocalist. His hit duet with Shania Twain, “Party For Two,” earned nominations from both the CMA and ACM, and “People Are Crazy” proved to be a career-defining hit that earned Grammy nominations for Male Country Vocal Performance and Best Country Song in addition to being nominated for Single and Song of the Year from the Academy of Country Music, as well as Single, Song and Video of the Year from the Country Music Association.

Billy’s album #WeAreTonight is available on iTunes now!

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Blame Aunt Henrietta. When you dig into Lee Brice, with its thick grooves, the squalling guitars, the tumbling drums, sheets of steamy B-3 organ and wide open vocals, the two time CMA/ACM/Grammy Song of the Year nominee takes listeners to church, school, home and out on a Saturday night. For a man known for raucous live shows and contemplative songs, there’s a whole lot of gospel driving his fourth album.

“My Aunt Henrietta had the groove,” he says. “She could play one note, and pierce your heart. She played the piano, and when she played she was black — and I didn’t know it, or think about it. I was so sheltered, I didn’t understand; it was just church music – and it felt good! It coulda been Ray Charles, too, but it was all over her playing.”

It’s all over Brice’s self-titled new record, too, which serves as a homecoming and a homing device on the essence of what’s defined the man whose written hits for Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, Jason Aldean and the Eli Young Band, who had their breakout single with “Crazy Girl.” There’s a newfound simplicity to tracks like the real life “Songs In The Kitchen,” the soul searching “What Keeps Me Up At Night,” the loving reality check “Boy” and self-recognizing “I Don’t Smoke,” which scrapes Brice’s music to the bone and features guitars by Warren Haynes.

“Songs that are pleasing to the heart, songs where your heart hears it, and you feel something in your heart, they don’t need all that stuff,” Brice explains. “So this album I wanted to be a real organic thing: I play 99% of the lead guitar, my band’s on it – and there’s even a theremin, which I had to learn to play. When I started, I wanted this record to be groovy, stripped down to the message and the feel.

“There are no computer tricks, no artificial sounds. Even when it sounds like a computer, I promise, we figured out a way to make that sound. To me, being real was everything. I wanted to put a little piece of everything about me, everything I am on this record. No two songs are about the same things, but somehow it all hangs together.”

From the rising romance and deep desire of “Eyes Closed” to the mandolin-flecked homage to making your mark where you are “They Won’t Forget About Us,” the Conway Twitty-esque soul slink of the sultry “Rumor” to the sanctified smoke of the Southern boogie and Detroit manufacture witness “Dixie Highway,” Brice stabs veins of country tributaries to craft a roots swelter that speaks to America’s biggest genre from, the outside in.
His recipe is as straightforward as the man himself. Start with the basics: influences.

“My musical upbringing is so different, it’s hard to explain to people… I’ve listened to things most people never heard of, a lot of gospel quartets: Gold City, the Gaither Vocal Band. I had a few cassettes, but most of my other music was what I taped off the radio.

“I fell in love with Willie Nelson’s The Great Divide, and I wore the tape out of Garth’s first record. And there was Aunt Henrietta. She made a record with my Mom, the three Lewis Sisters when they were teenagers; that stayed with her.”

Music it seems is genetically hard-wired into the father of three, the embodiment of that guy in the neighborhood everybody knows and loves. It’s what gives “The Locals” its sense of enjoying the ones who are happy right where they were born and raised – and captures the positive outlook in the face of adversity that tempers those facing life’s greatest challenges on the loping “Have A Good Day.”

That same positivity infuses the Bruce Hornsby-evoking “Story To Tell” with a sense of how powerful every single person’s narrative is. Written with Edwin McCain, who guests on the track, it taps into music’s ability to transform each of us – if we’ll let it.

“My hero came to my garage, and we wrote two songs,” he marvels. “Before I came to town, I knew Edwin McCain and his music; went to his concert every year at the House of Blues. Those records, I knew by heart growing up… and he has a lot of the same Southern influences. He knows those same things that matter to me, they’re in his music.”

Beyond what Brice was raised on, there are all the things he’s learned along the way. Laughing, the great big mountain of a man admits, “I grew up in Sumter, South Carolina, one of the Twenty Most Violent Places in America. It’s this tiny little town, and it’s rough, which makes you real tough. The last thing you have to worry about is showing somebody how tough you are. For us, it’s working hard and doing right. I have rough edges.”

Rough edges, and a vulnerability that never flinches. Brice, after all, is the man who gave the world the wrenching “I Drive Your Truck” and faltering “I Don’t Dance.” Fully capable of delivering on the “Parking Lot Party” and “Drinking Class” end of the spectrum, be careful how you view his brand of good timing.

“I know, I know,” he allows, “onstage you see this big burly guy stomping around, singing his guts out. You don’t get that from the radio, and it doesn’t add up – except it does. The funny thing is the dudes are as into ‘I Don’t Dance’ as the girls are. I think they see me up there and they feel those things, too, but now there’s a guy trying to be a guy who’s being honest about this stuff.”

Contradictions aside, Brice is probably right. Beyond the hell-raising and church-leaning, there’s a real man who works hard to support his family by driving everything about who he is and what he does into his work. It doesn’t fit into music business clichés, but it’s the bottom line for the rugged songwriter/guitarist.

“I’ve tried to walk a fine line between the commercial and the things that are tangible,” he explains. “I’m on the road 200 days a year, trying to write songs when I’m in town. But I also want to make a life: I have a wife, a baby, two little boys and a home. That’s important to me. So when I’m home, I work harder and dig deeper into living. You know, you have to live so you have something to work from and write about.”

It’s not defensive, nor is it aggressive. Like much of what’s on his 15-song self-titled project, Lee Brice has dropped all machinations that aren’t real for the Southern Baptist kid who penned the first song to debut at #1 on Billboard’s Country Singles chart (Brooks’ “More Than A Memory”), broken Eddy Arnold’s longest charting single record (56 weeks with his #3 “Love You Like Crazy”) and helped the Eli Young Band onto their first nomination streak, while winning Song of the Year at the Academy of Country Music Awards (“Crazy Girl”). Diversity is a piece of who he is, and those fragments yield something singular in the former Clemson football player.

“Believability has so much to do with the production,” he says. “This time, I didn’t want the tricks and the wall of sound; I figured the stripped back, organic nature would be what held the album together. I wanted heart-to-heart communication – whether it was family-inspired, small town or romance – with nothing in between. So I didn’t sing a lot of vocal takes, and we sometimes strip things down to just a guitar. There’s nowhere to hide, and a whole lot of music.”

For a man who wrote 60 songs and kept 15, that’s a lot of music to turn people on with. But it’s also a compelling sampler of who he is and where he comes from. Whether drawing on Brian McKnight, Phil Driskell or Tupac, as well as vintage Hank Jr. and Alabama, it is the South that permeates his take on 21st century country music.

“There’s a lot of blues from the Mississippi River down from Memphis and all the way up to Chicago,” he begins. “South Carolina and the Southeast have their own thing, with Sister Hazel, Hootie & the Blowfish, the Allman Brothers, Tom Petty – beyond all the church music I was raised with. There’s a whole sound from ‘round here, and it runs through everything.
“To me, if I want people to know who I am and understand my music, this is the place to start. It’s all here, if you just close your eyes and listen. My values as a man, trying to be honest about my doubts and my faith, the music that turns me on – and the way I think songs can bring a whole lot of real life to people.”

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Fame often has a chilling effect on one’s psyche. However much as he’s done his entire life, when faced with a No. 1 major label debut album in 2014’s Ignite the Night, as well as a pair of Top 5 singles with the RIAA Platinum-certified “Ready Set Roll” and Gold- certified “Gonna Wanna Tonight,” Chase Rice turned his cheek and took the path less traveled. As he readily recounts, the country music maverick has only grown more self- aware, mature and grateful in the wake of his success. “I’m a different person in a lot of ways,” Rice says looking back at his younger self, who moved to Nashville following the sudden death of his father “having no clue what the hell I was doing,” wrote a batch of killer songs and went for broke in the country music industry. “I was searching,” Rice says. “I didn’t know who I was as an artist. But now, it’s a new me. It’s a whole new deal. Now I know exactly where I am in life.” He laughs. “Well, not exactly. But I’ve got a better idea, anyway.”
The past few years have been monumental ones for Rice: following the release of Ignite the Night, the 31-year-old budding superstar toured the world with four massive headlining tours and stadium-show opening runs for country megastars including Kenny Chesney and Dierks Bentley. “I was just having fun. I was riding the wave,” he says.
Most recently, Rice released a new single from his forthcoming studio album, “Everybody We Know Does,” a rowdy rocker he says instantly took him back in his mind to the Fairview, North Carolina farm on which he was raised. “I wanted to have an in-the-moment song of what me and my friends do and how we live,” he says of the song, which his ultra-dedicated fanbase has already responded to with adoration. “People showing up, being so passionate about my music, that makes me proud of this life and what we – my band, my team and I – have built, man,” he continues. “When crowds are showing up singing non-singles louder than the singles, that gives me the confidence that they’ve got my back and that these songs are their lives, too.”
Despite his swelling popularity, Rice still says he sees himself and his longtime band as underdogs. It’s a healthy mindset, he says, that keeps the fire burning in his belly. “It allows you to still have that drive, still have that reason to keep trying to move forward and make the music better,” he explains. “When I’m the underdog, look out. When someone tells me we’re not going to do something, you’d better get your ass ready, because we’re gonna do it!”
Rice admits the enormous success of the Gold-certified Ignite the Night caught him by surprise. It’s not that he wasn’t confident in his songs, he says, but rather that the project was him “throwing darts on a map and seeing where we were gonna go.” Still, even as his career exploded, Rice says the death of his father when the singer was only 22 loomed large. Turning to God and, in turn, releasing himself of the associated burden of his pain gave him permission to be his best self. “You’d be shocked at the amount of pressure it
takes off your shoulders,” he says. It also freed him up to follow his creative muse like never before. “Someone who is lost is going to follow the crowd,” Rice says. “Someone who knows where they’re going and is their own person is going to chart their own course.”
“It’s still a continuous climb up the mountain,” Rice, who says he’s never been more “open and honest” in song, says of evolving his craft and looking forward to what the future holds for him. Ask him though what propels him forward and the country star will tell you it’s undoubtedly a continuous drive to prove his earliest fans right. “You guys chose to bet on me as one of your favorite artists back when it was just 500 people in a room,” he wants them to know. “I told you we were doing this thing and that I couldn’t do it without you. And now we’re doing it!”

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So you think you know ol’ Bocephus? Well, get ready for the most outspoken, controversial, flat-out rowdy Hank Williams, Jr. album in years with Old School, New Rules. A clearly energized Hank tackles 11 new songs—10 of them self-penned— with a vigor and sense of purpose that makes ample use of his remarkable musicality, instantly recognizable vocals, and always-present charisma.

The ideas for the songs that became Old School, New Rules flowed like a river, and Hank started churning out songs quickly—on an iPad these days. “When I came up with that line, ‘they made a huge miscalculation about the mood of this nation,’” he says, citing a lyric from the impeccably titled “Cow Turd Blues,” “I thought, yep, time to get the iPad out and put this down. I really got pretty motivated.”

Hank’s not pissed off, he’s just…concerned, shall we say, about the state of affairs in America. The nightly news gives him plenty of fodder to get those creative juices flowing. “Horrible economy, lots of problems, one of the worst presidents we’ve ever had, people out of work, this whatever you want to call it, redistribution of wealth. I call it socialism and Marxism myself,” he says. “This is a record for its times.”

And these days, after working within the confines of the major label system for more than 70 albums, Williams is now free of all restraints and making use of his own Bocephus Records, with a licensing deal with Blaster Records under a Warner Music Nashville distribution deal, as a platform for some of the most powerful songs of his lengthy and hit-studded career. So add “label head” to his long list of accomplishments.

“I’m an executive CEO, man!,” Hank says with a laugh. “I’ll take you fishin’, take you on tour, sell $100,000 in t-shirts, whatever, I’m a multi-talented dude. It’s fun, it’s real.”

Williams has been storing up a cache of songs, and now he’s ready to release them on his own imprint. “I saved a lot of stuff back. ‘Keep The Change’ was the fastest downloaded country song in history, #1 on amazon.com the second day. That was a good way to start. People asked me, ‘where’d this come from?’ Oh, I just had it stuck away in the bottom of the guitar case.”

Hank sees plenty of targets for his ire these days, among them Wall Street, the White House, politicians in general, and the state of the nation, not to mention a couple of television networks and the untimely demise of a lengthy, Emmy-winning, 22-year relationship with Monday Night Football. And, of course, everybody knows that as an avid sportsman, Hank Jr. generally hits what he’s aiming for.

Though he has always been outspoken, Old School, New Rules boasts a completely unfiltered Hank Jr. Everybody knows Hank has lots of opinions about lots of things, but only a rare few could deliver those opinions in such an eloquent, powerful manner, with a traditional Hank sound that drives the message home in unforgettable fashion. Whomever he might be lambasting on a given tune, this is Bocephus at the height of his powers, and it concerns him little what the reaction might be, within the music world or outside it.

After all, this is an artist that has little to prove. Already possessing the most powerful pedigree in country music, Hank debuted on the Grand Ole Opry at the age of 11, and at 14 made his first record, a rendition of his father’s “Long Gone Lonesome Blues.” In 1970, he signed the biggest recording contract in the history of MGM Records, and when he began to follow his own music path, Hank’s instincts led to him to phenomenal success. “Family Tradition,” released in 1979, went Gold, kicking off a long string of gold and platinum efforts.

In October 1982, Williams had nine albums on the Billboard music charts at the same time, a feat unequaled by any other living artist. Hank has received 16 songwriting honors from Broadcast Music, Inc., had 10 #1 singles, 13 #1 albums, 20 gold and five platinum albums and a double platinum (Greatest Hits, Vol. I). In 1987, Hank won the first of five straight Entertainer of the Year awards voted to him by his peers, and won his first ever Grammy. As a touring artist, Hank was a pioneer in bringing arena rock production values to country music, and he remains one of the most consistent ticket sellers in music, period, as generation after generation gets turned on to one of the most dynamic live performers ever to take the stage.

Williams’ life has been a series of breathtaking highs and unbelievable lows—a fall from Ajax Mountain in Montana in 1975 nearly killed him, but Williams re-emerged hell-bent on making serious music his way. Hank has been to hell and back, constructing his own trailblazing musical legacy to sit alongside his father’s. So if certain folks don’t agree with Hank’s take, well, “I’m more concerned about whether the crappie are biting on Kentucky Lake,” he says. “I don’t approach my career that way, and never have. I’m not some 20-year old artist thinking, ‘oh god, I hope I can kiss the ass of every program director out there so I’ll get played.’ That ain’t me. Uh-uh. No.”

But that’s not to say Hank doesn’t have plenty of support from like-minded people, whether they be his legions of fans or members of the country music superstar club. When Hank famously parted ways with ESPN and Monday Night Football due to his now legendary comments on “Fox & Friends,” both his fans and several compatriots in the music industry came to his defense. Brad Paisley appears on Old School on the neo honky-tonk classic “I’m Gonna Get Drunk And Play Hank Williams,” and fellow legend Merle Haggard shows up twice, on the righteously indignant “We Don’t Apologize For America” and a Bocephus-ized re-imagining of the Haggard classic “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink.” Trace Adkins offers a line on the Harry Truman-quoting “Cow Turd Blues,” which Hank jokingly calls, “one of the most beautiful love songs I’ve ever written.”

“They’re all real friends,” Hank says of fellow artists who have shown support. “And having Haggard on there, that’s sweet.”

The fans, of course, have always voiced their support in all manner of ways (his Facebook page recently surpassed 1 million likes), not the least of which is by turning out by the thousands to his incendiary live shows. They also communicate, and Williams says input from the people of this country were a source of inspiration in writing the album. “I am the voice of all those letters and all those people that said, ‘we are behind you 100 percent. We’re starving and these idiots are out there playing golf, high-fiving each other,’” he says. “I am their spokesman, their mouthpiece, and it’s a really good feeling, that’s all I can say.”

While the views expressed via certain songs on Old School, New Rules may be controversial, they are unfailingly patriotic and unabashedly sung from the heart. And, whether the songs are overtly political or not, Hank never sacrifices his high musical standards to make a point. This is an artist who knows who he is. “I’m not searching for myself or looking for my sound, ya’ll,” he says. “I found that a long time ago.”

Hank rips a few new ones on Old School, whether it’s the networks and politicians on “Takin’ Back the Country,” what he terms as “America haters” on the troops-supporting “We Don’t Apologize for America,” ill-advised government policies on “Who’s Takin’ Care of Number One,” (dedicated to “every working man and woman in this country, and everyone that’s trying to run a business and is constantly punished, taxed and regulated by the federal government”), or Wall Street scammers on “Stock Market Blues.”

But not all the material on Old School is politically charged. “Old School,” one of the album’s many highlights, pays homage to the country legends who gave Hank a personal musical education, and is a song only Hank could write truthfully. “That Ain’t Good” takes a swampy, compelling dive into one man’s personal struggles, and Hank lightens things up considerably with the hilariously misguided attempt at romance on “3 Day Trip,” which, to be clear, is embarked upon with a “one-day woman.” Elsewhere, the thumping “Cow Turd Blues” owns a legacy far deeper than its title might suggest, but Hank delivers the song with a sly sense of humor and jaunty melody.

“Sometimes when it gets so bad, you’ve just got to laugh about it,” Hank says. “I do like to make people laugh, too.”

So the laughs are there, yes. But the music on Old School, New Rules, Williams’ trademark blend of traditional country, blues, Southern rock, is seriously good. This Old School is in a class by itself.

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Show rescheduled from 12/31. All tickets purchased for original date honored on this date.

Kool & the Gang have influenced the music of three generations. Thanks to songs like Celebration, Cherish, Jungle Boogie, Summer Madness and Open Sesame, they’ve earned two Grammy Awards, seven American Music Awards, 25 Top Ten R&B hits, nine Top Ten Pop hits and 31 gold and platinum albums. Kool & the Gang has performed continuously for the past 43 years, longer than any R&B group in history. Their bulletproof funk and jazzy arrangements have also made them the most sampled band of all time.

In 1964, Khalis Bayyan (AKA Ronald Bell) and his brother, Robert “Kool” Bell, joined Jersey City neighborhood friends Robert “Spike” Mickens, Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas, Ricky Westfield, George Brown, and Charles Smith to create a unique musical blend of jazz, soul and funk. At first calling themselves the Jazziacs, the band went through various names – The New Dimensions, The Soul Town Band, Kool & the Flames – before settling on their moniker. Over the next several years they solidified their musical chemistry on the rough-and-tumble East Coast music scene supporting acts like Bill Cosby, Ritchie Havens and Richard Pryor. Their self-titled 1969 debut album introduced their signature instrumental sound and fierce horn arrangements and spawned their first Billboard R&B charted single, Kool & the Gang.

In 1969 Kool & the Gang released their self-titled debut album/ It was the introduction to a theme, music is the message, that Kool & the Gang stands by today. The instrumental album was an expression of their deep love of music. It was also an introduction to their signature sound and the fierce horn arrangements created by Khalis, Dee Tee, and Spike. Their debut album spawned their first Billboard R&B charted single Kool & the Gang and later Let the Music Take Your Mind.

In 1970, their audacious sophomore set Live at the Sex Machine peaked at #6 on Billboard’s R&B chart and yielded three hit singles: Funky Man, Who’s Gonna Take the Weight, and I Want to Take You Higher. Next came The Best Of Kool & the Gang Featuring The Penguin, Kool & the Gang Live at PJ’S, Music Is The Message, and Good Times, all of which helped solidify a sound that wowed not only fans but such contemporaries as James Brown and Nina Simone.

The band’s stellar reputation grew with each album, but 1973’s gold disc Wild & Peaceful took Kool & the Gang to another level (#6 R&B, #33 Pop), spurred by the immortal party anthems Funky Stuff, Hollywood Swinging and the platinum smash Jungle Boogie. Hits like Higher Plane (#1 R&B), the classic Summer Madness (featured on the Grammy-winning movie soundtrack Rocky) and LPs Spirit of the Boogie, Love & Understanding and Open Sesame followed. The latter’s title track was featured on the top-selling movie soundtrack of all time, Saturday Night Fever, earning the group their second Grammy.

In 1979, Kool & the Gang unveiled a smooth new sound with Ladies Night. Produced by the legendary Pop/Jazz musician Eumir Deodato, it became their first platinum album. The #1 R&B title track also

reached #8 at Pop. It was followed by Too Hot (#3 R&B, #5 Pop). The 80’s would see them dominate the mainstream, starting with the double platinum-selling album Celebrate (driven by the international monster hit Celebration, which spent six weeks atop the R&B chart and became a #1 Pop single).
Celebration, which played as the American hostages returned from Iran, remains de rigueur at joyous occasions worldwide. The smashes Get Down On It, Take My Heart, Let’s Go Dancing, Joanna, Tonight, Misled, the #1 R&B, #2 Pop giant Cherish and the #1 R&B anthem Fresh (these last three from the multi- platinum LP Emergency) solidified the group’s international stardom. Kool & the Gang landed global commercial endorsements, supported countless charitable causes and were the only American group to participate in Band Aid’s 1984 Do They Know It’s Christmas project for famine victims in Africa.

With the explosion of hip-hop in the 90’s, Kool & the Gang’s incredible catalog of grooves made them DJ favorites. They were second only to R&B icon James Brown as sources of rap music samples.
Today, the group enjoys global fame and recognition and a following that spans generations due in part to the groups widely sampled catalogue. Kool & the Gang’s drum beats, bass, guitar and signature horn lines lace the tracks of numerous artists including the Beastie Boys, Jay-Z, Madonna, Janet Jackson, Cypress Hill, and P. Diddy. Kool & the Gang is the most sampled band in hip-hop by far. Their music is also featured on the soundtracks for Rocky, Saturday Night Fever, Pulp Fiction, Wreck-It Ralph and countless others.

Kool & the Gang has continued to tour the world appearing with artists such as Kid Rock, Dave Matthews Band, Elton John, The Roots and a 50-city tour with Van Halen.

They were honored with a BET Soul Train Lifetime Achievement award. In October 2015, in the town they sing about in one of their earliest hits ”Hollywood Swinging” Kool & the Gang was honored to take their place as American musical icons with a star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame.

2016 marked the bands 50th year together. Here is how they celebrated the milestone:

• They were inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.
• They received a touching tribute when a street they grew up on in Jersey City was re named in their honor: “Kool & the Gang Way”.
• Kool & the Gang released “Sexy (Where’d You Get Yours)” the single from their upcoming album. The song signifies a modernization of Kool & the Gang’s unmistakable sound, right down to the dance floor-tailored bass grooves and the perfectly timed horns.
• Kool’s bass is displayed at the new Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African American History and Culture

Kool & the Gang continue to delight fans around the globe with their timeless hits. For information and dates visit: www.koolandthegang.com

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General Admission: $199. Reserved Seats: $499. Preferred Seats: $749. All prices reflect Black Friday Special and are only good for the limited time only. To purchase tickets, visit www.innsbrookafterhours.com. Tickets are from limited inventory and subject to availability.

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Alabama

Tickets $25-$99

NOTE: GA LAWN tickets: LAWN Chairs are not permitted for this show.

It’s been 40 years since a trio of young cousins left Fort Payne, Alabama, to spend the summer playing in a Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, bar called The Bowery. It took Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry and Jeff Cook six long years of tip jars and word of mouth to earn the major label deal they’d been dreaming of, but then seemingly no time at all to change the face of country music.

ALABAMA is the band that changed everything. They reeled off 21 straight #1 singles, a record that will probably never be equaled in any genre. They brought youthful energy, sex appeal and a rocking edge that broadened country’s audience and opened the door to self-contained bands from then on, and they undertook a journey that led, 73 million albums later, to the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

ALABAMA & Friends commemorates that summer at The Bowery and catalogues the lasting influence the group has had on generations of Country stars who draw inspiration from the sparkling harmonies, irresistible stage presence and world-class songwriting and song selection that made them superstars. It brings together some of Country’s biggest stars, each bringing a unique musical approach to classic ALABAMA songs that have influenced them.

The diversity and star power of the artists speaks volumes about the breadth and depth of ALABAMA’s legacy. Contributing their own versions of Alabama classics are Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Eli Young Band, Florida Georgia Line, Jamey Johnson, Toby Keith, Rascal Flatts, and Trisha Yearwood.

“I thank God I’m here to see these great artists see fit to sing some of the songs we did,” says Randy, with the Everyman sincerity that has helped so many identify with the humbly born superstars.

“It’s very much an honor,” adds Jeff, “that they’d take part in an ALABAMA tribute. We had a lot of fun working with them, and I think the finished product testifies to both the fun and the quality that went into it.”

The songs chosen for the project represent just the tip of the iceberg that is the band’s catalog, but they speak, to hear Teddy tell it, to the key to the band’s legacy.

“More than anything,” he says, “our longevity is a tribute to the hard work we did in selecting songs, because it’s the songs that people remember.”

The songs here are, of course, among the most memorable in country history. Included are “My Home’s In Alabama,” the band’s first major hit and the song that introduced them to the world; “Tennessee River,” their very first #1; “Old Flame” and “Love in the First Degree,” from their second RCA album; “Lady Down On Love,” a harmony-laden example of Randy’s songwriting prowess; “The Closer You Get,” released halfway through their streak of 21 chart-toppers; “She And I,” from the mid-’80s; and “Forever’s As Far As I’ll Go” and “I’m In A Hurry (And Don’t Know Why),” which helped kick off the ’90s, in which the boys earned 29 more chart hits, including 22 #1 or Top 5 singles.

Capping the project are two new tracks by ALABAMA, songs that find the band making music that sounds both classic and relevant. They worked with legendary producer Harold Shedd, who worked with them in those golden early days and went on to discover Shania Twain, Toby Keith and many others.

“I suggested to Jeff and Teddy that Harold work with us on the new stuff,” says Randy, “and they agreed. It was spine-tingling when he said yes. It’s a story-book episode in my life and in the career of ALABAMA to have Harold being on board and to see him as excited as we were after all these years.”

“We hadn’t worked together in years,” adds Shedd, “but within a couple of hours we had some things that sounded like ALABAMA did in 1980. It was like ALABAMA reborn.”

“I always worry about putting out anything new at this point,” Teddy says with a laugh, “knowing it has to stand up to a pretty strong track record,” but agrees the new material does just that. He calls “That’s How I Was Raised” “right down the heart of the plate simple country song that showcases our harmonies,” and “All American” “a song that says a lot of things that need to be said about our country.”
The project came about as the trio realized their 40th anniversary was at hand.

“We got to talking and said, ‘Let’s do some shows and play some of the places we haven’t played before, like the Ryman and the Fox Theatre in Atlanta,’” says Teddy.

“We kicked off the tour in Myrtle Beach and took our music back to our fans,” adds Jeff. “We’ve all done enjoyable projects separately in the years since our last tour, but we all realize we’re stronger as a unit.”
“And then as we talked,” says Randy, “we started talking about a CD project and maybe getting some other artists involved.”

The format they chose enables them to celebrate those humble beginnings and their stratospheric accomplishments. Of the former, Jeff says, “I don’t think we thought too far ahead. We were more concerned with paying our bills at the end of the week playing music.”
The Bowery was a chance to get established outside their home turf, where they’d played a nearby theme park, opening for national acts like Bobby Bare.

“We believed we had something pretty special from a vocal standpoint,” says Teddy, “and we were looking for the opportunity to prove it. There were a lot of times when we wondered whether we might be better off going back home and getting jobs, but we just kept rehearsing and writing songs, trying to get better and believing we could do it.”

“I went to see them at The Bowery,” says Shedd, “and the sound that these three guys could create together was just really something. I saw the crowd reacting to music they’d never heard before as though they had. They were doing some covers, but a lot of the ALABAMA show at the time was original material, including stuff that wound up on the first three albums we did together.”

The band was revolutionary in more than one sense.
“We were renegades in sneakers and T-shirts,” says Teddy. “We had long hair and played loud and some of the country folks resisted us for a while. But then of course they did accept us and then after that, our success made it lots easier for other bands to try it in country music.”

The fact that some of the heirs of that legacy–Eli Young Band, Rascal Flatts and Florida Georgia Line–are among the stars paying tribute on Alabama & Friends is part of their legacy as surely as the awards and plaudits they’ve earned through the years. And those, of course, have been legion. They include more than 150 major industry nods, including two Grammys, the Minnie Pearl Humanitarian award, Entertainer of the Year awards three times from the CMA and five times from the ACM, as well as the latter’s Artist of the Decade award. They earned 21 Gold ®, Platinum ® and Multi-Platinum ® albums and were named the RIAA’s Country Group of the Century.

But awards are only a part of a legacy that finds its most important home in the hearts of listeners everywhere. Some of those are superstars in other genres, as Randy found out not long ago.
“I was part of a benefit concert at the Ryman,” he says, “and I look over there’s Jon Bon Jovi. He walked over and said hello and it turns out he likes our music.”

Many more, of course, are everyday country fans.

“A lot of fans will start a conversation with, ‘I don’t want to bother you,’” says Jeff, “but what they don’t understand is that everything that’s happened to us, every one of those awards, happened because we’ve been accepted and supported by our fans.”

Not long ago, Teddy was witness to a scene that shows that their legacy of song remains as fresh as it was when that streak in the ’80s kicked it all off.

“I was in Nashville,” he says, “walking by this club full of young people–I’m talking 18 or 20. The band started playing ‘Dixieland Delight’ and everybody in the place started singing and sang all the way through. I had to smile at the longevity of the songs. Maybe some of those kids didn’t even know who ALABAMA was, but they knew the music, and so I think that’s a tribute to the fact that we spent a career putting out good songs that stand the test of time.”

With ALABAMA & Friends, all of us who agree get to celebrate that accomplishment and its legacy one more time.

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