Herald JournalHerald Journal, May 31, 2004

Winstock preview, part 2

By Ryan GueningsmanIt’s Winstock time. The 11th annual festival takes place Friday and Saturday, June 4 and 5, at the festival grounds on McLeod County Road 5, just south of Winsted.

The entertainment comes to a close Saturday with party boys Montgomery Gentry.

Hitting the stage before the duo Saturday afternoon includes piano man Phil Vassar, Trace Adkins, Tracy Byrd, and The Oak Ridge Boys.

Several things that are new at Winstock this year include the Winsted Fire Department’s annual spaghetti dinner, which will be served this year Thursday at the Winstock grounds near the beer tent beginning at 4 p.m. The dinner will also be served at the fire hall. Live music will begin in the beer tent at 7 p.m. Thursday, going until 11 p.m. to get the party started.

In the Winstock food tent, watch for stickers on the bottoms of food trays that can be turned into the Winstock information booth for prizes.

One other thing to remember before heading out to Winstock – general admission parking is not free this year. Winstock is charging $5 per vehicle, per day for attending the event.

Phil Vassar,
Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

From Willie Nelson to Neil Diamond, from Carole King to Billy Joel to Bruce Springsteen, the most compelling and soulful artists of the modern era have combined cut-to-the-heart song writing with a solo performance charisma that dazzles fans and critics alike.

Phil Vassar joins this elite group, an all-around performer who seals the deal with his new sophomore release, “American Child.”

As a singer, songwriter and performer, Vassar is artistically a triple-threat. He first exploded out of America’s radios with his self-titled 2000 Arista Nashville debut. That CD yielded the number 1 single “Just Another Day in Paradise,” as well as the Top Ten hits “Carlene,” “Rose Bouquet,” “Six-Pack Summer,” and “That’s When I Love You.”

It’s been a busy two years since. He’s earned both CMA and ACM award nominations, culminating in his 2002 ACM win for Top New Male Vocalist. He’s shared stages with the biggest names in country music including Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, Kenny Chesney and Jo Dee Messina. Audience response to Vassar was immediate and intense. Like Billy Joel, Vince Gill and Elton John, Phil Vassar is getting used to concert audiences spontaneously singing along to his songs.

Winstock is sure to make Vassar feel right at home as he helps keep the party going Saturday afternoon with his performance.

The Oak Ridge Boys
Saturday, 5 p.m.

Theirs is one of the most distinctive and recognizable sounds in the music industry.

The four-part harmonies and upbeat songs of The Oak Ridge Boys have spawned dozens of country hits and a number-one pop smash, earned them Grammy, Dove, CMA and ACM awards, and garnered a host of other industry and fan accolades.

Every time they step before an audience, the Oaks bring many years of hits and 50 years of tradition to bear on a stage show widely acknowledged as among the most exciting anywhere. And, each remains as enthusiastic about the process as they have ever been.

“When I go on stage, I get the same feeling I had the first time I sang with The Oak Ridge Boys,” said lead singer Duane Allen. “This is the only job I’ve ever wanted to have.”

Allen and bass Richard Sterban, along with tenor Joe Bonsall and baritone William Lee Golden, comprise one of country’s truly legendary acts.

Their string of hits includes the pop chart-topper “Elvira,” as well as “Bobbie Sue,” “Dream On,” “Thank God For Kids,” “American Made,” “I Guess It Never Hurts To Hurt Sometimes,” “Fancy Free,” “Gonna Take A Lot Of River,” and many others.

They’ve scored 10 gold, three platinum and one double platinum album, one double platinum single, and had more than a dozen national number one singles.

The Oak Ridge Boys have a touring Christmas show around the holidays, and continue to tour and bring their music to their fans, similar to what they have done for many years past.

Winstock is thrilled to invite this legendary band back to the stage.

Trace Adkins
Saturday, 6:45 p.m.

Trace Adkins has rarely approached anything – in his life or career – conventionally.

At 6’ 6”, he dominates a room. He has one of those truth-telling country voices that just grabs you, whether it’s coming through a car speaker or over an arena sound system.

Although a string of hits made him a superstar, he truly sings about the joys and challenges of everyday people. That knack for authenticity has created a huge base of devoted fans, sold millions of records, and made him the most recent inductee into the prestigious Grand Ole Opry.

Long before he was a country hit maker and television talk show pundit, Trace spent six years working on oil rigs, which is why he was attracted to the poignant ballad “Missing You.”

It’s a haunting tale of an offshore oil driller who dreams of his lover through hurricanes and waterspouts, and falls asleep with her letter in his hand.

“That song really takes me back to a time when I was heartbroken from loneliness,” he said. “I think there are a lot of people in situations where they are cut off from the world.”

“This is who I am. This is what I am, for better or worse,” Trace said. “But you know what? I feel good about it. I feel okay. I’m alright with who I am, and this just feels to me like a lot of good decisions made with a clear head for all the right reasons.”

Adkins returns to the Winstock stage with several new hits, new and old fans alike, and when he takes the stage, Winstock fans will know who is in charge.

Tracy Byrd
Saturday, 8:15 p.m.

Exclusive interview

Tracy Byrd had a recent hit called “The Truth About Men.”

Well, the truth about Byrd is that he is just a “good ol’ guy from Texas who loves the Lord and loves Country music,” he said.

“My children are my most precious possessions and I appreciate so much my career spanning over a decade now. I’m so blessed,” he added.

Byrd’s career has launched hits like “Holdin’ Heaven,” “Lifestyles of the Not So Rich and Famous,” “Watermelon Crawl,” and the ballad “Keeper of the Stars.”

“On my albums, I do try to come up with a good mix and I try to include the light-hearted up-tempos because that is what seems to get the big response for me on radio and in my shows,” Byrd said. “But, if I had my way, I would do more swing type songs and a lot more traditional sounding country music. That is where my heart is, so I do a mix of that in my shows.”

Byrd is planning on touring all across the nation this summer, promoting his newest CD, “The Truth About Men,” as well as his recently published cookbook “Eat Like a Byrd.”

“We’ve had two great singles from this album, the title track and “Drinkin’ Bone” went into the Top 10,” he said. “I’m not sure which one the label is going to come out with next, I hope a ballad or mid-tempo. This summer, we will tour all over the nation, we’ll do a big west coast run and play a lot up north and do all the fairs and festivals we can.

“We like to call them the ‘mud and dust’ tour. Also this summer we’ll be talking a lot about my cookbook and my seasonings and marinades that folks can buy at Wal-Mart Super Centers.

“I’m real proud of them because they are top-of-the-line and made with high grade vinegars, not water like a lot of them are on the shelves. Also, if people buy the cookbook at www.eatlikeabyrd.com/homecoming, then a $5 contribution will be made to my charity of choice, Children’s Miracle Network.

“Our fan club party this year at Fan Fair in Nashville will be an Eat Like a Byrd party and we’ll be cooking with my spices and marinades for my fan club members, who are called Byrd Watchers,” he said.

Byrd has also been focusing on his song-writing more than he has in the past, and looks to continue doing that, as well, while on the road or taking breaks from touring.

“I’m writing more than I have in a lot of years with some of my favorite writers in Nashville. I’ve really enjoyed getting back to that,” he said.

Byrd has lived for 16 years in Beaumont, Texas, with his wife, Michelle, and kids Evee, Logan, and Jared.

He gives back to the community with his annual Tracy Byrd Homecoming Weekend, which took place the last weekend in March. A fishing tournament, concert, and golf tournament raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network; the proceeds have underwritten the Tracy Byrd Hyperbaric Medicine and Wound Care Center at Christus St. Elizabeth Hospital in Beaumont.

In addition to his philanthropic activities, Byrd hosts the Mossy Oak’s Hunting the Country TV show on ESPN2.

“I love making music, and I love this job,” he said. “It doesn’t feel like one, and never has. I just absolutely still get fidgety and tickled about going in the studio and making records, and about going on stage. It’s great to wake up and love your job like that.”

Byrd is looking forward to the summer and seeing his fans on the road.

“Me and my band always love playing in Minnesota,” Byrd said. “I’d love to do some big deer hunting some day. Y’all are some of the finest people in the nation! I’m looking forward to June 5!”

What did T-Byrd’s wife think about “The Truth About Men?”

“My wife loved the song because she can strongly identify with it,” he said. “When I sing it on the road, I see folks in the audience shaking their head in agreement. The women are usually elbowing their significant others and saying ‘that’s exactly how you are!’”

Montgomery Gentry
Saturday, 10 p.m.

The best and most memorable country music happens when life and art come together.

With Haggard, Jones, Cash, and both Hanks, to cite the classic examples; pain and joy, struggle and release are believable because these were artists who all but erased the line between life and music.

If there is anyone in modern-day country wearing their mantles, it is Montgomery Gentry. With their fourth CD, “You Do Your Thing,” Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry show themselves to be heirs to that legacy, singing songs that strip life to the marrow, that make passion and loss, pride and heartache into palpable entities. They are singers at the peak of their form, making music that is as raw and powerful as it is compelling.

The upshot is that they maintain a seamless connection with their legions of fans, voicing their triumphs and frustrations, sharing their love of family, community and country, spending time with them after concerts on their “honky-tonk on wheels.”

It is a camaraderie that grows out of their fans’ perceptions that these are not guys chasing trends or singing songs that are more craft than substance, but two men who sing the truth and let the chips fall where they may.

Winstock is proud to invite Montgomery Gentry back to this stage as its co-headliner for 2004, and when Eddie or Troy ask if the crowd wants more, the answer is sure to be “Hell Yeah!”

Eddie Montgomery is the brother of last year’s Winstock headliner, John Michael Montgomery.

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