KWNR Concert Review by Countrystarsonline.com
Adam Gregory, Heidi
Newfield, Chuck Wicks, Jack Ingram, James Otto, Chris Young,
Randy Houser and Richie McDonald crank up the fun for charity
Concert Review by: Cheryl Harvey Hill, Sr. Staff Journalist
KWNR radio put together one of the best concerts I’ve seen in the twelve years I’ve been reviewing concerts. It was a stellar line-up that effortlessly ranked an eleven on a scale of one to ten.
Pictured right: James Otto, Chris Young and Randy Houser.
Kudos to KWNR and to the artists who took part for this wonderful cause. The concert benefited “Boy Hope Girl Hope,” an organization working locally to provide children with “arms-around” care. Scholars selected for this program receive a first-class education in safe homes and healthy environments. This provides them with the opportunity to learn more about themselves and receive academic, financial, and spiritual support. Boys Hope Girls Hope empowers children to realize the potential that lies within them.
Pictured l-r: Adam Gregory, Heidi Newfield, Chuck Wicks, Jack Ingram, James Otto, Chris Young,
Randy Houser and Richie McDonald.
The delightful Canadian import, Adam Gregory, kicked off the guitar pull and clearly illustrated that “country music” isn’t confined to one country. All of the artists who took part in this event were incredible but I don’t think anyone who was there will dispute that the beautiful and energetic Heidi Newfield, who served as lead vocalist, guitarist and harmonica player for Trick Pony (with Keith Burns and Ira Dean from 1996 until 2006), was a definite show stopper. It is not surprising that Newfield’s new single, “Johnny and June,” has been embraced by the industry and led to five nominations by the Academy of Country Music. After seeing her perform at this benefit, well, she clearly deserves all of the accolades she has been receiving and it won’t surprise me if she walks away with several of the awards. Although her vocals were beyond amazing, it was her impromptu harmonica playing, supporting one of Jack Ingram’s performances, that earned her one of her two standing ovations. James Otto was amazing; he dedicated his first song to his wife (it was her birthday) and his second song was dedicated to his father. He also wanted to let all his fans know that he is now a regular on “Twitter.” Otto is nominated for “Top New Male Vocalist” this year.
The very gifted, and animated, Jack Ingram took on the role of MC and playfully cued, and cajoled, each artist to perform. The informal comments, exchanged between all of the artists, was worth the price of admission. Each artist performed at least two songs and most of the artists accompanied the others artists as they performed. Wicks looked to be in utter awe of Newfeld’s harmonica playing and Ingram thanked her, more than once, for amping it up. It was clear that there was a mutual respect and admiration between all of the artists. Randy Hauser brought the house to their feet with “Anything Goes” and I couldn’t help but notice that Chris Young (right) brought folks to their feet, more than once, just by flashing that great smile of his. In addition to his hit songs, Young also did a clever medley of country songs to illustrate how similar they all are. Sadly, it was one of those “you had to have been there” things; hopefully you will catch him in concert some where ‘cause I’m sure he has incorporated that into his performances.
Chuck Wicks gets the award for most unique performance. At the urging of Ingram and Newfield, Wicks, much to the delight of the audience, laid down his guitar and, center stage, right in front of Ingram, did an impromptu dance; somewhat similar to the twist. Ingram’s immediate, tongue in cheek, response was, “I know that practically every woman in this room would love to be where I’m sitting,” and judging by the cheers and cat whistles that resonated from the walls, he was right.
One of the most poignant moments came when Richie McDonald was introduced. Ingram stated that McDonald probably had more hit singles than all of the other artists, on the stage, combined. McDonald was visibly touched by those words, and rightfully so, since there were some pretty amazing songwriters in that group and their collective catalogs contain many hit songs.
It is impossible to relay, in just a few paragraphs, all the marvelous songs that were sung and there were so many of those “you had to have been there” moments that just aren’t the same if you didn’t witness them first hand, but I know one thing for sure... if this year’s concert is any indication of what’s yet to come, you won’t want to miss the KWNR “Second Annual Guitar Pull for Kids” in 2010.
"I Turn To You" nominated for Country Album of the Year at the 40th Annual Dove Awards
Richie McDonald's 2008 release "I Turn To You" on Lucid Records has been nominated for a Dove Award in the Country Album of the Year category. Richie will also be presenting an award on the show. The GMA Dove Awards, gospel music's biggest night of the year, featuring artists from every style of gospel/Christian music come together for a night of music and celebration and will be broadcast nationwide live on the Gospel Music Channel at 8 p.m. (ET/PT) on Thursday, April 23, 2009.
"Christian and gospel music expresses itself in many different ways and we applaud all nominated artists for their unique contributions to the music landscape; said John W. Styll, president of the Gospel Music Association (GMA).
"Guitar Pull" Pulls in Cash
Country music fans took over Green Valley Ranch Thursday night to help raise money for a good cause.
Jack Ingram, Chuck Wicks and several other country music stars gathered on the same stage to share their favorite songs.
The fundraiser was 95.5 KWNR's first annual Guitar Pull. The other performers were Richie McDonald, James Otto, Chris Young, Randy Houser, Adam Gregory, and Heidi Newfield.
The money raised will go to Boys Hope, Girls Hope, a group that helps kids go to college.
Review: Centennial concert was biggest in 100 years
Lubbock concluded its year-long birthday celebration with grace and style in the form of a mesmerizing three-hour concert Saturday at the United Spirit Arena, emceed in often humorous fashion by Lubbock Centennial host Mac Davis.
Music arranger, composer and guest conductor David Kneupper no doubt spoke for many when he said, "You won't find a better produced show than this even in the largest cities. People just don't expect to discover this sort of quality in a city the size of Lubbock."
Creating a surreal effect, however, was the number of well respected, professional entertainers who were humbled by their fellow headliners in the featured ensemble.
Jennifer Smith, a veteran of 11 Broadway shows, was the first to mention being nervous about re-entering the spotlight in her hometown - for the first time since a John Gillas-directed production of "Finian's Rainbow" at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center Theatre more than 30 years ago.
Terry Cook, an internationally respected opera star, wowed the audience with "If Ever I Would Leave You" and "Old Man River," from "Camelot" and "Showboat," respectively.
Yet even Cook said that he had been "very worried about being able to fit in with all that incredible talent on stage."
As difficult as it might have been to gather such an incredible lineup of stars with ties to Lubbock, producer Don Caldwell deserved a salute for making every effort to also remember absent Lubbock musicians, both old and new.
Overhanging screens on both sides of the huge stage allowed video messages from the likes of Tommy X. Hancock, still considered the godfather of West Texas music, and new quartet The Cactus Cuties, who were busy Saturday at Muhammad Ali's Celebrity Fight Night, a benefit at the Desert Ridge Resort in Phoenix, Ariz.
With Reba McEntire silently looking on, the Cuties sang their own individual birthday harmony for their hometown.
The eyes of many music lovers may have watered while watching a filmed greeting by Doug Smith, who used his right hand to play the piano for a few seconds - this from a professional pianist left paralyzed after flipping his truck in July 2007, who was told he never would play piano again.
Both Terry Allen and Jay Boy Adams also offered spontaneous remarks about absent Lubbock electric guitarist Joe Don Davidson, presently battling liver cancer in Colorado.
The Lubbock Legends on stage included singer Donnie Allison, who fought his way back after being stricken with tongue cancer in late 2006.
"This (singing) is going to be one hell of a surprise to my vocal cords," Allison said backstage beforehand.
Avoiding the challenge of high notes, Allison opted to perform Buddy Holly's "True Love Ways," and said, "At the rehearsal, I knew everything would be all right when the orchestra began playing. It's the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra!"
Indeed, the stage design made room not only for a full orchestra, playing in exceptional fashion under the baton of maestro Tomasz Golka, but also members of the Lubbock Chorale and varied Texas Tech choral units, which appeared to include 70 to 80 voices.
Instead of the Cuties singing the national anthem, which many expected, the show was kicked off by the choirs and orchestra delivering a powerful "Battle Hymn of the Republic."
It is safe to say that Lubbock never has seen the likes of Saturday's concert, with the city orchestra an immense backdrop for a cornucopia of featured musical styles.
Country and rock shared the bill with jazz, music theater, pop, operatic, gospel, classical and traditional Mexican music.
In a way, it was like the old joke about Lubbock weather: If you don't like it now, just wait a few minutes. Except there was nothing not to like Saturday.
The songs by stars Richie McDonald and Mac Davis were saved for the last portion, but show-stopping moments arrived time and again throughout the entire three hours.
Everyone provided music to savor - and images, too.
Consider that Ballet Lubbock's membership danced to choreography by Yvonne Racz Key while Kenny Maines sang "Thank God I'm a Country Boy."
Just as amazing, dancer Michael Burfield was wearing spurs on his boots during Racz Key's combination of jumps and heel-slapping maneuvers.
A different sort of ballet, Ballet Folklorico - and I could not make out which of our Folklorico companies was dancing - filled the stage with color and synchronized movement while award-winning Mariachi Amistad played "El Son de la Negra."
At least three of the evening's major entertainers would shed tears before the evening ended.
Davis had planned to close the show with performances of "Hooked On Music," "Texas In My Rear View Mirror," "Me and Fat Boy Pruitt" and "I Believe in Music."
But he was visibly surprised and moved when interrupted by E.J. Holub (professional football star in the 1960s and Davis' running buddy during his Lubbock High School days) and artist Paul Milosevich.
Centennial executive Linda Gaither explained that Milosevich had been commissioned to paint a reproduction of one of Davis' early album covers, which was presented as a gift from the city of Lubbock.
Gaschen recalls dad
David Gaschen's performance of "Music of the Night," from "Phantom of the Opera" - sung to a music arrangement by Kneupper, who conducted the orchestra - was chilling, undoubtedly the best version he has performed in Lubbock.
At 9:10 p.m., Gaschen received the evening's first of several standing ovations for reenacting his Broadway role of the Phantom.
Preparing to leave after the show, Gaschen had to stop talking for a moment when tears began to glisten in his eyes.
He explained, "This was the first time I have performed since my father died, and ... I know he is ... but I still hope that he is looking down, and that he is proud of me."
McDonald, having successfully carved a solo career after 15 years with Lonestar, said that 13-year-old son Rhett was in the audience.
McDonald gave way to his emotions for a couple of reasons, the main one being his memory of Rhett serving as the inspiration for "I'm Already There," back in 2001.
"I love you, Rhett," he said.
He told the crowd that it is a "long way" from singing at Coronado High School to singing at the city's largest arena.
An hour after the show, McDonald still was making time for friends and well-wishers. He also mentioned that he had visited the West Texas Walk of Fame earlier, and seen his own plaque among those of entertainers he had long admired.
He said, "Coronado is only a few miles away, but I meant what I said because, as an entertainer, it is a much longer distance between high school and the United Spirit Arena."
On stage, he said to his son, "I'm really proud of you." Later, McDonald said he hopes his boy is equally proud of what his father has accomplished.
Meanwhile, this musical birthday party - which, miraculously and sadly, did not attract a full sellout even at 1960s ticket prices ($15, $10 and $5) - found entertainers riding a comet to undeniable heights.
Virgil Johnson, 73, put zip and polish into "Tonight's the Night," making an unexpected, cool exit. Gillas, 76, has formed a kinship with the song "Once Upon a Time," from the musical "All American," and once again sang it beautifully with piano and orchestral backing.
Ralna English thrilled fellow performers as much as her fans by singing "I'll Be Seeing You" and "Amazing Grace." Davis even admitted to the high school crush he had on her.
Allen's 'Peggy Legg'
Allen seemed to know just the right song for a musical introduction, and had fun singing about his one-legged dancer named "Peggy Legg."
Joe Ely debuted a new song, "Wishing for a Rainbow," before revving up the musical motor via "Me and Billy the Kid."
Kneupper, who said that the Lubbock orchestra never has sounded better, could not have been more pleased with the ensemble's performance of "West Texas Suite," which he composed.
That said, Davis seemed happy to be able to introduce the next entertainer as a "feller" and a "cowboy," bringing Andy Wilkinson on board to sing, "I'll Be Better Than This."
Killer performances also included professional jazz saxophonist Tom Braxton's energized and exciting rendition of Steely Dan's "Peg" - and Adams creating a rock guitar trio at center stage with Mike Carraway and Steve Williams during the powerful "John the Revelator," with nine backup singers including St. Marks Chorus members Leon Armstead, Don Armstead and Willis Flowers.
'Not Fade Away'
Performances of Holly's "Not Fade Away" on past Lubbock stages have been more thrilling and pulse-pounding.
But Saturday did mark the only time anyone will ever see "Not Fade Away" sung by Davis, McDonald, Ely, Allen, Adams, Allison, Maines and John Cain of Mariachi Amistad, along with Braxton, English, Smith, Gaschen, Gillas, Cook (with his young son Benjamin in his arms), Johnson, Kneupper and Wilkinson on board, as well.
I'm told it was John Harris who earned a huge laugh by inviting the entire audience to return in 3009 for Lubbock's 200th birthday celebration - even if his math was off.
Closer at hand, look for a documentary film about the 100th birthday celebration, including some concert performances, to arrive in DVD format in about four months, said Caldwell.
Richie rides again in the 2009 ACM Motorcycle Ride
ACM Motorcycle Ride
Richie will be joining an elite cast for the 6th annual ACM Motorcycle Ride. Having grown exponentially since its inception, the ACM Charity Motorcycle Ride has been renamed the ACM Chairman’s Ride this year and for the first time ever, the ride will be an invitation-only exclusive opportunity for artists and industry VIPs to experience a scenic half-day ride through the lovely Nevada landscape. Country-rockers Montgomery Gentry will again be leading a group of riders this year, also joined by multimedia star Toby Keith. The event benefits the Academy of Country Music Lifting Lives and will take place on Saturday, April 4, 2009. Event details and timing will be made available only to invited, registered participants.
Check out the full schedule of awards week events here.
Everything hasn't changed for Richie McDonald
Acountry.com spotlights 20 years of Country Cares
Richie joins Randy Owen and Keith Urban for the St. Jude 20th anniversary weekend
For 20 years, the country music industry has supported St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
This past weekend in Memphis, TN, radio, music industry and artists were given guided tours of the hospital where they learned about the cutting-edge research going on at St. Jude that has helped push the survival rate for childhood cancer from less than 20 percent to more than 70 percent.
"Everyone here - the employees, the patients, their families - look forward to this seminar," said ALSAC/St. Jude Radio and Entertainment Marketing Director Teri Watson. "This is the one time of the year when we can embrace our radio and music friends to thank them and remind them of why we still need their support. We want every child to go home healthy and, in part because of our radio partners, we are making strides toward reaching that goal."
This very special weekend is always topped off with the Saturday night songwriters dinner. Typically reserved for the biggest names in the business. This year's "guitar pull" featured some very special guests! Country Cares founder and host for the guitar pull, Randy Owen suprised the crowd when he introduced, Richie McDonald and Kieth Urban. Both were chosen not only for their songwriting and singing talent, but for thier dedication to the kids at St. Jude. Both Richie and Keith were honored with a beautiful St. Jude plaque. It was a great night and one that won't be forgotten anytime soon!
Click here for Richie's gallery from the weekend (arrow down to St. Jude Gallery)!