By C.E. Hanifin
The Cincinnati Enquirer
With 20 acts on the bill, this year's Meijer Country Stampede should appeal to music fans who wear a lot of different hats - cowboy hats, that is.
Reba McEntire, who will perform at 8 p.m. next Sunday. Last year's Country Stampede drew about 100,000 fans.
Saturday headliner Matina McBride.
Country Stampede photos
The event, returning this week to the Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, features four days of lineups stacked with a diverse roster of country artists, from headliners Reba McEntire and Martina McBride, both contemporary mega stars with a traditionalist bent, to sassy up-and-comer Terri Clark and under-the-radar cowgirls Cowboy Crush.
Each day's shows feature a mix of musical styles, says Dawn Michaels, assistant program director and music director at Cincinnati country station WYGY-FM (96.5), one of the event's sponsors. This year's bill includes a greater number of female artists than the typical country festival, she says, with five acts.
Last year's inaugural Stampede drew about 100,000 fans, young and old, Michaels says.
"You've got a little bit of everything every single day," she says.
In addition to presenting a wide swath of music, the Stampede also celebrates the country lifestyle. Concertgoers can ride a mechanical bull, chow on down-home delicacies and buy Western gear from a number of vendors.
And parents don't have to arrange for a baby sitter - the event is designed to be kid friendly, said Wayne Rouse, president/general manager of Country Stampede. In fact, many families opt to turn the Stampede into a mini-vacation, camping out on the site for the run of the event, he says.
Since not every cowboy tilts his or her hat the same way, we've put together a guide for a few of the different fan types who might attend Country Stampede.
IF YOU GO
What: Country Stampede
When: Thursday through Sunday
Where: Kentucky Speedway
Tickets: Advance passes are $50 per day, $75 for all four days; passes at the gate are $50 per day, $100 for all four days. Other admission and camping packages are available.
Info: Call (800) 795-8091 or log on to countrystampede.com
4 p.m.: Dustin Evans
6: Colt Prather
7: Andy Griggs
9: Joe Diffie & Mark Chesnutt
1 p.m.: Harry Luge
3: Lane Turner
5: Chris Cagle
7: Neal McCoy
9: Chris LeDoux
1 p.m.: Shevy Smith
3: Dierks Bentley
5: Darryl Worley
7: Terri Clark
9: Martina McBride
1 p.m.: Cowboy Crush
2: Craig Morgan
6: Clay Walker
8: Reba McEntire
Links to artists' audio|
The cowboy family
Who they are: Mom and Dad met at a Brooks & Dunn show; the kids would rather sing along with Shania Twain than Barney.
Icons: The Carter Family. Influential act that kept it all in the family.
Essential albums: Everywhere, Tim McGraw (1997). He and Faith Hill celebrate their perfect superstar marriage with the duet "It's Your Love."
Bottle Let Me Down: Songs for Bumpy Wagon Rides, Various artists (2002). Bloodshot Records' stable of insurgent country artists take on classic kids' songs - with results not always appropriate for young ears.
Who to see: Reba McEntire. She's one of the biggest names in country music. She stars in an eponymous WB show, Reba. And she sings about her own family, taking on everything from her complex relationship with her sister to the experience of dealing with a loved one who has Alzheimer's disease.
Neal McCoy. The family-minded musician and his wife founded the East Texas Angel Network to help terminally ill children. He's also "one of the best live performers ever," Michaels says.
What to do: When the little ones get cranky, you can escape the stagefront crush and still catch all the action on the 20-foot tall, 27-foot wide Jumbotron, new to Country Stampede this year.
The hipster cowboy
Who they are: Digs old-school artists like Johnny Cash and contemporary musicians who inject country with a jolt of rock or punk; scours thrift shops for vibrantly embroidered Western shirts.
Icon: Hank Williams III. The grandson of the original outlaw, Hank Williams, bucked expectations by pursuing his passion for punk and hardcore.
Essential albums: At Folsom Prison, Johnny Cash (1968). No one - no one - will ever be cooler, or more slavishly emulated, than the Man in Black.
That Much Further West, Lucero (2003). This group's gritty take on punkified country made it one of the hottest draws at this year's South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas.
Who to see: Terri Clark. A strong-voiced, strong-willed woman would rather stand on her own than stand by her man.
Chris Cagle. If there were an X Games for country singers, he would whup the competition. This guy skydives, scuba dives, stage dives and, oh yeah, sings southern-rock-flavored country tunes, too.
What to do: Ride the mechanical bull, of course. Those pricey snakeskin boots don't just look snazzy, they're functional, too.
Who they are: Proud to be American way before it was trendy; enthusiastic about casualwear and country music painted with red-white-and-blue sentiments.
Icon: Lee Greenwood. The guy penned "God Bless the U.S.A.," the song that launched (and appears on) countless flag-waving compilations.
Essential albums: Drive, Alan Jackson (2002). The song "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)" defined the mainstream country take on 9-11.
The Asch Recordings, Vol. 1-4, Woody Guthrie (1999). From "This Land is Your Land" to "Do-Re-Mi," his lyrical portraits of life in America are as expansive as the Montana sky.
Who to see: Darryl Worley. He pegged his most recent album, Have You Forgotten?, as a salute to soldiers.
Craig Morgan. The musician, who served in the Army for 18 years, has throughout his career sought to perform for American troops whenever possible. "I was playing for soldiers when nobody else was," he says.
Morgan, who sometimes draws on his time in the military when writing songs, says that service men and women can relate to him and his music. "I know the lingo, the experiences, the suffering, the losses, the rewards."
What to do: Declare your support for your favorite made-in-the-U.S.A. performers by snagging some new duds at the vendor booths.
Who they are: Songwriter and singer who dreams of a rags-to-riches shot on the Grand Ole Opry stage; considers Nashville a personal mecca.
Icon: Dolly Parton. She rose from a poor Tennessee girl clad in a humble "Coat of Many Colors" to an international star who inspired a theme park.
Eseential albums: The Ultimate Collection, Hank Williams (2002). He wrote the blueprint for the genre, and every aspiring country singer worth his or her salt needs to have a Williams tune or two down cold.
Storms of Life, Randy Travis (1986). Discovered when he was a juvenile delinquent, he became the first country artist to go multiplatinum.
World Without Tears, Lucinda Williams (2003). By spending years meticulously crafting a repertoire of achingly honest songs, she's amassed a fervent cult following.
Who to see: Harry Luge. The artist's first taste of the professional music business was as the owner of a DJ/karaoke business.
Chris LeDoux. Write and sing about your own life, LeDoux advises aspiring country stars. "Be yourself. We've already got a George Jones. We've already got a George Strait. So be whoever you are."
LeDoux should know - he has built a career on telling stories through songs about the years he spent on the rodeo circuit. "I just loved that lifestyle. That's what I do, so that's what I wrote about."
What to do: This year, Country Stampede features two new ways for fans to taste the spotlight. In the Songwriters' Tent, amateur tune scribes can get pointers from professionals who've scored success penning country numbers. And karaoke lovers can not only wail their hearts out, they can take home a recording of the performance.
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