The Unfettered Critic – May 2016

Once upon a time, categorizing popular music was simple. Musicians stayed in their lane, playing either “Country/Western,” or “Rock ‘n’ Roll,” or “Folk,” or “Easy Listening.” Radio programmers would adopt a category and run with it. But then Willie Nelson let his hair grow long. Bob Dylan picked up an electric guitar. Producer Joe Papp took “Hair” to Broadway. Linda Ronstadt recorded an album of Big Band standards. Musical categories became less distinct. Musicians, programmers, and the fans themselves, discovered that they like an eclectic mix of sounds from a diverse range of sources. Which is why we’re delighted by the parade of music makers this season’s Britt Festival is bringing to town.

That isn’t to say we can’t have our preferences. Want some bona fide country? Come listen as Hunter Hayes performs “I Want Crazy,” and “Wanted.” This Grammy-nominated youngster hails from Louisiana, records in Nashville, and has shared the stage with Brad Paisley, Trace Adkins, Keith Urban, and Lady Antebellum. He’ll hit the Britt stage August 25.

Want more country? Lee Brice fills the bill. This sentimental singer/songwriter will take you to the edge of tears with “A Woman Like You,” and “I Drive Your Truck” (dedicated to his brother, who died while in the military). This Billboard chart topper appears on September 14.

Then there’s four-time Grammy winner Lyle Lovett. This country star… wait… what were we saying above about categorizing? Lovett is traveling with his Large Band, comprised of musicians fluent in jazz, classical, and a musical mix that’ll have you standing in your stirrups on June 30.

Like Lovett, others who once may have been seen as strictly country are coming to town. For instance, Britt favorite k.d. Lang, in an inviting new trio—case, lang, veirs—with Nico Case (of The New Pornographers) and songwriter Laura Veirs. Their current single is titled “Atomic Number,” and if you haven’t heard it, pull it up on the web. We’re positive it’ll make you want to be on the hill July 3.

Two days later, it’s an evening of pop by one of the classiest divas of all time: Ms. Diana Ross. Yes, that Diana Ross. Once of the Supremes. Ain’t no mountain high enough to keep us away from the Britt grounds on July 5.

Ready for some Rock ‘n’ Roll? We’re guessing there was a day when you lived to hear the strains of “School’s Out.” You were eighteen, you liked it, loved it—yes, you did—because you adored the Godfather of Shock Rock, Alice Cooper! How about the phenomenal guitarist Joe Perry of Aerosmith fame—a living legend, right? And—wait for it—Johnny Depp, who was a rock ’n’ roller long before becoming a heartthrob on 21 Jump Street and a swashbuckling version of Keith Richards in those Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Well, these three amazing guys have christened themselves the Hollywood Vampires, and in the coupe of the decade, Britt is bringing them to us on July 23! (We know—we can hardly believe it either!)

Speaking of Rock, consider the gritty voice and electric blues of Eric Burdon & The Animals. Please don’t let our message be misunderstood: just buy a bloody ticket for June 17.

Oh, oh, we’re running out of space . We haven’t mentioned Chicago (June 21), Steve Miller Band (September 1), the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (September 15), Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle (September 9), Tedeschi Trucks Band (September 12)… Wait, we’re just getting started… The Buena Vista Social Club (August 26)… wait… don’t forget Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo (August 30)… wait… there’s more…