Two days of Town & Country Days may be completed, but the best is yet to come at the annual fair held on the Wetzel County 4-H Grounds
While you may not readily know the names of the headlining acts for the rest of the week, chances are you'll know some of their songs if you listen to current country radio.
Craig Campbell has the honor of closing the week-long event's stage entertainment with his show beginning at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Campbell is best known for his single "Family Man".
Said to be a reminder of one of country's strongest creative periods, Campbell builds on the early-'90s legacy established by some of the genre's most successful figures: Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Clint Black, and Travis Tritt. Campbell's voice is straight-forward and powerful. His songs are down-to-earth portraits of real people from the American heartland. His sound is traditional, unapologetic country. In other words, probably just right for the crowd at Town & Country Days.
The Georgia-bred Campbell was introduced with a five-song EP that landed in the Top 20 on iTunes. His self-titled debut album expands on the central themes of his life-family, friends, purpose, and self-determination-with a bundle of self-written songs, all delivered with the force and conviction of someone who's lived every sentiment in every word.
"I have to believe every one of my songs," Campbell says matter-of-factly.
It's a simple premise learned through years of touring at the club level, writing songs in Nashville and playing the bars on Lower Broadway in Music City. Campbell honed his craft in bands backing Luke Bryan and Tracy Byrd, on stages where he covered Alabama and Lynyrd Skynyrd, and at the annual Country Showdown talent contest where he won twice and eventually became the leader of the house band for other contestants.
Campbell's abilities stood out, as Nashville decision-makers discovered. In fact, he became the subject of a moderate competition. He received an offer from one of Nashville's major labels, but he was more intrigued by interest from songwriter-producer Keith Stegall-known for his work with Alan Jackson and Zac Brown Band. Introduced to Stegall through radio promotion executive Michael Powers, Campbell turned down the other offer to wait while Stegall and several other industry veterans developed Bigger Picture Group, an innovative artist-development company.
Once Bigger Picture was in place, Campbell headed into the studio to work on his first project, founded on his big, commanding voice and centrist-country songwriting. "Family Man," set up by a sonic comma in its first reference-"It's family, man"-brought Campbell quickly onto the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. "When I Get It" puts a defiant spin on a tough economy, "I Bought It" revolves around sweet revenge, and "My Little Cowboy" incorporates a multi-generational storyline and a Haggard-esque instrumental hook into a Southern-rock framework. "Fish" puts a bawdy spin on romance, but-in sensitive-daddy fashion, does so in a manner that's safe for the kids to hear.
His debut album blends Campbell's masculine, no-nonsense vocal style with solid, salt-of-the-earth songs about America's working class and a classic sense of wordplay. It's a timeless sound, one that links him directly to Travis Tritt and Alan Jackson, who likewise built their style on such predecessors as George Jones and Hank Williams Jr.
"It's traditional, back-to-basics, true country music," Campbell says. "It's what I am. I can't be anything else."
Friday's headliner, Edens Edge, might be best known by a simple question, "Can someone give me an amen?" That line is from their hit single "Amen". The song about how a whole town is actually happy that a couple's relationship is ending says what many times people want to say in similar situations, but usually keep to themselves. Perhaps that somewhat conspiratorial recognition is what makes the song with a fun beat so popular.
Comprised of three talented young musicians from Arkansas-Hannah Blaylock, Dean Berner, and Cherrill Green-Edens Edge made their debut on Big Machine Records with a vibrant sound that honors country music's roots while creatively pushing the envelope with their seasoned musicianship, dazzling harmonies, and insightful songwriting.
With one listen to Edens Edge, it's obvious the trio has forged a unique sound shaped by their individual influences and anchored in their own distinctive gifts. Each grew up in rural Arkansas where farming, faith, and family provided a firm foundation and offered a springboard for their musical aspirations.
Once again not a name familiar to all, but Wednesday's headliner has local bluegrass fans anticipating a stellar show. The Hussy Ray Band will be opening for Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper. Award-winning fiddler Michael Cleveland brings dynamic traditional bluegrass to the stage with his award-winning band, Flamekeeper, in a show that will leave the audience talking. An eight-time winner of the International Bluegrass Music Association's Fiddle Performer of the Year award, Cleveland and his talented band present a program of tight vocal trios and duos, blistering instrumentals, and fiddle-and-banjo duets that echo the first-generation stars of bluegrass. The show is rounded out with Cleveland's dry wit and the band's sense of fun. Considered one of the premier bluegrass fiddlers of his generation, Cleveland picked up a fiddle at age four, and his talent was recognized early. In 1993 he was chosen to be part of the Bluegrass Youth All Stars. Later that year Cleveland made his Grand Ole Opry debut as a guest of Alison Krauss. His list of guest appearances over the years is a who's who of bluegrass legends including Bill Monroe, Jim and Jesse, and Ralph Stanley. At the 2001 IBMA awards, Mike took his first Fiddle Performer of the Year award, and shared the title of Entertainer of the Year with Rhonda Vincent and the Rage.
But of course the fair is much more than just musical entertainment. "Town and Country Day's schedule is loaded with delightful reasons for area residents, to attend the fair this year," said Lonnie Blake, president of Town and Country Day's Inc.
Daily admission is $8 or season passes are available for $30. Children under five are admitted free. Senior citizens, age 65 and up, are admitted free until 1 p.m. on Thursday, Senior Citizens Day.