Fri, May 25
Sat, May 26
Atwood Music Festival - 2 DAY
The Oak Ridge Boys, Muscadine Bloodline, The Steel Woods, Ben Haggard, Logan Greenlee and Band, Kyles Graves and Band, Doug Duncan, Michael McCall and Band, Mickey Man Blues Band, Colt Barron and Band
1362 E Broad St
Monticello, MS, 39654
Doors 12:00 PM / Show 5:00 PM
Watch & Listen
The Oak Ridge Boys
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 four decades of charted singles, and 50 years of tradition, to 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,” says lead singer Duane Allen. “This is the only job I've ever wanted to have.”
“Like everyone else in the group,” adds bass singer extraordinaire, Richard Sterban, “I was a fan of the Oaks before I became a member. I’m still a fan of the group today. Being in The Oak Ridge Boys is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.”
The two, along with tenor Joe Bonsall and baritone William Lee Golden, comprise one of Country's truly legendary acts. Their string of hits includes the Country-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. In 2009, they covered a White Stripes song, receiving accolades from Rock reviewers. In 2011, they rerecorded a thirtieth anniversary version of Elvira for a Cracker Barrel Old Country Store project.
The group has scored 12 gold, three platinum, and one double platinum album—plus one double platinum single—and had more than a dozen national Number One singles and over 30 Top Ten hits.
Gospel Music Roots
The Oaks represent a tradition that extends back to World War II. The original group, based in Knoxville, Tennessee, began performing Country and Gospel music in nearby Oak Ridge where the atomic bomb was being developed. They called themselves the Oak Ridge Quartet, and they began regular Grand Ole Opry appearances in the fall of ‘45. In the mid-fifties, they were featured in Time magazine as one of the top drawing Gospel groups in the nation.
By the late ‘60s, with more than 30 members having come and gone, they had a lineup that included Duane Allen, William Lee Golden, Noel Fox, and Willie Wynn. Among the Oaks’ many acquaintances in the Gospel field were Bonsall, a streetwise Philadelphia kid who embraced Gospel music; and Sterban, who was singing in quartets and holding down a job as a men’s clothing salesman. Both admired the distinctive, highly popular Oaks.
“They were the most innovative quartet in Gospel music,” says Bonsall. “They performed Gospel with a Rock approach, had a full band, wore bell-bottom pants and grew their hair long...things unheard of at the time.”
The four became friends, and when the Oaks needed a bass and tenor in ‘72 and ’73, respectively, Sterban and Bonsall got the calls. For a while, the group remained at the pinnacle of the Gospel music circuit. It was there they refined the strengths that would soon make them an across-the-board attraction.
“We did a lot of package shows,” says Bonsall. “There was an incredible amount of competition. You had to blow people away to sell records and get invited back.”
Their Gospel sound had a distinct Pop edge to it and, although it made for excitement and crowd appeal, it also ruffled purist feathers and left promoters unsure about the Oaks’ direction. Then in 1975, the Oaks were asked to open a number of dates for Roy Clark. Clark’s manager, Jim Halsey, was impressed by their abilities.
“He came backstage and told us we were three-and-a-half minutes (meaning one hit record) away from being a major act,” says Bonsall. “He said we had one of the most dynamic stage shows he’d ever seen but that we had to start singing Country songs.”
They took his advice and the result was a breakthrough.
“Those who came to Country music with or after the New Traditionalists of the mid-eighties cannot possibly imagine the impact the Oaks had in 1977, when they lit up the sky from horizon to horizon with Y’All Come Back Saloon,” wrote Billboard’s Ed Morris. He added, “...the vocal intensity the group brought to it instantly enriched and enlivened the perilously staid Country format. These guys were exciting.”
The Oaks branch out
Their career has spanned not only decades, but also formats. In 1977, Paul Simon tapped the Oaks to sing backup for his hit Slip Slidin’ Away, and they went on to record with George Jones, Brenda Lee, Johnny Cash, Roy Rogers, Billy Ray Cyrus, Bill Monroe, Ray Charles and even Shooter Jennings, the son of their old friend Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter. Most recently, the group recorded a duet with Merle Haggard for their 2015 Rock of Ages hymns and Gospel favorites album.
They produced one of the first Country music videos. In 1977, Easy, although not released in the U.S., reached the Number Three slot in Australia. They participated in the first American popular music headline tour in the USSR.
The Oak Ridge Boys have appeared before five presidents. And they have become one of the most enduringly successful touring groups anywhere, still performing some 150 dates each year at major theaters, fairs, and festivals across the U.S. and Canada.
They did it with a consistently upbeat musical approach and terrific business savvy.
“We always look for songs that have lasting value and that are uplifting,” says Allen, who co-produced many of the Oaks’ recent studio albums. “You don’t hear us singing ‘cheating’ or ‘drinking’ songs, but ‘loving’ songs, because we think that will last. We also don‘t put music in categories, except for ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ When we get through with it, it’s probably going to sound like an Oak Ridge Boys song no matter what it is.”
They proved their business acumen in any number of ways, including such steps as declining the chance to sit on the couch during their many appearances on the Tonight Show.
“We said, ‘If you‘re going to give us four minutes on the couch with Johnny, we’d rather have four minutes to give you another song that lets people know what got us here,’” says Allen. “We didn’t get here talking; we got here singing.”
They also proved themselves to be capable and tireless advocates of charitable and civic causes, serving as spokesmen and/or board members of fundraisers for the Boy Scouts of America, the National Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse (now, Prevent Child Abuse America), Feed The Children, the National Anthem Project and many more.
The group’s first personnel change in many years occurred in 1987 when Steve Sanders, who had been playing guitar in the Oaks Band, replaced William Lee as the baritone singer. Late in ‘95, Steve resigned from the Oaks and exactly one minute after midnight on New Year’s Eve, Duane, Joe and Richard surprised a packed house at the Holiday Star Theatre in Merrillville, Indiana, by welcoming William Lee on stage and back into the group. The hit makers were finally together again!
The Oaks’ high-energy stage show remains the heart and soul of what they do, and they refine it several times a year, striving to keep it fresh well into the future.
“We‘re not willing to rest on our laurels,” Golden says. “That gets boring. As a group, we do things constantly to challenge ourselves, to try to do something different or better than the last time we did it.”
“I feel like I can do what I do on stage just as good now as I could 20 years ago,” says Bonsall. “I plan to be rockin’ my tail off out there as long as I’m healthy. The people who come out, who bring their families to see us, deserve everything I’ve got.”
“We’ve experienced a lot of longevity,” adds Sterban. “I think the reason is the love we have for what we do—the desire, the longing to actually get up there and do it. We love to sing together...to harmonize together. It’s what our lives are all about.”
“Back” to the future
In 2009, the group recorded a CD, The Boys Are Back, with 34-year-old, Pop-Rock producer Dave Cobb. Cobb encouraged them to stretch musically.
“Seven Nation Army was Dave’s first idea out of the shoot. He said he envisioned us singing where The White Stripes and Jack White do the instrumental parts. It turned out incredibly well,” Bonsall says. “The project is diverse and includes an old spiritual from the Smithsonian archives, God’s Gonna Ease Your Troublin’ Mind, as well as a new Jamey Johnson-penned, soon-to-be-classic called Mama’s Table.”
The Oaks’ new music attracted the attention of a younger audience, while reminding dedicated fans that their favorite group is ever-evolving.
“When we throw those songs at the audience, it's fun to watch their reaction. The cool thing is they're loving it.” Bonsall says. “We don't give it any introduction; we just go straight into each song. We did Seven Nation Army in Minnesota a few weeks ago and got a standing ovation. The younger kids in the audience were freaking out.”
Duane Allen, who is Executive Producer for the project, adds, “We went to California to get a Rock and Roll producer who brought us back home to the very roots of our music, which is Gospel mixed with Country, Blues, and Rock and Roll.”
Golden describes the new project as a “musical journey.”
Sterban agrees. “I think David took us down some roads we might not have traveled on our own. The music may be different but he did not try to change us, he challenged us.”
Many have labeled the Oaks’ path as one similar to what Johnny Cash traveled with producer Rick Rubin. The Oak Ridge Boys find that analogy appropriate, almost sentimental, because Cash was one of their earliest supporters and a longtime friend.
“Back when we were struggling in the early 1970’s, Johnny Cash encouraged us. He booked us on his show in Las Vegas, and he paid us too much money. But his belief in us was the most important thing. He sat us down and told us, ‘Boys, you think it’s rough right now, but there’s magic in the four of you. I can feel that magic. I know there is magic there. Don’t break up.’”
And the rest is history.
It’s Only Natural
In 2011, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store asked The Oak Ridge Boys to record an album with a blend of previously recorded and brand new songs. The result was It’s Only Natural, a twelve-track CD with seven rerecorded hits, including the group’s multi-platinum, Country-Pop hit Elvira, and five new songs.
Veteran Oaks’ producer Ron Chancey returned to the studio with the group to produce Elvira and two new songs, and the team of Duane Allen and Michael Sykes reunited to produce the remaining nine. The album debuted on September 19, a month after the Oaks were inducted into the Grand Ole Opry.
While the combination of Oak Ridge Boys and Cracker Barrel is “only natural,” the Oaks stretched—yet again—and invited YouTube sensation Keenan Cahill to join them on what would become a viral music video for their first single from the project. What’cha Gonna Do? was released to country radio in November 2011 and received widespread acceptance on national grass roots and Music Row charts.
In early 2014—forty-one years after Duane, Joe, Richard, and William Lee first stepped onstage together as a group—they celebrated 41 million, RIAA-certified records sold by signing a new record deal with Los Angeles-based Cleopatra Records. Their first release from Cleopatra, Boys Night Out, is a 14-song live project, which was released April 15, 2014. It’s the first live country hits recording ever to be released by The Oak Ridge Boys as they continue to make history.
That history will now forever be enshrined in the hallowed halls of the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee, where The Oak Ridge Boys—Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall, William Lee Golden, and Richard Sterban—were inducted on October 25, 2015.
Muscadine Bloodline's Gary Stanton and Charlie Muncaster both grew up playing music in Mobile, Alabama, with mutual friends saying they should connect. But their first official meeting didn't happen until about six years ago, when Muncaster's college band was playing a show in Mobile and needed an opening act. Stanton got the call. During his junior year at the University of Southern Mississippi, Stanton started his own band and the two began swapping opening slots and writing together.
After graduation in 2015, Stanton headed to Nashville while Muncaster commuted from Alabama to play and write with him. In October of that year, Muncaster made his move and, the very next week, the guys were in the studio cutting three songs. Muscadine Bloodline became a reality upon their release in December 2015, and “we haven't looked back since,” Stanton says.
They have, however, spent most of their weekends on the road, gigging across the Southland because they believe in making their fans the old-fashioned way: by earning them, one at a time. “We really want to 'grassroots' Muscadine Bloodline,” Muncaster says. “It’s cool to watch it grow town by town — coming back to a town and more people are there. That is hard to do these days, but it truly is the definition of staying true to yourself and the music you put out.”
With a soulfulness in their harmonies and a catchiness in their hooks, the music Muscadine Bloodline puts out echoes the combination of classic country and Southern rock they both grew up listening to, from the Eagles and Lynyrd Skynyrd to Eric Church and Blackberry Smoke.
Unlike many artists in contemporary country, Muscadine Bloodline leans away from frivolity and into earnestness, a reflection of their own lives and loves. Thinking about country music, Stanton notes, “I fell in love with the stories, not the sound. As a writer, it is cool to put myself in a situation, whether it directly applies to me or not. That’s why I love country music and that’s why we love writing about real topics, instead of party anthems.”
Muscadine Bloodline's brand of country music tells stories of new highways and old memories. As their own story is only just beginning, how do they hope it all unfolds? “We’d be lying if we said we wouldn’t want to be the most successful duo there ever was, but we just really want to play good, honest music that moves hearts and not hips,”
The Steel Woods
Like their name, The Steel Woods are a hybrid musical force, part hard-edged, part Americana roots country folk, man-made, yet organic, rock but also bluegrass, R&B, blues, gospel, soul and heavy metal, “the materials which America is built on” according to co-founder Wes Bayliss. The Nashville-based band is also steeped in the ethos of Southern Rock, with the music on its debut Woods Music/Thirty Tigers release, Straw in the Wind, both timeless and indefinable, sounding like it could’ve been recorded at any point during the past half-century. “That’s kinda the idea,” nods Bayliss.
The Steel Woods trace an unbroken line from Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams through Willie and Waylon, then the Allmans, Blackfoot, The Band and Tom Petty up through contemporaries like Kings of Leon and the Avett Brothers.
“I grew up on Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Led Zeppelin,” says Jason “Rowdy” Cope, who was born in Asheville, NC, in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where he heard some pretty impressive pickers, which inspired him as a kid. “Our music is like good bluegrass, with the electric guitars turned up to 11,” he says.
There is a biblical, hellfire-and-brimstone morality at work on songs like the good-and-evil parable, “Axe”, the first song they ever wrote together — which takes off on co-founder Rowdy’s ominous, rumbling bluegrass guitar line — or the galloping country rhythms of “Della Jane’s Heart”, a murder ballad about a spurned woman taking her revenge on a fickle lover, and immediately regrets her actions. “The Secret” goes back to the Garden and Adam’s original heartbreak, equating the duplicitous Eve with the Devil himself. The musical melting pot ranges from the stark acoustic strumming of “Whatever It Means to You” and the thunderstruck drone of their speeded-up Black Sabbath cover, “Hole in the Sky”.
The band’s founders are two native sons of the south who both hail from small-town, Bible Belt backgrounds. The Alabama-born Bayliss played harmonica from the age of eight in his family’s gospel band, eventually teaching himself piano, bass and drums. Rowdy turned his love of Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix into a career as a session guitarist/songwriter and producer, moving to Los Angeles then playing in Jamey Johnson’s band for nine years. The two met in Nashville during a one-off gig, and immediately felt a connection. “We decided we were pretty much on the same page and wanted to do our own thing,” says Wes. “We had an idea and a vision.”
The pair spent a month fishing together, eventually bringing guitars along with their poles to the tiny hole and discovered an affinity. It was then they began to make music together. “It just worked, his voice and me doing my thing on guitar,” says Rowdy.
The result was an EP, which, because they hadn’t written anything together except for “Axe”, included covers by hot Nashville writers like Rowdy’s frequent collaborator singer/songwriter Brent Cobb (“Better in the Fall,” “The Well,” “If We Never Go”, “Let the Rain Come Down”) and revered artist Darrell Scott (“Uncle Lloyd”).
With originals such as the acoustic ballad, “I’m Gonna Love You”, the narrative title track, the philosophical “Whatever It Means to You” and the cathartic closer, “Let the Rain Come Down”, the songwriting/production team of Bayliss and Cope is proving quite a formidable duo. The two, who co-produced their debut album, are committed to doing things their way.
“We’re not murderers, we’re just the messengers,” says Bayliss about some of the songs’ more gruesome scenarios. “We don’t preach. We just want to play good songs with good stories. As long as they come back to hear us again, I’m happy.”
“We’re into this to heal people’s hearts,” explains Rowdy. “If you’re given a talent that can shake plates in the earth, that can really change the world, you have a responsibility to use that for good. Music is the most powerful, emotion-driven art form in the universe because it transcends language. It’s like a sharp blade. It can be used to kill, or in the hands of a surgeon, to heal someone.”
The Steel Woods aren’t in this for the money, the fame or the awards. For them, music is a matter of life and death, right and wrong, bad and good, with the sinners punished for their transgressions, and the noble achieving the kind of transcendence the man dying of thirst in “Let the Rain Come Down” receives.
“Everything has its price,” says Rowdy. “You reap what you sow…We’ve poured so much into this band. I know how little sleep we’ve had, how many bad meals we’ve eaten. I just hope these songs can help people get things off their chest.”
“We want to get good songs out to a bunch of people who need them,” adds Wes. “We just want to make a living making music because it’s the greatest job in the world. I don’t mind working, but I prefer loving what I do.”
BEN HAGGARD: “THE SON ALSO RISES”
“I live the kinda life most men only dream of/I make my livin’ writin’ songs and singin’ them,”Merle Haggard, “Footlights”
For fans of his late, legendary father, country music great Merle Haggard, his youngest son Ben is no Stranger – in fact, he’s been the lead guitarist in Hag’s longtime band of the same name for the past eight years, since he was 15 years old, fitting in easily with veterans like musical director Norm Hamlet and Scott Joss.
Ben was a regular on Merle Haggard’s recordings, took the stage with him and the Highwaymen (Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson) as well as Blake Shelton for a memorable performance at the 2014 Grammys and for the 2012 “All for the Hall” show besides two of his idols, Vince Gill and Keith Urban. Earlier this year, Ben was featured with the Strangers backing Toby Keith for a Merle tribute on the nationally televised American Country Countdown Awards. He also contributed versions of “Mama Tried” and “Sing Me Back Home” to 2014’sWorking Man’s Poet:Tribute to Merle Haggard album which also featured Toby Keith, Jason Aldean, Jake Owen, Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley.
Since Merle’s death on April 6, 2016 – which was also his 79th birthday (a fact he had eerily predicted)– Ben Haggard hasn’t missed a beat, passing on the legacy of his dad’s music with brother Noel and the Strangers, joined on several dates by longtime friend Kris Kristofferson, opening for another frequent Hag partner, Willie Nelson.
Taking the torch from the Haggard paterfamilias, Haggard recalls a conversation he had with Merle, who sported what his son described as “a look of great depth in his eyes… He was always right about something he said because he had thought about it for so long. He overanalyzed everything to the finest degree in the most artistic way possible.”
Ben recalls Merle telling him, “You’d be an idiot not to take my guitar and my bus, not to sing my songs for as long as you can… Go out there and play until there’s nobody to play to.”
And that is precisely what Ben Haggard has done over these past months and will continue to do in the near-future, effectively putting his own promising musical career on the back burner for the time being – even as he plans to relocate to Nashville to pursue his own artistic identity when he’s ready.
For anyone who’s heard young Haggard play guitar with his father, that talent is undeniable, but he’s only recently discovered a singing voice that, while borrowing genetically from dad’s well-worn gravitas, adds its own fresh take on songs like “Sing Me Back Home” (a performance of which is featured on Ben’s Facebook page), “Heaven Was a Drink Of Wine,” “Workin’ Man Blues” and “What Am I Gonna Do With the Rest of My Life?,” all of them taking on new meanings in the wake of Hag’s passing.
“I watched him sing on-stage, absorbed the little things he was doing, the tricks with his voice, how he handled the crowd,” says Ben, who obviously learned his lessons well. “It was like going back to school. Things I didn’t realize I picked up from the eight years I spent on the road with him started to come into play. My fear of the mic kind of slipped away. Things just unfolded in a beautiful way. I’m now starting to feel comfortable singing for people.”
Indeed, Ben Haggard has proven as natural a performer as you’d expect from someone with his DNA. “I’ve always suffered from stage fright. I only sang in front of my father a couple of times, once live and once in the studio. All of a sudden, he’s telling me I’ve got to sing for everybody. I had to grow a pair of balls, get out there and do it.”
His next challenge is to carve out his own musical career, lest he be accused, as he says in his own self-effacing way, “of riding someone else’s coattails.”
Ben describes an incident that took place when he was four years old, and just realizing his father was “somebody special.”
“I asked him, ‘Since you’re famous, does that make me famous too?’ And he said, ‘Son, you’ve got to create your own thunder.’ That’s always stuck with me. I look back at that moment as if it were a movie. It’s something I never forget.”
When asked what his own musical personality might be, Ben admits, like his father, he feels like a bit of an outsider when it comes to contemporary country music.
“I couldn’t really go out there and sing about drinking a beer on a tailgate under the moonlight,” he laughs. “I want to sing about things I value within my heart. Honesty is always pushing against the grain, in a way. My dad always said it’s easier to force-feed people something they don’t want than actually giving them what they do.”
Ben admits, “I’ve started to write and finish songs lately. I used to start writing and then never finish, but now, there’s more material to draw from. I’m not writing about being 15 anymore; there are a lot of things I’ve gone through and had to overcome. I turned that talk I had with my dad about taking over for him into a song. When I record it, I think it’s something that will resonate with people. It’s about as real as you can get in regard to what he was telling me.”
He also admits feeling a creative kinship with Americana artists like Sturgill Simpson, whose Metamodern Sounds in Country Music album proved a throwback to the music his father made. The two have struck up a friendship, with Simpson agreeing to produce Ben’s albumwhen he’s ready to record.
For now, Ben’s content with burnishing his father’s legacy, playing his songs and pleasing Merle’s many fans, doing his part as the good son.
“When I’m compared to him, I realize it’s to someone far greater, but it gives me hope and the drive to emerge from his shadow, and hopefully, one day, to stand just as tall,” Ben says humbly. “Merle shot for the moon, and there’s no reason I can’t aim for it, too.”
Back on-stage, Ben leans into one of his father’s signature songs, “Footlights,” about his own career, and, while fudging his age, the sentiment seems to ring true from one generation to the next.
“But I'm 41 years old and I ain't got no place to go/When it's over/So I hide my age and make the stage and/Try to kick the footlights out again.”
For Ben Haggard, this is just the beginning of his artistic journey, and he still has plenty of places to go, but he looks well-prepared to kick out the footlights in his own right.
Logan Greenlee and Band
Logan Greenlee, 21 year old from Monticello,Ms is a junior at The University of Southern Mississippi majoring in Music Production.
He started playing guitar and piano at the age of 10. He plays by ear and enjoys playing different genres. His favorite is country. Some of his music influences include George Jones,
Merle Haggard, George Strait, Willie Nelson, Freddie King, and John Mayer. This will mark Logan’s 2nd appearance on the Atwood stage.
Sent from my iPhone
Mickey Man Blues Band
The Mickey Man Blues Band is a three piece band playing classic favorites – blues, rock and country. They play throughout southwest Mississippi, the Delta, and Louisiana. Being from Brookhaven, MS they are a favorite at many local and regional venues. They love to keep it simple and fun.
Colt Barron and Band
• Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Grew up in Braxton, MS
• Got first guitar for his 10th birthday and taught himself to play. Has never had lessons and does not read music at all.
• Also taught himself to play the piano and drums
• Won Country Music Showdown for south Mississippi (chose not to compete in the state finals)
• Graduated from SCA in May 2015
• Moved to Nashville in August 2015
• Started playing at Tootsies World Famous Orchid Lounge along with Rippy’s and Honky Tonk Central, and Tootsies in Panama City Beach, Florida (3 other places owned by Tootsies)
• Released first EP in March 2016. It went to #19 on the ITunes charts and has sold in every state and 5 foreign countries. Wrote 3 of the songs on the EP. Also performed most of the instrumentals and back up vocals on the EP himself
• Currently working on second album. Has written songs with several others with #1 hits.
• Has played with/for Jeff Bates, Montgomery Gentry, Travis Tritt, The Bellamy Brothers and LoCash
• Other interests include hunting, fishing, cooking and LSU football
$35.00 - $50.00
The 44th Annual Atwood Music Festival
This ticket is for admission all weekend.
RAIN OR SHINE // NO REFUNDS
Oak Ridge Boys (Saturday)
Muscadine Bloodline (Friday)
The Steel Woods (Saturday)
Ben Haggard (Friday)