It's a full menu of country music at Penn's Peak over the next two weeks.
Among the events is a concert Saturday night by Rhonda Vincent & the Rage, who do traditional country and bluegrass. This is Vincent's first appearance at Penn's Peak and it comes at the dawn of her newest album release, which is already her most successful album of the many she's recorded.
Here's whats coming up:
Ÿ Friday - The legendary Don Williams will be performing at 8 p.m. Tickets are $34 and $39. Opening will be Colm Kirwan, a native of Ireland.
Ÿ Saturday - The first area appearance of the incredible Rhonda Vincent at the Rage, 8 p.m. Tickets just $22 in advance and $27 day of show. Opening is Blue Valley Bluegrass.
Ÿ Thursday, March 27 - A return by the incredible Gary Allan, who packs Penn's Peak every time he arrives. Tickets are $45 and $40.
Williams, known as "the Gentle Giant," has had 21 number one singles and has recorded 35 albums.
Some of his hits are "'til the Rivers All Run Dry," "Some Broken Hearts Never Mend," "If Hollywood Don't Need You (Honey I Still Do)," and "Tulsa Time."
Born in Floydada, Fla., in 1939 and growing up near Corpus Christi, Texas, Don was playing guitar by age twelve, taught by his mother, and performed in folk, country and rock bands as a teenager.
He first gained musical attention as a member of the pop folk trio The Pozo Seco Singers, which had six pop chart hits in 1966-'67, then was signed as a songwriter by Nashville's Cowboy Jack Clement in 1971the sort of songwriter whose demos demanded attention.
Between 1974 and 1991, Don had at least one major hit every year, including such country standards to be as "Good Ole Boys Like Me," "It Must Be Love," "I'm Just a Country Boy," "Amanda" and "I Believe in You." He also had a hit duet with Emmylou Harris on Townes Van Zandt's "If I Needed You." Don was the CMA Male Vocalist of the Year in 1978; his "Tulsa Time" was the ACM Record of the Year for 1979.
In 2010, Don received country music's highest honor, with his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He was still surprised: "I never really thought that I was viewed in that manner by the powers that be. It's an incredible honor, to be added to the caliber of people that are on that roster. It's pretty overwhelming, actually."
Hailing from the small Northern Ireland town of Omagh, Colm Kirwan wasn't sure exactly what to expect when he moved to Nashville, Tenn. in 2009.
He only had two goals in mind creating his own unique sound as an artist and becoming a great songwriter. With the release of his self-titled debut, he will be one album closer to accomplishing those goals.
For Colm, the road to Nashville and the creation of the album, a contemporary country collection with a Celtic flair, was filled with twists and turns.
At 18, he left his small hometown for London, where he studied musical theatre performance for three years before hitting the road as an apostle in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar. The rock opera gave him a taste for the stage that only grew when he left the production to tour with his dad, hit recording artist Dominic Kirwan, on a seven-week tour.
Rhonda Vincent's newest album, a two-CD set enttitled "Only Me," was released on Jan. 28.
One disc is bluegrass and the other is traditional country. On the traditional country disc, she sings such songs as Connie Smith's "Once A Day," Bill Anderson's "Bright Lights and Country Music," and one of her personal favorites and what audience members ask for at every show, she said, "Beneath Still Waters."
The bluegrass disc includes such selections as "I'd Rather Hear I Don't Love You (Than Nothing at All)," "Only Me" which features Willie Nelson, and "We Must Have Been Out of Our Minds" which features Daryle Singletary.
She has had multiple Grammy nominations, five consecutive Entertainer of the Year Awards from the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America, and an unprecedented seven consecutive Female Vocalist of the Year Awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association. And when you add up the lifetime of accolades bestowed upon Rhonda and her band The Rage; they emerge as the Most Awarded Band in Bluegrass Music, with over 80 awards!
In a phone interview, Rhonda said that when she recorded her bluegrass albums, she was told she's more traditional country than bluegrass. When she recorded her traditional country albums, a tinge of bluegass was evident.
Either way, her voice is unique and strong, able to deliver incredibly her wide range of selections.
Blue Valley Bluegrass has regional connections.
Gina Ross (guitar & vocals) was born in the Lehigh Valley and lived in Nashville, Tenn. for 16 years where she performed original country music and was a frequent guest on the Ralph Emory Show. She is a gifted songwriter and one of her songs "Jesus in My Soul" was recorded by country music legend Johnny Cash.
Keith Kester (bass & vocals) was born in the Lehigh Valley and fell in love with bluegrass music at a very early age. No stranger to the stage, Keith has performed several times at Musicfest and regional bluegrass festivals.
Paul Spriet (banjo & vocals) was born in New Jersey and lists Earl Scruggs, Bill Keith and Alan Munde as his main influences. He has been playing banjo for over 40 years and teaches banjo in his spare time.
Bill Parker (mandolin, dobro & guitar) grew up in Rochester, NY and is now living in the Bethlehem, area. He caught the bluegrass bug about 5 years ago when he started playing the mandolin. With a hard-charging, high energy style, he puts passion into every note he plays. His primary influences are his father, Ronnie McCoury, Ricky Skaggs, Shawn Lane & Jesse Cobb. In addition to mandolin, Bill also plays guitar, bass, and dobro. Preferred brands are Martin Guitar, Collings, and Daley.
What a list of big hits that Gary Allan has!
They include such blockbusters as "Every Light In the House is On," "Watching Airplanes," and "It Ain't the Whiskey."
Gary Allan's album "Set You Free" is a perfectly named, well-conceived album that embodies his own evolution toward personal, creative freedom. The album, sequenced with a storyline in which a man breaks the restraints of a failed relationship and conquers the loneliness of its aftermath, is the result of Allan's own journey as a man and as an artist.
Fans who have followed Allan throughout his 17-year recording career will recognize the dark crevasses in the project – the gnarled anger of "Bones," the honest self-examination of "It Ain't The Whiskey," the sinister self-abuse of "Sand In My Soul."
The Southern California-born Allan has been exploring the thorns since the beginning of his musical life, when he played the clubs during his high school years. After graduation, he developed a following in the area, regularly attracting an audience that featured a rare mix of rednecks in western boots and neo-Goths with piercings and spiked hair.
Allan was particularly inspired in a concert by the Highwaymen – Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson – to pursue music that mined the dangerous side of life. "They were so powerful," Allan reflects. "It was like punk rock to me. It was so hardcore. I really, really wanted to be a part of that lifestyle."
"I seem to gravitate musically toward wherever I'm at in my life at that time," Allan says. "And I'm in a real good place.