Undeniably, one of music history's all-time living legends, George Strait continues to whip us all back into country music reality -- just as we're about to step outside the circle. As if recording more than 20 albums, all of which have been certified either gold, platinum or multi- platinum,scoring one radio hit after another, or starring in his own major motion picture isn't enough, the Prince of Country now has another luring adventure up his western sleeve. While George Strait has long been a country music festival and rodeo icon throughout Texas, he's now taking his spectacular live performance throughout the stadium circuit. Scheduled to kick off on March 14 at the Sun Devil Stadium in Phoenix, Arizona, the George Strait Country Music Festival, sponsored by Chevy Trucks, Nokia and Wrangler, Strait's '98 Stadium Tour will also feature some other rather unusual highlights. Up and coming acts will have the opportunity to showcase their talent on smaller-scale stages just outside the major-city stadiums, while Strait has invited such prominent country acts as Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Lee Ann Womack, John Michael Montgomery, Asleep At The Wheel and Lila McCann to share the stage with him -- creating a both surprising and thrilling multi-bill show. Additionally, fans who show up for the star-studded events will have an opportunity to browse through a festival area known as "Straitland." Chances are, Tennessee's popular music theme park, Dollywood, won't suffer, but Straitland does hope to offer something for everyone, including such attractions as various country lifestyle exhibits, vendors and all kinds of exciting games. Due to the tremendous success of ticket sales for the March 14th kick-off show, an additional 6,000 tickets are being sold. Tickets range from $25.00 to $45.00. Additionally, the tour will make its way to Tampa, Florida on March 28th, New Orleans on April 4th, and Birmingham, Alabama on April 5th. Other tour dates will include such cities as Chicago, Kansas City, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Oakland, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Denver, Detroit, Raleigh and Provo. Strait plans to close the tour with performances in his home state's Texas Stadium in Irving and the Rice Stadium in Houston. Strait has been churning out thick and chewy traditional country music since he formed his Ace In The Hole band in the 1970's. He's since recorded several multi-platinum albums, including his release of Pure Country, the five-million-plus selling soundtrack from his 1992 Pure Country movie, in which he starred. His Strait Out Of The Box project remains to be the best selling country boxed set of all time, and is tied for second best selling in all genres with Led Zeppelin (surpassed only by Bruce Springsteen). Having already won countless music industry awards and honors and scoring such classic hits as "Carrying Your Love With Me," "Blue Clear Sky," "One Night At A Time," "You Know Me Better Than That" and "The Chair," he's been ranked as one of the Top 10 of America's Favorite Singers joining the ranks of Frank Sinatra and Whitney Houston. Strait's 1996 concerts broke attendance records set earlier by Hank Williams Sr., Elvis Presley and several other records set previously by himself. Throughout the 1990's, his concerts, all of which resulted in phenomenal sell-outs, ignited the whole fastest-sell- out-time fascination that we're so used to hearing about now with a select few other entertainers. In '96, Strait sold over 33,000 tickets for three shows in Phoenix in less than two hours. At the Astrodome he broke his own attendance record, playing to 125,000 people in two shows. He's now played to over 1 million fans just at the Astrodome's annual rodeo.
Direct. Open. Honest past the point of pain. If the future is coming at you, so is Lila McCann. And her first single, "Down Came A Blackbird," from her Asylum Records debut, Lila, gives the country a first look at what sets her apart. While McCann's unabashedly down-to-earth persona gives her a freshness that's as charming as it is beguiling, it's her voice that draws you in. Equal parts honey and cayenne, her incredible range doesn't just bowl you over with its power as much as it swathes you in the melodies she embraces and the emotions that define her range. "To me, the songs I've always liked are the ones I've felt--and I know everybody says that," she demures. "But I think that while you may have the ability to hit the notes, it doesn't mean you're really singing the song the way it's meant to be sung. And you need to do that." Certainly McCann has come a long way from her debut with her father's band at the tender age of four. Back then, she was a precocious kid who didn't want to be left out of the grown-ups' fun. Boldly she asked if she could get up and sing. Her father, a career military man who believes in letting people stretch their limits, initially laughed. Her mother, a beautician, convinced him that their blue-eyed baby girl was serious, and he agreed to let her try. Of course, courage can be a fleeting commodity; when it was time for McCann to sing "You Are My Sunshine" at the local Elks Lodge, she was hiding in the restroom. She had to be coaxed out with the promise of a new Barbie doll to be purchased that very evening (provided she was done with her song before the store closed). "I was so scared," McCann recalls. "When the people in the audience started clapping I put my hands over my ears and told my dad to make them stop. That's really changed. Now I can't wait to be on stage and I sure don't want them to quit clapping!" In spite of the initial jitters, McCann took to singing and entertaining with an ease that built into a need. She balances her performing schedule with school, equally committed to getting her education as well as chasing her destiny. From the outer limits of the land of grunge, McCann has grown up and into her talent. And entering the studio with a heart this unencumbered, McCann brings a fearlessness to the songs she sings that makes the emotion behind them burn true. With the passion of youth, McCann enters the world of country music with her heart on her sleeve and her faith in the power of a song. She has updated the classic country themes of love lost and found with a vitality that ensures country music's traditions will be guarded and reinvigorated long into the 21st century.
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