Country music star Vince Gill will be joined by his wife Amy Grant and the Del McCoury Band for a concert on Sept. 5 at Britt. - Britt Festivals

Britt goes country this week

The Britt Festivals' 2007 season will take on a distinct country feeling in its second-to-last week. Vince Gill, who will perform Wednesday, Sept. 5, is a bona fide country superstar. Relative newcomer Josh Turner, who will visit Saturday, Sept. 1, has been burning up the country charts. And even the people in rootsy singer-songwriter Greg Brown's songs don't exactly come across as city slickers.

Gill and Brown will be returning to Southern Oregon, while Turner's visit will be his first to Britt. Brown's show will kick off the weekend on Friday, Aug. 31, with bluesman John Hammond opening at 7:30 p.m.

Ashland resident and former New York City cabaret performer Sarah Jane Nelson will open for Turner at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. At 7 Wednesday evening, Gill will take the stage in a show called "The Friends and Family Tour Featuring Amy Grant and the Del McCoury Band."

Turner's 2003 debut album, "Long Black Train," spurred by its gospel-inflected title track, sold a million copies on his first outing, nearly unheard of for a newcomer. It also brought the young singer several country music award nominations. Turner's next project, "Your Man," showed unexpected maturity.

"I've really learned a lot," Turner said in a statement released for the present tour. "We were listening to my first record the other day, and I couldn't believe how much my voice has matured and grown from that time."

The album features guest turns by two of Turner's idols, honky-tonker John Anderson and bluegrass great Ralph Stanley. Turner also pays tribute on the disc to Don Williams, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Charley Pride and Red Sovine.

Turner describes his singing style as "South Carolina Low Country." He hails from Hannah, S.C., and got interested in music at the Union Baptist Church there. He said his grandmother turned him on to the music of Cash, Roy Acuff and the Stanley Brothers. When he was 14, his mother entered him in a talent contest, and he relished the applause.

"If that's the way this feels," he thought, "this is what I want to do."

He went to Nashville-based Belmont University, a school with a music business program, and majored in singing. He met music publisher Jody Williams, who signed him to a writing deal, and that led to a meeting with the MCA label, with which he signed. He also met his wife, Jennifer Ford, at Belmont.

Sarah Jane Nelson recently brought an eclectic mix of standards, jazz and musical theater to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's intimate Black Swan Theatre. Nelson, who lives in Ashland, starred in "SWING!" both on Broadway and in the touring company, performed in the 30th anniversary European tour of "Hair" and played con artist Lori King on the CBS television show "The District."

Long hailed as one of America's best songwriters, Greg Brown has been touring and recording for more than 30 years, including several visits to the Rogue Valley. His music is an intricate mix of family, home, poetry and the natural world painted on an acoustic canvas of folk, gospel, blues, country and rock. A Brown concert is an event marked not only by a seemingly endless play list from Brown's more than two dozen albums, but by the singer's personal warmth and trademark deadpan humor.

Brown was raised in rural Iowa by a guitar-playing mother and Pentecostal preacher father. His early exposure to music consisted of gospel, classical, hillbilly, early rock, country and blues. He headed for Gerdes Folk City in Greenwich Village to run hootenannies and lived in Portland, Los Angeles and Las Vegas before moving back to Iowa, releasing a couple of albums on his own ("44 and 66," "The Iowa Waltz") before he began working on Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" and touring nationally.

Brown has released an impressive body of work over the years, including such standout albums as the 1985 acoustic classic "In the Dark With You," the Indie Award-winning "One Big Town" (1989), the much acclaimed "The Poet Game" (1992), and 1996's "Further In," to which Rolling Stone awarded four stars.

Last year's "The Evening Call" was his first CD album of original material in four years. When he's not touring, Brown splits his time between Iowa and Missouri with wife, Iris DeMent, and his children.

From coffeehouses to concert halls and beyond, Grammy winner John Hammond has spent 40 years performing acoustic blues. His new CD, "Push Comes to Shove," comprises five new originals with traditional blues numbers.

Vince Gill has been called the unofficial ambassador of country music. And whether he's picking bluegrass on "Grand Ole Opry" or trading jazz licks with the band on "Letterman," he's a face the industry likes to show to the world.

Born to a federal judge and a homemaker in 1957 in Norman, Okla., Gill formed a band in high school and soon after was working with the likes of Pure Prairie League. But his commercial breakthrough didn't come until 1990's "When I Call Your Name." Since then, he has won 17 Country Music Association awards, more than anybody else, ever. He has won 18 Grammy awards while performing with artists from Ralph Stanley to Barbra Streisand.

His "These Days," released last October, is a four-CD set of 43 new songs, a tour de force that ranges from bluegrass to traditional country with helpings of rock and jazz and musical guests from Bonnie Raitt and Sheryl Crow to Emmylou Harris and Trisha Yearwood. He had imagined releasing four albums.

Gill will be joined by wife, Grammy winner Amy Grant and longtime bluegrass star Del McCoury and his band.

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