ELKINS - Ben Shaffer, director general of the Mountain State Forest Festival, announces today that country music star Travis Tritt will headline the festival's entertainment offerings for the 78th annual event.
Tritt will perform Oct. 4 at the Harper McNeeley Auditorium on the campus of Davis & Elkins College. A tailgate party will kick off the night of entertainment at 6 p.m., with the show starting at 8 p.m.
"We are putting a new twist on our concert with a tailgate party in the lobby of McDonnell Center," Shaffer said. "The evening will be a great ending to an energy-packed festival Saturday, an excellent way to unwind and enjoy fantastic country music with family and friends."
Tickets will go on sale at 9 a.m. Monday and may be purchased online at www.forestfestival.com or at the Mountain State Forest Festival office, 101 Lough St. Ticket prices are in three tiers, $48, $38, $28 based on seat location. Also, concert seat tickets are available with admission to the tailgate party for additional $10. The ability to choose individual seats throughout the auditorium is available online, as well as through the MSFF office.
Sponsors for the event are Mid-State Chevrolet Buick, Valley Distributors and Twisted Tea, the West Virginia Lottery, The Inter-Mountain and WV Radio.
No sky is bluer, no air crisper, no leaf greener than after a storm, and Travis Tritt is adding a musical addendum to that list with the release of his new album, "The Calm After." Part metaphor and surprisingly literal, the title is reflective of a fresh and focused start for one of the most successful and acclaimed musical creators of his era. The tumult his music has come through to get this point, however, is very real.
"I feel so humbled and blessed to be where I am right now," Tritt said. "My voice has never been stronger, I'm constantly playing and working to become a better guitar player, banjo player, vocalist and songwriter. I am honestly as excited about the creative process and performing now as the day I signed my first record deal."
The highly abbreviated Tritt timeline has the young Georgian incorporating lifelong influences in southern rock, blues and gospel into his country during a honky-tonk apprenticeship that led him to Warner Bros. His 1990 debut album, "Country Club," and its succession of hits put him in the vanguard of the genre's early 1990s boom. At the same time, his conspicuous lack of a cowboy hat and musical aggressiveness set him apart. The next eight albums and scores of hit singles led him to amass more than $25 million in career album sales, two Grammys, three CMA Awards and a devoted fan base that filled venues coast-to-coast.
A 2006 recording session for a Sam Moore album proved fateful when producer, musician and "American Idol" judge Randy Jackson complimented Tritt on his vocals. The meeting led to a co-production collaboration on Tritt's next album, which would eventually be titled "The Storm." The name, unfortunately, fit in ways no one would have expected.
Released in 2007 on the independent Category 5 Records, "The Storm" soon became embroiled in one. The company founder was funding the label through ill-gotten revenue in his principle business. Because of the legal problems, which eventually led to him going to jail, the promotional push dried up and the label eventually failed, Tritt said.
"The album never really got an opportunity to see the light of day," Tritt said. "We did release a single and we got great response with reviews, but there was never a properly executed marketing or promotion plan."
"Great response is putting it mildly," a People magazine writer explained. "Jackson effectively brings out the soul in the country singer on cuts that venture into gospel and blues
Nevertheless, the label's demise sank the project and led to years of litigation. The final settlement, reached in 2012, remitted master recordings for "The Storm" to Tritt. He knew exactly what he wanted to do.
"I've been talking about starting my own record label for five years, and it all hinged on having those masters back in my control so we could kick off with that. Hence, 'The Calm After,'" Tritt said.
Pleased as Tritt was at the opportunity to re-introduce music he'd poured himself into, he also was intent on fulfilling his initial vision. Originally a 12-track release, the album's sessions actually yielded 14 finished recordings, with the two unreleased selections being Tritt's take on the band Faces' "Stay With Me" and the Patty Smyth-Don Henley duet "Sometimes Love Just Ain't Enough." The latter had been intended as a pairing with an established female country artist.
"When we were closing out the album, the timing was off because the scheduling just didn't work out for the short list of women I thought had the soul to make that song special," Tritt said. "So we basically shelved it."
Fast forward several years, and Tritt discovered if the perfect duet partner doesn't materialize, you can always grow your own. As his daughter Tyler Reese's voice takes wing, Tritt finds his own career enjoying a new spring. He already has plans to follow the initial release with a variety of music projects, including a new, mostly acoustic project with former No Hats Tour chum Marty Stuart.
"We've got four tracks done on sort of a throw-back project that is on the exact other end of the spectrum from 'The Calm After', which is very heavily produced," Tritt said. "I'm playing acoustic guitar, Marty is on acoustic and mandolin, there's an upright bass, keys, light percussion and that's it."
In the meantime, his performance slate is full as he rolls out a full-band production in 2013 following three years of well-received solo-acoustic shows. He's also become a force in Atlanta sports, performing at the 1996 Olympics, two Super Bowls, a World Series game, the opening of the Georgia Dome, the final Braves game at Atlanta-Fulton Country Stadium and, in 2013, the NCAA men's basketball championship.
Through it all, music still is what gives him joy.
"I turned 50 years old this year, strictly going off the date my mother told me that I was born," Tritt laughs. "I need to go back and check my birth certificate, because I don't feel that old. In my head, I still feel like I'm 28-years-old. I have the same energy, the same amount of love for live performance and for working in the studio that I had when I was first getting started."
"The odd thing is, and I can't explain this, but I think I'm singing better than I did in my 20s and 30s," Tritt added. "I know it's not supposed to be that way, but there's just a control that comes with maturity. Plus, I've got a higher range now than I had when I was in my early 30s. And since we started doing the acoustic shows, people come up to me commenting on my singing or, more often, my guitar playing. I get that a lot. In fact, that's how I ended up working with Randy Jackson. After I came out of the vocal booth on that Sam Moore session, Randy looked at me and said, 'Man, I had no idea that you had that blue-eyed soul thing going on.'"
"We've even joked about having t-shirts made up that say, 'I never knew travis' ... followed by phrases like, 'Played the banjo like that,' 'Can sing like that,' 'Had that many hits,' 'Is that good a guitar player,' etc. You know, it's fun," Tritt said. "At 50, to still have a career and be able to surprise people with music - I'm humbled and very thankful. It's a God-given gift."