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Blake Shelton to perform in Bemidji

The performing arts season at The Sanford Center is on a roll with road shows coming into Bemidji at a fast clip.

"It's All About Tonight" tour with nominees and winners of the American County Awards for the past few years will be appearing at 7:30 p.m., on Saturday, Jan. 29, in the new regional events center. Blake Shelton headlines a full evening of country music with "Steel Magnolia" and Easton Corbin who was voted the "New Breakthrough Artist of the Year in 2010

Headliner Blake Shelton's meteoric rise on the music scene is part of a resurgence of singers who have come full circle back to the roots of down-home country music. Most of today's young artists speak of those who have come before them with reverence. Singers like Merle Haggard, Hank Williams, George Strait, George Jones and others who could take a simple song with lyrics that speak to their generation about life, love and movin' on. It's the type of singing that makes one want to sit back and muse about the story, join a line dance or Texas Two-Step with your honey. The promise of old-fashioned country music with a modern flair has what has kept this musical genre alive and well while others are floundering. Singers like Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers brought country out into the main stream and not just for Grand Ole Opry devotees. They garnered a wider audience for country music than ever before seen and started what has became "cross-over."

"It's music with a melody not like the stuff that's coming out on MTV today that's just a beat," said Dave Brooks of KB101 of Paul Bunyan Broadcasting in Bemidji. Brooks, the afternoon drive personality, went on to say that, "this music is more relatable to the average listener, you know we guys who fire up the barbeque and sit around with our friends - and there's a lot of us up here."

Sean Fox, a former road manager with names like Bruce Springsteen, also said that this music is, "less sugary, less peppy, more relatable now because a lot of us are out of work, having a hard time and scraping along."

But hard times have not hit Shelton. After a few nominations in various categories, he was named the Male Vocalist of the Year in 2010 by the Country Music Association because of having four No. 1 hits in his fourth album, "Pure BS." His songs consistently hit the charts and "Hillbilly Bones" with Trace Atkins won several country music awards.

"All About Tonight," the name of the tour, is also the name of Shelton's seventh No. 1 single. Shelton sings about life in the slow lane while those in the fast lane can sometimes be the kind of person he does not want to become. The video of Shelton and Atkins at a upscale restaurant where their hillbilly roots are obvious and looked down on by the other patrons sends the message loud and clear - "I am secure in whom I am." A quick tour of the videos on YouTube shows a young singer who is having a good time making fun of himself as well as other societal icons like unsympathetic receptionists and maniacal dentists. "Some days, it just doesn't pay to get up" is a message each of us can recognize.

One of the warm-up acts is Easton Corbin whose debut album has two No. 1 hits, "A Little More County Than That" and "Roll with It." Growing up on a Florida farm with his grandparents, Corbin uses most of his lyrics to tell stories about the good advice he received from his grandpa that women are complicated, the heartbreak of knowing that he can't bring back a lost love simply by "loving her back" and some really good advice about rolling with the punches. Corbin records on the Mercury label and began taking guitar lessons from a former "roadie" when he was 15. His path to becoming a country singer includes being a Future Farmer of America, a 4-H member and a graduate the College of Agriculture from the University of Florida.

The third duo on the bill is "Steel Magnolia" who started out as singles but decided that their style complements each other. Joshua Scott Jones and Meghan Linsey's video, "Last Night Again" is reminiscent of another famous duo John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in "Grease," teens who tried to fit into each other's social circles. "Steel Magnolia" hits also include "Keep on Lovin' You" and "Just by Being You."

All of these young performers have clear voices, sing understandable lyrics and have a non-glitzy charm. Tickets for the show may be purchased on-line at or by calling the box office at 441-4032. Although some fees will apply, the price of tickets is $27.75 and $39.75.