In an era when inspiration and optimism are often in high demand and short supply, Lonestar has built a career providing both in good measure. The band’s musical legacy is tied to modern-day classics like “Amazed,” “I’m Already There,” and “My Front Porch Looking In,” heartfelt anthems to family, love and fidelity. At the same time, they made a name for themselves rocking out with across-the-board hits of the first order like “No News”, “What About Now” and “You Walked In”.
The quartet’s non-musical legacy is equally impressive. Lonestar is known for their support of the nation’s troops and of charitable causes–their many honors have included both the National Fatherhood Award and the ACM/Home Depot Humanitarian Award. They are, in short, among modern country music’s greatest ambassadors.
2007 turned out to be an especially important year for the band, which had to face some major obstacles. The band’s longtime record deal with BNA Records was fulfilled and the label declined to pursue a new contract, leaving the band without a major contract for the first time in 12 years. “With the current state of the recording industry in flux at the moment, it’s actually a good time to step back and explore other options in getting our music to our fans,” said guitarist Michael Britt, adding “we’ve established ourselves as a proven sales and touring act with over 15 years of experience so we have a few other options open that beginning acts may not have.”
In the midst of exploring these options in early 2007, Richie McDonald announced that he would be leaving the band to pursue other musical interests, leaving the remaining members to decide whether to pack it in or move on and try to keep Lonestar intact. Keech, Dean, and Michael were united in their goal of keeping Lonestar together and continuing to work together to make new music. To this end, they listened to countless CDs and, yes, MySpace page songs, as well as making phone calls and basically brainstorming for ideas for their lead vocalist replacement. This search led to a young man from Florida who Dean had seen singing in a bar called “Cowboys” in Kennesaw, GA, on the outskirts of Atlanta year or two prior. After a couple of phone calls and a trip to Nashville to audition with the band in front of management and booking agents, the decision was made to make Cody Collins the new lead singer of Lonestar.
McDonald was already committed to working tour dates through November 7, 2007, Lonestar continued touring with Richie throughout the Summer of ’07 and into early Fall. It wasn’t until September 13, at a showcase for media and the Nashville record industry, that the latest version of Lonestar was unveiled at a club in Nashville, TN. The showcase was a great success as reviews of the show circulated around the internet and around town. Several longtime Lonestar fans were there, who, while admitting it was different not seeing Richie onstage, were pleasantly surprised by Cody’s voice and his energy and enthusiasm.
Meanwhile, at the same time that Lonestar fans were waiting to hear the news of who the new singer might be, the new lineup was busy in the studio recording a Christmas CD in June/July of ’07. Enlisting the help of their Coming Home producer Justin Niebank, they were for the first time co-producing a record on their own, spending countless hours arranging, recording, editing, playing and singing in Dean’s state-of-the-art home studio in Franklin, TN. With the basic tracks recorded at The Tracking Room in Nashville, TN, arrangements, overdubs, vocals, and editing were done at Dean’s studio during breaks in the band’s extremely busy Summer tour schedule. “This is where the new lineup really came together,” says drummer Keech Rainwater. “We were tossing around ideas and using the ones that stuck… we were like a garage band, but with really great gear!”. “It was a great experience,” added Dean Sams. “We really feel like a band again!”
The result is the My Christmas List CD, containing nine instantly-recognizable Christmas standards along with two new tracks written for the project by members of Lonestar. Cody’s fresh vocal sound propels Lonestar through rocking renditions of “Up On The Housetop”, “Deck The Halls” and the Texas-swing inspired “Jingle Bells.” The band explores a variety of styles and genres to create interesting new arrangements of songs like “Away In A Manger” and “Joy To The World” then breaks it up with stirring arrangements of “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Silent Night.” The new songs, “That’s What Christmas Is For” (co-written by Dean Sams) and the title track, “My Christmas List” (co-written by Dean Sams and Michael Britt) give the fans a glimpse into the future sound of the new Lonestar. An uplifting version of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” as well as a front porch, stripped-down “White Christmas” brings the CD to an all-too-soon conclusion, sure to make it a holiday treat for years to come. The CD is currently only available at Cracker Barrel restaurant stores as well as crackerbarrel.com.
Lonestar is currently touring on their Cracker Barrel-sponsored My Christmas List Tour . For these and all tour dates, check out www.lonestarnow.com or check back here at www.myspace.com/lonestar. Lonestar has also been very busy of late taping TV shows for GAC, The Armed Forces Network and was even asked to sing the seventh-inning stretch of the final game of the 2007 World Series in Denver, CO. Cody, who was thrown into the fire with his first Lonestar appearance before a crowd of thousands, said, “It was truly a thrill for me. I’d never even been to a World Series before and to be here and to sing here, it’s a dream come true.” Stay tuned for more info regarding upcoming TV appearances.
As for what the future has in store for Lonestar, keyboard player Dean Sams insists, “We’re going to keep making great music and bringing it to our fans however we can. With the addition of Cody, we all have a new energy and excitement that’s making our live shows really rock and our new recordings just jump out of the speakers.” Michael adds, “We are having a blast playing together and the music is better than ever, so it’s really just a matter of getting it out to the fans and getting them as excited about it as we are.”
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