‘Muzik’ – of the Big Rich variety

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 8, 2006

If you build it, they will come.

And come they did – by bus, by pick-up truck load and by car – to Carolina Crossroads last Saturday.

For what, you may ask? For a Big & Rich time, of course.

I’ve been anticipating the Big & Rich concert since it was announced back in March that the popular country music artists were bringing their high-energy act to Roanoke Rapids.

There’s something strangely unique about the approach Big & Rich take to music. I think it lies in their passion to play…to perform the songs they poured their hearts and souls into making.

Their act, as carried out in front of 20,000-plus screaming fans on Saturday in a field outside of Roanoke Rapids, may have bordered on complete insanity to some, but it was pure genius in my humbled opinion.

Both are talented musicians in their own right. Big Kenny (aka Kenny Alphin) released his first LP – &uot;Live a Little&uot; – in 2000. Two years earlier, John Rich recorded &uot;Underneath the Same Moon.&uot;

Neither became an overnight sensation. Even when they teamed-up in 2000 to form the &uot;MuzikMafia&uot; none of the country music bigwigs in Nashville gave them much of a chance of surviving in an industry that now thrives on &uot;cookie-cutter&uot; performers.

Instead of bowing to industry pressure, Big & Rich decided to share their love of music, or &uot;muzik&uot; as they like to call it, without prejudice. Instead of the same-old act, Big Kenny and John Rich blended Conway Twitty with Kid Rock.

The end result is country music flair with a heaping helping of rock-n-roll, soul, blues and hip-hop thrown into the mix.

What other group is introduced by a midget (&uot;Two-Foot Fred&uot;) dressed in a bright yellow and red outfit and is joined by a massive 6′-5&uot; black man (Cowboy Troy) with his legendary &uot;hick-hop&uot; style?

That’s what makes Big & Rich so unique. No cookie-cutter country with this bunch. Rather it’s raise your glass high, kick-up your heels and party hard ’til the muzik stops. They have a simple, yet powerful approach to their style, that of bringing a group of artists together, regardless of race, religion, background or muzikal genre’, to make muzik.

It reminds me of a country music rebellion, much like I witnessed back in the 1970’s with Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. Instead of the MuzikMafia, back then it was &uot;Willie, Waylon and the Boys.&uot;

Now it’s the MuzikMafia that’s turning Nashville, and the rest of the country, upside down. Five years, several tours, six Grammy nominations and 11 million records sold following their formation, MuzikMafia now includes a family of artists. Big and Rich are the founding members joined by Jon Nicholson and Cory Gierman along with Gretchen Wilson, Cowboy Troy, James Otto, Shannon Lawson, Damien Horne (Mista D), Two-Foot Fred, Rachel Kice and Chance. Several more acts are in the development stages.

Go the distance.

And go the distance they did on Saturday night. They kicked off their act with &uot;Comin to Your City&uot; (the title track of their 2005 CD) and ended it, amidst a grand fireworks show, with &uot;Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy&uot; (off their first CD (2004) entitled Horse of a Different Color.

In every direction I looked on Saturday, there were folks, young and old, with hands in the air (or, in some cases, around a loved one) having a Big & Rich time.

For once, it was a joy to ride less than one hour and catch a live performance by such a big-name musical act. Normally, from our area, we have to drive to Norfolk or Raleigh and pay through our nose for tickets to see talent of this magnitude.

That’s why I think that Carolina Crossroads will become the next musical mecca on the East Coast. Randy Parton, the brother of legendary country music artist Dolly Parton, is the brainchild behind this venue. His 3,500 square-foot, 1,500-seat theatre is scheduled to open sometimes next year, as is a real amphitheatre that will entertain 20,000 folks at a time.

Meanwhile, shops, hotels and other forms of entertainment are planned for phase one of this project. An economic study estimates that The Randy Parton Theater & Carolina Crossroads Music & Entertainment District will increase industry output in the area by over $500 million, create over 12,000 jobs and increase labor income by $204.7 million over the next five years.

I’ll gladly spend more of my hard-earned money with this entertainment district. Some of it will be spent on Sept. 23 when one of my all-time favorites, Hank Williams Jr., will be joined by Gretchen Wilson at Carolina Crossroads.

If ya’ll play it, I will come.