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Tritt effort bears fruit

Great Woods, Mansfield, Mass., Aug. 24, 1997

By Jeffrey B. Remz

MANSFIELD, MA - Three outlaws of country plus one local rising star hit the stage Sunday at Great Woods with generally favorable results.

The highlights on this Fruit of the Loom tour stop clearly were co-headliner Travis Tritt and opener Jo Dee Messina, appearing before a hometown crowd.

Far less successful was the night's closer, Hank Williams Jr., who offered a disjointed set.

The Charlie Daniels Band showed much vigor on stage with ol' Charlie leading the way.

Tritt, who sometimes wears his self-proclaimed outlaw status a little too much on his sleeve, toned down the rock side of his music for his 75-minute set, offering a healthy dose of acoustic-flavored songs where the words mattered.

And that was no more apparent than on his big hit, "Tell Me I Was Dreaming," about a woman who commits suicide. Tritt sang with passion and feeling as he did throughout his stint. He captured the sadness of the song without overemoting.

Aided by a crack band Tritt, of course, showed he could rock as well from the get go with "Put Some Drive in Your Country," which about sums up the Georgian's attitude towards country. He spices his with the Southern fried rock of Lynyrd Skynyrd et al.

He made it clear he had little good will for the hat acts and hot new country sound in "Outlaws Like Us," paying homage to what he would consider real country music like Hank and The Hag. The song contains the line, "I"m still damn sure Billy Ray can't sing/But I still love The Hag."

Tritt was dragged down a bit by his extensive use of videos, some used on previous tours, which showed him singing along with the real Tritt on stage. The problem was it emphasized the video too much, not the live action.

And Tritt milked the applause a bit on a few songs.

The other negative - the set wasn't long enough. He did not play a number of hits including "Take It Easy" and "Foolish Pride."

In other words, Tritt left you wanting more.

Hank Jr., on the other hand, left you wanting a lot less. Apparently, many in the small crowd of 5,500 thought so also as they flooded the exits during his segment.

His set was more of an homage to his father than anything else. That was made quite clear on the video screen above the stage with periodic images of his father, comments made between songs about his dad and even in song lyrics.

One almost wondered if Hank Jr. would have bothered entering music if not for Hank Sr.

The set was more of a greatest hits effort as Hank has not put out much high quality material in recent years. Williams began with the noisy, muddy sounding hit "Born to Boogie" where he and his band revved it up.

Like Tritt, Williams later urged his fans to "watch out for young country."

Williams did a very long solo acoustic set, which worked to a degree. He played too many snippets of songs, often those of his father, without giving listeners the full effect. And he rambled on awhile as well.

Daniels cooked on "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," his big hit. The song was highlighted by a fiddle duel with Tritt's fiddle player, Tim Passmore. The burly Daniels may not have the strongest voice out there, but he sure seems to enjoy putting it out.

Messina, a native of the greater Boston area, was playing her home area for the first time in 17 months. With two hit singles under her belt, Messina belted out her six songs with aplomb.

She recalls Tanya Tucker vocally. And she seemed energized by the gathering.

Messina unveiled, "Bye Bye," the first single from her second album. It sounded like a winner.

While Messina is not exactly an outlaw, Tritt showed that outlaws still can rule for one night anyway when it comes to country.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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