Kicking off day one was the Jackson Taylor Band. The first thing that pops into my mind when thinking of Jackson Taylor is ‘outlaw’. Jackson Taylor was one of 11 siblings and grew up listening to true outlaws Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Billy Joe Shaver and so many others. Like most of these artists he tried his hand in the Nashville music scene before being swallowed up and heading back to Texas where he could write his own style of love and hate music about ex-wives, past relationships and struggles which garnered a lot of attention with his Dark Days album and his most recent release Aces and Eights.
After a quick set change it was time for Stillwater’s own No Justice who rocked out in the extreme heat around 6:30. During my interview, No Justice celebrated their number one single “Don’t Walk Away” and Steve Rice of No Justice said they are already getting geared up and looking at a couple of different producers for their next album, having pushed all the singles they could off their Live at Billy Bob’s album. They are even kicking around the idea of letting the fans name their new album.
The next artist on the main stage, Wade Bowen, made a statement this year winning not one or two, but six awards this year, inclusing best album, artist of year, record of the year, and best male vocalist, not to mention his number one hit from the Texas Regional Radio Report “You Had Me at My Best” and his other number one single on the Texas Music Charts “If We Ever Make It Home”. Wade Bowen performed all his big hits from his new If We Ever Make It Home and even as far back as the album that shined for him in 2006, Lost Hotel.
During Wade’s press conference he made me feel like a weakling in my shorts and flip-flops trying to beat the heat while he sat up on the press room stage in jeans and black t-shirt saying he’s from south Texas and the heat just doesn’t bother him anymore. When I interviewed Wade he was very humble in speaking of his recent success and pointed out he is in a “gray” area of his career with him coming to the last leg of his contract with Sustain Records and reminisced about the time Stoney LaRue showed up and jammed out with him at the Wormy Dog Saloon, broken hand and all and said a majority of his crazy stories include his close friend.
Now before I get to the last act of day one there was also two side stages that shined some of Oklahoma’s brightest rising stars in the scene today: Mama Sweet from Norman (no that is not a misprint they hail from Norman not Stillwater), who broke on the scene in 2002 and Tahlequah’s own Turnpike Troubadours. Both of these artists have worked with Mike McClure (we will be getting to him later on in the week).
Wrapping up the night was 53-year-old singer/songwriter/troubadour Robert Earl Keen who all but stole the show. The Texas A&M graduate began his long road by literally paying for his first album, No Kinda Dancer, himself . Keen’s storytelling style about the borderlands of Texas and Mexico is like no other, and his anthem “Front Porch Song” wrapped the first night and my first experience at Country Fever in Pryor. After four days of sitting directly in the sun’s beating path I have no plans of riding off into the sunset but rather avoiding it all together.