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Lawrence draws thousands to Heartland Festival

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Chart-topping artist rips through classics, new songs

By Marty Finley

Tracy Lawrence told a crowd of thousands at Freeman Lake Park Saturday night that country music is alive and well, introducing some “two-steppin’ music” to those who came to hear his catalog of hits.

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A street sign on the bandstand stage proclaimed it Tracy Lawrence Avenue and he treated the stage like his home, opening the show overlooking the lake with his new single “Footprints On The Moon” before ripping through back-to-back hits “Renegades, Rebels and Rogues” and “Better Man, Better Off.”

The crowd that gathered to hear Lawrence was one of the largest crowds for a concert at the lake in years and signified a welcome return to the city for the singer after playing in Elizabethtown nearly two decades ago. The stop coincides with the promotion of his new album, “Headlights, Taillights and Radios.”

His first words to the crowd after his opening songs indicated his delight in being back.

“It’s good to see you guys here in Kentucky,” he said to cheers. Some waved and screamed for Lawrence while others danced.

Lawrence broke onto the scene in 1991 with his debut album “Sticks and Stones” and has since racked up 22 songs on the Billboard top 10 charts with 18 No. 1 singles, according to his official website. As Mayor Edna Berger noted in her introduction, Lawrence has sold more than 13 million albums.

An official estimate on concert attendance was not available Sunday. Elizabethtown Events Coordinator Sarah Vaughn said Lawrence played to a “packed house” and she anticipated estimates later this week.

“We were very excited for the turnout, not only for the concert but the entire weekend,” she said. Vaughn said organizers wanted to offer something for everyone this year at the festival.

Lawrence told the crowd they could expect a mix of songs from his career as he peppered tracks from the new album in with hits like “Alibis,” “Paint me a Birmingham” and “Texas Tornado.”

Before running through a slate of traditional style country songs, Lawrence turned to his band and said, “Let’s get old school, boys.”

Tonya Decker, who lives in the Colesburg area, wore a cowboy hat to the show and said she has seen Lawrence in concert twice before. When asked what draws her to his music, she said his live shows offer a “down home” atmosphere and his songs address topics the common person can relate to.

“You can associate really well,” she said.

A passionate country music fan, she also loves artist Gretchen Wilson because she represents strong women and single moms.

But when it comes to country, Decker is not hard to please.

“I like ’em all,” she said.

She caught the Heartland Festival parade earlier in the morning and said she was impressed with this year’s lineup.

“I think it’s bigger and better,” Decker said. “And it just keeps growing.”

Concertgoer Robin Music joined her mother for the show. She sat on a blanket awaiting Lawrence’s performance. It was her first time seeing him.

“I always have been (a fan),” she said of country music. “My mom and dad raised us on country.”

The Brian Young Band opened for Lawrence and drew support as they ripped through honky tonk romps and some of the latest country hits.

From the stage, Young joked his band would not play another note until the crowd liked their Facebook page and commented on his fictional relationship with country artist Jason Aldean.

“I don’t know him,” Young said. “I know Tracy Lawrence, though.”

Elizabethtown resident Steve DeRoush planted his lawn chair near some trees inside the lake and sat back for the entertainment. DeRoush is a country fan but described himself as one with diverse tastes. Lawrence, he said, has a dependable trove of hits.

He complimented the city for diversifying this year’s festival and hosting a quality free concert to end the night.

“It’s a great thing they’re (doing),” he said, scanning his hand over the large crowd in front of him. “Obviously it’s working out for them.”

Lawrence caps off a season of country music after Trace Adkins appeared at Fort Knox and David Lee Murphy made a stop in Radcliff.

Marty Finley can be reached at 270-505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.