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Spotlight On 2010 COUNTRY THUNDER FESTIVAL
Story by Cathalena E. Burch
Photos by Glenda S. Paradee
  More photos available at:
 
http://countrythunder.smugmug.com
  http://countrythunder.smugmug.com/Music/Country-Thunder-Arizona/

FLORENCE - Hollywood glitz, hillbilly chic and Texas twang made for perfect bedfellows at the 2010 Country Thunder Festival at the sprawling Canyon Moon Ranch April 14-17, 2010.

The Hollywood connection came on the third night of the four-day festival with movie star Kevin Costner fronting his Modern West band in the opening slot for headliner Keith Urban. Urban brought his own Hollywood baggage: He's married to Hollywood star Nicole Kidman.

Costner's show walked the fine line of vanity venture and true grit, with the actor showing off some flashes of true musical talent. He showed off rough-hewn vocals that nearly growled on his post-Hurricane Katrina rocker "Five Minutes to America"; a lusty growl on the sultry "Long Hot Night"; and a gently worn baritone on the pop-country ballad "Let Me Be the One," which he sang with his daughter, Lily. But halfway through his hour long set and his voice seemed to fail him, losing much of the strength that had won over some of the skeptics in the audience of 16,000.

Urban closed the night with a long-awaited encore to his only other Country Thunder Arizona appearance in 2000. Back then he was an early-in-the-day opener with a handful of songs to his credit. He returned last Friday as one of the biggest stars in country music, and put on a show worthy of that title. In addition to a rich catalog of pop-country No. 1 hits, Urban has the most amazing guitar chops in the genre, and he employed them with wonderful flourishes on rock-worthy solos.

Other highlights of the festival:

Miranda Lambert headlined the first full day April 15 in a show that people were still talking about Saturday night. Energy, sass, an amazing set list culled heavily from her Academy of Country Music award-winning album "Revolution," and enough sex appeal to tantalize all the single men in the crowd of 15,000. She was the real deal plus some, and those of us who saw her in her inspired performance here knew she would sail into Las Vegas and snag the coveted ACM Female Vocalist nod three days later.

Randy Houser dished up more than an hour of hell-raising Southern rock that brought fans in from the festival grounds to witness his afternoon set. 

Gary Allan, opening for Lambert, was a glorious mess of rocking country. Swigging a beer and drinking from a bottle of Jack, he struck the pose of country's old school meeting the 21st century.

What would Country Thunder be like without our favorite rocking poster boy Neal McCoy kicking in some "Beverly Hillbillies Rap." McCoy headed a pared down lineup of three acts on opening night April 14. The intent of the Wednesday night concert is to quietly welcome the campers and die-hard fans to the festival, and organizers expect to draw a fraction of fans that will show up for the other three days. But in a testament to McCoy's drawing power, 9,000 people showed up.

Finally, rap-rocker/Southern-fried-hellraiser Kid Rock headlined the final night April 17, drawing the same crowd (16,000) that showed up to see Urban. His show shot the heck out of the warm-fuzzy homefront sentiments expressed by most of the other artists throughout the weekend. But everyone in the audience expected Kid would do just that.

What started out as a raucous rock show quickly segued into a country throwdown with sizzling countrified rock odes and soaring ballads done Kid Rock-style - an f-bomb here, an off-color, sexually charged phrase there. Sorry to the kids, he apologized at one point. In his country songs, you never cry over lost love; you move on, quickly, and what you find is ultimately better.

Country Thunder hosts its Wisconsin show July 22-25. The lineup includes Kenny Chesney, Lambert and Sugarland.

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The stars signing the  
Harley Davidson 
motorcycle donated by  
Superstition Harley  
Davidson for the 100  
Club of Arizona raffle. 
 
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Maranda Lambert
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Maranda Lambert
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Luke Bryan
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Kevin Costner
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Chris Young
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Big Kenny
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The Grascals
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Eric Church
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Neal McCoy
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Gary Allen
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Miranda Lambert
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Love & Theft
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Trailer Choir
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Keith Urban
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Chris Young
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Big Kenny
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Kid Rock
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Kid Rock

  More photos available at:
 
http://countrythunder.smugmug.com
  http://countrythunder.smugmug.com/Music/Country-Thunder-Arizona/

The 17th edition of Country Thunder USA was held in Florence, AZ on April 14-17, 2010.

It was another great year. The lineup for the festival was The Grascals, Eric Church, Neal McCoy, harry Luge, Rio Grand, Randy Rogers Band, Collin Raye, Jo Dee Messina, Gary Allan, Miranda Lambert, Love & Theft, Trailer Choir, Randy Houser, Kevin Costner & Modern West, Keith Urban, Jason Jones, Kate & Kacey, Chris Young, Big Kenny, Willie Nelson, and Kid Rock. 

The four-day festival draws 100,000-plus music fans yearly to a 50-acre site near Florence with its good-time mix of twangy tunes, vendors selling everything from cowboy hats to hot tubs and fresh country air.

Big-time fans camped out among the 4,000 sites. 

Music icon Willie Nelson performed the final night delivering an impressive set of old-school country.

Nelson was the standout of the closing trio, still sounding great at 77.

With his wrinkled face alternately looking out from beneath a cowboy hat and a bandanna, Nelson came out sounding energetic, playing brisk versions of "Whiskey River," "Still Is Still Moving To Me" and "Beer For My Horses."

Nelson nailed a version of "Me and Paul," which tells the story of crazed travels with his longtime drummer, Paul English.

"Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain" was mellow but emotional, and "Always on My Mind" was poignant.

Nelson's sister, Bobbie, dropped fun honky-tonk piano into several tunes, including Hank Williams' "Hey Good Lookin'" and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken." The latter included hot harmonica work by another longtime Nelson sideman, Mickey Raphael.

Nelson hit most of the high spots of his career, and he managed to avoid being bored by such well-traveled classics as "Mamas Don't Let You Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys" and "On the Road Again."

Kid Rock and his Twisted Brown Trucker Band brought bushels of energy and attitude to the stage.

Opening with the driving rocker, "Rock n' Ross Jesus" and the rap-rock of "Son of Detroit," Kid Rock made it clear he wouldn't be changing much in his normal concert set just because he was playing at Country Thunder.

He dedicated "Lowlife (Living the Highlife)" to "all the hillbillies here" and had everyone waving their arms and hats to the country-rap of "Cowboy."

The Southern-rock-flavored "Only God Knows Why" and "All Summer Long," as well as "Picture," featuring a nice duet with one of Kid Rock's backup singers, also connected with fans whose taste leaned more toward country."

Country Thunder has teamed up with the 100 Club of Arizona and Superstition Harley Davidson®.

A Harley Davidson® Softail Night Train was raffled off to help reach the 100 Club's goal of $100,000. The drawing will take place Monday, April 19th after Country Thunder. The winner will be posted on the 100 Club website (100club.org) Monday April 19th at 9am.

Largest Country Music Festival in the Southwest Announces Charity Goal of $100,000 for the 100 Club 
of Arizona

Country Thunder chooses local public safety non-profit as its 2010 charity of choice.

Country Thunder, the largest country music festival in the southwest USA, aims to raise $100,000 for the 100 Club of Arizona, a non-profit that provides assistance to the men and women of public safety, at its Arizona festival in Florence, April 14 – 17, 

Country Thunder has partnered with the 100 Club to raise money for public safety officers and firefighters who are seriously injured or killed in the line of duty. "The opportunity to benefit from this great event will greatly help the cause of the 100 Club which is to provide support to the families of public safety when they need it most. It allows us, the 100 Club to be the first to respond to our first responders when tragedy strikes," said Sharon Knutson-Felix, executive director of the 100 Club of Arizona. 

Country Thunder hosted a live auction between sets featuring memorabilia signed by various country music artists including a fridge from SRP with all proceeds benefiting the 100 Club.

"Over 100,000 people will attend Country Thunder this year and they hope to raise $100,000 for the 100 Club of Arizona. Providing great entertainment for a great cause makes for a perfect event and we are honored to be a part of it," said Knutson-Felix.

The 100 Club of Arizona is a nonprofit organization that provides financial assistance to public safety officers and firefighters when they are seriously injured or killed in the line of duty, and to provide resources to enhance their safety and welfare. It was started in 1968, and has given more than four million dollars in financial support to Arizona's men and women who stand behind the badge. For more information, please visit www.100club.org or email info@100club.org.

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