After more than 20 years in most jobs, a gold watch and firm handshake are commonly in order.
But for country quartet Lonestar, the milestone means more music, more touring and more doing it their way. The band brings its more than 20 years of hits, experience and passion to Modesto’s Gallo Center for the Arts on Feb. 16.
“We’ve been doing it so long,” said guitarist Michael Britt to the Inland Empire Weekly last summer, “that any time we work up a new show it’s exciting for us because we change a little bit of the arrangements on some of the old songs, change the order and add some new songs. A lot of times during an hour-and-a-half show there’s kind of a lull, but this new show that we’ve worked up, doesn’t have that at all.”
This is first time in almost a decade that the group, which recently reunited with its lead singer Richie McDonald, has returned to the Central Valley. The last time was a spot at the Stanislaus County Fair in 2005.
The band, formed in 1992, put out its 11th album last June. The release, “Life as We Know,” was its first record back with McDonald, who had left in 2007 to pursue a solo career.
Over the years, Lonestar has sold more than 10 million albums and had nine No. 1 country hits with songs such as “No News,” “Come Crying To Me,” “Amazed,” “I’m Already There,” “My Front Porch Looking In” and “Mr. Mom.”
The single “Amazed” also hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the first crossover country song to accomplish the feat since “Islands in the Stream” in 1983. It also went on to win the 1999 Academy of Country Music single and song of the year awards. Two years later Lonestar was named Country Music Association vocal group of the year.
The group has toured rigorously throughout its career. The band’s core lineup reunited in 2011 and McDonald said they came back together for the right reasons.
“That’s one thing that we talked about when we got back together. We said, Look, let’s just go have fun and cherish the moment,” he told Songfacts last spring. “We had fun last time, before I took a break, but I don’t think we really relished the moment. We don’t really feel we could look back and remember what we accomplished, because we just didn’t take time to enjoy it. So I think this time we’re just recording music, having fun doing it, and cherishing every moment night after night, riding on the bus together, and not taking ourselves too seriously.”
The results of their reunion have been praised by critics. Great American Country said the quartet’s new music is “full of electric riffs and tight harmonies ... it showcases a rejuvenated band throughout much of the record.”
The project also marks a new level of creative control for the group. “Life As We Know It” was produced by the members and released on their own 4 Star Records label. The group also wrote nine of the record’s 12 songs.
With that much creative freedom, those 20 years of experience came in especially handy.
“I think from that first day, we learned one thing,” drummer Keech Rainwater told Taste of Country last spring. “Nobody knows what Lonestar sounds like better than Lonestar.”