Tracy Lawrence doesn’t want to bash the latest generation of country-music stars. Yes, most of the music sounds too much like a pop song for his taste, but he’s been down that road. Besides, back in the 1990s, he was one of them.
But it makes him a little sad how “the industry,” he said, seems to ignore the classic stars. He readily admits he’s one of those classic stars now. He remembers Waylon Jennings, for instance, grumbling about being ignored back when Lawrence was younger.
“There are some amazing artists out there,” Lawrence said, “and the industry’s closed the door to them. They used to appreciate you. Now they just kind of discard you. I’m not complaining. I can work as much as I want. But I think it’s too bad for the fans. I think many still want to hear those artists on the radio.”
Lawrence hopes to change that, at least a little, in a current tour with John Anderson that pulls in Thursday at the Gallo Center for the Arts.
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Touring together is a new adventure for the pair. The two share a 20-year-old friendship and have hunted together – Lawrence’s biggest buck he ever bagged was on a trip with Anderson – and they’ve played together a few times.
Lawrence refers to himself as an “older cat,” and that’s probably true. Lawrence records for his own label now, but he first released “Sticks and Stones” in 1991. He now plays both small gigs, such as casinos, as well as the bigger festivals. It’s definitely true for John Anderson, who released his first single in 1977.
Both are legends, with dozens of No. 1 hits between them, and Lawrence considers Anderson one of his influences, if not his idols.
“There are things in my voice that you’ll hear that are in direct correlation to him and me trying to mimic him,” Lawrence said. “I know everything he’s done, and man I still play ‘Swingin’ in my show.”
In fact, the two haven’t rehearsed for the show, and asking whether he’s worried about that makes Lawrence chuckle. That may be because of the format. The two sit on stage, tell stories and play their hits with an acoustic guitar.
Lawrence likes the format because it’s different than playing a stage show or at a casino. The two will trade songs and probably work up a duet for the finale.
“You get more interaction both between us and the audience,” he said. “We’re going to do it on the fly, but we’re old pros. I like to do it as it evolves. Honestly, I don’t even bring a set list out.”
Anderson hasn’t changed his style much from his early days, and that’s one reason why Lawrence still calls him a good friend because neither has he. Concerts like these are a reminder to him as well that the older brand still works for a few.
“The people who come to these tend to be avid fans, more traditional,” Lawrence said, “and it’s a very good feeling to hear them singing back.”