- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 17, 2000

The military is always looking for "a few good men." But instead of recruiting exclusively at college campuses, using direct mail or setting up shop in tiny offices on the corner of main streets, the Army has been attempting something different: entertaining military and civilians alike at the Miller Lite Dog Days of Summer Army Concert Tour.
On Friday, the tour comes to Aberdeen Proving Ground northeast of Baltimore, where country star Tracy Lawrence opens for the legendary country-rock group Alabama.
"It's a public-relations vehicle for the installation itself and indirectly for the Army," says Scott Radosevich, special events coordinator for Army Entertainment. The Army has funded the concerts, which occur at 12 installations nationwide from mid-June to September, for seven years.
Glenn Smith, founder of Glenn Smith Presents Inc. in Nashville, is in charge of booking talent for all of the installations, based on the preference of people at the installations.
"I wanted Alabama to play Aberdeen for a long time," Mr. Smith says. "I knew they would do well, but they didn't want to stop there. They wanted a really good legitimate opening act."
Mr. Smith got more than a legitimate opening act; he got the genuine article in Mr. Lawrence a guaranteed crowd pleaser and traditional country hit maker.
Mr. Lawrence, who will be the main act when the tour moves to Fort Stewart, Ga., on Sept. 8, has played at hundreds of concerts but has kept a low profile over the past two years, during which time he went through a divorce.
The country singer and songwriter has created hits including "Alibis," "Sticks and Stones" and "If the World Had a Front Porch."
At Aberdeen, Mr. Lawrence will feature songs from his first album in two years, "Lessons Learned," a reflection of the past 32 years but particularly the pain he experienced during the past two.
"I really opened myself up and let old pain come out," Mr. Lawrence says. "I tried to make this very personal."
Mr. Lawrence's latest CD is consistent with his traditional country vocal styling, rhythm and overall feel for the music something he says he'll never change despite the trend of country music to go pop.
"I'm not a follower, and I'm not trying to cross into another format," Mr. Lawrence says. "I think it would be disgraceful to me as an artist."
He says he doesn't have a problem with country singers moving into other genres, and he does like performers such as Matchbox 20 or Christina Aguilera. But he says those crossover artists should not call themselves country singers and be played on the country stations.
"They're going in a lot of directions, and I just don't think it's healthy for the longevity of our format or our industry," Mr. Lawrence says.
When he puts out an album, Mr. Lawrence says, he puts his heart into it, but his latest one was different, coming as it does after a hiatus brought on by personal problems.
"It doesn't just deal with the last relationship," he says. "Obviously there are things in the album that are going to touch on that. It deals with just how you come out of it on the other side."
The album features songs such as "From Here to Kingdom Come," which was a contender for the title of the album, Mr. Lawrence says. The last song, "Unforgiven," is about how important forgiveness is and how to move on with life.
"It's time for a change," he explains. "It's time for me to get my life together."

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