- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 15, 2003

Vince Gill is bringing his old guitar to the 9:30 Club tomorrow night. Although he lacks the dreadlocks and body ornaments sported by the alternative artists more typical of the venue, the clean-cut crossover country artist hopes to find a sympathetic audience for the music from his new album, "Next Big Thing."
"There are certain artists that can play certain places and certain artists that can't," he says. "I've played with a lot of different people and would be one of those artists that could come into a rock club and not look like the guy with the big belt buckle and the hat."
Still, Mr. Gill is grateful to fellow country stars Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn and Dwight Yoakum all of whom have recently performed at 9:30 for greasing the skids.
"I won't be fed to the sharks," he says.
With a little luck, he won't alienate longtime fans, either. "What we're trying to do is create a live listening party for this record," he says. "If people come knowing they will hear mostly new music, it won't be a disappointment to them thinking they are coming to a regular show where they will hear everything old."
Seth Hurwitz, co-owner of the 9:30 Club, says he chooses artists based on musicianship, not genre labels. The club may be known as a stop on the alternative-music circuit, but Mr. Hurwitz likes playing against type.
"We do what we consider is the real deal," Mr. Hurwitz says. "We like to mix it up. We try not to be boring. … Vince Gill in our own way is actually alternative."
When writing the songs for "Next Big Thing," Mr. Gill says he tried to wrap his imagination around multiple themes and styles. The tongue-in-cheek first single, "Next Big Thing," pokes fun at stardom. "Don't Let Her Get Away" features harmonies reminiscent of the Beach Boys. "We Had It All" includes Mexicali guitars.
Mr. Gill says he wrote the 17 songs on the project in about 18 months. A lightened touring schedule, he says, left more time for writing. He also took a stab at producing the project by himself.
"It was a little bit scary," he admits. "I had made records with Tony Brown for the last 13 years. I was a little bit intimidated, a little bit euphoric, a little bit lonely. All three of those things make for a great creative atmosphere."
When choosing guest musicians to appear on the album, Mr. Gill says he felt as though he were casting roles in a musical production. The band that appeared on the album included steel-guitar player John Hughey, guitarists Mac McAnally and Dean Parks, piano-player Pete Wasner, bassist Willie Weeks, slide guitarist Tom Britt, harmonica and accordion player Jim Hoke, and saxophonists Jim Horn and Kirk Whalum.
The vocalists featured throughout the project are his wife, Amy Grant; Emmylou Harris; Lee Ann Womack; Bekka Bramlett; Dawn Sears; Michael McDonald; and Leslie Satcher.
"That to me is the beauty, hearing the different elements of people's hearts on those songs," he says. "I'm a fan and respectful of their talents."
Mr. Gill also stands in awe of his 20-year-old daughter, Jenny, who contributes harmony vocals to the song "Whippoorwill River."
"She is turning into a great little singer," he says. "Her pitch is good. It's fun to hear the blend that happens with blood. It's really unique."
Besides working with his daughter, Mr. Gill also recently served as a producer on Miss Grant's album "Legacy: Hymns and Faith." Miss Grant is nominated for a Dove Award, gospel music's most prestigious, for country recorded song of the year for "The River's Gonna Keep on Rolling On," which Mr. Gill composed.
"The song is about how no matter what happens, good or bad, the river doesn't stop," Mr. Gill says. "Time doesn't stop. … Whatever it is you confront in life, just know it's going to keep on going."
Meanwhile, Mr. Gill is looking forward to promoting his new album. He says every town has "the cool clubs," where artists such as Bonnie Raitt, Keb' Mo' or Little Feat might play. For this tour, he wanted to showcase new material in such smaller, more adventurous venues.
"I said, 'Let's find some of those great places and see if we can't have a pretty fun night,'" Mr. Gill says.
If you see somebody boardingMr. Gill's tour bus after the show wearing a big belt buckle, big Stetson and a silver stud punched through his tongue chances are he did.

WHO: Vince Gill
WHEN: Tomorrow; doors open at 7 p.m.
WHERE:
9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW
TICKETS:
$40
PHONE:
202/432-SEAT

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