Lyric Street’s Fan Fair Show Plays It Both Ways

It was a study in stark contrast and a microcosm of the schizophrenic nature of country music in the year 2000. Immediately after girl trio SHeDAISY finished their Fan Fair set — replete with choreographed dance moves, “estrogen anthems” and smooth harmonies — Aaron Tippin charged onto the adjacent stage to sing “What This Country Needs.” He prescribed “a little more steel guitar” and “a little fiddle … straight out of a Texas bar.”

Both artists record for Disney-owned Lyric Street Records. Both were received warmly by the early crowd Wednesday morning, Day Three of this year’s International Country Music Fan Fair. The event wraps up Thursday (June 15) at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds in Nashville.

SHeDAISY — Utah-bred sisters Kristyn, Kelsi and Kassidy Osborn — had young women singing along to “Little Good-byes” and “This Woman Needs.” Though they have performed on the Grand Ole Opry and profess their love for country music, the trio sounds more like descendants of pop’s Andrews Sisters or Wilson Phillips than of the Carter Family, but a new breed of country fans isn’t bothered by the distinction.

Tippin on the other hand, with his nasal delivery and love for a yodel (as demonstrated on a former hit, “Blue Angel”), will never be mistaken for, say, Michael Bolton. He’s closer to Hank Williams Sr., to whom, he said in his opening song, a statue should be built in Washington, D.C.

The South Carolina native sported a greying flat-top haircut, a bicep-showcasing black T-shirt and wraparound sunglasses. He will release his second album for Lyric Street, People Like Us, next month. His wife, Thea, is a co-writer of the first single, “Kiss This.” Tippin brought her out to sing harmony on the song.

Two newer acts on the Lyric Street label seem to strike a similar balance of the new and traditional. Male vocal trio Rascal Flatts specializes in peppy, chorus-driven tunes. Frontman Gary LeVox has an impressive voice, which he uses ably on R&B-tinged pop numbers such as “See Me Through” and “One Good Love.”

Sonya Isaacs grew up in bluegrass gospel music singing with her family, the Isaacs. Though she strums a mandolin — more or less a symbol of tradition — she seems to be searching for an identity that will allow her to have a more mainstream country career. Her set included the Vince Gill-produced single, “I’ve Forgotten How You Feel,” a tune from the Isaacs’ repertoire, “I’m Gonna Move,” and a new single, “That’s What Love Demands,” which has a less traditional feel. One suspects that following her own musical heart will serve Isaacs best in the long run.

Host group Chuck Wagon and the Wheels, a country comedy trio, received a framed award for selling “30,000 T-Shirts worldwide.” Wagon acted moved by the mock ceremony. “We hope to have those available in the U.S. pretty soon,” he said.

At least one member of the audience may not have gotten the joke. “It’s nice when something happens and they get choked up,” she said. “They don’t take it for granted.”