KZLA's Country Class of 2002:
A Stellar Concert of Hot New Country Music Artists
Sponsored by West L.A. Music and KZLA

HOLLYWOOD, CA — January 29, 2002 - Country music has been around for about 80 years, with folk roots from the Appalachian Mountains. Honky tonk, bluegrass, country-western, hillbilly, rockabillyŠthey're all part of the rich history of country music. But in the true American "melting pot" tradition, today's country music is also drawing influences from Latin music, hip hop, blues and rock. To celebrate new country music, West L.A. Music and KZLA, the biggest country music radio station the U.S., sponsored a "Country Class of 2002" concert and talent search. More than 700 people attended the event at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles, including two VPs from Paramount, the VP of Mercury Records, the VP of Warner Brothers, several record label reps, bands, and top disc jockeys from KZLA. The event sold out in two days.

The "Country Class of 2002" concert showcased six new country acts signed to major record labels, and also provided a much-coveted opportunity for a new star to light up the stage. For three weeks prior to the event, over 400 hopefuls flooded West L.A. Music stores with their demos. From this vast talent pool, Clint Black and the KZLA judges selected Carmen Mejia and Paul Reeves of the band Fanny Grace ( for their song "Bluebird." The band was awarded an $8000 custom Taylor guitar signed by Clint Black, AKG microphones, Elixir strings, and an SWR amp. Clint Black will also produce their upcoming CD.

The Country Music Concert of a Lifetime

Attendees at the El Rey enjoyed music from Fanny Grace and six signed country acts, including Daisy Dern, Steve Azar, Mark McGuinn, the Clark Family Experience, Blake Shelton, and Trick Pony, winner of the American Music Award for favorite new artist in country music. Fanny Grace opened the show with their optimistic self-styled "gypsy folk rock," saying "It means so much to share our music with you." Their song "I Feel Free" immediately captivated the crowd, and their song "Bluebird" caught the attention of A&R executives.
Next was Mercury Nashville recording artist Daisy Dern, accompanied by guitarist Bruce Wallis. Her songs prove how a strong concept with a good lyric rich in metaphor can resonate with an audience. Her crystalline voice is the perfect match for "Little Dreams," a gorgeous, old-fashioned lullaby with a simple, soothing melody. Another Daisy Dern hit, "Move a Mountain," was co-written by her daughter's pediatrician, David White.
Then Mercury Nashville Recording artist Steve Azar grabbed his guitar and took the stage with Jason Young, a country conga player(!). Azar took us on a ride through many catchy songs delivered with his smooth and smoky vocals. With classic anti-establishment songs like "I Don't Have to be Me Till Monday" and "Damn the Money," Azar delivers honest emotion for the working man--songs you can relate to and cheer for. His new CD will be released in March.
Mark McGuinn and the Fainting Goats rambled into the spotlight with a Roland ProSonic drum, electric banjo, and guitar. McGuinn is a different kind of country music artist... he opened his set with a hip hop beat! McGuinn sings with sensitivity and grace in a clear ringing tenor with a James Taylor quality. His music is a little funky, a little sassy, spiced up with a few rock power chords. His song "She Doesn't Dance" extols old-fashioned virtues, while his touching tribute to the events of September 11th "America is More Beautiful Today" received a huge round of applause.
Then it was time to brace yourself for the Clark Family Experience, country music's answer to NSync. The Clark Family Experience band members are the six eldest brothers from an 11-sibling family, ranging in age from 18-27. "The rest are too young to work," Ashley explains. Band members are Alan on guitar, harmonica and vocals; Aaron on upright and electric bass and vocals; Adam on mandolin, guitar and vocals; Ashley on fiddle, guitar and vocals; Andrew on drums and vocals; and Austin on dobro and vocals. When they appeared, so did a strong contingent of female fans. Every brother plays furiously at breakneck speed, whether it's a "hoe down" or a two-stepper or a toe tapper. "We kind of made up our own instrumentation," says Alan. "Because we play with what's traditionally known as bluegrass instruments, people were expecting to hear a traditional bluegrass sound, but we were doing our own thing with a groove to it." No kidding! It's like a rockabilly cajun honky tonk on speed. Their latest CD, "Meanwhile back at the Ranch," is produced by Tim McGraw. They ended in a crazed medley that morphed from "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" into "Meet the Flintstones," then "Scooby Doo, Where Are You?" and other cartoon theme songs. Whew!
Then Blake Shelton--a striking figure at 6'5" with an Elvis-like demeanor--took charge by teaching the audience a song about best friends: "Hey Romeo Let's Go Down to Mexico." Shelton has energy and attitude, knows how to wail, and has a vocal range that would make him a good yodeler. The crowd loved his prison song about a dog named Red ("love got me in here, love got me out"), and everyone sang along to his hit "Austin." According to SoundScan, Trick Pony and Blake Shelton are the two best-selling debut album artists of 2001 (Shelton has sold over 250,000 units).
For the grand finale, AMA's best new country act of the year, Trick Pony, trotted on stage. The trio is comprised of Heidi Newfield (vocal, guitar, harmonica), Ira Dean (bass) and Keith Burns (guitar). Trick Pony's self-titled album "Party of One at a Table for Two" came in at No. 1 with over 325,000 albums sold. Their brand of music is bluesy country with a wild west flair. Dean shows his jazz background with walking bass lines and a splash of funk on their hit "On Night Like This." They even do a country/salsa song called "Tequila."
The members of Trick Pony are all true professionals with a sense of humor and ability to adapt to any situation on stage. At one point, Dean (bass) spotted an audience member on a cell phone. (This is L.A., after all. It ain't Nashville.) He confiscated the phone and hit the redial button, saying "Who the hell is this? What do you think you're doing? Don't you know she's with another man?!" The crowd loved it. Then a tiny fan in a pink cowboy hat and pink boots named Crystal toddled onto the stage. Newfield scooped her up and sang a song with her, Crystal waving all the while. Their new single "It's Just What I Do" shows that Trick Pony is gaining momentum and will continue to be a runaway success.

West L.A. Music was thrilled to be a part of the KZLA Country Class of 2002. West L.A. Music presents many exciting events, concerts and clinics throughout the year. To receive information about these events, join our email list.

About West L.A. Music

For over 30 years, West L.A. Music has supplied music, audio and recording equipment to top artists around the world. The first music retailer to implement a "beat any deal" policy, industry insiders count on West L.A. Music's personalized knowledgeable service and comprehensive selection of professional products from leading manufacturers.

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For more information, call West L.A. Music at 310-477-1945