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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Kenny Rogers goes through musical motions

15th annual Havelock Country Jamboree & Trade Show , Havelock, Ontario, Canada, Aug. 20, 2004

By David McPherson

HAVELOCK, ONTARIO, CANADA - It's a blink and you'll miss it kind of town, set amongst the rolling hills of eastern Ontario, but Havelock has become a country mecca for an annual pilgrimage of country music fans that come to worship some of Nashville's biggest stars. What began as more of a "front-porch hoedown" - it's now a perennial winner in the voting for the Top-Five country music festivals in Canada.

Not bad for a tiny town (population 1,300) that swells to more than 30,000 each August for this little country jamboree that proved it could. Now in its 15th year, this 4-day festival, 2 hours northeast of Toronto, brought country enthusiasts of all ages back this year for a show featuring more than 25 performers including headliners included Glen Campbell, Roy Clark and Kenny Rogers.

Rogers had top billing on Friday night, one day shy of his 66th birthday, while Aaron Lines and Carolyn Dawn Johnson warmed the crowd up before the grizzled Gambler took the stage.

Lines - the 2003 Canadian Country Music Awards Male Artist of the Year - got the crowd singing along in the early evening with a tight set of sizzling songs. The Alberta native, now based in Nashville, got a loud cheer from the Stetson wearing crowd when he asked: "What's the Back 40?" For Havelock Jamboree neophytes, the Back 40 is the part of the campsite where the real parties happen late at night.

Lines encored with a nod to the Eagles, playing a spirited version of "Take it Easy" leaving fans satisfied, except for one couple that was a little upset that Lines didn't play his Top 10 hit "Close" as it's their planned wedding song for their upcoming nuptials later in the year.

Rogers sauntered onto stage looking more like a lounge lizard wearing a white suit and sans guitar, than a country legend. Before a full field, Rogers rolled through his many hits, from the aptly titled country ballad "Through the Years," to the rollicking "Ruby," "Coward of the County" and "Lucille," along with what he referred to as "one of my favorites." "She Believes in Me." Following the crowd pleaser "The Gambler," a rap video was displayed with Rogers giving "thanks to my buddy Coolio for letting me use this film clip." Rogers used the clip as a spoof, saying that Gambler 6 will be a rap version. Following a finale of the Bee Gees' penned hit "Islands in the Stream," Rogers ended his hour-long set without encore by throwing tambourines to the crowd.

The Havelock Country Jamboree is all about giving back to the fans that live, breathe and eat country music. Lines clearly epitomized this ethos as illustrated by his two-hour autograph sensation, with his smile never waning, while the sexagenarian Rogers, who headed straight for the bus, was too big for his fans. As his all too short set demonstrated, the middle-of-the road country crooner is now content to go through the musical motions.