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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Tritt puts drive in his country

Richmond, Va., The Classic AmphitheaterApril 25, 1998

By Tom Netherland

RICHMOND, VA - Swathed in black and full of blue-eyed country soul, Travis Tritt sauntered onstage Saturday night with all the confidence of the well-traveled musician that he's become.

Sponsored by the National Hot Rod Association, Tritt held the throttle wide open from the start, performing "Put Some Drive In Your Country" with all the verve of a particularly well maintained dragster. His first of 21 songs in a 90-minute span set a tone that would streak throughout his set: no bull southern rock country equally indebted to Lynyrd Skynyrd and Waylon Jennings.

You could practically hear the crowd's eyebrows raise during several of Tritt's selections, especially as he attempted to tackle the Rolling Stones' "Tumbling Dice." The performance, one of several stumbles, should have been left on the bus, or on the Rolling Stones tribute. Travis Tritt is no Mick Jagger.

Awash in hues of blue light, the recently married Tritt dedicated several selections to his wife. Preceding "More Than You'll Ever Know," he said it was "a song I wrote for my wife." His soulful voice, more than on any other song on this night, seemed like a direct extension from his very soul. Even the Garth Brooks lookalikes that paraded the walkways seemed to stop and listen.

Most pleasing of all, however, was Tritt's acoustic set. With but a guitar and no backing band, very little light and a whole lot of voice, Tritt pulled a couple of tunes from his and others' catalogs, including one new song.

Several days earlier he had presented Charlie Daniels with the Pioneer Award at the Academy of Country Music Awards. Tritt noted, as he settled onto a stool, that Daniels "was almost like a father to me." With that, Tritt started into Daniels' "Long Haired Country Boy," to which the assembled masses saluted with a chorus of hoots and hollers. The effect was momentarily lost as Tritt played bits of Hank Williams, Jr.'s "Lone Wolf," not exactly one of Jr.'s finest cuts. Sectioned between his own "Drift Off To Dream" and "Help Me Hold On," Tritt unveiled a new song, "For You." He introduced it by saying that it was for his wife and new child, and that he'd not even recorded it yet. By the crowd's reaction to the emotionally powerful ballad, Tritt may have another hit if he does.

Tritt finished in a typically hard-driving fashion, with "T-R-O-U-B-L-E" and "My Back's Up Against The Wall."

Packaged, processed - rather neatly, too - and very, very tight, Diamond Rio performed for but 45 minutes, more than enough time, however, to highlight most of their hits. While the band rolled out familiar tunes like "Walkin' Away" and "Mirror Mirror," they inexplicably chose to feature drummer Brian Prout in an extended, boring drum solo. An extremely well-chosen mini set of acoustic songs (including Alabama's "Old Flame" and The Beatles' "Yesterday") stood out in their not-so-country show.

A muddy, nearly indecipherable sound system dampened the Dixie Chicks' 25-minute exploration of their breakout album, "Wide Open Spaces." Undaunted, lead vocalist Natalie Maines' exuberance on "I Can Love You Better" and "There's Your Trouble" nearly overrode the sound troubles.