Country Fair

LITTLE VALLEY – It is the place to have country acts. It is the place to feature up-and-coming artists. Yes, it is even the place to bring in a solid crowd of mostly younger country fans who really don’t know the classics.

The Cattaraugus County Fair has become the mecca for summertime music. This year was no disappointment.

After the free grandstand days were over, Craig Morgan took to the stage for a solid, but short, show. He played for about an hour and 15 minutes, but it was well worth it.

How can you say something bad about a guy who, before his show starts, is willing to give up his stage for a class of local young men and women from the Cattaraugus and Chautauqua County area, all raising their right hand to take that solemn oath of enlistment into the U.S. Army? Being an Army veteran himself, Morgan did just that. Nothing can top that kind of salute from the country-music-loving people of the county like that.

Morgan took the stage and impressed from the first note of his hit, “International Harvester.” He even proved that he was in the moment, in the show, stopping his band to address something that struck him as weird. You see, the chairs in front of the stage, yes, chairs on the track, were vacated for at least 10, maybe 15 rows of people, moving toward the stage. Morgan said it was one of the strangest things he has seen, asking the fans, “Now, why didn’t you just start out up there?

The show really proved why the guy is one of the top of the business. His vocals, his story-telling and his performance were right on. He was well worth the price of the fair admission and the concert ticket.

The following night proved to be an experience as well. Scotty McCreery, “American Idol” season 10 winner, took the stage after Clare Dunn, an up-and-coming star.

I have to say, before Dunn was done, she had a new fan base in Little Valley. After only playing a 30-minute set, the former feed truck driver had everyone loving her guitar mastery and her incredible stage performance. For those who have not heard Dunn, she is well worth a search on social media. Better yet, find out where she is playing and go see her.

Her voice and appearance are reminiscent of Sheryl Crow, but Clare Dunn puts her to shame. If Dunn is any indication of where country music is going, with the bluesy guitar riffs and the killer vocals, the genre is safe for generations to come. I hope we see more of Clare Dunn in our corner of the state.

Finally, one of the most accurate things I heard about McCreery came from my wife, as she stood next to me after I was told I was not allowed to photograph, even after doing an interview with the “American Idol” alumnus. My wife said McCreery has nowhere to go but up. He needs to get out from under the strict handlers who seem to be the most overbearing that I have dealt with in the business. His stage production was a bit over the top and clearly geared for the younger fans, possibly even those who are a bit too young for his shows. But, this is not a review of his management, nor the over-the-top childish production of his animation.

McCreery, as anyone who saw his television performances can attest, can sing. His 20-year-old voice is as seasoned as any longtime veteran of the country music scene. He was able to entertain with his voice in ways that people like George Strait and Johnny Cash would have been proud of. McCreery is a talent who has a long career ahead of him. His stories of where the songs come from are the kind of thing that leaves an indelible mark on the concertgoer.

Yes, he played all of his hits, all of the radio rotation songs, but the best one of the night, the one that, as I looked around, generated the most guttural, most raw emotion, was the song about a relative of his bassist. A fallen hero. A young man who gave all for his country as a United States Marine. “The Dash Between” is definitely one of those songs that creates such a powerful sense of gratitude and of appreciation that it will find its way into the top songs in country music history.

Overall, despite some questionable management protection, over-protections, kudos have to go out to the people of the Cattaraugus County Fair Board who are responsible for the decisions in the grandstands. I am anxiously awaiting next year’s 173rd annual fair, if nothing more, to hear another round of incredible music.