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MUSIC For Greenwood, tradition counts



Published: Sun, August 25, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Two decades after Lee Greenwood made a big splash in country music, he's moving ahead with a new recording on a new label.

By DEBORA SHAULIS

ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR

CANFIELD -- For Jimmy Buffett, it's "Margaritaville." For Lee Greenwood, it's "God Bless the USA."

Neither of these country-crossover singer-songwriters can call it a show without warbling their signature tunes.

"Since I wrote it in 1983, I haven't done a concert and not sing it," Greenwood said, speaking from a tour bus that was taking him and his 4-year-old son, Parker, to Greenwood's next performance in the Midwest.

That bus will arrive here Wednesday, when Greenwood and Christian vocalist Sandi Patty give the first grandstand concert of the three scheduled at the Canfield Fair.

Even Greenwood is surprised -- and pleasantly so -- by the song's long shelf life.

Greenwood wrote "God Bless the USA" with Vietnam veterans in mind, he said. It's had two renaissance periods: in 1991, during the Persian Gulf War; and since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

It's different this time, Greenwood noted. The song was a morale booster during the Persian Gulf War. Now it's evolved from a fight song to a salve for a wounded nation.

Greenwood hopes that appreciation for "God Bless the USA" will create interest in his upcoming album. It'll be his first on Curb Records -- home of Tim McGraw and Jo Dee Messina.

Greenwood turns 60 this year. He knows it's tough these days for the more traditional country musicians of his generation to get air time on radio stations that are saturated with the current country-rock sound.

Greenwood estimates it's been at least eight years since he had a song in regular rotation.

Again, "God Bless the USA" may work in Greenwood's favor. Because of that song, "radio is receptive to new music from Lee Greenwood," he added.

Songs on the list

The new album won't be in stores until late fall, but Greenwood anticipates singing six songs from it at the Canfield Fair. Of course, he'll sing old favorites, too.

"A new song is wonderful, but the audience wants to hear something that made you famous," he said.

"God Bless the USA" wasn't Greenwood's first hit. When the former Nevada lounge performer cut his first album 20 years ago with MCA, he became known for songs such as "Ring on Her Finger, Time on Her Hand" and "It Turns Me Inside Out."

He's recorded 20 albums -- three of which went gold and one, platinum -- and racked up many awards during the 1980s, including a Grammy for best country vocal performance.

Greenwood's joint concert with Patty is dubbed "Pride in America." The series was started by William Morris talent agency. Greenwood said he and Patty have given five such performances this year, with at least a dozen more ahead of them.

"We've been friends for years," said Greenwood, who shares Patty's Christian-based faith. "The audience is so aroused when they see us blend Christianity with patriotism."

shaulis@vindy.com




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