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When Ricky Van Shelton came on the scene three years ago, country music's "new traditionalism" was booming. Randy Travis was breaking hearts with each break in his voice, George Strait was leaving them dancing in the aisles.

Every hod-carrier and cab driver in America with a pair of pipes was trying to cash in on the comeback of the "hard country" crooner.Back then you couldn't tell who was real and who was Memorex. The only true critic would be time.

Now, three years later, Ricky Van Shelton seems to be getting a thumbs-up review. His natural style and down-home personality, coupled with his whisky-smooth voice, have won him fans, high finances and "Entertainer of the Year" recognition this June from Music City News.

And on July 5, 7:30 p.m. at Symphony Hall, Van Shelton will be bringing his golden-brown voice and style to town.

Fans will likely hear "Statue of a Fool," "Could It Be Somebody Lied," "From a Jack to a King" and other Van Shelton trademark tunes.

There's bound to be few classics from other singers and a couple of cuts from his upcoming album as well.

Appearing with Van Shelton with be former Nitty Gritty Dirt Band string-man John McEuen. McEuen appeared with Michael Martin Murphy at Symphony Hall last year and played to raves.

Tickets are available at the usual locations - including KSOP Radio, Country Joe's Records and The Salt Palace. For more information call KSOP at 972-1043.