Ernest Hemingway once said a person could never be a real writer without having felt the sting of personal tragedy.
Collin Raye feels much the same about singing country music."You know, when somebody lies to you, you can tell in their voice," he says. "Their voice is different. And when I sing a song I don't believe in, a song that I haven't felt, I feel like a liar. I think pain can make you relate to people. If you're going to be a legitimate country singer, you have to sing the feelings behind the song."
The comment calls up the line from Mac Sledge in the movie "Tender Mercies": "Sing it like you feel it, boys." And on the country circuit today, Raye has a reputation for putting more heart per measure in his music than most.
So much so, some critics feel his heart-felt rendition of "Love Me" may be the finest thing he'll ever do.
"I hear that at times," he says. "I take it as a challenge - a chance to do something more. You have to realize that some artists have worked 20 years in this business and have never had a real signature song. I got mine early."
Among the singers at the Utah State Fair this year (see lineup on W3), many local country fans view Raye as the headliner ("I like to at least be in the top three," he says.) And though the state fair circuit is bruising and grueling for a lot of singers, Raye takes it all in stride. He sang here last year. He may be back next.
In an industry where promotion and publicity reign, he still insists on going his own way. He confesses a special fondness for the music of Barbra Streisand and has several thoughts about Pavarotti. He may be a country boy from Texas, but - in his words - he's "country with an edge." His conversation is spiced with a quick, wide-ranging vocabulary and dozens of football and boxing metaphors("Garth Brooks is like the Muhammad Ali of country music, he opened things up for the rest of us.") He's a mix-and-match man - a singer whose heart stays with country music while his head checks out the world.
"As a youngster I grew up listening to Waylon (Jennings) and George (Jones)," he says. "I've always admired Waylon. He didn't fake it. He said `This is what I'm all about.' He wouldn't do things just to sell records. He was never concerned about the industry turning on him. That's why I put a Waylon Jennings song on my new record. It's to tell him thanks."
When asked to name a favorite "new" country singer, Raye quickly points to Trisha Year-wood, another performer coming to town next week.
Yearwood splashed on the scene in 1991 with one of the strongest debuts in history. "She's in Love With the Boy" was the best-selling single in the country for two weeks. Three hits followed. Then her first album, "Trisha Year-wood," went platinum within days. She won seven "new artist" awards that year.
Her career, in fact, seems to parallel the career of Randy Travis: from newcomer to established star to legend within five years time.
Following Yearwood this year is Charlie Daniels, back in Utah for the umpteenth time. Daniels gave the world "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." He's been giving it to the world ever since. His rowdy redneck style and hardcore politics play well in the West.
For the more laid-back among us, the Smothers Brothers will bring their resurrected brother act to town. Dickie and Tommy have been a fixture in American culture. Now, tired of being classics, they're out to revitalize their reputation. Recent television appearances have been well-received.
Add to that list Paul Revere and the Raiders from the '60s rock era (apparently kicks aren't that hard to find for the boys anymore), the great Suzy Boggus, the Neville Brothers, Rick Trevino, Tracy Byrd and Shawn Camp and you have a nice mix of young and old, classic and contemporary.
Utah State Fair entertainment
Grandstand shows at the Utah State Fair vary in price for each performer. Tickets range from $17 to $10. Phone 538-8440 for details.
There will be two shows nightly - one at 6 and one at 9. Following is a list of dates and entertainers:
Thursday, Sept. 8: Trisha Yearwood.
Friday, Sept. 9: Charlie Daniels
Saturday, Sept. 10: Shawn Camp
Sunday, Sept. 11: Tracy Byrd
Monday, Sept. 12: Smothers Brothers
Tuesday, Sept. 13: Collin Raye
Wednesday, Sept. 14: Suzy Bogguss
Thursday, Sept. 15: Paul Revere and the Raiders
Friday, Sept. 16: Neville Brothers
Saturday, Sept. 17: Rick Trevino
Sunday, Sept. 18: Mexican Fiesta