Country music acts aplenty near and far

Debra Smith, the executive director of the historic Newberry (S.C.) Opera House, and her staff have come up with another great season of offerings, including many country and bluegrass stars.


Augusta-area music fans have come to love the late-1800s venue since the U-shaped auditorium only has 426 balcony and main floor seats, thereby allowing close-up views of the performers.

Nashville-based singer-songwriter Mac McAnally, who is a member of Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefers Band, is the next country artist to perform, at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28. Tickets are $35.

He wrote or co-wrote Alabama’s Old Flame (Burn­ing in Your Eyes), Kenny Chesney’s Back Where I Come From and Ricky Van Shelton’s Crime of Passion and produced most of Saw­yer Brown’s albums. He also wrote Down The Road which became a No. 1 duet hit for McAnally and Chesney.

Other country and bluegrass acts announced for the 2012-13 season are: Elvis tribute artist Rick Wade, Oct. 19; Jo Dee Messina, Oct. 30; Crystal Gayle, Dec. 2 (two shows); Ozark Jubilee Presents: Branson Country Christmas, Dec. 10 (two shows).

Also in 2013, Deep River Rising (David Holt, Bryan Sutton and T. Michael Coleman), Jan. 19; Don Williams, Jan. 20; duo Steel Magnolia, Jan. 26; John Michael Montgomery, Feb. 8; The C.B. Smith Show of Pigeon Forge, Feb. 10; Clint Black, Feb. 11; Mountain Heart, Feb. 15; Ralph Stanley & Clinch Mountain Boys, Feb. 24; Karla Bonoff, Feb. 28; Lorrie Morgan, March 2; John Anderson, March 15; Branson on the Road, March 21 (two shows); Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, April 13 (two shows); The Oak Ridge Boys, April 14 (two shows); and Always Patsy Cline, June 21.

You can ask for a full-color season brochure by writing the theater at 1201 McKibben St., Newberry, SC 29108, calling (803) 276-5179 or e-mailing Read about the full season on the Web site


DOWN TO SIX: Daniel Johnson of Thomson, who now lives in Statesboro and fronts the Daniel Johnson Band, is one of six finalists for Male Artist of the Year on the Web site The final round of online voting ends at noon Saturday, Sept. 29, to determine the winner. So get busy and help this local guy win!


PACKWAY HANDLE AT STILLWATER: The popular Packway Handle Band from Athens, Ga., returns to Stillwater Taproom, 974 Broad St., on Friday night, Sept. 20.

The group known for doing rock hits bluegrass style was organized in 2001 and went on the road full time in 2006.

Michael Paynter (mandolin) and Tom Baker (banjo) were teens in Kennesaw, Ga., when they formed their first musical partnership, which they jokingly called Air Biscuit.

Josh Erwin, who knew them from early school years, came along, and the three men renamed themselves Sleepy Kitchen.

They went to the University of Georgia, where they met Andrew Heaton (fiddle) and Chris Holliday (upright bass) and became The Packway Handle Band. Holliday left the band in 2005 and was replaced by Zach McCoy.


HEPHZIBAH OPRY: If you haven’t been to The Hephzibah Opry, give it a try. It’s held on the last Saturday of every month and run by those bluegrass brothers, Doug and Dwayne Flowers.

Three Nashville songwriters (Steve Dean, Bill Whyte and Lisa Shaffer) are performing at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, in the Richmond Masonic Lodge 412 building, 4391 Saxon Drive, in Hephzibah.

Admission is free with a love offering taken. Call (706) 306-7537 or visit


RUSS TAFF IN LINCOLNTON: Gospel music star Russ Taff is the featured artist at Jeff & Sheri Easter’s Fall Festival at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, at the Lewis Family Homeplace, 1935 Lewis Family Road, in Lincolnton, Ga. Tickets are $15.

Taff performed with The Imperials gospel group from 1977 to 1981 and has been a member of the Gaither Vocal Band, with frequent appearances on Bill Gaither’s Homecoming TV shows and videos.

Besides his gospel singing, he also has recorded background vocals for country and pop artists such as Lari White, Edwin McCain, Melissa Manchester, Glen Campbell and Amy Grant.

Next spring, The Easters, a nationally known gospel act, are expanding their fifth annual Homecoming Festival from two to three nights (May 9-11). They will perform each night.

Guest artists will be Karen Peck & New River and The Little Roy Lewis & Lizzy Long Show on May 9; The Hoppers and Lewis Tradition on May 10; and Jason Crabb and Lynda Randle on May 11. Tickets for each show are $15.