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Atwood Music Festival kicks off Wednesday

MONTICELLO – The Atwood Music Festival opens Wednesday nightwith a special gospel concert featuring DecembeRadio and otherentertainers before culminating this weekend with concerts bynational recording artists Jamey Johnson, Jeff Bates, Mark Wills,Trent Willmon, and the LoCash Cowboys.

The festival has expanded to Wednesday night for the first timewith Worship on the River.

“We’ve never tried a gospel concert like this,” said GayeMcElroy, an event organizer. “People have asked for us to have agospel event with Atwood so we’re hoping this goes well.”

The headliner Wednesday is DecembeRadio, who burst on the scenein 2006 with their self-titled Slanted Records’ debut. The projectwas nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album andearned the group four Dove Award nominations, including nods in theBest New Artist category and Song of the Year for “Drifter.”

That night the band claimed their first Dove Award whenDecembeRadio was honored for Rock Album of the Year. The bandreceived its second consecutive Dove Award for Rock Album of theYear with their latest release, Satisfied, only a few monthsago.

The band’s drummer, Boone Daughdrill, is a former resident ofNew Hebron and Brookhaven.

Wednesday night’s lineup also includes national Christianrecording artist Bethany Barr Phillips and Cornerstone, a Columbiaband.

Tickets for Wednesday night are sold separately and are notincluded in the weekend ticket package. Activity begins at 6 p.m.at the Atwood Water Park.

The Colonels, a Brookhaven band, will perform Thursday nightafter local talented artists compete for a session at Route OneStudios in the Atwood Idol contest. The winner will also openFriday night’s shows. Interested artists can register in advance atthe Lawrence County Community Development Association or before theevent, which begins at 6 p.m.

The heart and soul of the festival each year are the weekendconcerts and McElroy said this year the entertainers are as strongas they’ve ever been. Jamey Johnson will headline on Friday withthe Honkytonk Tailgate Party, featuring Bates, Wills and Willmon,as the main attraction Saturday. Events begin around 6 p.m. eachnight.

“I think this is the most (entertainers) we’ve had in a verylong time,” McElroy said. “It’s unusual for us to have entertainersthis big both nights.”

Johnson is the co-writer of the Country Music Association andAcademy of Country Music 2007 Song of the Year “Give It Away,”recorded by George Strait. Trace Adkins, George Jones and JoeNichols have also recorded his songs. Instead of sitting at homecollecting royalty checks, however, he recorded his own album, ThatLonesome Song, and has blazed the charts with his own hit song, “InColor.”

Chad Simmons, of Brookhaven, and national recording artist TheLost Trailers will open for Johnson with Brookhaven’s Ghosttownclosing Friday night’s activities.

Bates and the Honkytonk Tailgate Party are making their secondappearance at the festival. Ironically, they both played the 2004Atwood Music Festival, but Bates was not a part of the tour groupat the time.

Bates, of Columbia, has recorded two critically acclaimed albums- Rainbow Man in 2003 and Leave The Light On in 2006 – plus sevenhit singles including “The Love Song,” “Long, Slow Kisses,” and”One Second Chance.”

Mark Wills is a multi-platinum selling country music star witheight top 10 hits including “Don’t Laugh At Me” and “Wish You WereHere.” “Don’t Laugh At Me” was nominated by the CMA for Single,Song, and Video of the Year. Wills won the ACM’s award for Top NewMale Vocalist. In 2002, his single “19 Somethin'” spent six weeksat No. 1 and was Billboard’s top country hit of the year. Mark justrecently released his latest album, Familiar Stranger.

Trent Willmon first captured country music audiences with songslike “Beer Man,” “Dixie Rose Deluxe’s” and “Home Sweet HolidayInn.” His sophomore album, A Little More Livin’, produced his firstTop 25 single, “On Again Tonight.”

Nash Street and national recording artist the LoCash Cowboyswill open for the Honkytonk Tailgate Party with the Cowboy BluesBand closing the festival.

For more information, call McElroy at (601) 587-3007.