He exploded with Garth, but Collin Raye is the guy still making music
After years of singing some of country music’s most beautiful ballads, singer Collin Raye said there are times he really just wants to rock out again.
Not that he doesn’t appreciate being identified as one of the genre’s best-selling balladeers from the ’90s, a decade that propelled him and others — like a guy you may have heard of named Garth Brooks — to crossover chart success. It was an exciting time for Raye, who can still recall when it became cool to be “country” again. He plans to share some of the excitement he still feels for his brand of music with fans when he appears Thursday, June 14th at Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace (and if you don’t have tickets, act fast: As of Tuesday, there were just 34 left).
“A lot of it became a blur because it happened so fast,” said Raye, 52, during a phone interview from his home in Rockwall, Texas. “A lot of us had our heyday in the ’90s. The name that really started the trend was Garth (Brooks.) He was a once-in-a-lifetime artist who really knew who he was, what he was trying to do, and who he wanted to be once he got there. Because of the huge wave that he created, a lot of us were able to jump on our surfboards and ride on it too.”
That wave ended up proving that country music wasn’t just an old man’s game. With the success of Brooks, who sold millions after finding his way into the CD collections of rock listeners, Raye would also find his way.
“Garth’s records were predominantly pretty country, but his live shows were very rock and roll. He proved you could be nuts at a country show and get away with it. Prior to him, nobody would even dare try that. A lot of us grew up loving Merle Haggard, George Jones and Waylon, but also loved The Who, the Stones and Queen.”
Raye’s 1991 debut album “All I Can Be,” was an instant hit, producing his first No. 1 single, “Love, Me.” That kicked off a string of more hit albums and singles including “In This Life,” “My Kind of Girl,” and “I Can Still Feel You,” all churned out at record speed reaching a youth market ignored for years.
“All the kids who started buying our records were phenomenal. It made our shows a lot more fun and broke down a lot of walls to reach a demographic we couldn’t get to before. We were working fast and I was really trying to keep pace with everything that was going on at the time.”
In comparison to many of his peers, time has been kind to Raye, who doesn’t tour quite as heavily as he did at his peak but continues releasing new music. His 13th CD, “His Love Remains,” a collection of inspirational songs, was released last year.
“The people that me and Trisha Yearwood sold records to are gone, they’ve moved on to something else, because country doesn’t have anything for them today. Now it’s pretty much, with very few exceptions, image driven. They’re just trying to sell an image of what they think is the ‘country’ lifestyle — how country you are or how big your truck is — ‘we drink sweet tea and we drink cold beer.’ That’s fine once in awhile. I think a lot of people are going back to thinking country music is ‘dumb,’ the way they did prior to those days when Garth and everyone was doing well.”
Raye understands that it’s ultimately the nature of the music business, but added there’s plenty of room for genres to co-exist again in harmony.
“It’s frustrating now, because there’s a handful of guys in Nashville who think they’re such experts and say, ‘Well, we knew the time was ending and so we had to start streamlining and start playing to a more exclusive country audience,’ and all that. Back then it was about a singer and song. I hope it gets back to that again.”
Raye said his show will feature plenty of familiar tunes, along with room for rockin’.
“I always have a list, but I’m always flexible to do requests. I like to get people more involved in the show. These songs mean so many things to so many different people. I like to make people laugh and share stories.”
When: 7 p.m., Thursday, June 14th, 2012
Where: Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace, 2800 Buck Owens Blvd.
Admission: $22.50 to $30.50
Information: 661-328-7560 or vallitix.com
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Also printed in the 6-714-12 issue of The Bakersfield Californian