Britt's country music lineup

The Britt Festivals' 2007 season will take on a distinct country feel in its penultimate week. Vince Gill, who will perform Wednesday, Sept. 5, is a bona fide country superstar. Relative newcomer Josh Turner, who will visit Saturday, Sept. 1, has been burning up the country charts. And even the people in rootsy singer-songwriter Greg Brown's songs don't exactly come across as city slickers.

Gill and Brown will be returning to Southern Oregon, while Turner's visit will be his first to Britt. Brown's show will kick off the weekend on Friday, with bluesman John Hammond opening at 7:30 p.m. Ashland resident and former New York City cabaret performer Sarah Jane Nelson will open for Turner at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. At 7 Wednesday evening, Gill will take the stage in a show called "The Friends and Family Tour Featuring Amy Grant and the Del McCoury Band."

Turner's 2003 debut album, "Long Black Train," spurred by its gospel-inflected title track, did a nearly unheard-of thing in selling a million copies on an artist's first outing. It also brought the young singer several country music award nominations. Turner's next project, "Your Man," showed unexpected maturity.

The album features guest turns by two of Turner's idols, honky-tonker John Anderson and bluegrass great Ralph Stanley. Turner also pays tribute on the disc to Don Williams, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Charley Pride and Red Sovine.

Turner describes his singing style as "South Carolina Low Country." He hails from Hannah, S.C., and got interested in music at the Union Baptist Church there. He says his grandmother turned him on to the music of Johnny Cash, Roy Acuff and the Stanley Brothers. When he was 14, his mother entered him in a talent contest, and he relished the applause.

"If that's the way this feels," he thought, "this is what I want to do."

He went to Nashville-based Belmont University, a school with a music business program, and majored in singing. He met music publisher Jody Williams, who signed him to a writing deal, and that led to a meeting with the MCA label, with which he signed. He also met his wife, Jennifer Ford, at Belmont.

Sarah Jane Nelson recently brought an eclectic mix of standards, jazz and musical theater to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's intimate Black Swan Theatre. Nelson, who lives in Ashland, starred in "SWING!" both on Broadway and in the touring company, performed in the 30th anniversary European tour of "Hair" and played con artist Lori King on the CBS television show "The District."

Long hailed as one of America's best songwriters, Greg Brown has been touring and recording for more than 30 years, including several visits to the Rogue Valley. Raised in rural Iowa by a guitar-playing mother and Pentecostal preacher father, Brown's early exposure to music took in gospel, classical, hillbilly, early rock, country and blues.

Brown has released an impressive body of work over the years, including such standout albums as the 1985 acoustic classic "In the Dark With You," the Indie Award-winning "One Big Town" (1989), the much acclaimed "The Poet Game" (1992), and 1996's "Further In," to which Rolling Stone awarded four stars.

From coffeehouses to concert halls and beyond, Grammy winner John Hammond has spent 40 years performing acoustic blues. His new CD, "Push Comes to Shove," comprises five new originals with traditional blues numbers.

Vince Gill has been called the unofficial ambassador of country music. And whether he's picking bluegrass on "Grand Ole Opry" or trading jazz licks with the band on "Letterman," he's a face the industry likes to show to the world.

Born to a federal judge and a homemaker in 1957 in Norman, Okla., Gill formed a band in high school and soon after was working with the likes of Pure Prairie League. But his commercial breakthrough didn't come until 1990's "When I Call Your Name." Since then, he has won 17 Country Music Association awards, more than anybody else, ever. He has won 18 Grammy awards while performing with artists from Ralph Stanley to Barbra Streisand.

His "These Days," released last October, is a four-CD set of 43 new songs, a tour de force that ranges from bluegrass to traditional country with helpings of rock and jazz and musical guests from Bonnie Raitt and Sheryl Crow to Emmylou Harris and Trisha Yearwood. He had imagined releasing four albums.

Gill will be joined by wife, Grammy winner Amy Grant and longtime bluegrass star Del McCoury and his band.

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