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Ruckus-raising rascals: Sorry, Spanky! Not-so-little Rascal Flatts play at Hearnes Center

Music

February 5, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST


Despite having the ravishing good looks of a boy band, country trio Rascal Flatts’ talent is real. The band members play their own instruments and write many of their songs. On Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m., the band will unleash its Melt tour at Hearnes Center. Lauren Corday, MU senior, will be fourth row, front and center.

“I love Rascal Flatts because they

sing real songs about real life,” Corday says. “They also put on a great energy-packed show.”

Corday, who has been to two previous Rascal Flatts shows, saw them open for Toby Keith last spring at the Hearnes Center. She says she was impressed with their stage presence and expects another lively, entertaining concert.

Teresa Davis, program director for KCLR/99.3FM, the station presenting the concert, describes the sound of guitarist Joe Don Rooney, bassist Jay DeMarcus and vocalist Gary Levox as contemporary

country. KCLR DJs agree that the group’s refreshing sound has expanded the country music fan base.

“They are a younger, hipper face of country music,” says Uncle Scotty Cox, KCLR DJ. “They attract a lot of people.”

Levox and DeMarcus, second cousins, grew up in Columbus, Ohio. DeMarcus moved to Nashville in 1992 to try to turn his vocal, guitar, bass, keyboards and mandolin skills into a productive career. His first record deal came when he was part of the Christian group East to West. In 1997, he convinced Levox to leave Ohio and follow his own musical dreams to Nashville.

Rooney, a Picher, Okla., native, met DeMarcus through work in other bands. During this time, DeMarcus and Levox played at a club with a part-time guitarist. When the part-timer couldn’t work one night, Rooney sat in.

After listening to the trio’s performance, singer Mila Mason mentioned them to Marty Williams and Mark Bright, the future co-producers of Rascal Flatts’ self-titled first album. Their melding of R&B, pop and country quickly gained an audience, and the 2000 album has since gone platinum on the strength of four top-10 singles, including “Prayin’ For Daylight” and “I’m Movin’ On,” which was eventually named Song of the Year at the 2003 American Country Music Awards.

An eloquent description of Rascal Flatts’ varied, diverse sound has eluded country music fans and radio programmers alike.

“They have a new twist on country music,” says KCLR DJ Carrie Bremer. “Not a pop or rock twist, though.”

Music aside, many young female fans would be satisfied to describe Rascal Flatts as tantalizing eye candy.

“They really know how to swoon the ladies,” Bremer says. “They definitely cater to newer and younger country fans.”

Corday agrees the band attracts many women on account of their music and their appearance. She is particularly excited to gawk at Rooney from the sea of fans and hopes to touch his hand. The other band members also have their own appealing shticks. DeMarcus is typically known for his goofy persona while Levox acts like everyone’s best friend, Corday says.

Riding Levox’s stellar vocals and their newfound notoriety, Melt, the group’s sophomore album, went platinum in just four weeks after its 2002 release. The project’s first single, “These Days,” sat at No. 1 for three weeks, and the video rose to

No. 1 on Country Music Television.

“I think they’re good for country music,” Bremer says. “They’re doing something right because they’re very successful.”

Both the Country Music Association’s and Academy of Country Music’s 2003 Vocal Group of the Year, Rascal Flatts will take their tour to 23 cities by mid-March.

“Our listeners are extremely excited they’re coming,” Davis says. “They’re one of the hottest groups at the moment.”

Once the Melt tour ends, Rascal Flatts will take a brief break from the road to record their next album in April and May. In June, they will hit the highway with Kenny Chesney for his Guitars, Tiki Bars and A Whole Lotta Love tour.

— Tammy Matthews

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