LOVINGTON, N.M. – When the Eli Young Band announced itself to the music world, it did so with great gusto.
Its debut album, Jet Black & Jealous, entered the Billboard Top Country Albums Chart at No. 5; it was No. 2 on iTunes. It featured the band’s first Top 10 song on country radio, “Always The Love Songs.”
That gusto will be on display when the Denton, Texas-based band performs at the Lea County Fair and Rodeo, an eight-day celebration in this southeastern New Mexico community that will feature four top music acts, a generous helping of other entertaining shows and one of the biggest and best events in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association from Aug. 5-13.
The Eli Young Band will showcase its brand of country music at about 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, just after the conclusion of the final performance of the PRCA rodeo. It’s an outstanding way to close the annual community celebration.
“We’ve got a really good lineup this year,” said Dean Jackson, chairman of the Lea County Fair Board. “It opens with Jars of Clay, which will be playing on Faith and Family Night on Wednesday (Aug. 10).
“We’ve also got Chris Cagle on Thursday, Smash Mouth on Friday and Eli Young Band on Saturday. I think it’s an outstanding lineup, and we’re all very excited about it.”
So are the fans.
The Eli Young Band has been well received nationwide, enjoying a piece of the pie on Gary Allan’s Get Off On The Pain tour and the Country Throwdown tour, which included Eric Church, Jack Ingram, Jamey Johnson, Little Big Town and Montgomery Gentry. The band was formed by James Young and Mike Eli, Eli & Young, when they attended the University of North Texas. Chris Thompson and Jon Jones joined the band later.
The concert series kicks off on Wednesday night with Jars of Clay, a Christian rock band from Nashville. The core part of the group – Dan Haseltine, lead vocals; Charlie Lowell, piano/keyboard; Steven Mason, guitar; and Matt Odmark, guitar – met while attending Greenville (Ill.) College in the early 1990s. Since then, the group has produced 10 albums.
“We’ve had a lot of response about them,” Jackson said. “People are telling us great things about them.”
People are saying great things about Cagle, too. In fact, the song “My Love Goes On and On” quickly became a hit. The song, off his debut album, Play It Loud, reached No. 15 on the country charts. Cagle’s “I Breath In, I Breath Out” reached No. 1 in 2001. It is one of seven hits for the Louisiana-born artist; four of those songs reached the Top 10, including “What A Beautiful Day,” “Chicks Dig It,” and “What Kinda Gone.”
“I think Chris Cagle is an outstanding act to lead us into the weekend,” Jackson said of the Thursday, Aug. 11, show.
Smash Mouth will bring its popular sound to the fair’s main stage on Friday, Aug. 12, and that seems to be a popular call among the group’s contingent of fans and those who have enjoyed the band’s No. 1 songs, “Walkin’ on the Sun” and “All Star,” as well as a plethora of other catchy hits like the cover of The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer,” which was on the soundtrack for the movie “Shrek.”
Steve Harwell’s raspy vocals lead the sound that was established in 1994 – the 1999 release of Astro Lounge reached No. 6 on the American charts. Bassist Paul De Lisle is the other founding member, and he makes up the strong contingent that is rounded out by drummer Randy Cook and guitarist Mike Krompass, who have joined the group in the last two years.
Smash Mouth is coming off a fantastic tour, where this past February the band performed for U.S. Troops serving in the Middle East. The band performed at military bases throughout Iraq and Kuwait, and Harwell called the adventure, “One of the best things we’ve ever done.”
“This is the first year we’ve gone that way as far as that kind of music,” Jackson said. “We’ve had some input from people who have asked for this kind of music.
We think this year’s lineup of concerts includes acts everyone wants to see.”