Small towns have long played an outsized role in American songwriting, often serving as waypoint between past and present, a place that that some characters leave, others yearn to return and many are left behind.
For country singer Jason Aldean, the intricate details of life in a small town — from beer runs at the local Amoco station to the smell of White Rain hairspray at a Friday football game — have led to some of the genres most commercially successful songs in the past two decade. Songs such as “Night Train” — a love story about a man who stays connected to his hometown through sound of passing freight trains, or “Amarillo Sky,” which honors a humble farmer whose connection to his family is threatened by drought.
When it comes to documenting life in the “Fly Over States,” Aldean is an unrivaled talent and an obvious choice to headline the inaugural Rock the Country festival series, a traveling country music series spread out across seven small American towns in the Southeast U.S. Produced by Alabama-based producer Shane Quick of LiveCo — creator of the long-running Rock the South country festival in Cullman, Alabama — and Nathan Baugh, president, 46 Entertainment, the festival will also feature headliner Kid Rock on all seven stops and special guests such as Miranda Lambert, Hank Williams Jr., Lynyrd Skynyrd, Koe Wetzel, Brantley Gilbert, Travis Tritt and many more who will appear at different stops on the Rock the Country tour.
Aldean will be joined on the tour by co-headliner Kid Rock. Quick insists the tour is not political, but it’s booking of one of former president Donald Trump’s biggest boosters, and its timing months before the election injects an unavoidable dose amount of political energy into the tour that will be impossible to ignore.
Through Rock the Country, which launches at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzalez, La., on April 5 and 6, Aldean has a rare opportunity to speak to the serious challenges rural America faces over the next few years. First, as the controversy surrounding Aldean’s 2023 song “Try That in a Small Town” demonstrates, it can be difficult for rural America to express itself collectively to the country’s urban populations, and it can also be difficult for some living in major population centers to listen and not be patronizing in their response.
Could the controversy have been avoided had Aldean’s song been a little lighter on the rhetoric? Maybe, but once the conversation becomes a word-for-word litigation over intent and historical context, it becomes difficult to find middle ground.
And yet finding commonality is probably the most effective way to deal with major challenges facing rural communities, like the closure of more than 600 rural hospitals in the near future, according to a recent study by the Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform. Rural communities have also been much harder hit by major economic downturns, leading to higher and longer rates of joblessness and unemployment during recessions.
Whatever direction Aldean decides to, Rock the Country is a rare opportunity for the artist to lift up rural America, and a rare chance for his fans and fans of country music to travel to small towns and celebrate together.
Dates and locations for Rock the Country are listed below. To learn more and buy tickets, visit rockthecountry.com.
- Gonzalez, La. – April 5 & 6 at Lamar-Dixon Expo Center
- Ashland, Ky. – April 19 & 20 at Boyd County Fairgrounds
- Rome, Ga. – May 10 & 11 at Kingston Downs
- Ocala, Fla – June 7 & 8 at Majestic Oaks Ocala
- Mobile, Ala. – June 21 & 22 at The Grounds
- Poplar Bluff, M. – June 28 & 29 at Brick’s Offroad Parks
- Anderson, S.C. – July 26 & 27 at Anderson Sports and Entertainment Center
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