LeMars, Iowa…..”The Rural Roots Music Commission was
established in Iowa in the early 90’s,” according to Bob Everhart who
sits on the Board.  “In the beginning we just gathered together
like-minded music lovers to listen to, cuss, and discuss,
what we liked or didn’t like about new country music record releases. 
We soon discovered that today’s modern country music genre leaves a lot
to be desired among fans of more traditional or classic country music. 
We also learned rather rapidly that the artists
who did an older form of country music were nowhere to be found in
today’s top-40 radio charts.  That led us to having more meetings and
more listenings of local, statewide, and regional recordings, and much
to our surprise we found there were a lot of artists
recording not only superlative country music, but also folk, bluegrass,
alternative, Americana, all kinds of incredibly good American music,
but recognition for their work and talent was pretty dismal, especially
coming from the so-called commercial country
music world.  That led us to an investigatory experience finding,
listening to, and eventually awarding merit and honor to those who excel
in what they do ‘outside’ the commercial arena.  What we eventually
discovered was what we might consider a goldmine
of incredibly pleasurable and creative music .  The Rural Roots Music
Commission now honors national and international artists as well, and
the awards for “CD of the Year” are given annually at the National
Traditional Country Music Association’s festival
of rural music, in LeMars, Iowa, Aug. 26-Sept. 1, this year.  This
event is in its 38th year and now has ten stages going from 9am to
midnight every day for seven days.  Over 650 musical participants come
to this huge convention of old-time country, folk,
bluegrass, and a zillion other beautiful genres of music that have
nothing to do with today’s so-called country music.  It should also be
noted that the Rural Roots Music Commission does not try to stuff an
artist in a pre-conceived genre box, rather they
make the box fit the artist.”
Davison of Nashville, Tennesse, has just been notified that she is the
recipient of the Rural Roots Music Commission’s “Young Gospel CD Of The
Year.”  Sarah is the mover and shaker behind her band ‘Highroad’ and
originally lived in Braddyville, Iowa.  According to Bob Everhart who
reviewed Sarah’s CD “The Road Less Traveled,” “Sarah Davison is one of
the most creative artists I have had the privilege to ever experience. 
Her keyboard work is phenomenal and her vocals and songwriting abilities
are also phenomenal.  She works closely with Anna Grace Kimbrough who
plays fiddle in Highroad.  This particular CD opens with an old-time
Irish fiddle tune that rapidly shifts to a full backing sound that is
the epitome of the great music work done in Nashville.  Blake Bollinger
is the producer of this fine work of art, and the shining example of
Sarah’s ability to pierce the listeners mind with new sounds, new ideas,
new arrangements.  And, being a very ‘traditional’ country music
preservationist, I’m happy to say I can hear Sarah’s up-bringing in much
of what she does, though I’m sure labelists would call her music
drifting toward other descriptions. This CD will be especially appealing
to a young audience who likes beauty in musical work as well as moods,
feelings, differences, and in this case, lots of spirit.  Sarah draws on
all of the musical influences she has captured over the years, but
Christian belief, support, inspiration, and certainly ‘giving’ is
present in all that she does. If you are young, and you wonder what all
the ‘talk’ about Jesus is about, you’ll definitely find some answers
     Sarah will join a number of celebrities
at this year’s event, most of whom will be entering America’s Old Time
Country Music Hall of Fame at LeMars.  On hand for this year’s honors
are: Joanne Cash (Johnny Cash’s younger
sister); Dr. Harry Yates (Founder of Cowboy Church and the husband of
Joanne Cash); Ed Bruce (songwriter and recording artist, he wrote
“Mama’s Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys”); Terry Smith
(composer of “Far Side Banks of Jordan” for Johnny &
June Carter Cash): LuLu Roman (a star from the popular television show
HeeHaw who now sings gospel music); Kenny Seratt (holds the incredible
title of showing Merle Haggard how to sing like Merle Haggard); and
Mickey Gilley (arguably America’s most famous
honky-tonk piano player).  Add to this over 650 performers of acoustic
music and you have a melting pot of incredible music.  According to
Everhart, “We have a lot of activities going on ten stages.  One stage,
the air conditioned one is our main stage where
the awards are given.  Adjoining it is the Dance Hall where we have
evening dances as well as day-time shows.  Next to it is the workshop
building, which also hosts jams and contests.  We have one building
devoted to just the musical instrument called the
Dobro, and next to it the Pioneer Building which is another show-house
of older music.  Outdoors we have the Gospel Stage, the One on the
Mountain Stage, the Tipi Village Stage, and the Log Cabin Front Porch
Stage.  We also have about three distinct areas
where ‘jamming’ takes place.  All in all it’s a tremendous musical
     The festival is actually a fund-raiser for NTCMA
properties.  The Pioneer Music Museum is located in Anita, Iowa, and
contains over 3,000 artifacts relative to the music they are saving. 
Everhart says, “We are actually an endangered species. 
Music changes so rapidly at the commercial level, it’s difficult to
keep all of America’s past musical genres alive and well, but our museum
does a pretty good job of that.”  Also in Anita, is the Oak Tree
Performance Center, where Everhart and his wife Sheila
stage old-time music shows and concerts.  Recording artists themselves,
for the Smithsonian Institution, they have created a safe haven for
Iowa’s rural music, if not America’s.

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