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Music at the fair

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Submitted Photo Singer and songwriter Shari Rowe returns for the third time to perform at the Eastern New Mexico State Fair.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

The Eastern New Mexico State Fair music lineup promises variety

By Christina Stock

Roswell Daily Record

This year at the Eastern New Mexico State Fair, fans of many music genres can expect high quality, even legendary, musicians who will perform from Oct. 6 to 9.

First to perform, on Wednesday evening, is award-winning Colton Dixon.

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Dixon became a household name and quickly rose to fame ever since he made it to the top seven on season 11 of Fox’s TV show “American Idol” in 2012. Dixon’s songs became the most played Christian Hot AC (Adult Contemporary) singles in 2014 and 2015, with the songs “Anchor” and “Through All of It.”

In these, Dixon showed that he was a man of faith with a strong Christian message. His new single of 2020, “Miracles,” is nearing 8 million streams. His awards include the Dove Award for Best Rock/Contemporary Album of the Year in 2013 and 2015.

In 2014 and 2015, Dixon was nominated for the K-LOVE Fan Award. In 2020, he was featured on Fox News Bible Study Series that aired on March 23.

Thursday and Saturday feature Latin American, Mexican and Tejano musicians who invite the audience to dance. They include Roswell’s own Grupo Maldad. Also performing are Tremendos Leon, Los Consentidos del Norte de CDJuarez, Los Culpables y Su Estilo Diferente, Edicion de Rancho and Hobbs’ own Conjunto Bengala.

Conjunto Bengala’s members are originally from the State of Chihuahua in Mexico. Singer and bass player Javier “Chepi” Rodriguez was part of the band Los Corazones del Norte for 16 years before joining Conjunto Bengala. Efrain Alvarez (drums) was part of Adolfo Urias y Su Lobo Norteno for six years. Other members are Jesus Lima, who performed with Los Marineros del Norte for six years, and singer and saxophonist Omar Monjes who is joining fresh from Chihuahua. On the accordion is Alberto Urias.

Friday night promises a lineup of country and rock stars who lay a musical bridge between traditional Western swing, country, modern country and country rock.

Country singer Shari Rowe is well-known in Roswell. She has performed at ENMSF in 2018 and in 2019. Her latest single, “Long Hugs,” was written together with Grammy Award-nominated songwriter Blue Foley and Mark Addison Chandler, who co-wrote previous songs performed by Rowe. Rowe said that she is looking forward to finally being back on the road and on the stage at ENMSF.

In a phone interview Rowe said, “I love our fans in this part of New Mexico specifically. Everyone is involved with the fair, and we have met some wonderful friends along the way in this part of the country. We are so excited to come back. I am telling you, everyone is waiting to play again and everyone is waiting to experience live music again. There is just this amazing energy in the air, playing those shows again. I can’t wait (to bring) that back to Roswell.”

Rowe said that, like many of her peers, she too was in lockdown during the pandemic. With everything being shut down, Rowe reached out to her fans with livestreams, online appearances and participation with different causes and various radio stations, she said.

Rowe said that she had been recording new songs just before the shutdown started in 2020.

“I was in Nashville, finishing up the vocals, finishing up the final details on some new songs and then came back here to Arizona, and that’s when the lockdown happened,” Rowe said. “I barely got those songs finished. In fact, the studios shut down right away, so I had to wait. The music was held in standstill for a while before it could be mixed down. It was probably about June, I started getting all the new music back and the new mixes, four new songs in 2020, and we’ve got one more that isn’t out yet that we’re going to play coming out there (ENMSF) as well.

“We’ve got stories on how they came to be and some were so fitting to the times we’re in, we had no idea, while we were writing them, on how fitting they would be. These songs were meant to be,” Rowe said.

Asked for an example, Rowe said that the song “The Heavy,” co-written by Rowe, Chandler and Warren Garrett, has a strong message of hope that resonated with her audience when it was released in the midst of the pandemic. Rowe said that they wrote it with the intention on using their artistic platform to bring attention to those who work for charitable causes. Rowe personally works for the Scott Foundation.

“These foster kids all come out of these really dark places, the foundation helps them find their way in the world and a purpose. So we started talking how life could be heavy for everyone. And that was the hook for the song. We realized we can truly be light in this heaviness. We wrote that song not thinking about a pandemic.

“We played in Utah a couple of days ago and there were people in tears sharing their stories going through these hard times (the pandemic). As an artist, as a songwriter, there is no better response that I can have than to actually touch someone in the place they are at and actually have them find themselves in a song.”

The pandemic has changed Rowe, she said, “I feel like it’s made me think a little bit deeper about what I want to write about and how I want to convey my feelings and my perspectives through music. And, so, I’m excited to explore a couple of different avenues, nothing too far off, from what I’ve done before, but it’ll be interesting. I feel a little bit freer to create a little bit outside the lines I had for myself before.”

Rowe has been opening for artists like Wynonna Judd, Barry Manilow, Aaron Watson and LeAnn Rimes, to name a few. She was introduced on stage of the 25th Annual Celebrity Fight Night in March by actor Melissa Peterman and with Reba McEntire as master of ceremonies. The Phoenix, Arizona-based organization supports health-oriented advances and focuses on funding the research for a cure against cancer. Rowe has been performing on television on The Family Channel, The Country Network and The Heartland Network. Pre-pandemic, Rowe had been touring throughout the U.S. and overseas.

Jody Nix is one of the all-time legends to perform at ENMSF. He is considered among Western swing enthusiasts as the master of the genre. Nix performed at the age of 25 with no other but the “King of Swing” and co-inventor of the music style, James Robert “Bob” Willis.

In a phone interview, Nix said, “We are going to bring our traditional country music, dance music and good, old Western swing. We will keep it professional and clean cut, and (I am) looking forward to playing there (Roswell) again and having fun.”

Asked how he fared during the pandemic, Nix said, “We had a great year. It started out slow, but we had a busy year last year. When things shut down, we didn’t do anything for nine weeks after it hit in March, but we still had a good year, and we are thankful for the people who still wanted us to play. Hopefully, things are going to stay on the up and up.”

Nix said that, this year, he will have been performing 61 years professionally. He said that one of his highlights was performing for President George H.W. Bush in 1989 during The Black Tie And Boots Ball in Washington D.C. Nix has nearly won every award there is in his genre and was honored by being inducted into the Western Swing Society Hall of Fame in Sacramento, California, in 1996.

In May 2009, Nix and his band, the Texas Cowboys, were inducted into the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame in San Marcos, Texas. In 2019, he was inducted into the Western Swing Music Society of The Southwest, to name a few of his accolades.

Nix said that he still lives where he was born and raised, in Big Spring, Texas. He said that he started playing music at a very young age. “I learned drums when I was 4; I played full time with my dad when I was 8 years old. When I was 11, I picked up the fiddle, started to learn that. I’m still learning,” he said and chuckled.

“I’ve been blessed in so many ways with a long career and I don’t think I’m quite done yet.” Nix said.

Also performing on Friday is Sundance Head. Head is well-known among those who follow the popular TV shows where musicians compete for first place. His range and strong voice is memorable. In 2007, Head made it to season 6 of “American Idol,” where he placed 13th.

In 2017, Head’s wife encouraged him to try out for another show, “The Voice,” and — under guidance of country star Blake Shelton — Head won the competition, which he said changed his life. Since then, Head has been busy, working not only on his own songs and performances, but producing and encouraging a new generation of singers, such as Ariel Hutchins.

In a phone interview Head said, “We just had a No. 1 together in Houston, Texas, called ‘Selling Off.’ And I am doing her record now. I am working on my own album. We put a new record out right before COVID and hit the radios and everything kind of got busted up. So we were like everybody else and had to reset. We’ve been in the studio working and are excited to come out with a new record. It should be out, I would say, by the middle of fall.”

Head said that, unlike other musicians, he likes to perform the songs live before recording them in a studio; so, this year, the Roswell audience attending his concert will be one of the first to hear his new work.

Asked what type of songs he will bring, Head said, “We are going to perform a variety of different music. We do a little bit of ’50s rock ’n’ roll, we also do some R&B. It’s a little bit for everybody. We are excited to come to town.”

Friday night closes with the high-energy band Dirty River Boys, who are known to pour some strong music on their fans, and nobody is likely to stand still when the first tunes hit the crowd. From stages in Austin to Fort Worth, Texas, Las Cruces to Key West, Florida, their beat varies from folk, Americana to country rock and even punk.

Performances may change, depending on weather and other circumstances outside of the organizers’ control. For updates and concert times, visit enmsf.com.

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