Lady Antebellum, Brad Paisley, Darius Rucker take a pause for the cause at ‘Stars and Strings”
Dan Hyman Chicago Tribune
As a Murfreesboro, Tenn.-raised teenager with massive musical ambition, Chris Young was willing to play music for whoever would listen. Sometimes that didn’t make for the most ideal performance venues. “I used to play the patio of a Mexican restaurant for four hours for tips,” the country chart-topping singer recalls with a laugh. The silver lining of such brutal gigs? Young could strip his songs down to their essence. After all, it was just the singer and an acoustic guitar. “You can really let the songs stand out there for themselves that way,” he says.
Young will soon be able to relive his salad days: He and a lineup of top-tier country artists, including Darius Rucker, Brad Paisley, Lady Antebellum and Kelsea Ballerini, touch down in Chicago for Wednesday’s Stars and Strings, an annual acoustic country music concert that showcases country songs at their most raw, intimate and vulnerable. Now in its third year, the CBS Radio-sponsored event donates a percentage of its proceeds to Folds of Honor, a charitable organization that provides educational support to spouses and children of America’s fallen and wounded soldiers.
“I love doing this stuff,” says Rucker, who recently released his fifth country album, “When Was the Last Time.” “You really know what a great song is when you can sit there with a guitar and maybe a mandolin or a fiddle and play it that way and still move people. Then you know you’ve got a great song.”
Lady Antebellum, which typically writes its music with only an acoustic guitar and its three members’ vocals, is particularly drawn to the stripped-back format, says band member Dave Haywood.
“One of our greatest joys is being able to share stories and interact with the crowd and play more casually,” Haywood says. “To be able to return to that format is honestly such a joy.” Haywood says the trio has “been begging our management to let us do a theater tour for like five years now. Being able to be in a room with no set list, go off-the-cuff is just great.”