Country star Lawrence to play State Theatre

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, GA -- With 17 No. 1 country singles and a slew of awards on his resume, Tracy Lawrence is following the Nashville blueprint laid out by superstars such as George Strait and Alan Jackson.

That's why Lane Rosen, the booking manager for Albany's State Theatre, is so ecstatic to have Lawrence playing a Good Friday show at the venue.

"This concert is a milestone for our venue and for the Albany market," Rosen said. "It shows we're on the verge of being able to bring top acts back into this market. This is certainly a ray of hope for the area music scene and for people who love music."

The singer of such country favorites as "Alibis," "Texas Tornado," "If the World Had a Front Porch," "Paint Me a Birmingham," "Lessons Learned," "Find Out Who Your Friends Are," "Time Marches On," "Can't Break My Heart," "If the Good Die Young" and his signature "Sticks and Stones" is one of a growing number of top-name acts to have contracted to play at the historic State in recent months.

Joining Lawrence for the 8 p.m. show are local acts Speedcoach and Running Down Romance.

"What we've done at the state is build a reputation where (promoters) know we'll pay, we'll do what we tell them we'll do and we'll put on a good production," Rosen said. "Having an artist like Tracy Lawrence come here shows we've gotten a vote of confidence from promoters in the music industry. We're bringing things back around to where they used to be, back when Albany brought top acts here.

"What we have to do now is support these artists when they play here."

Lawrence, who will be headlining this spring and summer's "Country Rat Pack" tour with Mark Chesnutt and Richie McDonald, has become a mainstay on country radio since he released his first album, "Sticks and Stones," in 1991. The hits kept coming through the '90s, but dramatic changes in the music industry at the turn of the century saw the hit-maker's chart-topping magic dry up for a period of 11 years.

Lawrence halted that drought with 2007's "Find Out Who Your Friends Are," the first single from the Rocky Comfort Records label he started with his brother/manager Laney Lawrence. That single's ascension marked the first time an artist's first single from a self-owned label had climbed to No. 1. It was also the slowest-climbing chart-topper in country music history, taking 41 weeks from its release date to claim the No. 1 spot.

A re-recording of "Find Out Who Your Friends Are" featuring guest vocals from Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney received a Musical Event of the Year award at the 2007 CMA Awards.

The artist turned to his spiritual roots in 2009, releasing the Grammy-nominated gospel album "The Rock."

"My mom and dad have been coaxing me for years to record an inspirational country CD," Lawrence said of his latest record. "I promised them I would, but I kept pushing it off because it just didn't 'feel' like the right time. I had to grow, personally and artistically, to get here.

"This is a new element that is part of my life, part of me. It does not take the place of the foundation that has been laid before me; it tempers it. I believe people are meant to try to make a difference, and I feel blessed to be in the unique position to move people. That's what this project is all about."

Lawrence sold millions of albums that spawned dozens of hits on the Atlantic label from the 1991 release of "Sticks and Stones" to 1999's "Lessons Learned." Shortly after that disc's release, Atlantic closed its Nashville division, and Lawrence produced critically and commercially acclaimed records for Warner Brothers, DreamWorks and a greatest-hits package for Mercury Nashville before starting Rocky Comfort.