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Reporter's Notebook

June 18, 2011

Reporter's Notebook: Country tunes keep coming into my life

Growing up in a town where cows outnumbered people, I was exposed to country music at a young age.

At first it was vinyl and 8-track tapes. My grandmother had an old record player and a smattering of George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Patsy Cline and Jimmy Dean in her collection. There was even a Hank Williams record or two. The 8-track stereo at my folks' house often played Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers and Crystal Gayle.

Music was in the background of my childhood. But in my adolescence it became a soundtrack.

At first, there was U2. Then I forayed into whatever was playing on the staticky Skidmore College radio station and later, punk, hardcore, metal and even folk.

When I joined the Army in the early 1990s, country music surged back into my life. Within a few days of arriving at Camp Greaves, Korea, after boot camp, tobacco-dipping good-old boys from West Virginia, Georgia and Alabama sat me down in their barracks rooms and cranked Bocephus, Waylon Jennings and David Allan Coe. They were missionaries whose calling was to convert northerners to the sounds of Outlaw Country.

From there, country became a part of my music collection.

When I was asked last Sunday to cover the 500th show of Country Express, a Delaware County band that bills itself as the "No. 1 Classic Country Band in New York," I had one of those "Wow, I get paid for this!" moments that make this job great.

In between sets at the Oneonta Elks Lodge, Country Express lead guitarist and vocalist Rob Laing said one of the secrets to the group's popularity is country music itself.

"It has a certain appeal to all generations," Laing said.

In addition to playing in the area this summer, Country Express will be performing at the New York State Fair on Sept. 3.

Laing was quick to point out the headlining musical act at the fair that day: Sugarland, a country duo born in the 1970s.

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