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Craig Morgan, Joe Nichols, Colt Ford & Sunny Sweeney
800 Ask Gary Ampithearthre/Tampa Florida
By: Staff Journalist Connie Breeden
Photos by: Leland Colley

I have always enjoyed looking up at the sky on a night when there is a full array of stars, and tonight was no exception. But as I looked skyward, I couldn't help thinking, I wouldn't be getting a crick in my neck tonight because all of the stars were on stage in Tampa, Florida.

First up was the very beautiful, Texas native, Sunny Sweeney. She sang several songs from her self titled, sophomore album. The first single to be released off the album is "From A Table Away." This song is currently climbing the charts but, after listening to the entire album and seeing her in concert, I think there is plenty of chart material in there, including “Staying’s Worse Than Leaving,” which Sweeney co-wrote with Radney Foster.

With her alluring traditional country sound and charming persona it's not difficult to see how she so easily captivates her audience, and the next artist to take the stage had his own unique way of doing the captivating.

Take a little country and mix it with a little hip hop n' rap and you get Colt Ford. “There ain’t been too many 300-pound boys in cowboy hats up there being a country artist, so that separates me pretty good,” he says.

Much to his surprise and delight he has received his first ACM nomination for his work with Jamey Johnson on a song called ‘Cold Beer,’ which is up for Vocal Event of the Year. Not surprisingly, I found myself singing along, swaying back and fourth, and hollering for the bartender by the middle of this clever song!

"Country Thang" is the first release from his upcoming album and it is set to hit stores this summer. He wrote the song with "Peach Pickers", Rhett Akins, Ben Hayslip, and Dallas Davidson.

From the moment he took the stage, he lived up to his "Mr Goodtime" reputation. He brought the rowdy crowd to their feet, fist pumping, and singing along, with his back to back hits, "Chicken & Biscuits" and "No Trash In My Trailer."

Ford and his unique band was the most wildly entertaining show I have seen in quite a while, based on their renditions of the Black Eyed Peas song "Boom Boom Pow," T-Pain's "Apple Bottom Jeans" and "Sweet Home Alabama" I feel compelled to warn Kid Rock and Lynyrd Skynyrd that Colt Ford is in the house!

Even the awe-inspiring display of fireworks, that were the prelude to his performance, could not hold a candle to the beautiful baritone voice of the very talented entertainer, Joe Nichols. He opened his show with the simple question "What's A Guy Gotta Do" and judging by the screaming audience response, well, the answer seems to be, just be a very handsome, country singer.

Nichols is on tour to promote his "Greatest Hits" album, which consists of four number one hits and six that made it into the top ten. Among those was the song that held the number one spot for three weeks, "Gimme That Girl." This song was also the second most played song on country radio in 2010.

His newest single, and one of my favorites, "The Shape I'm In" was ranked the number one watched video on CMT earlier this month.

CMT says "the music video for 'The Shape I'm In' got high praise from viewers because of its theme and inspiring tone." Nichols and director Trey Fanjoy took things in a different direction than a typical music video, and used the opportunity to praise America's servicemen and women, highlighting those who have returned from combat with injuries, but who overcame obstacles and have gone on to live their lives to the fullest. During his introduction to the song, Nichols stated, "I want to take a minute and thank all of the soldiers and veterans around the world since they had a big impact on this song, I thank them and thank you, all of the country music fans, for making it a hit for me."

Next we were treated to some of his greatest hits, "The Impossible", "Brokenheartsville," "Cool To Be A Fool," "Size Matters," "I'll Wait For You," "Gimme That Girl," "Let's Get Drunk And Fight," before he closed his portion of the show with another delightful hit, and a real crowd pleaser, "Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off."

While waiting for Craig Morgan to take the stage, I have to admit I was starting to get a little cold but as soon as I heard "a little bit of guitar / a little bit of truck / a little bit of hound dog / a little bit of luck," coming from the speakers, well, I was all set for a lot more music and "A Little Bit Of Life."

Morgan gave his fans a taste of his spiritual side when he belted out "Amazing Grace," a song he says he likes to do at every show, and well, if you can imagine having goose bumps on top of goose bumps, I'm sure I can speak for everyone when I say, that's what we were experiencing.

After asking everybody if they have ever been cow tippin', he kicked it up a notch with "I'm Country." He kept the audience fired up with his short renditions of Bad Company's "Rock N Roll Fantasy," Ozzy Osbourne's "Iron Man," and AC/DC's "Back In Black," while introducing his band. I was fascinated to learn all his band members just happen to be from the state of Florida and if that wasn't enough to garner a very vocal crowd approval, well, they got even louder when he introduced his electric guitarist, who was from Tampa!

Morgan sure made me want to get up and dance in the aisle, with all the hip shakin' knee swaging moves he had on stage while singing "I Guess You Had To Be There." He may have been able to give Elvis some competition and he sure got all the ladies attention when he sung "My Kind Of Woman." Even though I wasn't wearing my John Deere ball cap tonight I thought he might be singing about me.

Morgan worked the boisterous crowd into a frenzy by twirling his mic, dancing around the stage, while singing "International Harvester" and "Redneck Yact Club," before slowing it down with his hits "This Ain't Nothin" and "Love Remembers."

In closing the show Morgan asked "Are ya'll still cold out there? If so I think we can start a "Bonfire" and "what a good idea" I thought as I leaned back and looked up to the sky one more time. I couldn't help but thinking that all those stars high in the sky were sure in stiff competition from all the bright and shining stars we witnessed on our very own stage. Yep, as I glanced skyward one last time, I couldn't see one constellation that shined brighter than the collective talent who entertained us tonight in Tampa.

I just wanted to make mention that Craig Morgan is the spokesperson of the organization "Not Alone," a service provided in helping combat soldiers and their families, with the diversity it takes in returning to a everyday normal life. The single "Not Alone" was inspired by a trip he made earlier this year overseas to entertain troops, and will be included on his upcoming album.

I also wanted to mention Joe Nichols dedication to our military, the "The Shape I'm In" video was made in partnership with the www.lonesurvivorfoundation.org and www.BootCampaign.com.

I want to give a heartfelt HOOAH for these two amazing, compassionate, talented artists.


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