Country stars usher in summer

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Entertainment,Music,Nancy Dunham

It's not even Memorial Day yet, and Lady Antebellum, Darius Rucker and Thompson Square are ushering in the summer with a major tour.

Concertgoers should expect sets that include all the fan favorites plus some newer songs in the mix. Rucker, for example, will have a new single released next week that he said he might play at the upcoming local show. But for all the excitement over the music, the musicians in all three bands said success is something of a surprise to them.

"We never expected to be thrust into the international spotlight in the way that we were ... from the success of just one song," said Lady Antebellum's Charles Kelley. "It was six months or so after the album came out that we were finally able to go play overseas. When we got there, we were floored at the life that 'Need You Now' had taken on. The power of that one song really changed the scope of our entire career at home and in all these places we had only dreamed of playing."

Onstage
Own the Night 2012 World Tour Lady Antebellum, Darius Rucker, Thompson Square
When: Doors 5:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Merriweather Post Pavilion, 10475 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia
Details: $40 to $75; 877-4FLY-TIX (359849); ticketfly.com

What is perhaps most interesting about this lineup is that all three acts are A-list performers and will likely all be headliners in the years ahead. Current tour headliner Lady Antebellum formed in 2006 and already has seven Grammy Awards. Rucker, the frontman of the megapopular Hootie & the Blowfish, in 2009 became the second African-American to win a Country Music Association Award when he took home the New Artist Award. Thompson Square won the CMA's Top Vocal Duo Award last month.

"It's cool," said Rucker when asked how he reacts to the constant shout-outs for "Hootie" when he is performing as a country musician. "I'm just glad they know who I am!"

But in conversation it seemed clear that while Hootie & the Blowfish will rise again, Rucker is committed to the guitar-based storytelling that country music has allowed him to explore.

"Country has evolved so much," said Rucker, noting the influences that have seeped into the sound. "Whenever anyone tells me they don't like country music, I have to chuckle and tell them, 'I bet you $5 if you listen to country music one day, you will find songs you like.' "

He ticks off the format's array of styles -- Carrie Underwood's pop country, Colt Ford's rap-country and more -- as evidence of its mass appeal.

"If you listen to it," he said, noting the storytelling of the format, "it's really not all that different from Hootie & the Blowfish."

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Nancy Dunham

Examiner Correspondent
The Washington Examiner