Trio of country hit makers headline Hank Fest

Published 9:06 am Thursday, June 4, 2009

Country music lovers are in for a big party next weekend – a Honky Tonk Tailgate Party, to be exact. The fun kicks off at 9 p.m. Saturday night, June 13, at the Hank Williams Festival.

Mark Wills, a multi-platinum selling country star with no less than eight top ten hits under his belt, including “Jacob’s Ladder” and “Don’t Laugh at Me” will be bringing fellow artists Trent Willmon (“Beer Man,” “Dixie Rose Deluxe’s”) and Jeff Bates (“One Second Chance,” “Long, Slow Kisses”) along for the ride.

“We have a good time performing together,” Wills said in a phone interview on Monday.

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“Trent is more of a cowboy, with his Texas brand of music. Jeff is known more for his love songs and so am I, but I’ve mixed it up a bit with songs like ‘Crazy White Boy’ and ‘Nineteen Something’ along the way.”

Having contrasting musical styles “gives you more variety and more pizzazz for the show,” Wills added.

The group, which is traveling down from Fan Fair in Nashville for Saturday night’s show, will perform a 90-minute set with one “very talented” band.

“It’s a fast-paced concert. Trent performs some of his hits, then Jeff, me and then we close out with an ensemble performance with no set changes,” Wills said.

Wills, who currently lives in the Atlanta, Ga., area, says the trio has about 40 dates on this tour, which is in its second year.

Country music isn’t the only thing close to his heart. The performer also spends time on the road entertaining U.S. service men and women stateside and abroad.

“Let me be honest. Some people say, ‘I don’t support the war but I support the troops.’ I think if you don’t support the war, you really don’t support the troops, either,” Wills said.

“We fought years ago so the English and French could be free; now our troops are fighting for the Iraqis’ and Afghanis’ freedom. You have to believe in the job they are doing, and give back to the stuff you believe in.”

In addition to his support for Wounded Warriors, Wills also champions the Children’s Miracle Network and the Taser Foundation, which supports the families of police officers killed in the line of duty.

“Cowboy” Willmon is also a cookbook author, reality show host (“America’s Top Cowboy”) and star of a family-friendly Western, “Palo Pinto Gold.”

Bates, who has battled meth addiction and jail time, shares his strong personal faith and belief in family, true love and an honest day’s work through his music. As a songwriter, he has enjoyed cuts by Montgomery Gentry, Tracy Lawrence and Jamey Johnson.

“The three of us are looking forward to coming down to Georgiana for the first time and enjoying a fun, laid-back event with y’all,” Wills said.

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