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Live Issue, Hamilton IV make a joyful noise

“What’s the most direct route to Georgiana from Northern Ireland?”

That’s the question Live Issue guitarist/vocalist Roy Dreaning posed to the crowd at the Georgiana Nutrition Center Tuesday night.

Live Issue’s route took the award-winning country gospel band from the Emerald Isle to Chicago, Dallas and finally to Fort Myers, Fla., where they began the tour that ultimately led them to south Butler County.

The band, along with the man known as “The International Ambassador of Country Music,” George Hamilton IV, and a local favorite, Rev. Michael Bush and the Burning Bush gospel group, all performed as part of a Hank Williams Sr. International Fan Club concert.

The ladies of Georgiana provided a large covered dish meal featuring such southern favorites as cornbread dressing, chicken and dumplings, deviled eggs and peach cobbler. While they ate, the Bush family, who hail from the Conecuh County/south Butler County area, performed gospel and bluegrass favorites.

Hamilton then performed some of his own hits from a 53-year-long career in music, and shared some of the gospel songs written by that “Hillbilly Shakespeare, Hank Williams.”

“Hank wasn’t perfect, but I don’t believe he could have written some of the wonderful gospel songs he wrote if he hadn’t known the Lord,” Hamilton said.

While Live Issue’s lead vocalist/guitarist Colin Elliot jokingly asked in his Irish lilt “does anyone need subtitles?” the message of Northern Ireland’s top country gospel group’s music seemed to be understood and warmly welcomed by the attendees.

The group performed a variety of songs, from traditional Irish folk songs to classics like “I Believe” and “How Great Thou Art.” A spine-tingling moment came when the five members harmonized on an a cappella rendition of the old spiritual “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?”

Also joining in on some of the songs were two Butler County gals, Judy “Buddy” Manning and Edna “ET” Thomas, who performed at the very first Hank Williams Festival as Back Creek Country. The group re-formed as Back Creek in 2009 and performed at this year’s festival in June.

“I’ve had a good night,” Thomas said with a beaming grin. “I didn’t expect this, but it sure was fun.”

Fan Club president Mary Wallace, who served as the emcee for the evening, concurred.

“We just had a great time tonight.”

In addition to the visitors from across the pond, attendees came from Georgia, Arkansas, Mississippi and Mobile for the event.

Following performances in Georgia, Hamilton and Live Issue will return to Butler County today for a concert at Southside Baptist Church in Greenville. They will appear this weekend at the Grand Ole Opry.