By Joe Hadsall
Globe Features Editor
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Country music, a genre of music defined by generations, usually doesn’t feature generation gaps. Though younger generations often pay tribute to those who came before, they usually don’t take the same stage with them unless there’s an award show.
Take Kellie Pickler, who finished in sixth place for season five of “American Idol.” On her bio she invokes many of country’s legends who can be identified by their first names, such as Tammy, Patsy, Loretta and Dolly.
Randy Travis started his career alongside a few of those names in 1986. While pop music embraced synthesizers and electronic sounds, Travis was part of a “new traditionalist” movement that directed country back away from a similar, pop-based path, and inspired singers such as Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw and Carrie Underwood, according to his bio.
Travis and Pickler will perform Tuesday at Downstream Casino. Sean Harrison, spokesperson for the casino, said the chance to book two diverse singers dropped in its lap.
“They came to us as a package,” Harrison said. “We thought it sounded like a great mix to put a classic country artist with a new, up and coming country star.”
Travis is considered a trendsetter in country music. CMT says that Travis marks a generational shift in the genre.
“When his ‘Storms of Life’ came out in 1986, country music was still wallowing in the post-urban cowboy recession, chasing elusive crossover dreams,” according to a bio page written by CMT. “Travis brought the music back to its basics, sounding like nothing so much as a perfect blend of George Jones and Merle Haggard.”
“Storms of Life” went platinum three times off the strength of singles “On the Other Hand” and “Digging up Bones.” His next two albums produced seven consecutive No. 1 songs on the U.S. country charts, including “Forever and Ever, Amen,” “Too Gone Too Long” and “Honky Tonk Moon.”
While Travis got his start enduring a string of rejections from Nashville producers, Pickler got her start on a more national stage. During “American Idol,” she said that she didn’t perform for real audiences often.
After her sixth-place finish, she signed with BNA Records in Nashville and started her music career in earnest. “Small Town Girl,” released in 2006, went gold; her two follow-ups, released in 2008 and 2012, haven’t performed as well.
Among her songs, “Red High Heels” has gone gold; “Best Days of Your Life” is her highest-ranking song, reaching No. 9 on the U.S. country charts and going platinum.
Both singers are also continuing their careers. Travis is touring in support of “25th Anniversary Celebration,” a collection of collaborations and new works with other artists such as Jackson, Paisley, Jamey Johnson and Kristin Chenoweth.
Travis said most everyone they asked were happy to be on the album. “When I look at the group of people that are on this record, it’s very humbling,” Travis said on his bio. “I’m realy happy with this album ... The record business has changed a lot. But a good song is still a good song.”
Pickler is touring in support of “100 Proof,” released in January.
Want to go?
Randy Travis, featuring Kellie Pickler, will perform Tuesday at Downstream Casino. The concert starts at 7 p.m. As part of a fundraiser, $5 from every ticket purchase will be donated to the Joplin Tornado First Response Fund.
Tickets range from $30 to $75.