100,000 Country Music Fans Flock To Jamboree In The Hills Music Festival In Ohio
The 41st Annual Jamboree In The Hills country music festival marked my second year attending the long running fan favorite event. Every year, 100,000+ country music fans travel to Morristown, OH in Belmont County for this massive country music concert and camping event! In a time when country music festivals seem to be popping up and some fading away just as quickly, I think it truly speaks being that Jamboree In The Hills has lasted so long and so successfully. This year, “Jambo” as its die-hard fans lovingly nicknamed the event, featured big name headliners in Thomas Rhett, Jason Aldean and Lady Antebellum.
The festival kicked off with a Wednesday night camper pre-party, starring 90’s country favorite, Neal McCoy. I was unfortunately not able to attend, but as one would expect with Neal involved, the pre-party was a top discussion point with all of those were able to take in the experience. Being that Neal has been a Jamboree In The Hills staple for nearly 20 years, I have a feeling that we’ll see him back on the Sunday Main Stage in 2018!
The first official day of Jambo started off with local favorite Joe Zelick. Following Joe, was Ashley McBryde who has been quickly climbed to the top of my list of artists to perhaps bring a bit more tradition back to mainstream country music. I had the opportunity to catch her during CMA Fest in Nashville prior to Jambo and I gotta say, you NEED McBryde in your ears immediately! As I stated above, this festival had something for all kinds of kinds in the country music genre. Former The Voice competitor brought her brand of pop-country to the stage while Brothers Osborne and The Cadillac Three each flavored their sound with a southern rock edge.
“Star Of The Show” singer, Thomas Rhett closed night one of Jamboree In The Hills with the previously mentioned hit along with other favorites in “T-Shirt,” “Crash And Burn,” “Make Me Wanna” and more. While I’d love for Rhett to lean back towards his earlier sounds and maybe even take a little more influence from his father Rhett Akins, Thomas was a solider closer for the first night of the festival.
Friday’s schedule started off with Township Road, a local group out of the Pittsburgh, PA area. The guys performed a number of covers along with a few originals. Next up to the stage, another artist that the fans of traditional country music should be paying attention to, was Shane Owens. Shane has been plugging away at his country music career since the early 2000’s and most certainly deserves the attention that he is finally beginning to receive. Heck, his latest album was produced by the legendary Randy Travis. What more proof can you ask?!
The remainder of Friday’s lineup was more or less a stop on Jason Aldean’s “They Don’t Know” tour. Youtube sensation Kane Brown hit the stage around 6:30 PM, followed by one of my favorite “modern” artists, Chris Young. After a minor rain delay, (Okay, there was a MASSIVE storm), Jason Aldean made his way to the stage to close out the night. It’s pretty wild to think that Aldean has been going strong in the mainstream spotlight since 2005. It certainly shows in his onstage presentation!
The longest day of the 4 day festival comes on Saturday. Perhaps the only act that has as many Jambo appearances under their belt as Neal McCoy, the 1170 Band started Saturday off. I was running a little late myself, but luckily the festival is aired on the local NBC affiliate on TV and broadcasts live over WOVK 98.7. Saturday was packed with up and coming artists, featuring Waterloo Revival, High Valley, Brett Young, LANCo, Lazy Jane and The Davisson Brothers Band.
Though Saturday’s lineup featured a lot of artists which most would categorize as “pop” country, there was one true diamond in the rough. 90’s country legend Mark Chesnutt took the 4:00PM time slot and absolutely owned it. This was easily my favorite performance of the day, and judging by the crowd interaction, I’m sure that I wasn’t alone! Chesnutt performed all of his major hits from “Bubba Shot The Jukebox” to “It Sure It Monday” and “Too Cold At Home.” Mark also included a number of tracks from his 2016 album, Tradition Lives, with “I’ve Got A Quarter In My Pocket,” “Oughta Miss Me By Now” and his current single, “Hot.” Fun side note: Sammy Kershaw who was set to perform on Sunday arrived a day early and watched buddy Mark perform from the wings. Eventually, Mark invited him onstage to say hello!
Saturday began to wrap up as the final acts began to perform. Like the night prior, Lady Antebellum brought along their tour mates to open for their Jamboree In The Hills headline position. Brett Young and Kelsea Ballerini each performed. Each received many visitors via the photo line during their sets and seemed to hold the attention of a crowd that had been partying in the sun all day long. Finally, Lady Antebellum would take to the stage to close out Saturday night. Though many Jambo fans weren’t so sure that Lady A would be the right act to close out the biggest night of the weekend, I think a lot of them would say that they were taken by surprise. Lady A put on a killer performance as they have been for years.
Now this is where the fun really starts, BORN Country fans! Sunday scheduling had been set aside for a number of true country music greats. Lee Greenwood kicked the day off by performing the “Star Spangled Banner.” After other opening ceremonies, Greenwood would return to the stage for his set that included “Holdin’ A Good Hand,” a cover of Aaron Tippin’s “Where The Stars And Stripes And The Eagle Fly” and of course, “God Bless The U.S.A.” Also, I had absolutely no idea that Lee played the saxophone, but he busted it out and performed a number of instrumentals!
I did find it strange that Greenwood performed the Aaron Tippin song mentioned above, because up next was of course, Aaron Tippin! This was my first opportunity to catch “The Hardest Working Man In Country Music” performing live with his band. Let me tell ya, this guy is a performer! The great country music didn’t stop there, though! Aaron Tippin would be followed up by the LEGENDARY Tanya Tucker. Tanya looked fantastic and sounded even better than the last time I saw her perform back in early 2016! Another BORN Country favorite, Sammy Kershaw performed next. I have never witnessed an artist sign so many autographs during a single set! Sammy was literally signing autographs for half of his set. The thing is, it didn’t detract him from performing one single bit!
The final act of Jamboree In The Hills 2017 was very special to me. Way way back in 1995, I attended my very first concert at the Lorain County Fair in Ohio. 22 years later, I would finally see Sawyer Brown perform for the second time! This Sunday closing spot had been held by ultimate performer Neal McCoy for years. However, Mark Miller and the boys in Sawyer Brown absolutely knocked it out of the park! While fans indeed missed Neal, I think Sawyer Brown was a more that suitable booking for 2017!
I had an absolute blast at Jamboree In The Hills this year and look forward to attending once again in 2018. Hopefully we will see even more 90’s country stars added to the upcoming lineup, but overall, the performances were very solid throughout.
Did you attend Jamboree In The Hills? Let us know what you thought in the comments below. Perhaps we’ll see YOU in Morristown, OH next July! For more information on next years event, stayed tuned to Jamboreeinthehill.com and Facebook.com/myjamboreeinthehills