It has been an interesting array of country music stars thus far at Arizona’s Country Thunder. The singers and the bands have worked overtime to provide the best that country music can offer. The lesser-known acts are on stage early in the day tperformed to sparse crowds. That does not mean that these performers are not as talented as the performers scheduled later in the day. On day two and three, Gunnar and the Grizzly Boys and Dorado were vying for Country Thunder’s future years’ later time slots. The bands were that good.
Gunnar and the Grizzly Boys is fronted by Gunnar Nyblad seem to have the market cornered on stage presence and high-octane energy. They started as a punk rock band, but after discovering “Johnny Cash” they evolved into Southern or country rockers. The result is one heck of a good time. They released their second CD, Good Rhythm, in November last year.
Dorado is a new band from Nashville that is a group of young singer/songwriters who happened to meet and just get together. The most striking thing one noticed during their set was their tremendous harmonies. These five musicians have harmonies much like The Eagles. The other thing about this band is that each member shares the spotlight as the lead singer. The songs in the set were original tunes and were outstanding. They are in the process of creating an album for release later in the year.
This is the second year that Nashville singer/songwriter Ryan Hurd, has appeared at Country Thunder. This is the first year Ryan has gotten to appear at the main stage. Ryan has been a major hit maker for country superstars like Tim McGraw, Blake Sheldon, Dierks Bentley, Maren Morris, Jake Owen and many more. He and his band delivered a lively set of great songs. He used some hip-hop to adorn some of the songs in his set.
Maddie and Tae, and Runaway June represented the female acts at the festival this year. Even though female entertainers were sparse in this year’s festival lineup, their talent and beauty fiercely rivaled their male counterparts. Members of both bands are accomplished singer/songwriters.
Runaway June is touring and supporting their new album, Lipstick, and their set consisted many of the songs from the new album. They played more traditional country tunes than some of the other young bands.
Maddie and Tae were crowd favorites during the festival and they are riding high on their platinum selling breakthrough hit “Girl in a Country Song.” Many songs in the set were from their debut album, Start Here. Their set showcased their beautiful harmonies and their great sense of humor. Their career is soaring.
As the days progressed into evening during the festival, the entertainment brought out the more established acts. Aaron Watson, Randy Rogers Band, Frankie Ballard, Jon Pardi, and Joe Nichols sets paved the way to the headliners Dierks Bentley, and Thomas Rhett.
It is obvious that Country Thunder has introduced lesser-known, talented artists to the world and helped their career explode. Many of the headliners started in those early slots during the day in years gone by. There is one more day of Country Thunder left. Stay tuned for a report on the last day.