Shenandoah to play free show at Centre County Grange Fair

PHOTO PROVIDED The country music band Shenandoah will be playing the Centre County Grange Fair.

CENTRE HALL — For many country music fans, the band Shenandoah needs no introduction. The Grammy Award-winning group, which rose to prominence in the genre during the late 80s and early 90s, has 26 Billboard-charted singles and five No. 1 hits, including “The Church on Cumberland Road,” “Two Dozen Roses” and “Next to You, Next to Me.”

Now, on an extended run of its “30th Anniversary Tour,” which began last year, Shenandoah will finally be making a stop in central Pennsylvania — it’s first in many years. The band’s only trip to the north east will be bringing them to the Centre County Grange Fair’s Grandstand for a free show at 8 p.m. on Wednesday. As a part of Customer Appreciation Day, tickets to see the show will be included in the price of admission to the fair.

“To say that things have been exciting lately would be a little bit of an understatement,” said Shenandoah lead vocalist Marty Raybon. “Between the crowd participation and crowd turnout, it has been a great tour.

“It is great to just realize that your music means so much to folks. Sometimes it is really kind of hard to believe,” added Raybon. “You just try not to take any of it for granted.”

The show at this year’s fair is the band’s first trip back to the state in a long time, and Raybon is very excited to come back to Pennsylvania to put on a great show for the group’s loyal northern fans.

“We are really, really proud to be getting up that way,” Raybon said. “We have made a lot of friends in the state of Pennsylvania. I love the state, and I have told many people that it is probably America’s best-kept secret, in terms of its beauty and the hospitable folks that are up that way.

“We have always played up there quite a bit through the years,” he added. “We do enjoy any chance we get to play in Pennsylvania. The great thing about this tour is that we have got to get to places that we haven’t been in a long time.”

With Shenandoah seeing many configurations with its lineup through the decades, the group spent 17 years without the services of Raybon. It wasn’t until he joined back up with co-founding member Mike McGuire for a benefit concert a few years ago, that he decided to rejoin the band a start a new chapter in its history.

“We just kind of fell back into something that we had done for so long together, that it was sort of like jumping back onto a bike and riding when I came back to the band,” Raybon said. “One thing that I will say, is that being able to get out and do this some 30 years later is something we never imagined.

“I don’t reckon it was something we thought would be impossible, but when you first start out in your career, you are trying to make sure that the record you have out at that time is working and that you have show dates set up,” he added. “I don’t know that I – or even the rest of us – would think 30 years later we would still be at it.”

The band has toured a lot since rejoining with Raybon in 2014, and released its first new album in 20 years, “Reloaded,” last March. The album, which was produced by Jay Demarcus of Rascal Flatts, includes nine live cuts of their classic hits and has three new studio recordings — “Noise,” “Little Bit of Livin'” and “That’s Where I Grew Up.” The songs are the first Raybon has recorded with the band in decades.

“We are just elated with the success we have been having with our single ‘Noise.’ That was the very first single we have had in 20 years,” Raybon said. “Since radio has changed a good deal, the way we approach it has changed. Therefore, we didn’t really know how people would accept the material.

“We didn’t realize the new songs would work as well as what they have,” he added. “It is our first single in 20 years and it has gone on to be a top-20 song.”

The second single off the “Reloaded” album, “That’s Where I Grew Up,” will bring the group’s first music video in two decades as well.

“The mathematical probability of everything falling into the place the way that it has, is really just unbelievable,” Raybon said. “The only thing that you can say has been the deciding factor in it has been the blessings of the Lord.”

Raybon still loves the way the crowd reacts when his group breaks out the hits from their nine studio albums – even the younger fans he wouldn’t have necessarily expected to have a connection to the music.

“A lot of these 20-year-old kids that come to the show tell us how their mom and dad always had our cassettes playing in the car on the way to school, and how they grew up listening to our music,” he said.

Though they have a legacy that is well-cemented in country music history, the band isn’t content to slow down anytime soon. They still have a lot of music-making ahead.

“We still have a lot to sing about and we still have a lot to say,” Raybon said.