‘Outlaw country’ coming to Albert Lea

Published 5:17 pm Wednesday, July 12, 2023

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Outlaw country is headed to the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center when Gregg Hall & the Wrecking Ball play July 22.

The band has been performing smaller shows and having luck, so when John Caucutt, the manager at the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center and a lifelong friend of Hall’s, reached out about doing a show, he was happy to try it, particularly because the venue was sit-down.

“I like where people buy a ticket, they’re in a seat, they’re there to listen,” he said. “It’s not a bunch of people being loud, drunk at a bar or wherever.”

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Gregg Hall & the Wrecking Ball are not pure rock. Nor are they purely a country band.

“I would call it outlaw country,” he said. “Americana is what other people would call it.”

Specifically, he described the band as alternative country with less twang and more electric guitar and edge.

“If I would compare us to somebody, I would [say] a modern day Outlaw, Willie [Nelson] and Waylon [Jennings] type songs stuff,” he said.

After quitting a previous band, he decided he wanted to do his own thing. Specifically, he wanted more of a say over songs played and the songs he wrote. Doing that, he felt, would allow him to get back to his country roots when he started playing.

“My very first concert was Johnny Cash when I was 9 years old,” he said, noting that playing music was easier for him, especially considering he could do what he loved while at the same time making a living out of his passion.

He and his business partner at the time, Pete Engen, were brainstorming potential names before an upcoming concert and decided on Greg Hall & the Wrecking Ball.

In doing these shows, he also wants to pay homage to his musical heroes. And these events not only help market his music, they provide music to an audience that knows and loves certain songs.

He’s also trying to bring attention to outlaw country.

“It’s timeless music, and I feel like that outlaw country, that vibe, is slowly but surely making a comeback,” he said, “… because it’s nothing like pop-country you hear on the radio.”

He described the genre as three chords and the truth, with the appeal being simplicity in a song and conveying a message about anything.

“I like telling a story,” he said. “That to me is a good song, too. It tells a story. It can tell a story about just modern-day hardships of the normal man, the every-day guy.”

He also wanted people to see they did not have to conform to societal rules of living.

“There’s a certain amount of freedom in that, that not a lot of people get to experience,” he said. “I’m lucky enough to somehow manage to pay my bills and take care of my kids while getting that message across,” he said.

He also doesn’t like playing a song the exact same way it was originally performed, preferring to put his own spin on a song, something he described as a signature riff.

“If you want that kind of band, you can just listen to the jukebox, you can listen to the radio,” he said.

The goal for the show: Bring people back to a moment in their lives that elicited some type of nostalgia, something that happens to him after hearing certain songs.

While some songs will appear familiar at first glance, it’s his goal patrons can build new memories to new songs.

“We’re going to be doing lots of classic country. Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash,” he said. “And I write a lot of my own songs too, so I’m sprinkling some of them in.”

Gregg Hall & the Wrecking Ball have been nominated for Americana Band of the Year by the Midwest Country Music Organization two consecutive years.

This will be Hall’s first time performing at the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center.

The band, first formed in 2013, is made up of Ben Rohde (drums), Kale Olsen Reed (fiddle and mandolin), Alexandra Green (vocals), Tim Powers (bass) and Hall (guitar and vocals).

Hall also owns Deece Productions out of La Crosse, which performs tribute shows.

Tickets are available at actonbroadway.com/tickets or by calling either the 24/7 box office at 877-730-3144 or 507-377-4371 during business hours. Tickets are $20 for adults and $12 for students.