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Grandstand entertainment caters to variety of tastes

By Michael A. Brothers

It'll likely be hot as usual at the Ozark Empire Fair this year, but hard rock band Crossfade will beat the heat with "Cold."

Crossfade performs at the fair grandstand on Monday with Dark New Day, and is just one of a string of acts playing that stage all week. From country to Christian to rock, artists will be pounding out the hits for the next week.

But none of those hits is as huge as "Cold," which was the top song of 2004 on active rock radio, and is now crossing over into Top 40 territory. The song was released a year and a half ago, yet the band was on national television just last week playing it again on "The Late, Late Show."

"It's just getting really big on Top 40 now," says bassist Mitch James, "so we're still playing the same song over and over again. But it's really hard to complain about something like that."

James says band members haven't really stepped back to consider why "Cold," a song about regret following a broken relationship, has connected with so many people. There's no point in trying to unlock such a code, he says.

"I wish we did know that because that would be the key to the universe for us," he says. "We could write 10 more and retire."

After 18 months on the road, Crossfade members will take a couple of weeks off this fall, then return to their home state of South Carolina where the musicians will live in a house they bought and turned into a studio. That's where they'll begin work on a follow-up album.

James says the band won't be thinking about the success of "Cold" when making new music.

"The sophomore jinx — everybody talks about it, everybody worries about it," he says. "I think there's just more music to come from us, and I think it's gong to be better than this album."

Other fair acts include Christian pop group ZOEgirl, rock veterans Steppenwolf and country stars like Aaron Tippin, Trace Adkins and Deana Carter (performing Saturday).

Carter's new album has been earning rave reviews for its Southern folk-pop sound, a left turn that was possible only after the singer left the Nashville establishment for Los Angeles-based indie label Vanguard Records.

Having written and produced the entire record with zero instructions handed down from the label, she's been singing the praises of artistic freedom ever since the release of "The Story of My Life" earlier this year.

"There's no words to express how valuable that is to an artist," she says. "You get to a point in your career where you either compromise what you're comfortable with and continue to be quote-unquote successful, or you can't bear compromising anymore because it's keeping you from succeeding on a spiritual level. ... You chose which path you need to take."

The fresh take on recording has led to a renewed sense of fun for her on stage, too, she says.

"That's really my playground to take this country record to the rock world," she says. "It's an extension of the music (on the CD) but now on a whole other level."