Pegged as a James Dean look-alike, country singer/songwriter/guitarist Frankie Ballard has had an eventful year. From a stage-jumping shoulder injury in February (in Humble, Texas, no less—something about pride goeth before...) to his singles "Helluva Life" and "Sunshine & Whiskey" both hitting number one to co-writing Big & Rich's song "I Came to Git Down" or rapping the "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" theme song at the CMA Awards—he truly is "Young and Crazy" (the third radio single from his 2014 album Sunshine & Whiskey). But that isn't the only '90s element in his blood, check out the video of him singing the "Saved by the Bell" theme song at tasteofcountry.com—it'll take you back.
Ballard is taking a detour from his opening act on Florida Georgia Line's Anything Goes tour to play at the Century Center in Bend on August 30. All of this ain't too shabby for a nobody who took his first step to country music stardom in 2008 when he won the Michigan edition of Kenny Chesney's Next Big Star Competition. After opening shows for Chesney, Ballard released his debut single, "Tell Me You Get Lonely," in 2010, which hit Number 33 on the Hot Country Songs chart in 2011. Also in 2011, Ballard released his second top 40 single, "A Buncha Girls," debuted at the Grand Ole Opry and opened for Lady Antebellum.
Now that he has a decade of touring under his belt with a few successful songs to show for it, Ballard has said that he can finally find his own sound and make music his way—which seems to be working for him, as Sunshine & Whiskey continues to turn heads.
"My approach was to pick great songs," he says about the making of Sunshine & Whiskey at frankieballard.com, "whether or not I thought they fit any trends. Some are old school, some are new school, but if it moved me, I'd record it. People are going to be able to sink their teeth into this from track one all the way down to track eleven."
The album even made Rolling Stone's "The 26 Albums of 2014 You Probably Didn't But Really Should Hear" list.
"Ballard eschews country clichés and overly slick production for an album that feels like him — no small feat in today's prefabricated market," says Rolling Stone. "Songs like the bluesy plea "Sober Me Up" and the in-your-face 'Young & Crazy' illustrate his diversity. They also help show off the Bob Seger acolyte's guitar playing, which, like Brad Paisley and Keith Urban, elevates him above his peers."
Forthecountryrecord.com echoes Rolling Stone's praise, calling him a welcome standout in his field—"The sheer fact that with all of this stuff around selling by the truckload (ha) and how easy it is to slip into countryisms when celebrating a rural lifestyle, it appears that Frankie has deliberately avoided it, showing that he has more artistic control than many of his peers."
5 pm, Sunday, August 30
Century Center, 70 SW Century Drive $25