The date of the Bull Run Country Jamboree was listed incorrectly in yesterday's Weekend section. The event is today at Bull Run Regional Park in Centreville.
PERHAPS THE SHAME of Nashville's country music is that so few male singers, even the good ones, find their inspiration in the work of living legends like Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, George Jones and Johnny Cash. Instead, the holy grail for most of these modern singers is the pop cross-over hit.
One very successful singer who does recall Jones and Haggard, however, is the smokey- voiced and soulful Earl Thomas Conley. His latest album, "Treadin' Water," is an impressive collection of progressive country songs mostly co-authored by himself and Randy Scruggs. Conley's strong, masculine vocals are perfectly complemented by Scruggs' guitar work, which skillfully embroiders the rockers and the ballads.
On the other hand, T.G. Sheppard has spent his whole career embracing the tamest and most sanitized country-pop in memory. Sheppard is still desperate for a cross-over hit, so his arrangements and material on "Livin' on the Edge" are straight adult contemporary at its most faceless. Middle-age romance is his subject matter, and Sheppard sings with all the credibility of a middle-aged man in a singles bar trying to break in a pair of tight blue jeans.
Unlike Sheppard, Eddie Rabbitt has become the master of the cross-over hit. Hailing from New Jersey, Rabbitt has never had a problem keeping the hillbilly out of his country. That's one reason why many of his 13 number-one country hits collected on his new album, "#1's," did cross over to the pop charts. The other reason is that Rabbitt, while he leans on cliches, writes catchy, up-tempo songs, as "Drivin' My Life Away" and "I Love a Rainy Night" so insistently prove.
EARL THOMAS CONLEY -- Treadin' Water" (RCA AHL1-5175);
T.G. SHEPPARD -- "Livin' on the Edge" (Columbia FC40007);
EDDIE RABBITT -- "#1's" (Warner Bros. 25278); all appearing Saturday at the Bull Run Country Jamboree in Centreville.