There has been change in the 2019 Festival of the Bells entertainment lineup. Rather than Ashley McBride taking the stage on Saturday night it will now be Devin Dawson, who gained attention last year with the release of his debut country album “Dark Horses.”
Williams said he and the committee tried to sign Dotson for last year’s festival shortly after his January release of Dark Horses, but they were not able to work out a deal.
“He was the hot one out of the gate then, and he’s got some great songs,” Williams said. “We’re really happy with the way it’s all worked out. I think he’ll put on a great, great show.”
Some of the hits off Dawson’s debut album include “Dark Horses,” “All on Me” and “Asking for a Friend.”
The festival committee is still not sure what direction it’s going to go with warmup acts for the Thursday, Friday and Saturday concerts, according to Williams. He said some people have expressed interest in performing, but the committee is not sure whether it will have warmup acts or not.
This year’s festival runs July 4-6.
As previously announced, Ryan Stevenson will kick the festival off Thursday evening with a Christian concert sponsored by local churches. Tyler Rich, who has hits with “The Difference” and “Eleven Eleven,” will be the headline act Friday.
All three featured performances are scheduled to start around 9 p.m.
For the second year in a row, the festival will be held at the Southern State Community College campus in Hillsboro. Williams said that location worked out well a year ago and modifications are being explored to make the site better.
“We appreciate (SSCC President) Dr. Kevin Boys and all the other people out in that area working with us,” Williams said. “Like there is with anything new, we have a few things we can do better, and we’re going to be making a few changes.”
He said one of those will be additional parking on the Southern State grounds.
The 30-year-old Dawson is not a typical country artist, according to opry.com.
“His look is dark and bold. His sound is sleek and raw. He has a knack for writing razor sharp stories that cut straight to the heart, full of detail and clever turns of phrase,” the website says. “And his songs speak the language of a new generation. Dawson is an edgy study in contrast, poised as the next bolt of lightning to hit country’s family tree.
“From Orangevale, Calif., Dawson grew up just outside the gates of Folsom Prison. He heard the sirens at night, and sang along to Johnny Cash, Alan Jackson, Marvin Gaye and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Arriving in Nashville in 2012, he put his unique skills to use authoring songs for other artists. When it came time to put together his own debut album, he teamed with equally daring producer Jay Joyce (Eric Church, Little Big Town). Having co-written every track, the result is a mix of organic roots and high-voltage country, full of romance and delivered with a distinctive saw-toothed vocal.”
The festival typically kicks off Thursday with a Christian concert and Brian Robinson, organizer of the event, said he is excited about bringing Stevenson to Hillsboro.
“He struggled with some things in high school and later in life that obviously led him to the lord, and as a result his music is focused on his trials and troubles,” Robinson previously told The Times-Gazette. “We’re excited. I think he will reach out to our community and our young people that are struggling with issues, and we’ll see how the lord works that night.”
Williams said Friday’s main attraction, Rich, has been out with Brett Young, who attracted the biggest crowd to the festival to date.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522.