LeMars, Iowa....."The Rural Roots Music Commission was established in Iowa in the early 90's," according to Bob Everhart who sits on the Board.  "In the beginning we just gathered together like-minded music lovers to listen to, cuss, and discuss, what we liked or didn't like about new country music record releases.  We soon discovered that today's modern country music genre leaves a lot to be desired among fans of more traditional or classic country music.  We also learned rather rapidly that the artists who did an older form of country music were nowhere to be found in today's top-40 radio charts.  That led us to having more meetings and more listenings of local, statewide, and regional recordings, and much to our surprise we found there were a lot of artists recording not only superlative country music, but also folk, bluegrass, alternative, Americana, all kinds of incredibly good American music, but recognition for their work and talent was pretty dismal, especially coming from the so-called commercial country music world.  That led us to an investigatory experience finding, listening to, and eventually awarding merit and honor to those who excel in what they do 'outside' the commercial arena.  What we eventually discovered was what we might consider a goldmine of incredibly pleasurable and creative music .  The Rural Roots Music Commission now honors national and international artists as well, and the awards for "CD of the Year" are given annually at the National Traditional Country Music Association's festival of rural music, in LeMars, Iowa, Aug. 26-Sept. 1, this year.  This event is in its 38th year and now has ten stages going from 9am to midnight every day for seven days.  Over 650 musical participants come to this huge convention of old-time country, folk, bluegrass, and a zillion other beautiful genres of music that have nothing to do with today's so-called country music.  It should also be noted that the Rural Roots Music Commission does not try to stuff an artist in a pre-conceived genre box, rather they make
the box fit the artist.
     Storm Seymour, a young Tama Indian country singer from Tama, Iowa, is without a doubt one of Iowa's favorite country singers.  His incredible compassion, and passion when he sings, is singularly incredible.  Storm, even from a very young age, was gifted with music.  Yes of course, his own Native music, drums, dance, pow-wows.  But he expanded as he grew older, and once in what we now call a 'real' country music format, he became one of the very best vocalists and songwriters in the business.  Not just in Iowa, his 'gift' has taken him to international fame, and places down the road he never thought he would travel without his musical gift.  Storm and his brothers formed a band in Tama, called 'White Swan' named after their beloved grandmother.  This is one of those groups, much like the Everly Brothers, who makes music so easily and so beautifully.  They still play occasionally, and when they do, it's a real treat to country music lovers who hear them.  Together they make some really delightful CD.s  This particular CD "Home Grown" is just Storm, and his niece Snow Seymour.  She has a voice very similar to Storm's, just as passionate, with just as much compassion when she sings.  When they match each other in harmony, it's very much like that 'tight' harmony of the Everly Brothers (also from Iowa, where they got their start).  There's some interesting backing as you listen to this delightful CD.  Mostly it's Storm on acoustic guitar, but he adds, very tastefully, an occasional stick-drum sound, sometimes an organ sound, sometimes nothing additional at all, which is the case with Snow's Spanish song "Historia De Un Amour" which is totally au capello.  Translated I believe that means the "History Of A Love."  It is entrancing.  "Long House" is also a nice Indian song in their own language."    
     Storm & Snow will join a number of celebrities at this year's event, most of whom will be entering America's Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame at LeMars.  On hand for this year's honors are: Joanne Cash (Johnny Cash's younger sister); Dr. Harry Yates (Founder of Cowboy Church and the husband of Joanne Cash); Ed Bruce (songwriter and recording artist, he wrote "Mama's Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys"); Terry Smith (composer of "Far Side Banks of Jordan" for Johnny & June Carter Cash): LuLu Roman (a star from the popular television show HeeHaw who now sings gospel music); Kenny Seratt (holds the incredible title of showing Merle Haggard how to sing like Merle Haggard); and Mickey Gilley (arguably America's most famous honky-tonk piano player).  Add to this over 650 performers of acoustic music and you have a melting pot of incredible music.  According to Everhart, "We have a lot of activities going on ten stages.  One stage, the air conditioned one is our main stage where the awards are given.  Adjoining it is the Dance Hall where we have evening dances as well as day-time shows.  Next to it is the workshop building, which also hosts jams and contests.  We have one building devoted to just the musical instrument called the Dobro, and next to it the Pioneer Building which is another show-house of older music.  Outdoors we have the Gospel Stage, the One on the Mountain Stage, the Tipi Village Stage, and the Log Cabin Front Porch Stage.  We also have about three distinct areas where 'jamming' takes place.  All in all it's a tremendous musical experience."
     The festival is actually a fund-raiser for NTCMA properties.  The Pioneer Music Museum is located in Anita, Iowa, and contains over 3,000 artifacts relative to the music they are saving.  Everhart says, "We are actually an endangered species.  Music changes so rapidly at the commercial level, it's difficult to keep all of America's past musical genres alive and well, but our museum does a pretty good job of that."  Also in Anita, is the Oak Tree Performance Center, where Everhart and his wife Sheila stage old-time music shows and concerts.  Recording artists themselves, for the Smithsonian Institution, they have created a safe haven for Iowa's rural music, if not America's.

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