8:00 p.m.
Rialto Square Theatre
102 N. Chicago Street

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Those who best understand Phil Vassar -good-time, whirling-dervish-on-the-piano, hardest-working-man-in-country-music Phil Vassar -also understand the ongoing evolution of his mostly self-penned music. And Prayer Of A Common Man, his fourth studio album and first for Universal Records South, adds several more layers of artistic expression to his deepening repertoire.

The Virginia-born singer, songwriter and musician took his seat as country's leading piano man with the success of songs like "Just Another Day In Paradise" and "Six-Pack Summer," and his penchant for pure musical escapism continues. Vassar's heart-swelling embrace of life's richest blessings is also apparent, especially on lead single "Love Is A Beautiful Thing." At the same time, his writing has grown more introspective and personal, as "This Is My Life" and the title track can attest.

Like light through a prism, the hues of Vassar's muse are both seamless and distinct. And those shades are a direct reflection of the many forces at work in the life of a maturing recording artist.

"I can look back on songs I've written, kind of smile and remember what I was going through at the time," Vassar says. "But it's a different life for me now. Experience changes you and affects what comes out in your writing."

As the cares of the world work on him, Vassar finds the pull of home growing stronger, which gave weight to the choice of "Love Is A Beautiful Thing" as his album's first single. "It reminds me of growing up back home in Virginia," he says. "It really paints a portrait of Americana. Every time I hear that second verse about giving away your daughter at her wedding it makes me tear up. In a way, the song reminds me of every family reunion or get-together we had in my family."

Devotion to family is one of the reasons Vassar has become increasingly contemplative and emotional with his music. He considered his place in the world with "American Child," addressed hard questions of faith in "This Is God" and explored that which truly brings meaning in his most recent smash, last year's "Last Day Of My Life."

As much as Vassar's muse has seen a logical expansion, he's the first to admit that recent events have pushed him to a tipping point. "Someone asked me the other day, 'What, are you angry or something?'" he explains. "I went, 'Hell yeah, I'm angry. Is it okay with you to be paying $3.95 for a gallon of gas? Is it okay that people send their kids off to school to get blown away?'"

As a single, involved father of two – daughters Haley, 9 and Presley, 4 - Vassar feels those concerns acutely. "It's easy to be a happy-go-lucky guy when you're young," Vassar says. "Having kids raises your level of concern about just about everything."

For instance, the tragedy at Virginia Tech, which hit home – quite literally – for the Lynchburg, Virginia native and James Madison University alum. "These are the kinds of things I'm concerned about," Vassar says. "Not getting drunk with my buddies. That's still fun...once in a while. But the world I'm raising my kids in is more important to me now." Vassar had the opportunity to take his increasingly pointed songwriting home in August 2007 when he was slated as one of four artists to headline the Concert for Virginia Tech (with Dave Matthews, John Mayer and Nas).

He may be an acclaimed performer and chief executive of a successful business venture, but he's also the son of a factory worker from a small, Southern, lunch pail town. "I grew up poor," Vassar says. "Not middle class, we were just poor. You don't really know it or understand it when you're a kid. I never had a car. I didn't have one even college. I'd have never even gone to college if I couldn't run fast or jump high."