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Wider country boundaries work to Gill's advantage


Even though his new album, "I Still Believe in You," isn't due in stores until next week, Vince Gill has already spent most of his summer on tour. "We've done like 52 shows in the last 63 days," he says over the phone from his Nashville home. "Been home for a couple of days, going back out again tonight."

Asked if he thought that much roadwork before the release date was an odd way to promote a new album, Gill just laughs. "Country artists never tour to support an album," he says. "They just tour."

Gill may have been in Nashville long enough to know the rules of the road, but his music is anything but standard country fare. Sure, Gill still uses fiddle and pedal steel on his albums, but for the most part, the songs on "I Still Believe in You" come across not as straight country music, but as pop with country roots.

"I know what you mean," he agrees. "It's interesting, though. On the one end of the spectrum, there's a tune on the new album where I feel like I'm in a Michael Bolton vein, or even Otis Redding. Then a couple of the other songs, I think, make George Strait sound like a pop act, you know?

"I just think that's due to the health in country music. From what everybody thought was the norm, the boundaries are pretty wide right now."

And that broadening has certainly worked to Gill's advantage. Although he spent his youth playing bluegrass in Oklahoma, his career didn't really take off until he'd joined the country rock act Pure Prairie League (their Top-10 hit "Let Me Love You Tonight" was one of his). Gill wasn't a rocker, though; he was a singer/songwriter who wanted to be a country star.

Trouble was, the country scene of the '70s and early '80s didn't have much use for a man of his talents. "For a long time, the singer-songwriter was not a very commercial property in Nashville," Gill admits. "Nashville was the song-writing town. You be the artist, and we'll provide you with the songs."

Gill may have felt like an outcast commercially, but personally, he felt like he had "eight zillion friends here within the industry," and that made it easier for him to keep on plugging.

"I mean, I couldn't find the right record to kick the door in," he says. "I kept making records and making records and making records and wondering which one's going to be the one. It makes you feel a little bit like an outcast, to see everybody else having huge hits and selling records. You're all playing the same three or four chords.

"After recording here for about seven years, with an occasional hit, I was thinking, 'Man, they're going to bail on me here before long.' And 'When I Call Your Name' came out, it just kind of snuck in under the wire."

Since then, though, Gill's impeccable musicianship, knowledge of country music history and not-insignificant chart success have ensured his place within the Nashville establishment.

"I'm probably one of the more accepted artists by the old guard, if you will," he says. "I don't feel any kind of resistance from the older establishment of Nashville. In fact, I get to host the CMA awards this year. I feel pretty good about my relationship with the town."

Vince Gill

When: Aug. 30 at 8 p.m.

Where: Merriweather Post Pavilion.

Tickets: $15.50 lawn (pavilion seating sold out).

Call: (410) 730-2424 for information, (410) 481-7328 for tickets.

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