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09 Jan 10 LaRue Has Red Dirt on His Boots

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When I was growing up in Shreveport, LA, my family used to go to a little section of Kisatchie National Forest for day trips. The area was known as “Red Dirt.” We had miles of hiking trails, and it was the closest thing to a mountain that I saw until we finally went to the Smoky Mountains.

Today, “red dirt” has a different meaning for me. It’s a sound, it’s a style, it’s a group of musicians. And it is a lot of fun.

One of the leaders of the Red Dirt music movement is Stoney LaRue. And whether he is at home in Oklahoma, or traveling throughout the country, this Texas music fan favorite is always belting out the tunes that help make Red Dirt music popular.

“I was singing as long as I can remember,” LaRue said during a recent TMJ interview. “I grew up in southeast Oklahoma with my grandparents. When I turned 21, I got my first job singing in a bar.”

Nothing about LaRue is ordinary. Even the way he got that first job is a story in itself.

“Three of us lived together and wrote songs,” he said. “The boys got a job performing. They got me to sing some songs. Later that evening, while I was at the urinal, the bar owner saw me and offered me a singing position. I haven’t had a job since!”

What exactly is Red Dirt music? It’s hard to define. According to LaRue, it is not any one particular style of song, but more of an understood thing.

“It’s not really a place, but more like the air, the vibe, the good old boy, the hippie, the redneck, the free will, the truth, all that style of writing. My own songs range from country and rock to soul. It is not so much a genre as it is an idea, to give music to the people who need it, like Woody Guthrie did,” he said.

So Red Dirt can mean different things to different people. And LaRue reaches a lot of those people. One night may find him in a small honky tonk, and the next night could place him in front of a concert hall full of screaming fans.

“I like every level of playing music, from playing to your dog to playing to thousands of people,” LaRue commented. “They get it at different levels. Clubs have people who look forward to Friday, cashing their check and listening to music, while there are other people who look forward to a concert for months.”

LaRue enjoys both environments.  My music could turn them on to something completely different.”

Different moments give him different thrills. Regardless of where LaRue is playing, he says he doesn’t limit himself to the stage. His music, his environment, his memories often take him somewhere else.

“It will bring me back to a certain moment,” he said. “It’s amazing how it opens a portal for an onslaught of emotions. There’s a lot of different places I go on stage.”

Songwriting is as important to performing for LaRue. He has been working recently with a unique co-writer: his 7-year-old daughter. She’s been bitten by the bug. They have started on a song called “I Love Butterflies.” He wants to record it and have her perform it live.

LaRue said, “Songwriting is totally a reflection of who you are as a person. It is an inward look to stay outward. It’s therapeutic, really. People like to see the emotion. I have seen artists who are songwriters, and they deliver it like they meant to write it.

“Sometimes I can hear somebody say something, and I can write around it. It presents itself when it needs to be written. I try to latch on to those moments, and that line. I just sit down, focus on the idea from start to finish, and with the melody try to put some fantastic music behind it.”

LaRue’s music is indeed fantastic. You can hear a little Willie or Merle, then swear you hear the CCR influence. And that is what comes with the Red Dirt movement: it’s not a genre, it’s an idea.

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Stoney LaRue will appear Thursday night at Winstar Casino, just over the Oklahoma state line on Interstate 35, as part of their Red Dirt music series.

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