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      Aaron Lewis in Anchorage

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      January 16, 2020

      Thursday   8:00 PM

      621 West 6th Avenue Suite ACPA
      Anchorage, Alaska 99501

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      Aaron Lewis

      If it sounds like Aaron Lewis is long past defending his Country musicpedigree, that would be a correct assessment. Lewis would prefer the musicspeak for itself and, with the release of SINNER, Lewis stunning Dot Recordsfollow-up to his groundbreaking full-length solo debut The Road in 2012, anywould-be detractors will be pretty much out of ammo.Lewis, however, is not. SINNER blasts through todays Country musicdoldrums like a shot of 100-proof whiskey, with the singer making zero compromises with either himself or therestrictions of a format that seems to have abandoned its rougher tendencies in favor of pop and 70s rockinclinations largely lacking in grit.Id like to think that SINNER is a newer take on classic, traditional Outlaw Country, Waylon and Merle andWillie, and Hank Jr. and Johnny Cash and all that stuff, says Lewis. That was the music I heard as a kid, andthats the Country music that permeated my soul and stuck with me my whole life.Lewis admits he didnt really pay attention to any of the Country music in between that early Outlawexposure and his emergence as a new voice for the genre with the release of Country Boy on the Town LineEP in 2011. I was too busy going down the road of one day ending up being in a rock band, and revoltingagainst the music I was basically force-fed as a kid, he says. I finally came around full circle, and this musiccrept back into my life. My plumber at the time bet me that I wouldnt write a Country song, so I sat down andwrote Country Boy, and the rest is history.As the front man for one of modern rocks most successful bands in Staind, Lewis admits his entre into theCountry world has been met with mixed reactions. I have definitely dealt with some of the old guardquestioning my commitment to the genre, questioning how much of this might be a toe-dipping in the water tosee what the temperature is, he says. I had, and still have, a very established career in the rock world, and asmuch as that has been a blessing in some ways, it has been a curse in others in trying to be looked at assomebody who is taking this seriously and isnt just trying to go where the money is. There has been a prettybig misconception Ive had to battle, but there has also been lots of support. There have been times Ive beentold by a program director that my record was his favorite that came out that year but he couldnt play itbecause its too Country. The landscape of Country radio today doesnt really leave any room for an artist likemyself that has no desire to mix pop music with Country music. Why would I do that?Few pop-tinged songs would dare feature lyrics as candid, biting and personal as those on SINNER. If CountryBoy, with its swaggering bravado, was the opening salvo, the 11 songs on SINNER herald a man whoadmitsand often deeply regretshis personal shortcomings, yet offers no excuses. This is an album ofacknowledgement, admittance, moments of self-awareness, he says. It has been a pretty trying time in my lifeover the past few years, and these songs are what have come of it. At the risk of sounding clich, my music hasalways been therapeutic for me.Produced by Country legend Buddy Cannon (whose production resume boasts masterpieces with artists rangingfrom Kenny Chesney and George Strait to Merle Haggard and George Jones), and recorded over 16 intensehours at Nashvilles Blackbird Studios, SINNER captures what was going on in Lewis head at this point in hislife; laid back with a soundtrack that harkens back to the Country genres most honest and musicallyadventurous artists.I loved working with Buddy, says Lewis. Hes an amazing, highly accomplished producer that really doesnthave very many bad ideas. And he also steps back and allows you to be creative and do whatever it is youredoing, and doesnt try to change the vision that you have. I was able to write and record a record that I wasresponsible for how it came out.Written on tour and during infrequent down times over the past two years, and road-tested in front of fans thatbasically served as judge and jury for inclusion on the record, the songs on SINNER together alternate betweenswagger and vulnerability, biting humor and fierce independence. Lewis and his creative compadre BenKitterman (Lewis former bus driver who earned a permanent place by his side on the road and in the studioonce his talent was discovered), are joined by such A-Listers as Brent Mason (guitar), Paul Franklin (steelguitar), Jim Moose Brown (keyboards), Bobby Terry (guitar), Pat Buchanan (guitar) and Tony Creaseman(drums). Also taking part are such country stalwarts as Mickey Raphael, Willie Nelson (who adds a committedgravitas to the title cut), Alison Krauss, Dan Tyminski and Vince Gill. Remarkably, I think I got Vince Gill tosing the word shit for the first time in his career, Lewis says with a laugh.Most of the songs were cut live in the studio, using scratch vocals. I had a pretty good idea what I wanted thealbum to sound like, says Lewis, and then it was a matter of just going in and either playing songs for theguys in the studio live on an acoustic guitar and let them go from there; or playing them YouTube clips of thesong live off of somebodys phone. Most of the time, they didnt even need to listen to the whole song, they gotthe gist of it, charted it out, and then went in there and nailed it on one or two takes. Everything is live,everybody was just playing the song and going right to tape, and then 16 hours later the recording process wascomplete.The result is an album that is as raw and as real and as un-messed with as it could possibly be, according toLewis, with the energy of a band record and an introspective tone that completely reflects the state of mind ofAaron Lewis. Creative flourishes abound, with innovative arrangements melding with traditional honky-tonkstructures and instrumentations, along with muscular ballads and powerful themes of love, loyalty, alienationand regret, tempered by a dose of humor and knowing introspection.While Lewis lyrics and vocals astound throughout, perhaps the most impactful song on an immenselyinteresting and entertaining album is its hidden track, a version of the Bruce Robison gem Travelin Soldierfeaturing vocals from Lewis then-13 year-old daughter, Zoe. In her recorded vocal debut, Zoe nails it, providingan innocence and purity of tone that serve the songs lyrics to the highest level. Its an auspicious debut, and oneLewis admits could change his daughters life.I am beyond proud, says Lewis. She has this innocence and purity to her voice because its a completelyraw, untrained voice. All I was doing in the room, silently, with hand gestures and body motions, was just tryingto get her to sing loud and project, just trying to get her to go after it.The power of Zoes debut begs the question of how Lewis would feel if his daughter were to embark on a careerin a business he has been openly critical of. I would be very, very cautious, and supportively against it, if thatmakes any sense, he says. It is a vicious, vicious industry, and I would have to be right there at her side,holding her hand the entire time in order to be comfortable with it. Ive heard it all already, every possible thingyou could throw at my daughter to influence her in some way, and it aint gonna happen.While SINNER may surprise those unaware of Lewis lyrical depth and vocal authority, hard-core fans of hisconcerts (which he describes as a very healthy mix of cowboy hats, baseball caps, tattoos, black shirts) willrejoice in having definitive copies of songs theyve been hearing live and on the Internet, some for a couple ofyears.Lyrically, Lewis generally doesnt lead with his political views (though his stance is often to be found for thosewho look), he has been publicly outspoken in ways few Country artists dare in these complicated, polarizingtimes. I believe in this country, I believe in the Constitution that created it, I believe in conservative capitalism,I believe in all the things that made this country great, and I will not shut up about that for anyone, he states.And if you dont like it, dont talk politics with me, because Im constitutionally correct in every single thing Isay.As to whether his outspokenness has impacted his career, Lewis says, Its not hurting me as far as I know, but Icouldnt give a damn, I dont care. And, honestly, I could care less if I lost a couple of people because of thatalong the way. If you cant enjoy my music anymore because you dont see eye-to-eye with me, then so be it.Whatever.And, after putting his heart and soul on the line to create SINNER, Lewis feels similarly about how it lands inthe marketplace. You cant make everybody happy, he says, so you put your best foot forward, you hopeeverybody likes it, and if they dont, f- em.

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