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Brantley Gilbert, just as he is

By JACK W. HILL SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

This article was published April 17, 2014 at 2:42 a.m.

brantley-gilbert

Brantley Gilbert

In 2012, country newcomer Brantley Gilbert came to Little Rock’s Barton Coliseum. Now he has decided to “Let It Ride” and is coming this weekend to North Little Rock’s Verizon Arena in a tour by that name.

Gilbert, 29, is riding high these days, thanks to his recent single “Bottoms Up” contained on his forthcoming third CD, Just as I Am. And if the name of the album sounds familiar to those of the Baptist upbringing, Gilbert has an explanation.

“All my records have spiritual titles,” Gilbert told County Music Television in an April 2 interview. “I’m a hell raiser, I’m a bad boy, whatever they want to call me, but I am a believer first, and that’s always been my safe place. I don’t get to go to church as often as I would like to, but the relationship stands where it stands - priorities.”

Gilbert’s previous albums were Modern Day Prodigal Son in 2009 and Halfway to Heaven in 2010. Just as I Am is set for release May 20 by The Valory Music Co. division of Big Machine Records, which rereleased his previous albums (after they had earlier come out on a much smaller label). His second album contained Gilbert’s first two No. 1 hits: “Country Must Be Country Wide” and “You Don’t Know Her Like I Do.” Subsequent singles “Kick It in the Sticks” and “More Than Miles” reached No. 34 and 7, respectively.

Gilbert first got attention when he co-wrote two of Jason Aldean’s hit singles, “My Kinda Party” and “Dirt Road Anthem.” By 2013, Gilbert received the Academy of Country Music New Male Artist award.

He worked his way up in the world of touring, beginning in 2011 as an opening act on Willie Nelson’s “Country Throwdown Tour.” By 2012, he had secured a spot on two tours, Eric Church’s “Blood, Sweat and Beers Tour” and Toby Keith’s “Live in Overdrive Tour.”

That same year was Gilbert’s first headlining tour of his own, which he branded “Hell on Wheels.” In 2013, he went out with Tim McGraw’s “Two Lanes of Freedom Tour.”

Opening act Thomas Rhett, 24, the son of country songwriter Rhett Akins, released his debut self-titled EP in 2012 and a full album in October, It Goes Like This. The title cut became his first No. 1 hit. His other singles include “Beer With Jesus,” “Something to Do With My Hands” and “Get Me Some of That.”

Gilbert’s other opening act, Eric Paslay, released his debut self-titled album Feb. 4. His singles include “Never Really Wanted,” “If the Fish Don’t Bite,” “Sorry About a Girl” and “Friday Night,” which reached No. 1 in late 2013. He has written or co-written songs for Lady Antebellum, Rascal Flatts, Jake Owens, the Eli Young Band and Love and Theft.

Brantley Gilbert

Opening acts: Thomas Rhett, Eric Paslay 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Verizon Arena, East Broadway and Interstate 30, North Little Rock Tickets: $48.50 $41, $36 (800) 745-3000 ticketmaster.com

Weekend, Pages 33 on 04/17/2014

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