On the up and up

Booker Lee & the County Fair have high hopes for album No. 2

Booker Lee & the County Fair have high hopes for album No. 2

February 05, 2009|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

GETTYSBURG, Pa. - Booker Lee & the County Fair hope their upcoming sophomore album, "For the Commonwealth," will be a step up from their first.

"We're ready to take it to the next level," said Josh "Booker Lee" Fidler, frontman of the alt-country foursome from Gettysburg.

But don't get things confused. Their self-produced debut album "Journal" wasn't necessarily a scrub album. It was nominated for best alt-country record by Music Resource Group's Independent Music Awards in 2007. Music Resource Group is a professional organization for indie artists.

The guys are hoping "Commonwealth," to be released later this year, will generate even more buzz. Unlike the first album, "Commonwealth" will be a live studio recording.


"We're trying to capture the feel of our live shows," Fidler said.

Booker Lee & the County Fair are the openers at a benefit concert at Unique Bar & Grill in Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., where they'll perform songs from upcoming album.

The band gigs steadily throughout Pennsylvania and dips into Baltimore on occasion, but Fidler is taking on the brunt of the promoting and booking duties, and he's kind of over it. They want some mainstream exposure.

Fidler chatted with The Herald-Mail days before the show to talk about the state of the music and where he sees the band going in the next 10 years.

Says Fidler, the band is stage ready and has its studio game in check - ahem - ready for a label willing to foot the bill for promotions and marketing.

The guys could also use a manager.

Booker Lee & the County Fair formed as an outgrowth of Fidler, in what he described as an artistic need to come to terms with the death of his grandmother - whose nickname was "Booker" and middle name was Lee. The alt-country genre, Fidler said, allowed him to be more honest and personal.

He complained about what other indie artists from other genres (rap music comes to mind) face: attaining mass appeal while preserving artistic integrity.

Gaining fame as an alt-country band is further complicated, he said, because if you say the word "country," people have a limited understanding of what belongs in that genre.

"You think of Toby Keith - all these sort of campy, hokey songs," Fidler said.

And some people don't want hints of rock and folk in their country, Fidler said.

"They say, 'You're not country enough,'" Fidler said. "Then there's the people who won't listen to you at all because they don't like country."

Booker Lee & the Country Fair

Genre - Alt-country

Hometown - Gettysburg, Pa.

Upcoming performance - 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 7, Alzheimer's benefit concert @ Unique Bar & Grill, 13314 Monterey Lane, Blue Ridge Summit, Pa. Call 717-794-2565.

Web -

Q&A with Josh Fidler

So, what would be your ideal live show?
One set. That's why we've been doing a a lot of benefit shows. Sometimes you'll end up doing three-, four-hour marathon sets. Unless you're Bruce Springsteen at Madison Square Garden, it's hard to maintain that level of energy. But in a good set, you're leaving people wanting to see you again.

If you could open for anyone, who would it be?
Steve Earle or Lucinda Williams. They've been such an influence for us. They've crafted this genre - Americana, alt-country.

So who are some of your other influences?
Ryan Adams is one of my favorite artists. He just pumps out songs like nobody's business. He's constantly working.

Where do you see the band 10 years from now?
We've already accomplished a lot of things. If you asked me four years ago, I wouldn't have thought we'd be this far.

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