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When Country and Metal Share a Creative Brain 

Fans of Staind's Aaron Lewis may be catching onto the musician's new-old style

Aaron Lewis encountered his share of naysayers when he first dipped his toes into country music with his 2011 EP, "Town Line." As the lead singer of Staind, Lewis was a star on the metal scene, and plenty of people dismissed his foray into country as a vanity project.

With the arrival this month of Lewis' second full-length album, "Sinner," Lewis said people are taking his country solo career more seriously.

"I think that everyone is finally starting to figure out that I'm not going anywhere," Lewis said.

Aside from a Staind tour in summer 2014, that band has been inactive. But since releasing his first full-length album, "The Road," in 2012, Lewis has been one of the hardest-touring artists in country music.

"My October, November, December tour is already pretty much sold out," Lewis said. "I'm consistently selling out 2,500 to 3,000 seats with hard tickets."

Meanwhile, Staind fans should not expect that band to reunite any time soon."I definitely see it staying on hold for awhile," he said of Staind. "I've got to stay focused on this (country career). I've got to take this to where it needs to get to before I can start risking things with the good ol' boy network reception and throwing in a handful of Staind shows in the summertime, along with all of my country shows. But that's down the road. I can't even think about that right now."

Although appearances may have suggested otherwise, Lewis came to country music honestly. Growing up in Massachusetts, he was immersed in traditional country through his grandfather, who had classic country playing throughout the day.

In his later teens, Lewis began getting interested in heavy metal and hard rock, which is why when he emerged on the music scene, it was with Staind—one of hard rock's most popular bands with a string of chart-topping albums.

Over time, the group experienced its share of internal turmoil and went on hiatus after the 2011 album. That's when Lewis re-embraced the country music roots of his youth and released "Town Line" and "The Road."

He's earned enough respect that "Sinner" features guest appearances from such major names in country as Willie Nelson, Vince Gill and Alison Krauss. Nelson adds vocals to the new album's title track, while Gill and Krauss sing on "That's Not Country," the first single from "Sinner." On "That's Not Country," Lewis takes aim at mainstream country music, saying what he hears on radio isn't what he considers country.

The second verse sums up the message: "That ain't country, that's a natural fact/It's full of tales of good times and happy endings, my life ain't like that/ So I'll keep listenin' to the old songs that my granddad used to play/Full of pain and heartache and desperation and the ones that got away." Like "Town Line" and "The Road," "Sinner" takes Lewis down a musical path rooted in the classic country of Haggard, George Jones and other artists of the 1960s and '70s.

The album features a mix of sturdy acoustic-based ballads like "Sunday Every Saturday Night," "Whiskey and You" and "Mama," and a few rockers ("That's Not Country" and "Northern Redneck"). Lewis wrote the songs on "Sinner" during sound checks on tour and tested out most of them on audiences during concerts. His shows this fall will have a similar mix of songs.

"I've been playing it (the "Sinner" album) a bunch, probably about half and half new stuff versus the stuff from the previous records," Lewis said. "It certainly hasn't slowed down on how country it is."

Aaron Lewis

Thursday, Nov. 3, 7 pm

Midtown Ballroom, 51 NW Greenwood Ave., Bend

$32.50

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