MSU Riley Center announces spring/summer series

Music lovers of all kinds will find something to enjoy in the MSU Riley Center's 2012 Spring/Summer Performing Arts Series. It kicks off Friday, March 9, when country singer Josh Turner takes the stage in Meridian, treating ticket holders to his rich baritone and slow twang.

Country music fans won't be disappointed either with additional stars in the Riley Center series, including Grammy winner Lee Ann Womack as well as the renowned Wynonna Judd, touring with her band, The Big Noise.

Pop and rock also have a place in the lineup. The three ladies of Wilson Phillips, known for their 1990s hit "Hold On," come to Meridian in March. Don't miss our special added guest artist Bonnie Raitt performing Tuesday, May 8. Eddie Levert of the legendary O'Jays performs solo in June. For every member of the family, the Riley Center is happy to present in May The House at Pooh Corner, a sweet stage adaptation of A.A. Milne's classic book.

Listeners will be treated to a unique meeting of jazz and bluegrass in April when American Legacies: The Del McCoury Band and The Preservation Hall Jazz Band takes the stage. Both groups have been singing, playing, and picking for more than 50 years, but they have just recently joined together for several exciting shows. In another interesting pairing, The Ruthie Foster Band joins singer Paul Thorn in May, creating beautiful music with influences from gospel and blues to folk, rock, and country.

Grammy Award winners Jars of Clay bring their blues- and rock-infused contemporary Christian hits to the Riley Center in June. Those who love hearing the pedal steel guitar cannot miss the August concert of Robert Randolph and The Family Band. And patrons of the Spring/Summer Series will get a treat on July 17, when Alice Tan Ridley comes to town. This former subway singer and 2010 star from television's America's Got Talent delights audiences wherever she goes.

"This season offers an entertaining mix of classic, well-known musicians along with hot new artists and unique pairings," said Dennis Sankovich, executive director of the MSU Riley Center. "We're excited to be hosting such an incredible variety of talented acts, and to continue our tradition of family shows as well.

"Our ticket packages this season are very flexible and great to give as gifts or keep for yourself," Sankovich added.

Current season-ticket holders must renew by Friday, Jan. 27, to hold the same seats. New season-ticket buyers may purchase their packages starting Wednesday, Feb. 1. A "build your own package" option, which includes a discount and early seating, is available for those who wish to purchase tickets to three or more shows. Tickets for these packages can be purchased starting Monday, Feb. 13. Tickets for individual shows go on sale Monday, Feb. 20.

Performances start at 7:30 p.m., except on Sundays, when the starting time is 6 p.m. Select shows will feature pre-show parties in the Grand Lobby, allowing patrons to socialize and enjoy refreshments as a prelude to the evening's entertainment.

Tickets and information are available by phone or in person at the MSU Riley Center box office Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and one hour before showtime on the day of a show. The telephone number is 601-696-2200, and the address is 2200 Fifth Street in downtown Meridian.

Here is the complete Spring/Summer Series lineup, including ticket prices:

Josh Turner
Friday, March 9, 2012 / 7:30 p.m. / $68, $62
Pre-Show Party at 6 p.m.

With his deep baritone and slow twang, Josh Turner was an attention-getter from the moment he took the Grand Ole Opry stage in 2001. His performance of "Long Black Train" prompted a standing ovation -- before he had even finished the song. From there, Turner's career has climbed to the heights of country music. A multiplatinum recording artist, the South Carolina native recently saw his fourth number one single, "All Over Me," named 2011's Song of the Year by BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.).

For Fans of: Billy Currington, Josh Gracin, Tracy Byrd

What Critics Say: "Josh Turner has a rich, deep voice that wraps itself around you like a blanket and makes you feel cozy." -- Scott Malchus

An Evening with Wilson Phillips
Sunday, March 25, 2012 / 6 p.m. / $50, $44

After reigning as one of the 1990's power female singing groups, Wilson Phillips has come back strong, reuniting in 2004 and releasing their fourth original album in 2010. Their latest album, titled Dedicated, will debut in 2012. The offspring of well-known parents, siblings Carnie and Wendy Wilson (daughters of The Beach Boys' Brian Wilson) and Chynna Phillips (daughter of The Mamas & the Papas' John and Michelle Phillips) are best known for their 1990 hit "Hold On."

For Fans of: Paula Abdul, Taylor Dayne, Tiffany

What Critics Say: "The vocals soar and come together in perfect harmony." -- David Bowling,

"The girls' signature golden harmonies are allowed to take center stage." -- Sal Cinquemani, Slant Magazine

American Legacies: The Del McCoury Band and The Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Saturday, April 7, 2012 / 7:30 p.m. / $40, $34

The mountains of Appalachia and the bayous of Louisiana are closer together than you think. When the brass of The Preservation Hall Jazz Band meets the bluegrass of The Del McCoury Band, the result is magic. Both groups recently celebrated 50 years of music together, but they've only recently partnered to show how these two distinctly American genres play so well together.

For Fans of: Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams Sr., Branford Marsalis

What Critics Say: "It is good to be the king. And that is precisely what Del McCoury -- backed by arguably the most formidable bluegrass outfit in existence -- remains." -- Billboard

"The tradition of New Orleans jazz championed by The Preservation Hall Jazz Band has to be the purest expression of the 'melting pot' ideal ...where talent reigns, anything goes." -- Los Angeles Times

Lee Ann Womack
Saturday, April 14, 2012 / 7:30 p.m. / $52, $46
Pre-Show Party at 6 p.m.

Aside from her Grammy-winning crossover hit, "I Hope You Dance," Lee Ann Womack is a classic country girl. Influenced by the country albums her father played while she accompanied him at his part-time disc jockey job, she fills her own award-winning albums with aching anthems and songs about love and loss. While she has toured recently with George Strait and Reba McEntire, Womack takes the stage alone for this concert, focusing on music that tells stories about real life.

For Fans of: Trisha Yearwood, Sara Evans, Martina McBride

What Critics Say: "Just sit back, relax, and let Womack take the wheel for the best stretch of love and lonesome road to come out of Music Row in recent memory." -- Cory Albertson,

Soul Salvation featuring Ruthie Foster & Paul Thorn
Saturday, May 5, 2012 / 7:30 p.m. / $28, $22
Pre-Show Party at 6 p.m.

Touring together for the first time, The Ruthie Foster Band and soloist Paul Thorn create unforgettable music together. With strong gospel choir backbones, Foster and Thorn take on every song with their own contemporary stylings, blending blues, gospel, folk, rock, country, and R&B. Foster's most recent album, The Truth According to Ruthie Foster, was nominated for a Grammy. Thorn's Pimps and Preachers made the Billboard Top 100 and was at the top of Americana radio charts for three weeks.

For Fans of: Lyle Lovett, Alison Krauss, Shemekia Copeland

What Critics Say: "She laughed and joked, but whatever the song ...she was intently focused on the lyrics and reaching to deep places inside ...Ruthie Foster is a rare one." -- Graham Reid

2012 Spring/Summer Season Special Added Guest Artist
Bonnie Raitt
Tuesday, May 8, 2012 / 7:30 p.m. / $87, $81
Pre-Show Party at 6 p.m.

This year, 41 years after she released her first album, Bonnie Raitt is doing it again. Her newest creation, Slipstream, will debut in April, and it seems her music only gets better with time. Since an incredibly young age, this blues artist has been amazing audiences large and small with her deft guitar playing, soulful songwriting, and authentic voice. A nine-time Grammy winner, she has seen many of her albums go multiplatinum, but Raitt still shines brightest in the most intimate and casual of venues, where her heartfelt singing and songwriting can speak to every person in the room.

For Fans of: Keb' Mo', Taj Mahal, Jackson Browne

What Critics Say: "Raitt is often lauded for her stellar work on electric bottleneck guitar ...but it's her singing that's the biggest marvel. Her voice has an innate bluesiness, and she doesn't have to force the issue by overselling a phrase. So when she stirs in a little whiskey-ish rasp or draws out a line or bends a note, it adds a tingle of thrill to the tune, but always naturally." -- Eric Snider, Metromix Tampa Bay

Bonnie Raitt tickets will be sold as part of the 2012 Spring/Summer Series. Individual tickets can be added to the season package and bought at a discount rate.

The House at Pooh Corner (Family Show)
Thursday, May 17, 2012 / 7:30 p.m. / $18, $10

In 1928, A.A. Milne's book The House at Pooh Corner was published. More than 80 years later, families are still enjoying the sweet tale of Christopher Robin and his friends through Bettye Knapp's adaptation for the stage. Even the youngest of theatergoers will be enthralled by the familiar characters and even more familiar childhood dilemmas. And they'll be downright delighted when Tigger takes the stage.

For Fans of: Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, and Tigger too!

What Critics Say: "The House at Pooh Corner, of course, is aimed at little folks, and they're sure to be delighted by the bright colors and idiosyncratic characters." -- Elizabeth Maupin

Wynonna and The Big Noise
Saturday, May 19, 2012 / 7:30 p.m. / $70, $64
Pre-Show Party at 6 p.m.

It's hard to separate her name from that of the legendary duo The Judds, but Wynonna began her successful solo career almost 20 years ago. Since then she's been producing number one hits and platinum albums. The five-time Grammy winner will start recording yet another album for release in 2012, but for now, she's delighting crowds with her signature songs and bluesy voice.

For Fans of: Reba McEntire, Tanya Tucker, Trisha Yearwood

What Critics Say: "Few artists are able to break away from a successful duo and continue with the level of success that Wynonna has had. She is a true, genuine talent." -- Jack Lowe

Eddie Levert of The O'Jays
Thursday, June 7, 2012 / 7:30 p.m. / $52, $46
Pre-Show Party at 6 p.m.

Though he was a cofounder of the legendary R&B group The O'Jays, Eddie Levert is a music legend in his own right. His gruff, soulful signature sound is recognized by three generations of fans. Since 1958, The O'Jays have been true to their musical roots, and they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. You'll hear Levert's voice in every one of the group's numerous hits and on all its platinum albums.

For Fans of: Patti LaBelle, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, The Stylistics

What Critics Say: "Levert could handle emotion-soaked ballads, sweat-inducing dance numbers and thought-provoking message songs with equal aplomb." -- Ed Hogan

Jars of Clay
Thursday, June 21, 2012 / 7:30 p.m. / $35, $29

After well over a decade of making Christian music, these guys have the Grammy awards and platinum albums proving that hard work pays off. Whether you enjoy rock, blues, alternative, or folk music, chances are good that you'll leave their concert happy you went. Their songs reflect lives lived in faith, as well as a passion for moving melodies, driving rhythms, and good guitar playing.

For Fans of: Leeland, Third Day, Newsboys

What Critics Say: "On The Shelter, Jars of Clay's 11th studio release, the songs are not immediately engaging. Over time, they reveal an organic brilliance -- slight touches and minor segues that make them more compelling." -- John Brandon, Christianity Today

Alice Tan Ridley
Tuesday, July 17, 2012 / 7:30 p.m. / $28, $22

This former subway singer has stormed stages worldwide since her 2010 appearance on America's Got Talent. After raising her family and working in the New York City school system, Alice Tan Ridley began singing in New York subway stations in 1992, to the delight of the huge crowds who cheered her on. Her rousing rendition of Etta James' "At Last" during her first appearance on America's Got Talent is a classic example of her strong voice, with its R&B stylings.

For Fans of: Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Etta James

What Critics Say: "She's got an amazing personality as well as a great talent." -- Piers Morgan, America's Got Talent

Robert Randolph and The Family Band
Friday, August 10, 2012 / 7:30 p.m. / $52, $46
Pre-Show Party at 6:00 p.m.

In House of God churches since the 1930s, it's been known as sacred steel. In the hands of pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph, it's become a bridge between modern American funk/soul and the ancestral songs of more than a century ago. We Walk This Road, the most recent studio album by Robert Randolph and The Family Band, features both secular and religious tunes, covers and originals, all bound together with an uplifting message of hope.

For Fans of: North Mississippi Allstars, Gov't Mule, Widespread Panic

What Critics Say: "Sacred steel maestro Robert Randolph seems destined to play a big tent." -- Jeff Vrabel,

Tickets will be sold in the following order:

-- Current season-ticket holders must buy by Friday, Jan. 27, 2012, to receive same seats.

--New season-ticket buyers on-sale date: Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012

--Build Your Own Package on-sale date: Monday, Feb. 13, 2012

--Individual tickets: Monday, Feb. 20, 2012

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