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Published: Monday, 1/27/2003

Pals promote traditional folk sounds

For 40 years, they've been best buddies - J.J. O'Shea, 59, the jovial retired state unemployment office director; Jim Van Deilen, 60, the laid-back defense attorney with the quick, easy smile.

Their friendship was born on the University of Toledo campus in the early '60s. It has lasted because of their love for music - folk, bluegrass, and traditional country music.

“Everyone is looking for a bright-line definition of what traditional country music is, but I don't think there is one,” Van Deilen says. “When you hear it, you know it. It's like the Supreme Court. They won't define obscenity, but they say ‘We know it when we see it.' One thing it has to have, though, is soul.”

“They're making songs in three minutes in Nashville,” O'Shea says, taking his glasses off and jabbing them in the air to emphasize the point. “Traditional country is about the life experience of the writer. They live the heartbreak, depression, alcohol problems,” he says.

“There's so much talent in this town ...,” Van Deilen says. O'Shea finishes his thought: “that needs to be exposed.”

They say it's not their personal fight against modern-day Nashville, but they're not the first pair to believe that country has turned its back on its roots. They point to the album “O Brother Where Art Thou.” It has sold more than 6 million albums, yet you can't hear it on mainstream radio.

“There is no choice in music. The conglomerates buy all these stations, and the stations play what they're told to play,” Van Deilen says.

“Conglomerates tell them to play music that appeals to women age 18-34. What we're trying to do is instill a little balance,” his partner adds. Later his glasses come off again. “I'm being forced to listen to what corporate America wants to play. I resent that. I'm not dead yet.”

IN CASE YOU'RE trying to think warm thoughts, the hottest name in country music, Mark Wills, is coming to the Lucas County Fair in July. Wills, whose single “Nineteen Somethin'” remains atop the Billboard and Radio and Records country charts, will be performing on July 27. The following day, Vince Gill will be at the Monroe County Fair. John Michael Montgomery will be playing at the Wood County Fair on Saturday, Aug. 8. Ticket information has not been released.

CONGRATULATIONS TO Blake Shelton and longtime girlfriend Kaynette Williams, who were engaged in December. “We're very excited!” Williams said in a recent e-mail. If you saw Shelton at Country Concert in July, you may have seen his fiancee. She travels with him and arranges all his autograph sessions. No wedding date has been announced.

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