If it’s not from the States, does it still count as country?
The answer was “yes” on Saturday night.
New Zealand country music star Kimball Brisco Johnson performed at a charity concert at the East Texas Arboretum at 8 p.m. Saturday.
The Arboretum was the first Texas stop on Johnson’s U.S. tour. He and his eight-piece band, The Teamsters, began a tour of the country on July 25.
“I feel there’s a large void in country music right now, after the death of Johnny Cash,” Johnson said after the concert. “We in New Zealand are very close to the people in the United States. We wanted to come out here.”
The Teamsters have recorded a total of 134 songs together. They came off a productive year in 2005, when they put together seven albums with 98 songs.
“I think we’re the only band in America or New Zealand to record seven albums in one year,” Johnson said.
Saturday’s concert playlist included 16 songs from four of The Teamster’s albums. Johnson’s croonings ranged from the upbeat and funky to the bittersweet and sentimental — from love songs to tributes to Louisiana and Elvis Presley.
“Elvis didn’t come from Texas, anyway,” Johnson said during the concert. “But we’ll forgive him.”
The music was well-received by the crowd, many of whom danced in their seats or standing with partners. The concert ended around 9:30 following an encore, and Johnson stayed afterward to autograph free music CDs.
East Texas Arboretum Executive Director Teresa Glasgow said she thought the concert was a great success.
“I think that the people who came out heard quality entertainment,” she said. “I’m very grateful to Kimball Brisco and his band for playing here with us.”
Glasgow herself had arranged a special honor for Johnson. Before the start of the concert, she presented him with a proclamation from Sen. Todd Staples’ office declaring Johnson an honorary Texan.
“I feel just absolutely blown away by this,” Johnson said. “I’d like to thank everyone that came.”
“We’ve never had such a wonderful, warm welcome,” said Megan Michie, a vocalist in the band. “(Our reception has been) brilliant. It’s already leading on to other possibilities.”
Among the concert-goers were Mayor Randy Daniel and City Administrator Pam Burton, both of whom said they enjoyed Johnson’s toe-tapping performance.
“In all probability, I’ll probably never, ever travel to New Zealand,” Daniel said. “But if I miraculously woke up there tomorrow, I’d feel right at home.”
“It was very, very good,” Burton said. “And I think the people who didn’t take the opportunity to come out really missed a treat.”
Also in attendance was Glasgow’s aunt, Dorothy Hamm. Hamm, a music promoter from the Metroplex, arranged Johnson’s stop in Athens and helped coordinate the evening.
“I thought they did a wonderful job,” Hamm said. “It’s the middle of the winter in New Zealand, and I think they did a wonderful job coming down here and enduring our heat with no complaints.”
Johnson, speaking personally, said he didn’t mind the heat at all.
“It’s so cold right now, back in New Zealand,” he said. “I’m actually just getting over pneumonia, so it’s a good thing to get warm.”
After the concert, Johnson’s band headed for Fort Worth for a Sunday gig at the White Elephant Saloon. Their last stop will Aug. 8 at the Douglas Corner Cafe in Nashville, Tenn.
Johnson said he hopes to go on a second U.S. tour — hopefully as soon as he can.
“We’re going to go back on the road in New Zealand,” he said. “Then we’ll probably come back (to America) in the first season.”
“Being declared an honorary Texan, that’ll always hold a special place in (Johnson’s) heart,” Michie said. “We’re thanking Teresa Glasgow from all our hearts.”
For more information, visit Kimball Brisco Johnson’s Web site at www. kimballbriscojohnson.co.nz.
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