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Putting tradition back in country music

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

The eminence of “new country” versus “traditional country” will always be an argument for fans of the music genre.

But for Mike Pollard and Christine Vaillancourt of Rural Roots Entertainment, they want to shine a spotlight on the latter.

The Newcastle-based musicians are holding their first annual Rural Roots Country Opry at The Music Hall in Oshawa on Thursday, Dec. 6.

“This is the first event of our own. The only events we’ve done in Oshawa in the past have been fundraisers,” Vaillancourt says.

On top of their own careers, the husband and wife team represent a number of other artists, some who will be performing at the show.

Pollard says country music has begun to lean heavily towards a more pop-orientated sound in the past decade.

“The market is really flooded with what is mainstream. But traditional country music, now sometimes known as ‘alt-country’, a lot of people are starving for it,” he explains.

Vaillancourt says, unfortunately, there are very few local venues for traditional country artists.

“That’s why we were having to put on our own shows,” she says.

Country music has a rich history in the City of Oshawa, as acts such as Johnny Cash and Minnie Pearl used to perform at the Red Barn during its heyday as a music venue.

However, Pollard says “it all just dried up for some reason or another.”

The two regularly perform at local Legion branches, and it is clear to them there is an appetite for the country music of yesteryear.

“It’s really just crazy the turnout we get,” Pollard says.

The line-up for the show includes some familiar faces.

Harold MacIntyre, referred to by some as ‘Canada’s George Jones’, has held a storied country music career.

He served as the opening act for Jones’ sold out concert at Maple Leaf Gardens in 1982 and performed on CBC’s Tommy Hunter Show.

In 1984, he was named Top Male Vocalist in the Country Music Fan Awards.

“We’ve been pushing to get him in the Canada Country Music Hall of Fame,” Pollard says. “He’s just a really great country singer. He’s done Canada proud.”

Also performing will be Vaillancourt’s father Jim, who will be offering his tribute to the late Merle Haggard.

It’s a family affair, as Vaillancourt’s brother Dave, who is a past winner of the KX96 talent search contest, will also be performing.

Younger talents include Becky Elliott and Bella Holliday from Prince Edward County.

Pollard, who will also perform and serve as host, says they will be going all out to put on an excellent evening.

“We really wanted to put it on the big stage. It will be a Grand Ole Opry experience. We want everybody to dress up in their cowboy boots and cowboy hats, and shine for the night,” he says. “We are hitting on all eras of traditional country – from Merle Haggard to Dolly Parton, right up to George Strait.”

Tickets are available in person at Wilson and Lee in Oshawa (87 Simcoe Street North), the Orono General Store and the info desk at the Pickering Flea Market, or by calling 416-804-5645 or 905-435-7351. Tickets can also be purchased online through the event’s Facebook page at

Admission is $25 in advance and $30 at the door.