The red dirt scene out of Stillwater, Okla., is certainly vibrant: Jason Boland, Mike McClure, Cody Canada and Stoney LaRue are among those kicking up red sonic dust.
The latter arguably is the most dynamic of the bunch. It wouldn’t be surprising if LaRue, who will perform Friday at Wichita’s Cotillion, were to start breathing the rarified air of upper echelon players.
LaRue is a charismatic singer-songwriter who combines the direct, rootsy sound of country with the larger-than-life spirit of rock and tosses in enough hooks that his work has a strong pop element as well.
It’s an amalgam that has enabled the quick-witted LaRue to climb the music industry ladder.
“I’m just trying to make the best music that I can,” LaRue said. “It’s not too complicated for me. I love what I’m doing. I’m living a dream. Every day is an adventure. Sometimes I’m doing these jams with artists I really admire, like Lee Ann Womack and Vince Gill, and I just can’t believe I’m playing with these incredible musicians. I’m just very fortunate.”
It probably won’t be that far down the line when recording artists start paying tribute to LaRue, who impressed with a couple of albums.
“The Red Dirt Album,” which dropped in 2005, was the industry’s introduction to the gritty LaRue. The album is filled with strong compositions LaRue penned, including the catchy “Down in Flames,” the moving “Closer to You” and an inventive cover of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young.”
“I just gave all that I had with that album,” LaRue said. “I was just trying to get on the radar.”
It took LaRue six years to follow his initial effort, but it was worth the wait for “Velvet,” which dropped a year and a half ago. The album isn’t raw like “Red Dirt” is, but LaRue impresses another way with some poignant and melancholy songs.
“I didn’t want to repeat myself,” LaRue said. “You have to make something different. After all that time, I would hope I would do something different. I grew up over that period, and I wanted to challenge myself, and I did it. I’m just doing my best and having as much fun with music as I can have. I love it just like I did when I was starting out.”
A decade ago, he, Boland and Canada would jam late at night at a home they shared.
“Those were good days when we were together in the yellow house,” LaRue said. “Those days helped form the person and musician that I grew up to be.”