by Julian Spivey
Arkansas’ own Collin Raye entertained the crowd at the Arkansas State Fair in Little Rock on Saturday, Oct. 22 with an hour-long set that included many of his massive hits from the ‘90s.
The DeQueen native began his set with his top five single “Anyone Else” from 1999 before embarking on the touching “Little Rock,” a No. 2 hit from 1994 about an alcoholic rebuilding his life in Arkansas, that resonated with the audience in the city the song was named after.
One of the true highlights of Raye’s performance was his tributes to another fellow Arkansan Glen Campbell, as well as the recently departed Merle Haggard. Raye stunned the audience with perfect vocals on two of Campbell’s most iconic tracks “Galveston,” my personal favorite, and “Gentle on My Mind.” He then wowed everybody by performing Haggard’s “Mama’s Hungry Eyes” and “The Bottle Let Me Down,” which were inspiring choices as many who cover Haggard usually stick with legendary hits like “Mama Tried.”
Raye also played some requests from a meet and greet prior to his show that he said onstage that he hadn’t performed in quite a while like “That Was a River,” which was a top five charter for him in 1993.
Raye is celebrating his 25th year in the music industry this year and told the Arkansas State Fair crowd that the anniversary tour has given him reason to perform more lately than he had in recent years. Going through his set list and hearing great numbers from the ‘90s like “Little Red Rodeo,” a top five from 1997, and “That’s My Story,” a top 10 hit from 1993, help to remind one that Raye was quite the star in the ‘90s and some of his biggest hits need to be remembered and played more often than they are.
The biggest surprise from Raye’s set was a cover of Five for Fighting’s 2001 pop hit “Superman (It’s Not Easy),” which he dedicated to the members of the American Armed Forces, as well as police officers across the country for their service. ‘Superman’ doesn’t seem like an easy song to sing vocally, but Raye pretty much nailed it.
Raye didn’t have too long onstage, as the fair wanted him on and off in time to usher people into the Barton Coliseum, on the fairgrounds, for some Professional Bull Riding action directly after the show, but that didn’t stop him from filling his set with as many hits as he possibly could and it was the very end of his show that proved to be the real highlight.
Raye finished his set with the one-two-three perfect punch of “I Think About You,” a top five from 1996, “One Boy, One Girl,” a No. 2 hit from 1995, and his biggest career smash “Love, Me,” which was his first career No. 1 hit in 1991 and only the second release of his career.
“Love, Me,” written by Skip Ewing and Max T. Barnes, is truly one of the most emotional and greatest country ballads ever recorded about everlasting love. The song was nominated for Song of the Year at the Country Music Association (CMA) Awards in 1992. I briefly got to meet Raye before his show and told him that I thought it was an all-time great and I meant every word of it.
The home state performer left the stage to uproarious applause, before returning a minute or two late for a terrific encore of his 1994 No. 1 hit “My Kind of Girl.”
The Arkansas State Fair performance from Raye was fantastic and just goes to show how we shouldn’t take the hit makers from our childhoods for granted and we shouldn’t forget about them.