By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes
An award-winning Keizer songwriter will help kick-start the new Keizer Rotary Amphitheatre.
The May 30 event features Joe Stoddard along with Kathy Boyd & Phoenix Rising and the Keizer Community Band.
A member of Phoenix Rising is Dennis Nelson, a 49-year-old winner of the 2008 Roots Music Association award for Bluegrass Songwriter of the Year.
Music kicks off at 2:30 p.m. with a dedication at 5:30 p.m. More music follows the dedication.
Housed at Keizer Rapids Park, tickets for the event are $15 for reserved seats and $10 for standing room. They can be purchased at the Keizer Chamber of Commerce, Steam Heat Coffee House or the Keizertimes.
Nelson described Kathy Boyd & Phoenix Risings shows as "high energy".
"We really drive the rhythms and get out there." he said. "They'll get a lot of bang for their buck."
The band has been together for about five years, and Nelson joined about three years ago.
He plays guitar and sings tenor in the band.
He started singing early in life. Growing up in Hudson, Wisconsin, he played in some garage bands and got into bluegrass in high school.
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" featured countless bluegrass stars at the time, including Roy Acuff, Maybelle Carter and Earl Scruggs just to name a few. It was this album, along with the general country-rock trend of the 1970s, that really got Nelson interested in the musical form.
Winning the national award was "pretty phenomenal," he said.
"Just to be nominated blew me away," he said. "but when I won – I'm still not quite over the shock for that one."
The band has played shows from California to British Columbia, and is receiving airplay in the southeastern United States, in Europe and in Australia.
"Europe's kind of more open to that," said Nelson. "A lot of radio stations over there are all variety, all the time, where they just play eclectic stuff."
As for hearing his own songs on the radio?
"It perks your ears up," he said. "Just on the first few notes … you kinda turn the volume up and say, ‘That's our song. That's pretty neat.'"
Nelson said he was excited to be opening the amphitheatre.
"I'll get a big kick out of that," he said.
Kathy Boyd, Tom Tower, Dennis Nelson and Tim Crosby
are Kathy Boyd & Phoenix Rising