HOWDY folks and welcome to the coolest winter festival around - Toyota Hats Off to Country in Tamworth.
For the next four days you can immerse yourself in some of the finest country music this side of the Black Stump.
There are some great acts on the program, with about 90 per cent of the entertainment free admission.
With the ticketed shows on offer, you can be assured they'll offer value for money.
Headlining Hats Off is the big fella himself, Adam Harvey, with support from Ashleigh Dallas. Proceeds from this show will benefit the children's ward at Tamworth hospital.
There's also the Golden Guitar-winning Luke O'Shea at Tamworth Services Club, Adam Eckersley Band at The Albert, some beaut balladeers at the Oasis and so much more.
Wrap up, rug up, layer up and get ready for some of the coolest country around.
Negotiating the program is a bit of a minefield, due to some nasty little gremlins that crept in and played some wicked tricks, but if you grab a copy of the program amendments, you should be on the right track.
In the meantime, I'll give you the lowdown on some highlights of this midyear hoedown.
THE Highwaymen was one of the world's best loved country music supergroups - and Australia has its own version of that combination.
Fortunately for us, they're right here in the Country Music Capital this weekend.
Who better to bring the music of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson to life than Alan Bowles, Rob Wilson, Bruce McCumstie and Bryen Willems?
Their faithful interpretation of The Highwaymen's music comes from deep within. All four are road warriors, living the lives of their heroes and they've won much acclaim for their portrayal of the quintessential quartet.
Audiences have one chance only to see this "supergroup" in action during Hats Off to Country and it's on Saturday at 3pm at the Longyard Hotel.
Tickets for the performance are available from the Longyard bottle shop, or at the door on the day, unless sold out previously.
If you want to relive the memories of Willie, Waylon, Kris and Cash, there's only one place to do it this weekend in Tamworth.
THERE'S a birthday party happening in Tamworth this weekend and you're invited.
The Big T Jamboree, a concert streamed live over the internet, turns two this weekend and there's sure to be cake and candles to help celebrate the occasion.
Making its debut in July 2012 at ENREC Studios, Tamworth, the Big T Jamboree is modelled on a concept conceived by Hadley Studios owner Eric Scott in the late 1960s.
Way back then, Eric broadcast the concert from Hadley live to the studios of Radio 2TM, but with today's technology, the show can now be viewed and listened to all over the world.
At 6pm on the first Sunday of each month from his Calala studio ENREC, Steve Newton presents a one-hour live concert, streamed to the world via the internet.
Some of the artists who have appeared on the show to date are Andrew Clermont, Sally-Anne Whitten, Paul Bonner Jones, Ryan Sampson, Brett Clarke, Marie Hodson and many more.
For the second birthday bash, ENREC Studios is pleased to present Simply Bushed, Cody Bracken, Shenae Rekstead and Jason Carruthers.
Your congenial host is the lovely Tracy Coster. Phone 6762 8072 to book your seat in the studio. There's a small cover charge, and, while you could be at home watching it on the net for free, there's nothing quite like being there!
THESE days there's country and there's country, but most people will agree that Marie Hodson is about as country as they come.
Like one of her major inspirations, Loretta Lynn, who had six children, Marie went one better. She had seven children - six daughters and one son.
This proud mum is equally as staunch in her stance on what real country music is all about. There's no pop with a pedal steel where Marie Hodson is concerned. She's the real deal, folks.
Together with her hot band, The Bootleggers, Marie will present country classics and a whole lot more in two big free shows this weekend - tomorrow at 8.30pm in Legends Bar at Wests and on Saturday night at 7 o'clock at The Pub on Gunnedah Rd.
Once this little pocket rocket hits the stage, you'll know just what country is. Marie will also be a guest at South Tamworth Bowlo's Hats Off roundup.
THERE'S country on tap at South Tamworth Bowlo this weekend, starting tonight with Don Costa.
One seriously hot band will take centre stage tomorrow and Saturday night - No City Limits - featuring pedal steel supremo Tomi Graso and bass player extraordinaire Simon Johnson. Driving the percussion section is Paul Novosel and Darren Gould is your guitar man.
Normally, these boys would have Alby Pool out front, but as I told you last week, Alby had a date with his surgeon yesterday and can't be here this year.
Fronting NCL tomorrow night is Hunter Valley cowboy Rob Wilson and on Saturday night, Australia's answer to Garth Brooks, Anthony Taylor, will stand and deliver hit after country hit.
All shows at the bowlo throughout the weekend are free, even the Saturday afternoon show paying tribute to the late, great Buddy Williams.
THE magnificent McClymont sisters - Brooke, Samantha and Mollie - will call in to Tamworth this weekend for a brief stopover before they begin their national Here's To You And I tour, supported by the Adam Eckersley Band.
The singing siblings will present a short acoustic set at Sanity in Tamworth Shoppingworld before signing copies of their latest album at 2.30pm on Saturday.
CHRISTMAS in July and country music collide at The DAG Sheep Station at Nundle this weekend for three fabulous singer-songwriter concerts.
If you haven't been, that's sad. You've missed one of the most amazing experiences you could imagine.
I'm heading out to Nundle on Sunday for the last of the three shows. Make sure you ring and book. It would be a shocker to drive for an hour and miss out. Ring John or Belinda on 6769 3486 to reserve your table of eight, 10 or 12. It's well worth taking your friends and family along - trust me - they'll thank you for it.
IF YOU have ever taken the time to appreciate some of the historical precincts of Tamworth, you've probably come across the Australian Country Music Hall of Fame in Brisbane St, diagonally opposite The Northern Daily Leader building.
What's that? You've never actually been there? You've always meant to visit, but haven't? You've walked or driven past there plenty of times but not gone inside?
Well, it's high time you did. In fact, it's your last chance to do so at the present address, the historic Mechanics Institute, which has been its home for the past 20 years.
Next week the custodians of our Australian country music heritage will be in packing mode, putting our history into boxes for a big move to the Tamworth Visitor Information Centre.
The VIC will soon relocate to the Big Golden Guitar tourist complex on the southern outskirts of the city.
Why don't you take the opportunity this weekend, or even on Monday or Tuesday, to go and see what's inside?
ANOTHER item of historical interest is the Jimmy Little Bronze Bust fundraiser concert at 1pm on Saturday at Southgate Inn. Organised by Lorraine Pfitzner, there's a great lineup of entertainers donating their time and talents to help raise money for the next bronze bust in Bicentennial Park,Get along and hear Lynette Guest, Graeme Doubleday, The Manning Family, Patti Morgan, Greg Bain, Kevin Harris, Rodney Walker, Col Taylor and John Brand. There are now seven bronze busts in Tamworth's leafy heart saluting Buddy Williams, Tex Morton, Stan Coster, Gordon Parsons, Barry Thornton, Shirley Thoms and Reg Lindsay.