Chart-topping country act stops by new Iowa City venue


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Over the summer, Wildwood Smokehouse & Saloon owner Joe Burnett took a chance on an “impressive” new act he heard on the radio, Justin Moore. Burnett’s faith in him has manifested itself into a prudent gamble for the 2-month-old venue.

Moore will appear onstage at the Texas-inspired Wildwood, 4919B Walleye Drive S.E., at 8 p.m. today. Tickets range from $14 general admission to $40 VIP tickets that include premium upstairs seating, a barbecue buffet, five drinks, and a chance to win door prizes, including a meet and greet with Moore and tickets to the Country Music Television Tour concert in Davenport on Dec. 3.

“I heard this guy, and I thought, ‘Wow. This guy’s got a lot of potential,’ ” Burnett said before the musician had scaled to the top of the country charts. “I’d say his music is traditional with an edge, a modern edge.”

Moore’s roots are anchored in the town of Poyen, Ark., population 272. Despite his newly achieved fame, he still longs for his simple life and the dirt roads of the backcountry. His breakout anthem “Small Town USA” reached No. 1 on the Billboard country charts in September.

“A lot of people called it prison when I was growin’ up / These are my roots, and this is what I love / ’Cause everybody knows me, and I know them / And I believe that’s the way we were supposed to live,” he croons in the opening to “Small Town USA.”

“I always write about what I’m doing, what I’m feeling at the time,” he said. “My goal is to move back [home] within the next few years. I’m very close to my family.”

Moore’s career is ever-accelerating — the singer/songwriter has a rigorous schedule of cross-country travel and performing. He hasn’t had a break for a year and a half.

“I hate flying,” he said. “And I’ve got three flights [some days], so that’s real nice.”

Despite himself, he enjoys his musical tours and sharing his music with fans.

Small Town USA became a bigger idea than what it was supposed to be,” he said. He imagines the positive response is due to the nation’s economic situation and the general sentiment for the small-town experience. Even big-city folks are in need of a little down-home rest and relaxation.

“I tell my band members every night that our job is to go throw a party for two hours,” said Moore, who understands the need to get away from the chaos and stress of the workweek.

As for Wildwood, the new cowboy-friendly Iowa City venue, Burnett said he has had a huge response.

“Our Friday and Saturday nights have been very successful,” he said.

Along with Moore, eastern Iowa’s country bar also lured in rising country star Randy Houser to perform in early September. Burnett is very pleased with the type of entertainment Wildwood has made available to the corridor community.

“It’s just a great time,” he said. “I really encourage all the college kids to come check [the place] out.”

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