By JAMES COOK
Richie McDonald is back, and so is Lonestar.
The platinum-selling country band's lead singer is back with the group, which returns to northern Michigan on Sunday at the Southside Festival Grounds.
"It's awesome. It really is," said McDonald, who released two solo albums during his four-year hiatus. "I left the group five years ago to just kind of slow down and spend more time with my family and watch my kids grow up. I guess for kind of selfish reasons. But when we started talking about this "¦ we kind of figured out that we are much better together than we were apart. Sometimes you just have to take some time off to step back and reflect on everything and get your priorities straight."
The group — which produced 18 top-10 country hits from nine albums over the last two decades — has a new album set for release in November.
"This is something we knew that if we were going to come back and make a splash, we knew we'd have to set the bar very high," McDonald said. "We always thought our album 'Lonely Grill' was probably the best record we ever recorded. And we modeled it after that. "¦ It's a roller coaster of emotions. There's some songs that'll make you laugh and there's songs that make you cry. That's what we've always tried to do, is to just reach out and touch people. That's what music is supposed to be about."
"Lonely Grill" spawned four No. 1 country hits after its 1999 release.
The new release coincides with the band's 20-year anniversary. "Life As We Know It" is coming out Nov. 20, accompanied by a DVD titled "Life As We Knew It," consisting of behind-the-scenes footage taken by drummer Keech Rainwater.
"We realize we're not spring chickens anymore," McDonald said. "We're not as young as we used to be. But we're still passionate about what we do. Country music has always been real music and we've had loyal fans follow us for 20 years. As long as they're still coming out for the shows and buying our music, we're going to continue to do this."
The LoCash Cowboys open up the show, which starts at 6:30 p.m.
The Salvation Army will be holding a food drive at the concert, collecting non-perishable items.
Tickets are $30 for general admission ($35 the day of the show) and $45 for VIP.