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Uncle Kracker has a friend, and a gig, in Kenny Chesney

for Journal Register Newspapers

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Another year, another run on the road with Kenny Chesney for Uncle Kracker.

The Detroit-area singer and former hype man for Kid Rock has been tied to Chesney since the two hit the top of the country charts in 2004 with their duet on Chesney’s “When the Sun Goes Down.”

“It was more than a duet for us,” Chesney, 43, says. “It was a moment in time, which was really cool. It started a friendship and a bond between he and I that will last forever.”

And Uncle Kracker (real name Matt Shafer) — who’s opening for Chesney with his own band and joining the headliner for their hit in his set — feels the same way. “Kenny’s just a laid-back, fun dude, and so am I,” notes Kracker, 37, who resides with his wife and three children in Harrison Township. “We get along really well. He’s a good dude, so we work together really well.”

Chesney’s audience certainly concurs. Besides “When the Sun Goes Down,” Uncle Kracker has mixed pop, adult-contemporary and country success with his singles “Follow Me,” a cover of Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away” and 2009’s “Smile,” which was certified platinum after hitting the country Top 10. Taylor Swift also covered it in concert this year, which Uncle Kracker says spiked sales for the single 14 percent.

He’s just finished recording his fifth album, “Postcards From Home,” which he hopes to release in early 2012 with a first single dropping during the fall. But even though he recorded it in Nashville with producer Keith Stegall (Alan Jackson, Zac Brown Band), Uncle Kracker says he doesn’t consider it a country album.

“I felt like if I said I was making a country record ... everybody was gonna go, ‘That’s not a country record,’” he explains. “I’d rather make a record I like and turn it in and let everybody say, ‘That sounds like country.’ Once you tell ’em it’s country, they’ll be like, ‘That ain’t country!’

“I can’t say this is a country record, but I can’t say it’s a pop record, either. The last record (2009’s ‘Happy Hour’) I could tell you was a pop/rock record. This one is just ... fun. Put it in the Super Fun section.”

Uncle Kracker performs with Kenny Chesney, the Zac Brown Band and Billy Currington at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20, at Ford Field, 2000 Brush St., Detroit. A small number of tickets remain available from $28.50-$250. Call 313-262-2000 or visit www.detroitlions.com.

Web Site: www.detroitlions.com

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