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Second Cup Cafe: Trick Pony

Trick Pony, the trio that was named Favorite New Country Artist at the American Music Awards, were the featured artists April 20 in The Saturday Early Show's Second Cup Cafe.

The group also has earned two Academy of Country Music award nominations, in the categories of Top Vocal Group and Top New Vocal Duo/Group. The awards program will be broadcast live Wednesday, May 22, on CBS.

Trick Pony's members are Heidi Newfield (vocals, harmonica and acoustic guitar), Ira Dean (stand-up bass, electric bass and vocals) and Keith Burns (acoustic guitar and vocals). Their Top 10 debut single was "Pour Me," followed by "On A Night Like This." Trick Pony's current track, "Just What I Do," is its fastest-moving single to date.

After years of honing their musical skills with non-stop club work, the members of Trick Pony had one thing in mind when it came time to record their first album.

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"Our biggest concern going in," says Newfield, "was to capture the energy we have live on tape." She says the key is that producer Chuck Howard "let
us be us. He captured our live energy."

Newfield was raised on a Northern California farm, where her early appreciation of blues greats like Sonny Boy Williamson and Muddy Waters went unapprciated by her girlfriends. She also had been exposed to country legends like Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Faron Young, and Waylon & Willie, as well as jazz singers like Lena Horne and Billie Holiday.

Following in the footsteps of a grandfather who played "Red River Valley" and other chestnuts, she took up the harmonica. At 15, she began playing in area bands.

Dean heard Jerry Reed and Chet Atkins through his father; Neil Diamond through his mother; and the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix through his brother in a North Carolina home he calls "a big melting pot of music."

His father played guitar professionally and his brother did as well, leaning
towards the outlaw country of Waylon, Willie, and Hank Jr. Ira learned to
play on his brother's instruments, and jumped at the chance to enter a
barroom talent contest when he was 12.

"I played drums and sang 'Kawliga' and won $70," he recalls. And his brother talked his mother into letting him get a regular gig there.

Burns listened to Elvis and Little Richard with his father, then discovered the Beatles and Neil Diamond. His father sang in the Atlanta area; his grandfather writes songs; his uncles, the McKinney Brothers, were
professional bluegrass musicians; and his aunt is part of The Reed Sisters, a gospel quartet.

Burns began playing clubs early on a circuit that also helped spawn Alan Jackson, Travis Tritt, and Doug Stone, winning a number of regional awards from the Atlanta Society of Entertainers.

Dean moved to Nashville in 1990 and befriended John Carter Cash, who
invited him to stay at the family home.

"I kind of showed up one day for breakfast and never left," he says. "I ended up moving in for a time." Later, he went on the road with Tanya Tucker, as Burns did with Joe Diffie.

Both wanted more, as did Newfield. Finally, they found a way to harness the restlessness and frustration that hounded them as they tried to parlay their individual talents into fulfilling careers. Dean had just been fired from Tucker's band, and Burns had left Diffie's.

Newfield met Burns through his then-wife, and had known Dean since moving to Nashville. The three found that their goals were similar, and set about making music.

"We never knew we were going to go after this sound," Burns says. "We just started writing, and it started to evolve as we wrote the songs."

Trial-and-error, hard work and determination did the rest.

"We knew we had something unique and special," says Newfield, "and we were going to stick to it and see it through no matter what."

Trick Pony is out on tour with Brooks & Dunn’s Neon Circus and Wild West Show.

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