Although the respective career peaks of Sara Evans and REO Speedwagon are separated by a generation (and encompass two entirely different musical genres), one thing both acts have in common are their Midwestern roots.
Growing up on her family’s Missouri farm, Evans made her singing debut with the family band at just five years old. Around the same time, in 1976, lllinois-based REO Speedwagon released their sixth album, which marked the return to the group for singer Kevin Cronin, after a four-year absence. Both acts have gone on to multi-platinum-selling albums, Number One hits and sold-out tours, and their respective career trajectories intersected recently as they met to film the latest installment of the genre-busting CMT Crossroads. Their collaboration marks the third time Evans has been enlisted in the show’s 13-year run and was a first for the arena rockers. (The “Born to Fly” singer has also done the show with Maroon 5 and Joe Walsh.)
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Among the songs they shared on stage for the invitation-only crowd was one all about making the best during a challenging time. Written by guitarist Gary Richrath, “Ridin’ the Storm Out” was the title track to the band’s 1973 LP, but that version was actually released after Cronin had already quit the group (temporarily) and features a different lead singer. The tune was inspired by the band’s first trip to Boulder, Colorado, when they experienced the Rocky Mountains for the first time. Eager to explore their new surroundings, Cronin and Richrath ditched their tour manager and had taken off for an ill-advised hike when a blizzard began moving in. Although they feared the worst, the pair were actually inspired by the adventure and, of course, made it out alive. “Ridin’ the Storm Out” resurfaced on the group’s live 1977 album, now with Cronin on lead vocals, and it remains one of their most enduring rockers and a staple of their live show for more than 40 years.
CMT Crossroads With Sara Evans and REO Speedwagon premieres Saturday, September 19th, at 10:00 p.m. ET on CMT.