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John Lamb, Published August 28 2013

Back in Black: Country star returns with new versions of classics

FARGO - Clint Black is putting a new spin on some old tunes.

The country star hits the stage at the Fargo Theatre tonight for a mostly acoustic take on some of his classic songs.

On a day off in Kansas City, Mo., Black explained the show, which allows for a more intimate set. He’ll start off solo and acoustic, playing old favorites and even a cover or two from his days on the 1980s Houston club scene. Later, the core members of the band he’s played with since his showcase for RCA Records in 1987 back him up on more songs.

Black has been on the theater (“Or ‘thee-AY-ter’ as we say in the South”) circuit all year, in support of his new album. Well, kind of new.

“When I Said I Do” features newly recorded versions of Black’s tunes and three new songs. Some of the older hits get reworked, but others he strained to duplicate the original recording.

“This was a chance to do the road not taken and not be confined. That was fun, refreshing and inspiring,” he explains. “The other ones, where you’re duplicating, that becomes a real labor. In some cases, I was really so happy with what I ended up with in the studio (the first time) I didn’t want to mess with it. I went to great lengths to reproduce exactly what I had before,” he explains.

Over the years he’s heard from fans how much a song – like the title track “When I Said I Do” – has meant to them and their spouse, so he decided not to tinker with it.

“When they hear it, they won’t be able to tell the difference,” he says.

So why duplicate the original?

“Because the old version doesn’t belong to me,” he says.

Black’s former record deal doesn’t allow him rights to those recorded versions of the songs for 36 years until after their release.

Past issues with the label and record industry help explain why Black took a couple of years off from the business following the birth of his daughter in 2001. He’s called the decision, “… not being a smart career move, but it was a real smart dad move.”

Black’s last full-length album of new material was 2005’s “Drinkin’ Songs and Other Logic,” released through his own label, Equity Music Group, which closed three years later.

He’s gearing up for a new disc some time in 2014; he just has to find the right label to partner with.

“I wanna be at the right place when I release another record, and I think we’re close to being there,” he explains. “Record companies don’t do what they did before, and they’re more stringent with their recording contracts.

“Having been through that and knowing the upside and downside to it, at this point in my life, the upside isn’t attractive enough to go with the downside to being with a major record company,” Black says. “I’ve been kind of a reluctant artist. … I have not been in a hurry to get into the wrong kind of relationship.”

The right relationship for Black has been his 22-year marriage to “Knots Landing” actress Lisa Hartman, who sings in the album’s title duet. The original version was No. 1 on the country charts and earned a Grammy nomination.

But fans shouldn’t expect her to sing the role on stage tonight.

“People ask me all the time, ‘Does Lisa travel with you?’ I say, ‘No, she’s too smart for that,’ ” Black says.

Instead, fans can expect a plug for Chideo, a platform through which celebrities and fans can interact as the stars seek to raise money for charity. Black has been active with International Rett Syndrome Foundation, raising funds to fight the neurodevelopmental disorder.

On the lighter side, the crowd may get a taste for the stand-up comedy he developed during the short-lived reality TV show, “Secret Talents of the Stars.”

“It was brutal,” Black says about workshopping new material around Los Angeles comedy clubs to prepare for a two-minute performance on the TV show. His act proved good enough to advance, but the show was canceled after one episode.

“I love comedy,” he says. “If you come to my show, you will laugh. There’s some funny stuff in there. It goes with who I am and being absurd.”

If you go

What: Clint Black concert

When: Doors open at 7, show starts at 8 tonight.

No opener.

Where: Fargo Theatre, 314 Broadway

Info: Tickets are $49.50 and $59.50. (866) 300-8300.

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533