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The White House Goes Country

Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

The White House’s East Room was turned into — in the words of President Barack Obama — “a bona fide country music hall” Monday night (Nov. 21). Lauren Alaina, Dierks Bentley, Alison Krauss, Kris Kristofferson, Lyle Lovett, Darius Rucker, James Taylor and the Band Perry were all invited to sing as part of the ‘In Performance at the White House’ series.

“Over the past five years, I’ve had the extraordinary opportunity to travel all across America,” said President Obama before introducing the night’s performers (quote via Politico). “I’ve hopped on planes to big cities. I’ve ridden buses through small towns. And along the way, I’ve gained an appreciation for just how much country music means to so many Americans.

“Country music is all about life in America,” he continued. “It’s about storytelling — giving voice to the emotions of everyday life. Country music can be about love. It can be about heartache. It can sing sad times, or it can yell out that I’m just here having a good time. And it can remind us, especially when lots of our friends and neighbors are going through tough times, of what we’ve got to fight for and who we have to be. It reminds us that this is America. This is the place where you can make it if you try.”

Dierks Bentley opened the show with a salute to our troops, singing his patriotic new tune, ‘Home.’ James Taylor, sporting a Stetson for the event, performed his classic ‘Riding on the Railroads,’ followed by a cover of Glen Campbell‘s ‘Wichita Lineman.’ Alison Krauss sang her iconic hit, ‘When You Say Nothing at All,’ followed by another classic: Lyle Lovett singing ‘Funny How Time Slips Away.’

Kris Kristofferson and Darius Rucker paid tribute to two of their country music heroes, singing a duet of Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard‘s ‘Pancho and Lefty.’ Another Willie song followed, as Lauren Alaina sang ‘You Were Always on My Mind,’ accompanied by Dierks on guitar. (Watch their performance below.) The teen star also paid homage to Loretta Lynn with a cover of ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter,’ while the Band Perry saluted another female country trailblazer, Dolly Parton, singing ‘I Will Always Love You.’

The entire cast of White House country singers ended the night with an ensemble performance of the Kristofferson-penned classic, ‘Me and Bobby McGee.’ The concert will air on PBS on Wednesday (Nov. 23) at 8:00 PM ET.

‘In Performance at the White House’ began in 1978 as a way to spotlight different genres of music, ranging from R&B to Broadway tunes, and to promote music education. Several of last night’s performers also participated in a music workshop with local youth earlier in the day.

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