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Britt 'has something for everyone' this season

Bruce Hornsby and Ricky Skaggs, Chicago, Vince Gill and the Doobie Brothers are among the big names on the 2007 Britt Festivals season announced Friday.

Michael Franti and Spearhead will open Britt's 45th season June 8 at the Britt Pavilion in Jacksonville, and young pop-country singers Michelle Branch and Jessica Harp, performing as The Wreckers, will wrap it all up Sept. 9.

"We think the season has something for everybody," said Rick Hood Jr. as he unveiled the lineup at Britt's Medford headquarters. Hood was named the festival's executive director last winter to replace Ron McUne, who retired.

Many performers will be returning to Britt, in some cases after several annual appearances. The list includes Indigo Girls June 15, the Moody Blues July 5, the Neville Brothers July 7, Lyle Lovett and His Large Band with opener k.d. lang July 18, and Cowboy Junkies, Doobie Brothers and Hootie and the Blowfish in a run of three straight nights July 20-22.

Britt Festival Music Director Peter Bay earlier announced the lineup for Britt's annual Classical Festival, which each year takes over the hillside from the rock, blues, country, jazz, pop and dance acts for three weeks in August.

Jazz great Herbie Hancock (June 18), The Temptations (July 19) and powerhouse vocalists Susan Tedeschi (with Derek Trucks June 19) and Joan Osborne (with Cowboy Junkies July 20) also fall into the category of popular returning artists.

The Funk Brothers — the backup musicians on all those classic Motown singles, who collectively claim more number one hits than Elvis or the Beatles — will return, but this time out with Mary Wilson of the Supremes.

In a first for Britt, the renowned Martha Graham Dance Company will perform for two nights, Aug. 24-25.

There are less-known quantities (to Britt fans) on the bill to be sure, such as Los Lonely Boys on Sept. 8, singer Madeleine Peyroux on June 23 and The Wreckers on Sept. 9.

Los Lonely Boys are rockers from West Texas who fuse blues, Texas roots and rock. Peyroux is an acclaimed singer whose songbook ranges from Billie Holiday and Patsy Cline to Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits. The Wreckers are young singers Michelle Branch and Jessica Harp, whose music is a pop/country/roots rock amalgam.

Also in that category is country singer Josh Turner (Sept. 1), whose 2003 debut "Long Black Train" earned him a pair of country award nominations, jazzy trumpeter Chris Botti Aug. 30 and the July 1 pairing of country singer-songwriter Robert Earl Keen and the genre-bending Waybacks.

Jazz lovers can look forward to piano icons Herbie Hancock on June 18 and Ahmad Jamal on July 8.

The Bellydance Superstars ($35) are newcomers to Britt, although not to touring. The dancers have performed almost 400 shows to more than a million people in 16 countries over the three years ending in December. The show is described as neither purist nor "push-the-envelope" and maybe the next big dance thing after "Riverdance."

Tickets top out at $91 for Lovett and lang and Vince Gill's Friends and Family tour with Amy Grant and the Del McCoury Band. Cheapest reserve seats are $35 for The Bellydance Superstars, $37 for cowboy singers Riders in the Sky (July 28) and $38 for singers Greg Brown and John Hammond (Aug. 31). Cheapest lawn tickets are $22.

Tickets will go on sale to members only April 2 through May 14, and to the general public May 15. Call 773-6077 or visit www.brittfest.org.

Reach reporter Bill Varble at 776-4478 or bvarble@mailtribune.com.