Born Again and others, Grascals to perform this weekend
Milan musical talent to be showcased

Wanda English Burnett

Whether you like bluegrass or gospel music, Milan is the place to be this weekend to hear both.

Two Milan natives, Jamie Johnson, who now performs with the nationally known contemporary bluegrass group, The Grascals, and Matthew Johnson, who performs with Born Again, a well-known group on the gospel circuit, are no relation, but they both have God-given musical talent that makes one think they could be brothers.

First, on Saturday evening, a gospel concert will feature not only Born Again, but Safe In The Harbor and Tom and Joyce Holt and Friends at the Milan High School Cafetorium. On April 25 at 6 p.m. the concert, that offers free admission, will begin. The doors will open at 4:30 p.m. and there will be food, drinks and wonderful homemade desserts available.

Matthew explained that the desserts are made by the Arrows For Christ, homeschool group and they are “fantastic.”

A love offering will be taken during the concert to promote Seedline Ministries, a group that distributes Bibles to remote areas in Alaska.

Matthew explained that a member of Born Again, Cole Barnett, is connected to Seedline Ministries, through his father, Harlan, who is one of the people heading up the ministry group.

The three-year project to get a Bible in every home in the Arctic Circle will be completed after the group travels to Alaska this June. They have already distributed several and now will be going to Kotzebu, which is the second largest Eskimo village in the region, home to about 1500 Eskimos, according to Matthew.

Matthew is excited because not only will he get to perform with the group he has been a part of for its entire existence, ten years, but then will be able to see the end result of actually taking the Bibles to the area where they are needed. “It’s a great feeling,” he told The Versailles Republican.

Travel plans will change once the group gets to Fairbanks, Alaska. They will then take a much smaller plane, piloted by a missionary bush pilot, into the Arctic Circle, which is about three and a half hours by plane north of Fairbanks. There they will hold evangelistic services nightly, with Harlan Barnett preaching and Cole and Matthew ministering in music. “We will be walking door to door handing out Bibles each day,” Matthew noted, saying the area is extremely remote with no roads.

Matthew encourages the community to get behind the effort, come out to the concert and enjoy some great food, fun and fellowship for a cause that could make a world of difference to someone who has never had a Bible.

More music on Sunday
“I don’t take it for granted, I never will,” Jamie Johnson told The Versailles Republican in an interview from Tennessee, where he now makes his home. He was referring to the fame that The Grascals has escalated to since their music first hit the sound waves in 2004.

The Grascals will be in concert at the Milan VFW at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 26. The group is comprised of Danny Roberts, mandolin; Terry Eldredge, guitar; Jeremy Abshire, fiddle; Kirstin Scott Benson, banjo; Terry Smith, bass; and Milan native, Jamie Johnson, on the guitar.

The phenomenal group has numerous awards for their multiple talents of performing and song-writing to their credit. They hit the road running when they recorded their debut album and were invited by Dolly Parton to open her fall tour that year.

The Grascals have earned Grammy nominations for their first two releases, were named Emerging Artist of the Year, and International Bluegrass Associations Entertainer of the Year to name a few of their awards. They make regular guest appearances on the Grand Ole Opry, have appeared on Opry Live, The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and the TV Guide Channel.

They have shared the stage with music greats such as Hank Williams Jr., Dolly Parton, Brooks & Dunn, Patty Loveless, Mac Wiseman, Dierks Bentley, J.D. Crowe, Charlie Daniels, Kenny Rogers, Steve Wariner, Vince Gill, the Jordanaires and many others.

“Sometimes I can’t believe it’s really me,” Jamie candidly noted, saying he doesn’t feel like a music star. Earlier in the month of April The Grascals were performing at the home of movie star Steven Seagal in California. That was one of the highlights of the career for Jamie. “Can you believe Steven and I were doing a duet?” he laughed.

Another famous moment was when the group performed at the going out of office party for President George W. Bush at the White House in Washington, DC. “It was indeed an honor,” he noted.
Although the path Jamie took led him straight to the top, he says he still believes education is imperative. He has a college degree he can always fall back on if he needs to do something else, which he hopes never happens. He absolutely loves the music he sings, and says it’s much more than “just a performance.” It’s something that comes from the heart making a one hour performance seem like only a few minutes.

Jamie goes from signing autographs to getting autographs. He laughed at himself saying he is the first in line to get everything signed from music stars he looks up to such as George Jones. The pendulum swings from one fast pace to another with Jamie’s career, that now includes signing a publishing deal as a husband/wife team with, as he refers to her, “my beautiful wife, Susanne.”

It’s hard for him to believe he’s best friends with Bobby and Sonny Osborne, famous for "Rocky Top".
But, he’s never out of touch with his roots. “I love coming home to Milan, seeing my mom and dad, (Paul and Gail Johnson), and my mamaw, Irene Johnson. He said it’s nice for his mamaw to turn on CMT and watch him perform. Speaking in front of the graduating class at Milan High School last year was “the top honor in my life,” Jamie noted. He said while he was more nervous than performing in front of thousands of people, he was honored to be asked to speak.

Jamie says he hates to admit it but he didn’t even care for bluegrass/country type music as a kid growing up. But, his brother Brad loved it. After he died in 1991, Jamie wanted to feel close to his brother and began listening to his music. Someone heard him and the rest is history.

Jamie is looking forward to the concert in Milan, seeing family and old friends who are dear to him, and doing what he loves, performing from his heart. “It’s just incredible to come home,” he concluded. Oh, he does have another love in his life, his nine-month-old son, Cole Train. “Now that’s special,” he said of being a dad.

Jamie Johnson, former Milan resident, with Steven Seagal at his home in California.