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Monday, November 15 2004

Tribute band's performances attract attention of both fans and promoters

Columbia Daily Herald

When Ronnie Lee and Joey Hart perform onstage they become totally different people, literally.

Lee and Hart make up a tribute band to the County Music Association's 2004 Duo of the Year Brooks and Dunn. Named after a 1996 album, Borderline has began to grow past Lee and Hart's original intent.

"It has taken hold and skyrocketed," Hart said. "We've got people all over the United States wanting us now. Our show has just taken off."

Borderline's intention was to provide Columbia's Lee and Hart an opportunity to have some fun. After they performed at the 2004 Maury County Fair, however, the group became a little more serious about their niche.

"At the fair, we signed more than 30 autographs," Hart said. "These people knew we weren't (Brooks and Dunn), but still they wanted our autographs and took pictures."

As the only Brooks and Dunn tribute band in the country, Borderline has taken a great deal of care in learning and performing the music, Hart said. The group practiced for six months before playing their first gig.

Hart, who handles set design, strives for authenticity in every aspect of the performances with the exception of pyrotechnics.

"That is just a little more dangerous than I am interested in getting involved in," he said.

The biggest obstacle for Hart and Lee was settling into their new on-stage personas, Hart said. Both serve as front men for other bands. Hart, who plays Kix Brooks, has a more stationary stage presence where Lee, emulating Ronnie Dunn, is more of an all-over-the-stage type of singer. The problem is Ronnie Dunn is stationary and Brooks is more mobile on stage.

"Sometimes we have to anchor Ronnie Lee down," Hart said. "Whereas, I am on tables. I am everywhere, but at the end of the show, the next day, I am paying for it."

The group did receive an e-mail from Ronnie Dunn after he visited their Web site,

"He looked at our Web site and said it was one of the coolest things he had ever seen in the 12 years they had been together," Hart said. "He also told us to get therapy."

Borderline is in negotiations to perform in clubs in Nevada, Indiana and North Carolina, Hart said. They have also been contacted by a firm interested in booking the group on the casino circuit, where a band can make a lot of money, he added.

Borderline is diligent in perfecting the songs. While some cover bands tend to tweak songs to make them easier to play, Hart said they go the extra mile until they get it right.

"We include everything in it. Once we get done with a song, it is so close to the real thing, it makes us shiver," he said.

Occasionally the two are mistaken for Brooks and Dunn, but they said they don't try to fool people.

Borderline members assume they could end up face to face with Brooks and Dunn at every show they perform.

"We want them to appreciate what we are doing," Hart said. "We aren't going to do anything for them to look bad."

Borderline has two local performances scheduled this year - Saturday at Marathon 2 in Columbia and Dec. 11 at 243 Bar and Grill in Mt. Pleasant.