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Long Island two-steps to country music

Plainview's own Lisa Matassa performed at the release

Plainview's own Lisa Matassa performed at the release party for her new album, "Me Time," at Carlyle at the Palace. Matassa had two dance pop hits back in the 80s and is relaunching her career with a new genre, "Long Island Country." (Mar. 31, 2011) Credit: Newsday/Josh Stewart

It's official, Long Island has gone country. With Luke Bryan coming to Nassau Coliseum tomorrow and Blake Shelton slated to headline Jones Beach this summer, country music has become a hot property on Long Island.

The breakthrough can be pinpointed to when WJVC/ 96.1 FM "My Country" hit the airwaves in Suffolk two years ago. Country mania was amped up last month when WNSH/94.7 FM "NASH" launched in New York City. But this isn't your great uncle's brand of country. It's a genre redefined.

"We've been amazed at how many country fans there are on Long Island," says My Country morning DJ Phathead. "Our core audience is 18 to 54. It's all over the place."

Gone is the genre's old Southern twang, which has been replaced with a more pop-rock/adult-contemporary feel. Since its inception, the crossover station has made a major impact on Long Island. Here are five other ways to get countrified in these parts.



Not only does L.I. have its own country station but also its own country artist. Lisa Matassa of Plainview has made some noise with her album, "Sunrise Highway," featuring the hit single, "Somebody's Baby."

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Matassa has dubbed her music "Long Island Country" mixing New York rock and roll with a new country-pop style. This came from growing up listening to a blend of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Loretta Lynn, Bon Jovi and Johnny Cash.

"I'm a country girl with a rock and roll heart," says Matassa, who is married with two teenage kids. "It's been a dream come true."




Because country music has grown in popularity on Long Island, the Nutty Irishman in Bay Shore has deemed Wednesday "Nutty Country" night. The evening includes line dancing, live country bands and even mechanical bull riding once a month. The club has filled the void after longtime country bar Matty T's in Deer Park closed in August after 40 years.

"The country crowd is very loyal," says owner-operator Mike McElwee. "We get groups of all different sizes from all different places."

Drink specials include $4 pickleback shots (Jameson Irish whiskey and pickle juice) plus $3 Pabst Blue Ribbon and Coors retro cans. The theme has gotten so big, it's expanding to the Nutty Irishman in Farmingdale on Tuesdays starting Feb. 19.

INFO, 631-969-9700



The explosion of country music has leaked into the fashion scene. Country gents are donning cowboy hats and vests, while gals are wearing boots with low-rise jeans and bling belts. Go West! in Bohemia sells everything you need to be a little bit country including more than 500 styles of boots and 100 types of cowboy hats. "You can accessorize your urban outfit with some country accents, and it looks great," says owner-operator Ellen McGarvey. "I'm really overwhelmed with how popular it's getting. I'm seeing a lot of younger people coming in."

INFO, 631-244-9378



If you are going to rock like a cowboy, you need to eat like one. Country-themed restaurants offering barbecue fare with a Southern flair are popping up all over Long Island. At Cody's BBQ & Grill in Riverhead, you can enjoy a Gunslinger Melt (choose your own barbecued meat) with tumbleweed onions. Wash it down with an Alabama Slama' (Southern Comfort, Amaretto, sloe gin and orange juice) and close out with a root beer raft (root beer pound cake with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream) for dessert.

INFO, 631-284-9520



More country artists than ever are bringing their national tours to Long Island. After Bryan conquers the Coliseum, singer-songwriter Chris Young will hit NYCB Theatre at Westbury Feb. 17.

Riding high on his fifth No. 1 hit, "You," from his third album, "Neon," Young was named breakthrough artist of the year at the American Country Awards where he also captured single of the year for "Voices."

INFO $29.50,, 800-745-3000

Also coming to Westbury is Rodney Atkins on March 24; Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell and Richard Thompson play the Paramount in Huntington on March 24.

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