Wynonna Judd isn't shy about calling her concert Tuesday with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra a Christmas show -- not simply "holiday." She says she believes in a higher power -- and she's had the kind of year that would put a lot of people's faith to the test.
On Aug. 18, Judd and her husband, drummer Michael "Cactus" Moser, were riding separate motorcycles in the Black Hills of South Dakota when Moser crossed the center line and was hit by a car. Moser lost his left leg in the accident, and shattered bones in one of his hands. The couple has known each other for nearly 30 years, but they had only been married for two months, after Moser proposed last Christmas Eve. Judd, who witnessed the accident, fell to her knees when she heard Moser still breathing, and held vigil in the hospital for the crucial first 48 hours.
Doctors had expected Moser to be in a rehabilitation center for months. He left after eight days. When Judd's current tour started in November, he appeared onstage and performed a drum solo, even though his hand is still in pain. He has been making onstage appearances since. Judd says to expect him at the Bass Hall show. And she says her music and her fans have kept her going.
"That's what saved me the last few months," she says during a phone interview. "Stepping out on that stage and knowing that I'm loved and supported by people that probably may not have recently bought my music, and yet they come to the symphony and make these new fans. It's a glorious opportunity for me to [engage] that guy whose wife made him come because they had season tickets. That has been one of my greatest reasons for doing the symphony shows, because it's an unconventional way to present yourself."
Judd, who says there were times during the past few months when music was the only thing she knew to do, says that she went from being a newlywed to the wife of a wounded warrior. But when she meets a fan who has lost a spouse, she realizes how blessed she is. She talks about the accident during her shows. People have called her a survivor, but after seeing her husband's resilience, she's changing that.
"I'm now a thriver," she says. "There's survival, and I've been through that, where the kids of ours have been through a tornado, literally. That's survival. [But] I've never witnessed anything quite like this before. Besides my mother's determination and her healing, I've never witnessed a modern-day miracle quite like I have with Cactus."
But don't let this fool you into thinking that Judd's show will be a weepfest, or strictly traditional. She injects humor into her concerts, and she performs Christmas songs in a variety of genres.
She says the Fort Worth show, the only symphony show on this tour, will be about past, present and future, and will include songs she's not doing elsewhere. "I'm pulling out all the fabulousness that I can," she says. "We'll do from Nat King Cole to stuff that I learned back when we were on welfare, living on a mountaintop, with no TV, no telephone -- real Appalachian mountain stuff."
She has performed with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra twice before, referring to both shows as "blind dates." Which she says is an appropriate metaphor for all symphony shows.
"You walk in, and there's a conductor, and you've never met him in your life," she says. (At this concert, it will be Andrés Franco, the symphony's associate conductor.) "And symphonies at times -- I won't name places or names -- have looked at us like, 'Oh, really? You're from Nashville? And you're a bunch of country bumpkins.' And then we start playing, and they're like, 'Holy crap! I had no idea how accomplished they are.'"
Ultimately, she says, even the most resistant symphony musicians have come to respect her and her band, and she believes the classically trained musicians enjoy playing outside the box. But the trade-off may be more than equal, because Judd enjoys the challenge of performing without a guitar, putting the focus solely on her singing. And the music transports her to another place.
"I have such a love for the sound of the strings, and I've always said, 'When you come to the show, it's the sounds of heaven,'" she says. "When I sing some of my power ballads, and I hear the strings behind me, I'm in heaven. I almost levitate, because I'm just basking in the glory of the sound that's behind me."
This report contains material from The Associated Press.