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Country singer Brian Eckert doesn't have a hard time finding gigs these days, mostly because he's part-owner of one of the more popular country and western bars in Broward County. Eckert and his wife, Nancy, bought into Desperado's in Fort Lauderdale in 1997. A regular act there since the club opened in 1992, Eckert and his band, Wild Oats, now headline Wednesday through Sunday.

Eckert originally studied jazz at the University of Miami, but while filling in for the bass player of a local country band, he fell in love with the country and western style and went on to open for national acts such as Ty Herndon while touring with the band Cheyenne. Today he's as country as you can get, wielding a stars-and-stripes bass guitar on stage and playing a combination of covers and dance tunes (line-dancing and two-stepping are popular at Desperado's) with his five-piece band.

Eckert does make his own music. A self-titled, independently produced CD showcases ballads and what he refers to as "crossover country," a mix of traditional country and rock 'n' roll. (Think Garth Brooks.) The slow slide of a steel guitar dominates many of the songs on the CD, including "What She Wants," a midtempo number with an especially catchy chorus.

Nashville is where Eckert has honed his country chops over the last six years. While there, he sits in on jam sessions at local clubs and collaborates with songwriters and producers. His latest two-month stay was dedicated to producing a new single, titled "When You Get to Be You."

The title may sound like that of a ballad, but to promote the single, Eckert and his manager will shop around six mixes of the song, all of them geared toward the country dance crowd. In fact the song will serve as the soundtrack to a video featuring a new two-step line dance created by Desperado's choreographer, Lisa Spangler.

Could we have the next Billy Ray Cyrus on our hands? Not necessarily. "I think this song can make it onto the charts," Eckert says. "If so, I have four more quality songs that I'm working on putting together [for] a full-length

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David Norrie

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