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Monday, August 31, 2009

Big Kenny Balances Solo, Duet Lives


Big and Rich's Big Kenny photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Nashville.

Aug. 31, 2009 — It's Big news. Maybe it's enriching. Big Kenny, one-half of the duo Big & Rich, is preparing for the release of a solo album which will bear the name of his own record company, Glotown/Love Everybody, LLC.
The album, The Quiet Times Of A Rock And Roll Farm Boy, is slated for release Oct. 27. A video that accompanies the first single, "Long After I'm Gone," is currently airing on GAC.
"These times couldn't be more exciting for a guy like me," Big Kenny says. "I'm finally at a place in my career where I have freedom — freedom — not only to create all of the music and art I want, but I have gotten to hand pick the team of people I work with. They are nothing but the best. I am so happy to be putting out new music that is such an expression of what I am about. I love what I do, and I love this community of people."
The label is being launched in conjunction with the Bigger Picture Group, a new music-industry team that already works with the Zac Brown Band. The names of a couple Bigger Picture executives will jump out to liner-notes fans: Keith Stegall, known for his work as a producer with Alan Jackson and Terri Clark; and Bob Ezrin, whose production credits include Alice Cooper, Kiss and Pink Floyd.
The album comes at a time when Big Kenny and Big & Rich partner John Rich have been working separately. John released a solo album, Son Of A Preacher Man, earlier this year with a topical hit, "Shuttin' Detroit Down." The last 12 months have also seen John get married, contribute to John McCain's presidential campaign, get into a couple of fights in Hollywood and exchange lawsuits with a former "Nashville Star" contestant.
Despite rumors they would split, Big & Rich have continued to perform together. They made a raucous appearance at the CMA Music Festival in June, and a concert in Edmonton last week included a guest performance for two songs by former Skid Row vocalist Sebastian Bach, according to Big Kenny has no doubt that Big & Rich will ride again in the studio.
"He's out there doing crazy stuff, but I still love him," Kenny told The Atlanta Journal Constitution. "We are like night and day. He's political, and I just like to get things done. Right now, we meet onstage, that's it. Once he gets his other stuff straight, we wil l sit down and write some songs."

Keith Urban Raises Big Bucks for Hall of Fame


Keith Urban photo courtesy of Capitol Nashville.

Aug. 31, 2009 — We "can't move [country music] forward unless we know where it's come from." Keith Urban might be part of the current wave of pop- and rock-influenced country, but he certainly appreciates the genre's past, and that's why he's assembled a host of top-name acts — including Taylor Swift, Brad Paisley, Faith Hill and Vince Gill — for an October concert that will raise money for the Country Music Hall of Fame.
The All For The Hall show, slated for Nashville's Sommet Center on Oct. 13, will also feature Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum and Little Big Town with other stars likely to be added. Tickets are an inexpensive $25 apiece, with most — if not all — of the cost to be donated to the Hall of Fame, located across the intersection from the Sommet.
"We want it full," Keith said during the official announcement Monday morning at the Hall's Ford Theater. "Right now particularly it9 9s hard times for a lot of folks in this country — in some cases, some of the hardest they've ever known in their generation. So we tried to make this as affordable as we possibly could."
The All For The Hall program was created by Vince, who's president of the museum's board, in an effort to get the music community involved in raising funds for the organization that best preserves its heritage. Keith's headlining date comes amidst a particularly strong period in the program. Vince, Emmylou Harris and Dwight Yoakam will perform a $750-a-ticket All For The Hall show Oct. 1 in Los Angeles. Museum executives also announced recently that Cindy Walker, a Hall of Fame songwriter, had bequeathed the rights to her songs to the Hall. New demos of some of her classics — which include "You Don't Know Me," "Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream)" and "I Don't Care" — are being recorded to showcase the titles to the film and TV industries. Record producer Tony Brown will oversee some of the recordings beginning in September with Cyndi Thomson and songwriters Jon Randall ("Whiskey Lullaby"), Jessi Alexander ("The Climb") and Clint Daniels ("God Must Be Busy") among the vocalists who've been enlisted.
"This place houses the history of all this music from note one, [from] the very first records that the Carter Family made, Jimmie Rodgers made in the '20s up 'til today," Vince said. "I hope the young people of today that are=2 0artists realize that every note of their music is being documented in the halls of this Hall of Fame just as importantly and as reverently as everybody that's come before them."
"To have someone of Keith's stature step up and do this today and who all he's bringing to play in October to us," Vince added.
Keith's Oct. 13 show will feature a truncated version of his typical set and will likely find Keith and Vince collaborating informally with the other guests. Tickets go on sale Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. CT through Ticketmaster outlets and through the Sommet Center box office. In addition to the general admission tickets, the concert also offers 50 special packages priced from $1,000-$5,000 that feature a pair of tickets, admission to a post-show party and a bevy of Keith Urban memorabilia.

Trace Adkins Gets "Lifted"


Trace Adkins performs at the VAULT Concert Stage at LP Field in Downtown Nashville Saturday, June 13 during the 2009 CMA Music Festival. Photographer: John Russell / CMA.

Aug. 31, 2009 — Ever since Trace Adkins went all the way to the finals on "The Celebrity Apprentice," he's received increasing attention from Hollywood. He appeared in the satiric movie An American Carol, made a guest appearance on a soap opera and recently showed up on the A&E series "Gene Simmons' Family Jewels."
Now he's been cast in another movie. Trace will be featured in Lifted, an independent picture starring 12-year-old Uriah Shelton, who portrays a hopeful singer struggling with uncertainty in his family when his father is deployed to Afghanistan with the Marines. Slated to shoot in Alabama, according to The Hollywood Reporter, the movie's cast will also feature former "American Idol" Ruben Studdard.
Using a military backdrop for onscreen drama is not a one-time thing for Trace. ThatE2s how things worked in his 2005 video "Arlington," and that's how the next one will go, too. Trace plans to shoot the video for "All I Ask For Anymore" Wednesday at Nashville's Berry Field, home of the Tennessee Air National Guard. According to WSMV-TV, the clip will incorporate members of the Guard and soldiers from Fort Campbell, Ky.
In the meantime, Trace has been called out regularly during the America's Toughest Tour with Toby Keith to help out vocally on another military-themed effort, Toby's "Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue (The Angry American)."
"I feel pretty honored," Trace told The Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader, "because everybody in [Toby's] band and crew told me that he'd never done that before."
Trace appears Monday night in the ABC special "CMA Music Festival: Country's Night To Rock," with Taylor Swift, Kid Rock, Sugarland and Brad Paisley. He's also expected to show up this fall on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" after taking part last month in a home build for a wounded Dallas police officer.

Carrie Underwood Surprises Hometown High School With Musical Instruments

August 28, 2009
Carrie Underwood surprised high school students in her hometown of Checotah, Okla., with a performance and new musical instruments worth more than $117,000. The donation is part of Underwood's new Checotah Animal, Town & School (C.A.T.S.) Foundation and was granted in conjunction with the Academy of Country Music's charitable arm, ACM Lifting Lives. Underwood also brought one of the school's fifth graders onstage to perform "So Small" with her. "I am so proud to have come from such a wonderful community that helped shape me as a person," said Underwood, "and I can think of nothing better than to share the gift of music with the students in my hometown. It's so great to be able to give back in a way that can truly better the lives of these kids and help create dreams and opportunities. I'd like to give a very special thanks to the Academy of Country Music's Lifting Lives for helping me make this dream come true." View photos.

INSIDER NEWS NOW: Shania Twain Sends a Message to Her Fans

Marking her 44th Birthday, She Gives an Update on Her Life
To celebrate her 44th birthday on Friday (Aug. 28), Shania Twin posted a message and a special video for her fans on her Web site. Her letter, which runs more than 900 words, is very folksy and -- although she does not mention it specifically - is very much an update on her life since her breakup with her husband, Robert John "Mutt" Lange.

She refers to her frequent companion, Frederic Thiebaud, as "Fred" and calls him "a dear friend and true gentleman" who is helping her and her son Eja adjust to a new life. She notes that a friend refers to her and Thiebaud as "Lucy and Ricky Ricardo."

Answering the obvious question of her reasons for posting a message and video, Twain writes, "Why I decided to share this personal side of my life with you at this point is to answer the questions I get asked so often lately: 'how are you, where have you been and what have you been doing?"

Twain goes on to elaborate, "A big part of the answer is in the montage. I'm 'OK' - yes, I hit a very big bump in the road, but Eja and I are doing well and with all the concern you, my fans, have shown over this difficult period, I want you to see for yourself that we are doing fine, by sharing these personal images with you." She says travel is helping a great deal, noting that she considers herself to be "on a journey of discovery and recovery."

The 15-minute video montage on her site chronicles her travels throughout the past year. It includes skydiving in Florida, skiing on a glacier in Switzerland, and trips to Egypt and Spain, among other destinations.

No mention is made of future plans regarding her music.

See her video to fans and watch music videos.

Reba McEntire's New Album Rules the Roost on Two Charts

Jason Aldean Drives "Big Green Tractor" Into Winner's Circle
Reba McEntire
Reba McEntire
Records, concerts, TV, movies, Broadway -- whatever the medium, Reba McEntire seems wired to win. And she wins big again this week as her new album, Keep On Loving You, debuts at the top of both Billboard's country and all-genres charts.

In so doing, the resilient redhead elbows George Strait's Twang CD back to No. 2 on both these rankings.

That other roaring sound you hear is Jason Aldean's "Big Green Tractor," which parks itself in the circle reserved for America's No. 1 country song.

The only other new album surfacing this week is David Nail's I'm About To Come Alive. It bows in at No. 19.

Miranda Lambert's "White Liar" is the highest-charting new song, arriving at No. 50. It is trailed by four other first-timers: Josh Turner's "Why Don't We Just Dance" (No. 57), Lee Brice's "Love Like Crazy" (No. 57), Michelle Branch's "Sooner or Later" (No. 59) and Billy Ray Cyrus' "A Good Day" (No. 60).

Albums re-entering the fray are Wynonna's Sing: Chapter 1 (No. 52), Elvis Presley's Collector's Edition: Elvis Inspiration Memories (No. 54), Reba's 50 Greatest Hits (No. 66) and James Otto's Sunset Man (No. 72).

Easton Corbin's "A Little More Country Than That" returns to the songs list at No. 47.

Albums No. 3 through No. 5, in that order, include the soundtrack to Hannah Montana: The Movie, Taylor Swift's Fearless and the Zac Brown Band's The Foundation.

Following Aldean in the Top 5 songs set are Rascal Flatts' "Summer Nights," Darius Rucker's "Alright," Randy Houser's "Boots On" and Strait's "Livin' for the Night."

Taylor Swift Takes New York City

Teen Queen Taylor Swift Claims Her Crown at Madison Square Garden
Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift
Photo Credit: Jason Kempin/Getty Images
NEW YORK -- It's the loudest sound you've ever heard in your life. Imagine a cross between the squeal of an 18-wheeler peeling out at light speed and a 50-foot tall referee's whistle reverberating around the Grand Canyon. Now multiply that by 20,000. No, we're not talking about the wail of a fret-melting guitar solo or the piercing squeal of a fiery fiddle, though both of those played a part in Taylor Swift's sold-out Madison Square Garden concert. We're talking about the audience. If you've never been in the midst of 20,000 tween-to-teen girls shrieking at maximum lung capacity, well, consider the above description an understatement, and suffice to say it's easy to understand why the Beatles quit touring so early on.

So what has inspired such a frenzy here at this storied New York City venue? The biggest coming-out party ever, one that seems way overdue. Between her 2006 debut album and its '08 follow-up, Fearless, Swift, now 19, has broken so many sales and chart records over the last three years that Guinness should have a full-time employee following her around. And yet, this is her first full-blown headlining tour. (It's not her first time at the Garden, though -- she proudly informs the crowd that her MSG debut came at age 12 in a talent competition during a Knicks halftime show.) She's brought along this year's new kids on the block, Gloriana, and pal Kellie Pickler, for company, and the latter makes an instant connection with the fans, who sing along en masse to her opening tune, "Best Days of Your Life," but in the end, this crowd is here to pay fervent, very vocal tribute to Swift on the eve of her "arrival" as a real-deal headlining superstar.

It's not merely her youth that has endeared Swift to an audience a full generation the junior of the fans most country stars attract. Tanya Tucker in the '70s and LeAnn Rimes in the '90s hit it big when each was three years younger than Taylor was when her "Tim McGraw" made the country and pop Top 40. But those earlier teen titans sang to and for the pre-existing country fanbase, i.e. adults. Swift's gift is her game-changing ability to create a country audience her own age (and younger) by writing -- neither Rimes nor Tucker were initially songwriters -- and singing songs about and to them.

That's the dynamic being played out on its biggest scale to date here. Just in case overtly teen-directed Swift singles like "15" and "Picture to Burn" aren't enough to reach the cheap seats in such a capacious venue, Taylor makes an impressive grab for the title of hardest-working woman in show business. She offers a jaw-dropping array of extramusical elements. Besides the elaborate, two-tiered stage setup, constantly shifting video graphic displays and dancers (How many other country artists employ dancers?), the singer herself goes through at least seven costume changes. They include a drum majorette/toy soldier uniform for "You Belong With Me" and a Victorian-looking ball gown for "Love Story." She races to the back of the arena to play a couple of songs for those farthest from the stage before doing the same in the middle, trades moves with the dancers and band and engages in theatrical, song-accentuating tableaux amid constantly changing stage scenery, from a mockup of a TV chat show to a high-school  classroom.

So does all this make the experience any less "country?" Not instrumentally. Swift's band prominently features fiddle, banjo, and acoustic guitar, where Pickler's, just to nab the nearest example, doesn't. Not emotionally. In her between-song banter, she repeatedly goes out of her way to underline the songs' relatable nature ("I'm not the only girl who burns her ex-boyfriend's pictures."). Not visually. Anybody ever heard of a guy named Brooks, who was flying over the stage and employing pyrotechnics when Swift was in diapers, never mind Chris LeDoux, old enough to have been her grandfather, whose rodeo-riding cred wasn't damaged a bit by his onstage mechanical-bull antics?

While there are plenty of males and adults who have no problem relating to Swift's music, this evening was ultimately about our heroine communing with her tribe. Never has there been a question as rhetorical as Swift's cry toward the show's end, "Where my girls at?" Those rump-shaking gyrations and dramatic hair-flips Swift indulged in throughout the concert, her series of sequined minidresses, even the similarly dolled-up state of her assembled admirers, it was all for each other, not for the prurient pleasure of some guys. These were expressions of exultant celebration, not attempts at sex appeal.

From "You're Not Sorry" to "Should've Said No," if Swift's repertoire has an overarching theme, it's the resilient nature of the female spirit, especially in the face of romantic betrayal. Call it "girl power" if you must, but come to think of it, that concept is surely far from foreign to the mothers (who were out in numbers) of these girls, too. You didn't think those quadruple-Platinum sales came strictly from the high-school set, did you? It all hit home in the final image of this momentous night at the climax of "Should've Said No," when the final visual spectacle of the evening, a giant waterfall, covered Swift in its flow as she stayed her ground, duly drenched, but with a fist triumphantly upraised.

View photos from the Madison Square Garden concert.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Shania Surprises Fans On Her Birthday


Shania Twain Photo Courtesy of Mercury Nashville

August 28, 2009 - It's been 7 years since fans have heard new music from Shania Twain. And just over a year ago fans got the shocking news that her 14 year marriage to husband-producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange was ending. But today, Shania let her fans know that she's doing okay and things are going pretty good. The news came by way of a very intimate letter and home video posted on her website The release of the letter and video were part of surprise gift back to her fans on her birthday.
"Why I decided to share this personal side of my life with you at this point is to answer the questions I get asked so often lately: 'how are you, where have you been and what have you been doing?' Shania wrote in the letter. "A big part of the answer is in the [video] montage. I'm 'okay' - yes, I hit a very big bump in the road, but Eja and I are doing well and with all the concern you, my fans, have shown over this difficult period, I want you to see for yourself that we are doing fine, by sharing these personal images with you." Shania went on to confirm for her fans.
The home video images take fans along as Shania takes a tandem skydiving jump from 10,000 feet above the Florida Keys. Shania shares a little of her motivation behind the jump in her words printed on the screen, "It's as if I needed to do something to take my breath away to remind me to breathe." The footage is definitely breathtaking!
Next up, Shania shares her holiday trip to the Swiss Alps, offering fans a firsthand view from her seat in the small Piper airplane she rode in before landing on the top of a glacier for a picnic. Then it was off for a day of skiing with the son Eja.
Shania's next stop in the video was a trip she took to Beirut, Lebanon where she toured the city and spent some time in the bomb ruined areas devasted by that country's civil war. As the footage rolled by Shania's on screen message read "I wish war and its destruction could just end everywhere."
From there Shania makes a stop in Cairo, Egypt where we see her horseback riding across the desert sands in front of the Pyramids. Then Shania trades in her horse for a camel during a visit to the Dubai desert. Then it's back on a horse for beach rides along the coast where the Sinai desert meets the Red Sea...
The video continues with Shania spending time "dancing" with a Spanish Stallion and swimming with the dolpins in Dubai. The video wraps with a stop in Barcelona, Spain and a message from Shania, "My travels have been incredibly rejuvenating. They have filled me up with a deeper appreciation for life and replenished my appetite for living, loving and laughing."
Read the full letter and watch the video now at

Luke Bryan Has First No. 1 on "Top 20"


Luke Bryan performs at the VAULT Concert Stage at LP Field in Downtown Nashville Friday, June 12 during the 2009 CMA Music Festival. Photographer: John Russell / CMA.

Aug. 28, 2009 — Luke Bryan's "Do I" video is built around scenes from an elevator — appropriate because he rides all the way to the top for the first time in his career on this week's edition of GAC's Top 20 Country Countdown, hosted by Suzanne Alexander.
"Do I" is the first single from his sophomore album, Doin' My Thing, set for release Oct. 6, and Luke fully intends for this CD to out-perform the last one.
"My first album had great hits and it sold well, but everything about that album is beatable," he says. "We wanted to make a bigger sounding record, something that moved a little down the road from the first record. We wanted to show my growth vocally and lyrically."
Luke wrote "Do I" with Lady Antebellum members Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood, but it's not the first time one of his songs had a strong connection to another artist. Luke also wrote "Good Directions," which was a No. 1 single for Billy Currington, who Luke displaces this week at No. 1.
Top 20 Country Countdown counts down the week's top country videos from No. 20 to No. 1 as voted by viewers on each week on A new countdown premieres every Friday at 8 p.m. ET on GAC and airs again Saturdays at 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. ET; Sundays at 1 p.m. ET; and Mondays at 10 a.m. ET. Viewers can vote for their favorite videos, as well as purchase Top 20 artists' albums and ringtones at
1. Luke Bryan "Do I"
2. Billy Currington "People Are Crazy"
3. Kellie Pickler "Best Days Of Your Life"
4. Jason Aldean "Big Green Tractor"
5. Taylor Swift "You Belong With Me"
6. Keith Urban "Only You Can Love Me This Way"
7. Lady Antebellum "I Run To You"
8. Martina McBride "I Just Call You Mine"
9. Miranda Lambert "Dead Flowers"
10. Brooks & Dunn "Indian Summer"
11. Reba McEntire "Strange"
12. Gloriana "Wild At Heart"
13. Sugarland "Nightswimming/Joey"
14. Darius Rucker "Alright"
15. Whitn ey Duncan "Skinny Dippin'"
16. Chris Young "Gettin' You Home"
17. Jimmy Wayne "I'll Be That"
18. Rascal Flatts "Summer Nights"
19. Brad Paisley "Welcome To The Future"
20. Caitlin & Will "Address In The Stars"

Big & Rich, Carrie Underwood Reach Out for Charity


Big & Rich photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Nashville.

Aug. 28, 2009 — Big & Rich, Carrie Underwood and Vince Gill are among a multitude of country stars working to make the world a better place through charity.
They're hardly alone — country artists are notoriously generous with their time when it comes to people in need. They're among the acts giving a hand in support of breast cancer, in support of a parenting organization and in support of a trust fund in the name of a woman killed in an August concert disaster in Canada.
The roundup follows:
• Big & Rich played Telus Field in Edmonton Tuesday, where they joined with the city's NHL team, the Oilers, to raise $55,000 for the Donna Moore Memorial Trust Fund, according to The Edmonton Journal. She left behind two children when heavy winds at a concert in Camrose caused a speaker to fall on her. Ten dollars from every ticket at Tuesday's show was earmarked for the trust fund.
E2 Carrie Underwood is on deck to flip the switch Oct. 2 when the Grand Ole Opry goes pink for one night to raise money for the fight against breast cancer. The barn backdrop, a trademark visual element on the long-running show, will be shaded pink instead of the usual red, with $5 from each ticket sold headed to Women Rock For The Cure and to Susan G. Komen For The Cure. Terri Clark is also scheduled that night, with other artists to be announced at a later date.
• Susan G. Komen Greater Nashville will also benefit from Shoot For A Cure, an exhibition slated for Sept. 2 at the Tennessee Miller Coliseum in Murfreesboro, Tenn. GAC's Storme Warren will participate along with Brett Warren (no relation), of the Warren Brothers, and Jason Meadows, plus 2009 High School National Rodeo Champion Brody Beaver.
• Dolly Parton, Wynonna, Reba McEntire, Neal McCoy, the Grascals and Lee Greenwood are among those who've committed to appear on Jerry Lewis' 44th annual Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon. This year's edition comes up Sept. 6-7.
• Vince Gill and his daughter, Jenny Gill, perform Saturday at Nashville's 3rd & Lindsley, in a fundraiser for Attachment Parenting International, The Tennessean reported. Other parent-child combos on the bill include singer-songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman ("This Kiss") with son Ernest Chapman and songwriter Gary Nicholson ("One More Last Chance") with son Luke Nicholson. Also appearing: songwriter20Bob DiPiero ("You Can't Take The Honky Tonk Out Of The Girl") with his band, the Floating Stones.

Jake Owen Plays Matchmaker for Twin Brother


Jake Owen photo by James Minchin, courtesy of RCA Nashville.

August 28, 2009 — Country Aircheck reports that Jake Owen recently played cupid for his twin brother, Jarrod. Jake teamed up with Premiere morning radio duo Big D and Bubba, asking female listeners to send in photos and descriptions, from which Jake chose a blind date for Jarrod.
Click here to see the video of Jarrod meeting his date for the first time!
In other Jake news, he and Jarrod are celebrating their 28th birthday today. Jake tweeted: Officially 28 years old. I haven't drank since I was 27. ;)

Reba Breaks Her Own Record For #1's


Reba McEntire on the set of her "Strange" video. Photo courtesy of the Valory Music Co.

August 31, 2009 - Reba McEntire has added yet another page to the country music history books this week as her latest album Keep On Loving You, her first new studio album in six years, debuted at #1 on both the Billboard Top Country and the Top 200 Album charts.
Keep On Loving You is Reba's first studio album to take the top position on the Billboard Top 200, the chart that tracks album sales for all genres of music, not just country. And the album is the highest debut from a female country artist so far in 2009.
When it comes to breaking records, Reba has outdone herself this time. Reba now holds the record as the female artist with the most #1 albums on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart, having earned 11 #1 albums since the launch of the chart on January 11, 1964. Reba had previously shared the title with Loretta Lynn with 10 albums.
"I have had a blast w orking with my new Valory Music Co. team, along with my Starstruck family, on this record," said Reba who learned of her #1 history-making status this past week, while in LA for a host of television tapings, via a phone call from label President & CEO Scott Borchetta. "To have this success at this time of my life and career means everything to me."
Reba's Keep On Loving You also marks a major milestone for country music as a genre. The album's #1 status marks the third consecutive country album to top the Billboard Top 200 Album chart. Reba rounds out the trio of Sugarland and George Strait whose new albums achieved #1 status in the previous two weeks. Reba's #1 album this week marks the first time in history that three country albums have topped the Billboard Top 200 Album chart in a row.
For a unique behind the scenes look at Reba in action, fans can watch the streaming presentation of her GAC special REBA ON THE SET online now. The show takes fans on the set with Reba, video director Trey Fanjoy and the entire cast and crew as they bring her latest smash hit song to life in the video for "Strange". Click her to watch the show now »

Friday, August 28, 2009

Darius Rucker, Lee Ann Womack to Announce CMA Nominees on Sept. 9

August 27, 2009
Darius Rucker and Lee Ann Womack will announce the nominations for the 2009 CMA Awards on Sept. 9 on ABC's Good Morning America. The announcement will be made live from the show's studio in New York City between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. ET. In addition, Chuck Wicks ("Stealing Cinderella") will announce the broadcast nominations from the New York studio of Premiere Radio Networks. The CMA Awards will take place on Nov. 11 in Nashville and will be co-hosted by Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood.

Trace Adkins, Elvis Presley, Keith Urban Earn RIAA Certifications

August 27, 2009
Trace Adkins, Elvis Presley and Keith Urban are among the artists receiving sales certifications from the RIAA this summer. The digital single for Adkins' "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk" earned platinum status for 1 million paid downloads. Presley's album, 30 #1 Hits, from 2002, reached five-times platinum. Urban received three gold digital singles this summer for more than 500,000 downloads of "Tonight I Wanna Cry," "Stupid Boy" and "Sweet Thing."

Carrie Underwood Will Turn Opry Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness

August 27, 2009
Carrie Underwood will help the Grand Ole Opry stage turn pink in honor of breast cancer awareness during two shows on Oct. 2. In addition to performing, Underwood will flip the switch to turn the Opry's signature backdrop pink in support of the groups Women Rock for the Cure and Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Beginning Thursday (Aug. 27), when fans mention "OPRYPINK" when ordering tickets via telephone or online, $5 from the ticket prices to the Oct. 2 shows will be donated to the charitable organizations.

NASHVILLE SKYLINE: New Music From Miranda Lambert, Reba McEntire, Jack Ingram

And More: Radney Foster, Terri Clark, Ricky Skaggs, John Fogerty
Nashville Skyline
Nashville Skyline
(NASHVILLE SKYLINE is a column by CMT/ Editorial Director Chet Flippo.)

With summer fading, it's a good time to look ahead to new music that's here and is coming soon. Here's some music I've been enjoying lately.

Miranda Lambert probably doesn't want to be forever categorized as the kitten with a whip, or the spitfire who'll take gunpowder and lead and kerosene to your sorry ass if you ever cross her. Of course, Lambert is much more than that, as she shows on her third CD, Revolution. She still recorded "Time to Get a Gun" here, but listen to "Makin' Plans" or "The House That Built Me" or "Love Song" for the more introspective and thoughtful Miranda. She will preview the entire album at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium Sept. 24, before its release on Sept. 29. I would not have picked "Dead Flowers" as the first single release from the album, as was done, but -- no one asked me.

Reba McEntire is back to just being "Reba," as she has done with the Reba Duets album and other projects. The new CD is Keep On Loving You, and she once again rambles through the musical spectrum, offering a variety of songs. Good for her for straightforwardly choosing to sing mature songs such as "She's Turning 50 Today." No sense pretending you're a kid anymore. Country music audiences actually like grown-up people.

• Several years ago, the R.J. Reynolds tobacco company mounted an elaborate campaign aimed at what they considered to be an untapped consumer market: women of a certain lower economic class who were the female equivalent of the Marlboro Man. Reynolds referred to them as "Virile Women." Reynolds didn't realize that "redneck women" were really their target. The campaign didn't work. What Reynolds actually had in mind was a true virile woman, although they didn't realize it. By that, I mean a woman such as Terri Clark. A stand-up, ballsy woman, I mean. Clark is back, after taking a sabbatical to care for her ill mother, and she's got a collection of uncompromising songs on The Long Way Home. It's good to see Clark again and to hear her in fine voice, with 11 new songs she wrote or co-wrote.

Jack Ingram has traveled a long road from his sort of cult following in Texas to gain a national audience. His new Big Dreams & High Hopes builds on that ascendency. "Barefoot and Crazy" from the=2 0album is turning into a major hit. I especially like his duet with Patty Griffin on "Seeing Stars."

John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival fame has returned with his Blue Ridge Rangers -- the name he adopts when he records country and other favorite songs. And The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again is another good ride through a few of his favorite songs, some at full-throttle Fogerty express attack and some almost surprisingly soft-voiced. In the latter category, you might have your eyebrows raised by his treatment of John Denver's "Back Home Again." Hey, it's a good song and Fogerty's a great singer.

Ricky Skaggs, the skilled and seasoned bluegrass and country veteran, steps out by himself with a flourish on Ricky Skaggs Solo: Songs My Dad Loved. Hobert Skaggs taught his son the deep, deep roots of bluegrass and Appalachian music, which Ricky quickly picked up on as a child prodigy -- picking with Bill Monroe at age 5 and making his Grand Ole Opry debut at 7. Now Ricky re-introduces some of the music here in rich detail. He plays all the acoustic instruments himself. It's very charming and uplifting music from long ago.

Radney Foster remains one of Nashville's best singer-songwriters that no t enough people appreciate. He was one-half of the wonderful Foster-Lloyd duo with the equally delightful Bill Lloyd, and now Foster, with his band the Confessions, steps out with an especially bold solo CD. Revival contains 12 songs (plus a reprise of the song "A Little Revival"). There are songs about sin and forgiveness, about God and angels, about love and hope. And they rock out. It takes more than one listening to absorb it all.

• I'm still regularly listening to Loudon Wainwright III's High, Wide & Handsome, his Charlie Poole project, and now I've found a great companion package. The Red Fox Chasers were contemporaries of Poole in North Carolina, and there's a new double CD set of their music -- I'm Going Down to North Carolina: The Complete Recordings of the Red Fox Chasers (1928-31). This four-piece group recorded only 42 songs before disbanding, but they left some remarkable examples of stark, unpolished mountain music. Not surprisingly they shared some tunes with Poole and with the Carter Family.

See videos for Jack Ingram's "Barefoot and Crazy" Terri Clark's "Gypsy Boots," Reba's "Strange" and Miranda Lambert's "Dead Flowers."

Jack Ingram Breaks World Record With 215 Radio Interviews in 24 Hours

August 26, 2009
Jack Ingram successfully tackled 215 radio interviews in 24 hours and set a new world record. On Tuesday (Aug. 25), the native Texan released a new album, Big Dreams & High Hopes, which features his new single, "Barefoot and Crazy." Ingram will play at Adair's Saloon in Dallas on Wednesday (Aug. 26) to celebrate the new release. He'll also sign autographs and perform at Waterloo Records in Austin, Texas, on Thursday (Aug. 27). In addition, he'll open concerts for Toby Keith in Las Vegas on Saturday (Aug. 29) and in Stateline, Nev., on Sunday (Aug. 30). View interview photos.

Faith Hill's Football Anthem Will Return for Third Season

August 26, 2009
Faith Hill's "Waiting All Day for Sunday Night" will return as the theme song for NBC's Sunday Night Football for the third season. It will make its first appearance this season on Sept. 13, in a matchup between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers, and will continue to be heard throughout the NFL season. The anthem is set to the original Joan Jett song, "I Hate Myself for Loving You." Hill recorded the track in Nashville and filmed the video at Universal Studios Orlando.

Kenny Chesney Will Debut New Song on ESPN on Sept. 3

August 26, 2009
Kenny Chesney has written a song to be used exclusively on ESPN's college football game and studio telecasts during Dick's Sporting Goods Kickoff Week (Sept. 3-7) and Championship Saturday (Dec. 5) as well as select games throughout the season and bowl games. ESPN will debut the song during its pregame show on Sept. 3 at 7 p.m. The song, "This Is Our Moment," will be used as an opening tease, as the networks go in and out of commercial breaks, and for promotions of upcoming programs and show elements across ABC and across ESPN platforms. Chesney was inspired to start writing the song on a cocktail napkin last fall during a dinner in Nashville with play-by-play announcer Brett Musburger, football analyst Kirk Herbstreit and producer Bill Bonnell. Chesney was a guest on ESPN's College Game Day telecast from Vanderbilt during their game against Auburn last year.

Jason Aldean Rides Video Trail to Stardom

Tall, Rangy Singer Displays Rocker Attitude
Jason Aldean
Jason Aldean
Having made his first music video only four years ago, Jason Aldean is still an infant in this medium. Even so, he has already established a strong and consistent presence as a thoughtful, intense, sometimes brooding troubadour whose songs -- whatever their subject matter -- are to be taken seriously. He's not trying to come across as one of the boys or to make you laugh. He wants your full attention. In other words, he's more rock regal than country chummy.

Contributing to this more somber tone is the fact that the first seven of Aldean's eight videos are mixtures of black and white and muted colors, which, depending on the scene, can impart either a dreamy or nightmarish quality. Whatever the background, though, Aldean's tall, rangy frame, assertive poses and middle-distance gaze make him a compelling figure to watch.

Here's his portfolio.

"Hicktown" (2005) -- A tour bus rolls up in the middle of nowhere, stagehands get to work and suddenly you've got a show. This clip surrenders to all the usual down-home clichés -- guys in monster trucks and astride ATVs, exquisitely=2 0sculpted girls clad in denim miniskirts and baring their navels, mud everywhere. But with his wide stance and imperious glare, Aldean seems to rise above all the predictables, even as he urges the action along.

"Amarillo Sky" (2006) -- The video opens with a series of young farmers speaking into the camera and telling how dear farming is to their hearts and how perilous the profession has become. As tractors roll, crop dusters fly and combines rumble across the fields, Aldean and his band become the Greek chorus that comments on this noble struggle to survive.

"Johnny Cash" (2007) -- Here, Aldean not only name-checks the Man in Black, he seems to be channeling him, as well, right down to the snarls and hand gesture. Standing in a neon netherworld, he sings of the need to flee a dead-end town and never come back. This isn't the light-hearted escapism of "Heads Carolina, Tails California." This is a dark, desperate flight. Just look at the vacant face of the girl who agrees to go along on this aimless journey.

"Laughed Until We Cried" (2007) -- Looking convincingly pensive, Aldean strolls along a beach as phantom figures from his youth cavort in the sand. Then he's on to the beachside amusement park, still deep in thought, until his little girl runs into his arms and brings his bittersweet reveries back to real life. This is the only video to date in which Aldean isn't shown singing.

"Relentless" (2008) -- Life on the road can be a real drag when you're separated from the one you love, says this video. Deep in thought, Aldean sprawls in a motel room, looking at a phone that doesn't ring. Then he goes for a solitary walk. But nothing dispels the loneliness. On another level, this video serves to "brand" and position Aldean as a headliner via its concert setup scenes and prominent JA signage.

"She's Country" (2008) -- Unlike the show-in-a-pasture of "Hicktown," here Aldean and company set up for a big arena show. The payoff: adoring chicks crowding up to the edge of the stage (all presumably of rural origin or aspiration).

"Big Green Tractor" (2009) -- This live clip, which shows Aldean and his band performing against a huge backdrop, is in rich rather than muted colors. Lots of flashing lights and waves of applause. Most of the close-ups, though, are of Aldean and his lead guitar player. JA has arrived.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Kenny Chesney Gears Up TV Entry


Kenny Chesney performs at the VAULT Concert Stage at LP Field in Downtown Nashville Sunday, June 14 during the 2009 CMA Music Festival. Photo courtesy of the Country Music Association.

Aug. 26, 2009 — Kenny Chesney's current tour of stadiums and amphitheaters comes to a close next month, but the music will keep rolling on. His installment of the PBS music series "Austin City Limits" has been slated for Oct. 17.
Kenny shot his episode in May with guest appearances by "Down The Road" collaborator Mac McAnally and percussionist Drummie Zeb, whose lengthy resume includes work with reggae kingpins the Wailers. The show features some of Kenny's live staples — "Young," "Summertime" and "Beer In Mexico," among them — but in comparison to the Sun City Carnival shows, the "ACL" date is an intimate, rather low-key affair.
"All of the greatest artists, singer-songwriters have done 'Austin City Limits' over the years, regardless of genre," Kenny says. "It's something I'd think every musician wo uld want to do at some point in their career. I'm just blown away that I get to have an entire hour to give my fans this music in a whole different way than I think they're used to."
The final date on the Sun City itinerary comes Sept. 18 when he plays Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. In the meantime, Kenny's got another major television appearance on the books. He's in the lineup for ABC's Monday-night special "CMA Music Festival: Country's Night To Rock," airing Monday, August 31 at 8 p.m. ET. Among others featured in the three-hour presentation: Sugarland, Brad Paisley, Jamey Johnson, Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum.

Miranda Lambert, Escape Artist


Miranda Lambert photo by Randee St. Nicholas, courtesy of Front Page Publicity.

Aug. 26, 2009 — Miranda Lambert can get extremely intense in the middle of her shows, stomping across the stage and flinging her hair as she barrels through "Kerosene" and "Gunpowder & Lead."
She has her softer side, too, but the high-energy pieces really let her cut loose. It's one of the most important parts of her job, which Miranda sees as providing her fans with an escape valve from the issues in their everyday lives.
"People don't want to think about it," she told the national radio show GAC Nights: Live From Nashville. "That's what entertainment is for. You don't go to a movie because you want to sit there through the whole thing and think about everything horrible in your life. You go so you can get your mind off of it. And I think people come to concerts because they want to cut loose for two hours of their life and drink a beer and listen to music and just be out o f the problems, because they have to deal with that seven days a week. And my job is to try to make people have fun and not think about that stuff."
Miranda has new music on the way with the Sept. 29 release of her album Revolution. In one of her escapist outings, she'll perform the songs from the disc in their entirety Sept. 24 at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium.

Jack Ingram Sets Guinness World Record


Country music's marathon man Jack Ingram dove headfirst into the release day of his new album BIG DREAMS & HIGH HOPES by setting the Guinness World Record this morning for "Most Consecutive Radio Interviews In A 24 Hour Period." Jack notched 215 interviews across most of the 50 states and parts of Canada, Ireland and Australia, easily shattering the previous record of 96 interviews. l-r: Jack Ingram and Laura Plunkett (Guinness World Record Adjudicator) Photo courtesy of The Green Room.

August 26, 2009 — It wouldn't be surprising if Jack Ingram were on vocal rest today — not for singing too much, but simply for talking. The country rocker spent Tuesday, Aug. 25 talking non-stop about himself and his new album, Big Dreams & High Hopes, in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for "Most Consecutive Radio Interviews in a 24-Hour Period."
Did he do it? You bet! Jack more than shattered the previous record of 96 interviews by doing an astounding 215 interviews across most of the 50=2 0states and parts of Canada, Ireland and Australia.
"After the last 24 hours, I officially have nothing left to say," declared Jack.
Jack started the day at 8 a.m. in New York City at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge and wrapped up his talking marathon with a performance of his Top 10 single, "Barefoot And Crazy" on Fox & Friends.
Jack will continue singing tonight in his home state of Texas, with concerts in Dallas tonight and Austin tomorrow. He finishes the week opening three shows for Toby Keith in California.
Click here to watch Jack's video for "Barefoot And Crazy" (and all of his other videos, too) plus get a copy of Big Dreams & High Hopes!

Brad Paisley & Carrie Underwood to Host CMA Awards Again


The reigning CMA Male and Female Vocalists of the Year, Brad Paisley (left) and Carrie Underwood (right), unite to host "The 43rd Annual CMA Awards." "The 43rd Annual CMA Awards" will be broadcast live from the Sommet Center in Nashville, WEDNE SDAY, NOVEMBER 11 (8:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC-TV/BOB D'AMICO) Photo courtesy of the CMA.

August 26, 2009 — Last year's CMA Awards hosts, Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood, will once again helm the 2009 awards on Wednesday, November 11 (airing live on ABC).
"I am thrilled to get the chance to co-host the CMAs for a second time with my pal Carrie," saysBrad. "This year we'll pull out all the stops, like a miniature poodle balancing act, tightrope walking, and a new world record for the number of costume changes by my co-host. Don't miss it!"
"I regret to inform Brad that I do not have a poodle, and I would appreciate it if he asks me permission before he tries on all my dresses this y ear," responds Carrie. "But all kidding aside, I'm really excited to be hosting again this year with my friend, Brad, as we celebrate another wonderful year of Country Music! It's going to be a great show!"
Yesterday broke the story with an interview with Brad and Carrie. "I thought we did a good job," said Carrie about last year's show. "I wasn't nervous about being asked back. But I was hoping they would ask us."
Brad added, "I figured if they wanted us back they'd ask and if not, we'd get to sit and watch somebody else go through it."
The reigning CMA Male and Female Vocalist of the Year winners are even hatching a wardrobe plan. "What if we color coordinate this year? Like for prom?" Carrie asked Brad. "If I wear a red dress, you can wear a red vest or a red bowtie?"
"Deal!" said Brad. "If I wear a tie, I will match it to whatever you're wearing."
The talented duo also revealed what it's really like backstage at the fast-paced awards show.
"October we'll start going through things, figure out dates," said Carrie.
"But you get the script and read through it," said Brad. "Re-writes happen, you contribute things, they contribute things. You're doing that all the way up to about 10 minutes before – and then you go on!"
"Yeah, you're standing on the wings or in your dressing room and they hand you a couple pages and say, 'H ere's the latest re-write on that part,'" adds Carrie.
To date, Brad has 11 CMA Awards in his trophy case and Carrie has five.

Lady Antebellum Runs to Lunch for No. 1


Lady Antebellum performs at the VAULT Concert Stage at LP Field in Downtown Nashville Friday, June 12 during the 2009 CMA Music Festival. Photographer: John Russell / CMA.

Aug. 25, 2009 — Fried chicken, Mimosas, banana pudding and the trademark biscuits of Nashville's Loveless Café were the order of the day Monday as Lady Antebellum celebrated its first No. 1 single with lunch at the same restaurant they visited in the middle of writing "I Run To You."
Songwriter Tom Douglas — who'd previously authored such hits as Collin Raye's "Little Rock," Martina McBride's "Love's The Only House" and Tim McGraw's "Grown Men Don't Cry" — came to the table that day with what Hillary Scott described as "the most amazing idea we've ever heard."
"Truth be told," Charles Kelley piped in, "Tom wrote 80 percent of this thing."
The song's running theme — "I run my life/Or is it running me" and "we run on fumes" are amo ng the numerous uses of the concept — came literally from a 2007 foot race in Nashville in which Tom found himself "behind a guy with 'I Run This Town' on the back of his T-shirt," Tom recalled.
He already had the theme and bits of the melody in place when he sat down to write with Lady A for the first time in fall 2007, and the foursome finished the song in that single session, with a mid-day break for lunch at the Loveless, not far from the songwriter's home. Tom was impressed by their willingness to tackle an idea that was "message-y" and even more impressed by the ultimate recording, which featured some unusual flourishes for a country single, including Michael Rojas' Hammond B-3 shadings and Craig Young's busy bass lines in the opening measures.
Many of the musicians — including Craig and guitarists Jason "Slim" Gambill, Rob McNelley and Lady A's Dave Haywood — had never appeared on a Top 10 country hit prior to their work on the trio's debut album, demonstrating the band's desire to think outside of the genre's stylistic box from the outset.
"We had had specific talks before we went into the record about trying to pull maybe a little mix of some guys that are well-known but also some guys that hadn't gotten maybe their big chance yet," Charles noted. "You can open up a record in Nashville and it definitely has a lot of the same players, and that's great. They are so good, and they're even willin' to be chameleons I think, 'cause they're that good. And that's why they're the go-to people, but we just wanted to try to step outside the box a little bit."
Two of the three U.S. performing-rights organizations — BMI and SESAC — joined Capitol Records, Country Weekly magazine, the Country Music Association and Country Radio Broadcasters in giving plaques to the trio, to Tom and to producers Paul Worley and Victoria Shaw.
Lady A, with Tom adding additional harmony on the chorus, delivered an acoustic version of "I Run To You." The band followed with a performance of its new single, "Need You Now," on a day filled with coincidence. Hillary's parents — Linda Davis, best known for her Reba McEntire duet "Does He Love You"; and Lang Scott, who played in Reba's band for eight years — were in attendance at a time when they have their own milestone to observe: Tuesday is their 25th wedding anniversary. Meanwhile, Capitol's radio promotion department skipped the Loveless lunch to work the phones on chart day and "Need You Now" ended up the most-added single of the week at Country Aircheck. The artist the song beat out: Reba.

Willie Nelson Passes on "Classic" Values


Willie Nelson photo by David McClister, courtesy of Lost Highway.

Aug. 25, 2009 — With Tuesday's release of his American Classic album, Willie Nelson is dipping back into a well he's drawn from several times in his career — most notably with the 1978 project Stardust.
Like that album, and several others Willie's done through the years, the CD revisits numerous standards from the traditional-pop era, including the Tony Bennett chestnut "Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words)," Fats Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin'" and the Hoagy Carmichael composition "The Nearness Of You."
Pulling from the Tin Pan Alley era certainly worked with Stardust. The album yielded hits with "Georgia On My Mind," "All Of Me," "Blue Skies" and "September Song," and it became the first release ever to occupy a slot on the Billboard country albums chart for more than a decade. Executives at the country division of his label at the time were unimpressed with the idea, but Willie was20the company's best-selling act at the time, so he got a lot of leeway.
"When I did Stardust, a lot of people said, 'You're crazy, those are old songs. People won't buy them,'" Willie told the Canwest News Service. "But I had enough faith in the songs and the music itself to know that it didn't matter if they were old or new. People don't forget good songs. If it was a hit at one time, people will want to hear it again later."
And that's part of the reason that American Classic closes with a new version of one of Willie's own hits, "Always On My Mind." Originally, he had planned to have Barbra Streisand join him on the song, he told The Los Angeles Times, but that never quite materialized.
Two duets did make the Classic album: He sings "Baby, It's Cold Outside" with Norah Jones and shares vocals with Diana Krall on "If I Had You," a song Rudy Vallee popularized during the Roaring '20s.
Coinciding with the release, Willie is performing in Hawaii Tuesday at Charley's Restaurant & Saloon, a tiny Maui location where he occasionally delivers "secret" shows with special guests. Joining him this time around is the indie rock act Band Of Horses.

Garth Brooks Heads Leadership Music Event


Label executive Jim Foglesong, producer/songwriter Allen Reynolds and artist Garth Brooks were honored with the Leadership Music Dale Franklin Award during an all-star musical tribute August 23, 2009 in Nashville. The evening culminated with a surprise performance by Garth, who then invited co-honorees Reynolds and Foglesong to join him on the song, "Man of Constant Sorrow." Pictured l-r: Allen Reynolds, Garth Brooks and Jim Foglesong. Photo by Steve Lowry.

Aug. 24, 2009 — Garth Brooks cried, but he wasn't the only man in the room who shed tears.
Garth claimed Leadership Music's sixth annual Dale Franklin Award, given for outstanding leadership in Nashville's music community, during a five-hour dinner Sunday at the Nashville Renaissance Hotel. But he was hardly the only honoree; he shared the evening with producer Allen Reynolds and Country Music Hall of Famer Jim Foglesong, who signed Garth to his first recording contract during his tenure at Capitol Records.
The word "integrity" found its20way into numerous speeches and bundles of video tributes as guest after guest paid homage to the honesty of the honorees and their commitment to their music. The lineup was strong: Steve Wariner threw a scatted guitar solo into "Longneck Bottle," the neo-swing hit he wrote and sang on with Garth; while Martina McBride was perfectly suited to cover the drama of "The Thunder Rolls."
Crystal Gayle delivered the hypnotic melancholy of "Ready For The Times To Get Better," a 1978 hit Allen wrote and produced, and Hal Ketchum turned "Five O'Clock World" — a song Allen wrote when he was managing a Memphis bank in the 1960s — into a gorgeously understated ballad. The ever-unpredictable songwriter-engineer-producer "Cowboy" Jack Clement, age 78, read a lengthy speech, shuffled the paper, then started again from the top before singing Allen's "Dreaming My Dreams" while two people stood behind him in case he should lose his balance.
Grand Ole Opry star John Conlee, signed to ABC/Dot when Jim Foglesong presided over that label in the mid 1970s, earned a boisterous standing ovation for his commanding read of "Rose Colored Glasses." Kathy Mattea sang "I Believe In You," a 1980 single by another of Jim's signees, Don Williams. And Lee Greenwood, also signed by Jim, chipped in a smoky version of his first hit, "It Turns Me Inside Out."
It was 20 years ago that Garth, under the guidance of Allen and Jim, began the ride that catapulted him to superstardom, and i t was that commonality that brought them together as award winners. They all made a point of deflecting some of the attention, thanking the songwriters, musicians, artists and managers who played a role in their careers. Garth specifically introduced the seven session players and three backing vocalists who contributed to his recordings, enumerating specific instances in which they bolstered his confidence as an artist or brought a signature lick to a song. He even brought up engineer Mark Miller, who had the task of assembling take after take of performances and helping to shape the sound.
"I really thought tonight was gonna suck," Garth confessed, "and this was really cool."
Emmylou Harris, George Strait, Barbara Mandrell, Charlie Daniels, blues musician Keb' Mo', Hall of Fame member Jo Walker-Meador, Dierks Bentley, Donna Fargo, Dickey Lee, Dolly Parton, the Oak Ridge Boys, Huey Lewis, Sawyer Brown's Mark Miller and "Gone Country" songwriter Bob McDill were among those who paid homage in person or via video. Mel Tillis and Bucky Covington were also spotted in the crowd.
In addition to enumerating their thanks, the Leadership Award winners took the opportunity to motivate the audience to take on its own share of mentoring. Jim, who's taught music-business courses at Vanderbilt University since his retirement, cited academic studies and music-therapy programs that underscore the role music can play in improving math scores among students and in building character.
"The worl d needs music," he said. "We have a great responsibility as music leaders. This is something to be really proud of — to have a career in music."
Allen challenged the decision makers in the room to avoid the temptation to record songs simply because they had financial ties to the copyright.
"We can never afford to be lazy, or careless, or corrupt or greedy in the selection of songs," he said. "Songs are everything."
Garth finished the evening with four songs from the early part of his career — "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)," "We Shall Be Free," "Friends In Low Places" and "The Dance" — then brought Jim and Allen back out for an acoustic read of the O Brother, Where Art Thou? track "I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow."
That highlight was missed by those who left early, though the bulk of them at least saw Trisha Yearwood's moving performance for her husband. Trisha sang a grippingly powerful version of "To Make You Feel My Love," backed only by Mark Casstevens' acoustic guitar and Rob Hajacos' fiddle, while Garth stood at attention in the center of the room.
"He's cried more tonight?" she told the crowd.
"I love you," she told him, "and I'm very proud of you."
"The last nine years of my life," he said to her later, "have been the best nine years of my life. I love you."
Awards, sentiment, music, money and integrity. Those things don't20always come together at the same time among leaders in the music industry — or in many other professional sectors. But they were all there in spirit on Sunday night. Along with some tears.

Monday, August 24, 2009

George Strait's Twang Is Nation's No. 1 Album

Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me" Continues as Top Country Song
George Strait
George Strait
The reliably astounding George Strait has done it again. This week his new album, Twang, tops not only Billboard's country chart but also the trade magazine's all-genre Billboard 200 list. Twang sold just over 155,000 copies its first seven days out, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Another prize performer, Taylor Swift, enjoys her second week at No. 1 on Billboard's country song chart via her co-penned "You Belong With Me."

Newcomer Justin Moore scores a very impressive debut with his self-titled CD. It screeches in at No. 3. The week's third and final new album is Willie Nelson's Lost Highway, which bows at No. 29.

There are five first-time songs: Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now" (popping in at No. 50), Jamey Johnson's "My Way to You" (No. 56), Big Kenny's "Long After I'm Gone" (No. 57), Steel Magnolia's "Keep On Lovin' You" (No. 58) and Blaine Larsen's "It Did" (No. 59).

Albums returning to the chart are Bill Gaither Presents: Country Bluegrass Homecoming volumes one and two resurfacing at No. 49 and No. 52, respectively, Jimmy Wayne's Do You Believe Me Now (No. 70), Ronnie Milsap's Then Sings My Soul: 24 Favorite Hymns and Gospel Songs (No. 72) and Hank Williams III's Damn Right Rebel Proud (No. 74).

Rounding out this week's Top 5 albums are Swift's Fearless (No. 2), Sugarland's Live on the Inside (No. 4) and the Zac Brown Band's The Foundation (No. 5).

The No. 2 through No. 5 songs, in that order, are Darius Rucker's "Alright," Jason Aldean's "Big Green Tractor," Rascal Flatts' "Summer Nights" and Billy Currington's "People Are Crazy."

Brad Paisley and Co-writers Thank Wives for Inspiration of "Then"

Paisley, Chris DuBois and Ashley Gorley Celebrate No. 1 Success
Chris DuBois (left), Brad Paisley and Ashley Gorley
Chris DuBois (left), Brad Paisley and Ashley Gorley
Photo Credit: Whitney Self
"That was one of my wife's proudest moments, I think," Brad Paisley told reporters Thursday afternoon (Aug. 20). He was referring to his recent White House performance where he dedicated the tender love ballad, "Then," to President Obama and the first lady.

"When she [Kimberly Williams-Paisley] got involved with this redneck hick from Tennessee, I don't think she ever saw herself in the East Room of the White House being serenaded," he said.

Much like his music, Paisley effortlessly transitioned from serious songwriter to funnyman as he answered questions prior to the party at Nashville's ASCAP headquarters to celebrate the No. 1 success of "Then."

"Being able to dedicate that to the first couple -- and being able to rib them a little bit with the joke of Air Force One flying around New York on a romantic night or whatever -- was a lot of fun for me," he chuckled.

"Then," Paisley's fastest-rising single to date, spent three weeks atop Billboard's country chart.

"I really realized how romantic this song is through the eyes of the people that buy the records and come out to the shows," he said. "I say something almost every night at the end of the song ... which is, 'I hope you're in love tonight. And if you're not, I hope you fall in love tonight.'"

Paisley's co-writers, Chris DuBois and Ashley Gorley, were also at the celebration where they were each awarded several plaques commemorating the song's popularity. Just a few months prior, DuBois and Gorley celebrated another No. 1 single, Darius Rucker's "It Won't Be Like This for Long."

DuBois has written more than a half dozen songs with Paisley, including his current single, "Welcome to the Future." Gorley's songwriting credits include Carrie Underwood's "Don't Forget to Remember Me" and Trace Adkins' "You're Gonna Miss This." Both of the songwriters thanked their significant others for the core motivation behind their newest hit, "Then."

"Thanks to our wives for the inspiration for this song" DuBois said.

"This kind of song, we definitely lean on them for making sure it hits them right," added Gorley.

When it was Paisley's turn to speak, he reiterated their thoughts by saying, "Our wives -- you are the reason we wrote this song. [Thanks] for great advice on how to write songs. We couldn't do this without that inspiration."

Sony BMG Nashville chairman Joe Galante and Frank Rogers, Paisley's long-time producer, were also in attendance Thursday. "Then" marks Rogers' 25th No. 1 single, and after much coaxing from Paisley, he took the microphone for a humble, "Thank you."

But it was Paisley who brought the celebration to a close as he spent his time showing appreciation for not only his wife and the co-writers' wives but also music industry executives, his record label and the fans. He also thanked country radio programmers who "have obviously played my records entirely too much."

To document the amount of airplay the single received, Paisley said, "I got a tweet from somebody this week that's like, 'All right, I loved 'Then.' I thought I loved it then. Now I don't love it anymore. I've heard it too much."

Smiling he added, "This is a good problem to have."

View photos from the No. 1 party.

Darius Rucker Throws a Party for Platinum Success of Learn to Live

His Debut Country Album Has Three No. 1 Hits, Sells More Than 1 Million Copies
Darius Rucker still seems to be in shock that a country label would sign him -- and have success to boot. During his platinum party for Learn to Live at Nashville's Sambuca restaurant Thursday evening (Aug. 20), the singer-songwriter who previously found multi-platinum success with Hootie & the Blowfish said he didn't consider himself a smart investment.

"I wouldn't have signed Darius Rucker," he told reporters prior to the event.

Yet, from the stage, he enthusiastically credited Mike Dungan, the president of Capitol Nashville, for taking a risk. Dungan, manager Doc McGhee, producer Frank Rogers and numerous songwriters and publishers attended the private party to celebrate shipments of more than 1 million units. (The album has sold about 900,000 copies, but with digital sales, Dungan estimates the figure at 1.3 million.)

"Everybody that's talked to me about this knows how much this means to me," said Rucker, dressed casually, as always, in a black shirt and ball cap. "You know, I started this a long time ago. The first time I talked to Doc about it, Doc probably thought it was one of the worst ideas he had heard. But, you know, he came around. I'm happy for me, but if this hadn't worked for me, I would have gone on. I would have gone on and spent my millions and lived my life and been fine."

Turning to Dungan, he added, "But you, man, took a chance on something that nobody really wanted. You talk to anybody that's running a label right now, and they'll tell you they would have signed me. And they're all lying. You took a chance. ... I'm happy for me. But, damn, I'm happy for Mike Dungan."

Rucker also emphasized the role of McGhee, who is also the longtime manager of Hootie & the Blowfish, as well as Kiss, Ted Nugent and Chris Cagle.

"Those of you who know me know that I grew up without a dad," Rucker said. "I mean, he was never there. Never around. And it's amazing to be 43 now and to have somebody who really is my dad. I talk to him about everything -- every single thing in my life. It's amazing to me to be part of the biggest management in the world and to be on his stable. I can't thank Doc enough."

Rucker also praised Rogers, who helmed the album project and helped create the sound that took Rucker's first three country singles -- "Don't Think I Don't Think About It," "It Won't Be Like This for Long" and "Alright" -- to No. 1 at country radio.

"I want to thank all the songwriters but I'll say this until the day I die: None of us would be here standing here with these plaques if Frank Rogers hadn't decided to do this project," he said. "I will tell anybody who listens to me: Frank Rogers is a freakin' genius. He got my vision instantly, and he made the record I wanted to make. I love him like my brother. And I just want to say thank you."

To conclude the party, Dungan told a story about bringing Rucker to Country Radio Seminar (CRS) in Nashville and suddenly realizing that they had become separated during a night at the Renaissance Hotel's Bridge Bar -- the top place to schmooze during the annual event for radio programmers. From the corner of his eye, he saw Rucker paying for a guy's beer and noticed that as seven or eight more folks approached him, Rucker had tossed about a hundred dollars in cash on the bar. Finally, Dungan intervened.

"I ran over and I pulled him aside," Dungan recalled. "I said, 'Darius, you know you shouldn't be spending your own money. We have a tab.' He was like, 'You don't understand. I'm not like the other artists you work with. ... I'm already rich!'"

View photos from Darius Rucker's platinum party.

HOT DISH: Grades Vary on Mainstream Media's Coverage of Country Music

Pondering the Attention Given to Brooks & Dunn, George Strait, American Idol
Hot Dish
Hot Dish
(CMT Hot Dish is a weekly feature written by veteran columnist Hazel Smith. Author of the cookbook, Hazel's Hot Dish: Cookin' With Country Stars, she also hosts CMT's Southern Fried Flicks With Hazel Smith and shares her recipes at

Nothing gets under my fingernails (and toenails) faster and deeper than somebody who doesn't know country music and doesn't care about the stars but still goes headstrong into flapping computer keys while finding new and different ways to take cheap shots at our music and artists.

For instance, news of Brooks & Dunn's "hanging up of the spurs" broke via Entertainment Tonight even before the duo said a word -- much less made an official announcement. This caused hurt, but ET did not give a flip. Fans and friends of country music have feelings.

And Scott Brown, who writes the "Hit List" column for Entertainment Weekly thought he was being funny, cute and smart when he wrote, "Brooks & Dunn are done. Well, there goes my weekend. I've got about 50 posters to cut in two." That's just a smart aleck putdown. (Yuk, yuk.) Brown knows how to spell Dunn two ways -- as in "done." Big deal.

I sure don't think I'm smart, not even clever. Lord knows, I make mistakes. But I want to make a point here. If somebody needs to say something funny or to simply poke fun over the Brooks & Dunn split, it ought to be someone who has some long-term understanding of country music.

Also in Entertainment Weekly, Whitney Pastorek wrote a review of George Strait's new album, Twang. I have to give her credit because she correctly called the Strait man's voice "hallowed" in her first sentence and even calls him "King George" in the first paragraph. Pastorek is somewhat of a fan or at least did her homework in mentioning some of Strait's career achievements. She did not criticize the album or the contents, although I felt she should have mentioned Dean Dillon's contribution since he's made a real fine living penning hits for George Strait through the years. Other than that, I have no complaints about her review.

However, I do have a question for Pastorek: Why the hell did you give him a "B" grade? "B" is average -- and Twang isn't an average record. He earned an "A." And with 155,000 copies sold the first week, the Strait-man's brand new album zoomed to No. 1 on Billboard's country chart and knocked Michael Jackson's Number Ones from the top of the Billboard 200. That's an "A-plus" achievement for sure. Yeah, big George!

Shania Twain, Paula Abdul and American Idol
Yes, there were times during almost every American Idol show when Paula Abdul seemed loopy. She came to Nashville and appeared on the CMT Music Awards, where she slurred words and seemed to be ... well ... not so quick on her feet and not so quick with her words. But if Ryan Seacrest is worth $10 million annually to host AI, I'd say Paula is well worth more than the $5 million she was reportedly offered to judge the next season.

If Paula was a Hollywood male who had an accomplished career equal to hers, there would be no question about it. The powers that be would have offered her a lot more money. (Of course, if somebody wanted to give me the $2 million she was reportedly making already, I'd gladly accept the offer on hands and knees in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre wearing my birthday suit.) Simon's salary is obscene -- around $30 million a year, according to The New York Times -- but he's worth it. People watch that show to recall his antics the next day around the office coffee urn or water cooler.

It is peculiar, though, that Randy Jackson's salary has not been mentioned anywhere I've seen. It makes me wonder if it's a "pay the female less" issue.

Now, I read where they've approached Shania Twain about filling Paula's seat. If nothing else, Shania is scheduled to be a guest judge during the preliminary auditions in Chicago. Shania would definitely work for the show. She's a beauty. And she won't take any crap from Simon because she's smarter than he is.

Underage Drinking Can Ruin Concerts for the Rest of Us
In country music, we are so fortunate to have fans of all ages. Since the genre took root in the 1920s through the 1950s with radio shows, young fans would follow those axle-deep mud holes in rural areas to where the highway began just to see their favorites perform live. These days, we see stars on TV, computer, DVD and in concert. And we hear them on the radio, CDs, MP3 players and Lord knows what all.

Country music fans are the greatest people on this earth. Just come to Music City during the second week of June and look at the fans of all ages enjoying the CMA Music Festival. I love the fans, but I'm a little out of sorts because of the Boston Globe newspaper headline reporting more than 100 people being arrested at Kenny Chesney's recent concert at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

Most of the offenses involved underage drinking, which saddens me. Kenny is crazy over his fans and knows a lot of them by name. I'm sure it hurt Kenny's heart when he read about these underage kids arrested at his concert. What if the city of Foxborough decided to blame Kenny for the incident? What if those teenagers' night of boozing prevented Kenny from returning to Gillette Stadium. And, more important than that, what if one of those drunks got behind the wheel of their car or truck and killed themselves or somebody else. (That's what happened last year.) How would you feel? Well, Kenny would feel a lot worse.

More than 56,000 fans turned out to see Kenny and his opening acts, Sugarland, Montgomery Gentry and Miranda Lambert. It's a shame that a relatively small group of fans could cause such a ruckus. And it's so sad that a handful of young people could not enjoy music on a Saturday night without drinking and puking and going to jail.

Mad About Brad ... and Charlie
Have you seen Brad Paisley's new video for "Welcome to the Future"? What a great piece of work. I love that it includes Charlie Nagatani, a Japanese country artist who founded the Country Gold Festival in Kumamoto, Japan. I've seen Charlie perform on the Opry, and I've seen photos of some of my favorite singers performing on Charlie's Country Gold stage in Kumamato, Japan, with thousands screaming.

Billy Currington Praised by David Letterman
"God is great. Beer is good. And people are crazy," Billy Currington sings every day and night these days, especially after it hit No. 1. But when he sang it on The Late Show With David Letterman, the show's host allowed, "This song will be played on jukeboxes for the next thousand years." He called Billy "my hero" as he slid his arm around his back. "I dearly, dearly love this song," Letterman added. "It's absolutely perfect. ... If I was the people running country music, I'd shut it down now!" Bobby Braddock wrote the song with Troy Jones. I'm proud to say that Bobby Braddock is the best country songwriter alive today. He's been writing hits -- such as "He Stopped Loving Her Today" -- for more than 30 years.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Boiled Shrimp.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Reba Weighs In on Brooks & Dunn's Split

Posted Aug 21st 2009 11:00AM by Beville Darden
Filed under: Country News

She's turned Brooks & Dunn into a chart-topping trio on two occasions, and Reba McEntire also counts the superstar duo as longtime friends. So when Reba visited our studios this week to perform songs from her brand new album, 'Keep on Loving You,' we had to ask her reaction to the news that her buddies are calling it quits.

"Ronnie did tell me a little bit about it beforehand, so I wasn't surprised," she tells The Boot of the breakup, which will happen after a farewell tour next year. "They've been together 20 years. You have to come up with new things to reinvent yourself. That's where they are right now. They've done the big tours, the greatest hits ... they've done about everything you can do in the music business and done it the best! And now they want to try something different."

That something different won't likely be retirement. Both Ronnie Dunn and Kix Brooks are rumored to already be working on solo projects. Whatever they decide to do, Reba is excited to hear it.

"That's where my curiosity is peaked right now -- what are they going to do? I can't wait!" Reba tells us with wide eyes and a big smile. "I'll be their No. 1 fan on this one again. I love them both. They're super people."

The Brooks & Dunn-Reba duet, 'If You See Him/If You See Her,' topped the charts in 1998. They teamed up again a decade later for 'Cowgirls Don't Cry,' a song Ronnie co-wrote and says Reba was the inspiration for its lyrics.


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