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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Jason Aldean Schedules Charity Event During CMA Music Festival

Jason Aldean will host his annual Concert for the Cure event on June 12 during the CMA Music Festival in Nashville. The show at the Wildhorse Saloon will benefit Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a nonprofit organization dedicated to breast cancer research. Aldean will appear at the event immediately following his stadium performance at LP Field with Rodney Atkins, Luke Bryan, Lady Antebellum, Jake Owen and the Zac Brown Band. Bryan will also perform at Aldean's charity event, and additional guests will be announced in the weeks to come. Tickets, priced at $25 to $100, are available to fan club members this week and to the public beginning Saturday (May 2) via Ticketmaster.

Tim McGraw Hires a New Manager

Tim McGraw has split from longtime manager Scott Siman of RPM Management and has signed a new deal with Red Light Management and its founder, Coran Capshaw, it was announced Wednesday (April 29). Capshaw formed his company in 1991 at the beginning of his role as the personal manager of the Dave Matthews Band. Based in Charlottesville, Va., Red Light Management also has offices in Nashville, New York, Los Angeles and Denver. The company has an extensive roster of rock acts, including Alanis Morissette, Chris Cornell and Cheap Trick. Its country clients include Luke Bryan, Jason Michael Carroll, Heidi Newfield, Rodney Atkins, the Lost Trailers, Phil Vassar and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Capshaw will be the primary management contact for McGraw, the Dave Matthews Band and Phish.

Singer-Songwriter Vern Gosdin Dies in Nashville at Age 74

One of Country Music's Greatest Singers, His Hits Include "Set 'Em Up Joe" and "Chiseled in Stone"
Vern Gosdin
Vern Gosdin
Singer-songwriter Vern Gosdin, who achieved mainstream country success in the '80s with hits such as "Set 'Em Up Joe" and "Chiseled in Stone," died late Tuesday (April 28) at a Nashville hospital at age 74. Gosdin, who was often referred to as "the Voice," reportedly suffered a stroke several weeks ago.

Born in Woodland, Ala., he had already achieved success with his brother, Rex, as the Gosdin Brothers before launching his solo career. As a teenager, his family hosted The Gosdin Family Gospel Show on a radio station in Birmingham, Ala. Vern and Rex Gosdin moved to the Los Angeles area in 1961 and began performing in a bluegrass group, the Golden State Boys. The band evolved into another bluegrass group, the Hillmen, featuring Chris Hillman, who later became a founding member of the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Desert Rose Band. With the demise of the Hillmen, the Gosdin Brothers scored one country hit, "Hangin' On," which peaked at No. 37 on the Billboard chart in 1967. Rex Gosdin died in 1983.

In the early '70s, Vern Gosdin moved to Atlanta, where he ran a retail store, but he continued to perform in area clubs. Emmylou Harris, who knew him from their days in California, teamed with Gosdin to record a demo single featuring two songs -- a remake of "Hangin' On" and a new one, "Yesterday's Gone." The demo resulted in Gosdin's contract with Elektra Records. "Yesterday's Gone" became his first single for the label and reached No. 9 on the country chart in 1977.

During the late '70s and early '80s, Gosdin charted other Top 10 singles for the Elektra, Ovation and AMI labels before scoring his first No. 1 hit in 1984 with "I Can Tell by the Way You Dance (You're Gonna Love Me Tonight)," written by Sandy Pinkard and Rob Strandlund. After moving to Columbia Records in the late '80s, he quickly scored a series of Top 10 singles with songs he co-wrote, including "Do You Believe Me Now," "Chiseled in Stone," "Who You Gonna Blame It On This Time" and "That Just About Does It." His recordings of two other original songs from that era -- "Set' Em Up Joe" and "I'm Still Crazy" reached No. 1. Gosdin's last Top 10 singles were released in 1990 -- "Right in the Wrong Direction" and "Is It Raining at Your House."

In 1989, Gosdin and one of his longtime songwriting collaborators, Max D. Barnes, shared a CMA Award for song of the year for "Chiseled in Stone." George Strait enjoyed a Top 10 hit in 1997 with "Today My World Slipped Away," a song Gosdin co-wrote with Mark Wright. It had been a Top 10 single for Gosdin in 1982.

Jason Michael Carroll Views New Album as "Make or Break"

Growing Up Is Getting Old a Powerful Successor to First CD
Jason Michael Carroll
Jason Michael Carroll
Jason Michael Carroll's second album, Growing Up Is Getting Old, came out this week, and he feels pretty confident about its sales prospects. But he knows the stakes are high.

"As much as I hate reality shows, this is kind of the reality show of the music business," he says with a chuckle. "If this record does well, I get to stick around. If not, I get voted off the island. This is a make-or-break album -- although I don't really have a Plan B."

So far, Plan A seems to be working. "Where I'm From," the first single from the album, is in the Top 20 and still rising. Moreover, Carroll made a lot of radio programmers sit up and take notice when he previewed songs from the project during the recent Country Radio Seminar.

Carroll's first album, Waitin' in the Country, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's country charts and yielded two Top 10 hits -- "Alyssa Lies" and "Livin' Our Love Song."

But the album has sold only a modest 395,000 copies since it emerged two years ago, according to Nielsen SoundScan, the company that tracks such data.

"I called Don Gehman, my producer, the other day," Carroll continues. "I said, 'Don, I really have a good feeling about everything we've done on this record. I think it's going to be a big record for both of us.'

"He said he had the same feeling -- which made me feel good because he's done records with Hootie & the Blowfish, John Mellencamp, Tracy Chapman, R.E.M. and all those folks."

There's no doubt the new album has plenty of musical muscle, whether it's the full-bodied romp of "Barn Burner," the chest-thumping pride of "Where I'm From" or the desolate cry of "Tears."

Carroll is a powerful vocalist who can summon up just about any shade of emotion the lyrics call for. He co-wrote three of the project's 10 songs and turned for the rest to such other A-list writers as Tom Shapiro, Keith Anderson and Patrick Davis.

"[Don and I] didn't put a lot of thought into the 'sophomore curse' thing," Carroll says. "We honestly felt that if we thought negative thoughts, it would have brought [negativity] to it. We focused on making a record that would mean something to us."

Although the two men knew the kind of album they wanted to create, they had only a few songs in hand when they began recording. In fact, Carroll wrote all his songs after the recording started.

"The album definitely grew organically," he says. "We put pieces together. I believed in 'Where I'm From' so much after our first session in the studio, back in April of last year, that when we went out on tour with Carrie Underwood in June, I included it in my set then.

"One of my main goals -- something that's very important to me -- is keeping the music so that a fan can listen to one song on this record and walk away with a little piece of an idea of who I am."

Carroll says the album is "almost biographical," adding, "For every song on there, I can tell you how I relate to it. That was a big deal to me. A lot of fans may or may not get the chance to ever meet me or come see me at shows. So for those fans, I want them to be able to pick up a CD and get just as much about getting to know me as if they were able to come to a show."

One song on the new album, "We Threw It All Away," Carroll regards as a thematic sequel to "Livin' Our Love Song." He should know. He co-wrote both. And both center on his real-life relationship with his wife, Wendy.

"'Livin' Our Love Song' came from the fact that Wendy and I dated in high school for a while," he explains. "Her parents found out and didn't like it. They sent her away to college. Several years went by, and Wendy just happened to come into a nightclub where I was playing in my local cover band back home [in North Carolina]. That was seven years later, and we started talking like we'd never missed a day. People said it would never work out, but look at us now: That's 'Livin' Our Love Song.'

"Well, you fast forward a few years, and 'We Threw It All Away' kind of takes you to that spot where Wendy had gone through college, become an X-ray tech, worked at a great hospital and her parents were very proud of her. I -- after all those years of being in a band and trying to do what I could -- had finally gotten my record deal.

"I remember a couple of months later we found out that Wendy was pregnant. And I'll never forget -- her mom and my mom, her dad and my dad were all telling us the same thing: 'You're throwing everything away.' Although it wasn't the exact way we would have planned it, Wendy and I never felt like that. So that's where that song came from."

A highlight for Carroll in the recording process was getting to write with prize-winning composers Casey Beathard and Paul Overstreet. Their joint contribution to the album is a tune called "That's All I Know."

"I remember walking into the studio that day," Carroll says, "and I really felt we all knew we were going to write something big. The feeling in the room was there. But we were kicking out ideas, and nothing seemed to be as big as we wanted to write it.

"After about five minutes, I looked down at my sheet of paper, and I've got this list of things we've come up with. I said, 'Guys, what if we take this list of things we've been mentioning? They don't really mean a whole lot on their own, but if you put them together, they mean everything.' That's the way we wrote 'That's All I Know.'"

The album's title tune, whose tone is reminiscent of Hank Williams Jr.'s "All My Rowdy Friends (Have Settled Down)," was one of the last songs Carroll and his producer selected to record. Even though he had no hand in writing it, Carroll says it summed up his feelings perfectly.

"I liked this song from the first time I heard it -- from the opening line, 'It's been a while since I did something I could be arrested for' to the second verse, 'My buddy and I used to raise 'em high and stay out 'til four/But now his new wife won't let me crash on the couch no more.' I love this song because I've lived every piece of it."

To date, Carroll has opened shows for Arista Records labelmates Carrie Underwood, Brooks & Dunn and Alan Jackson. If all goes as planned, he'll hit the road this fall with another superstar act. Between such major swings, he'll continue to work the fairs and festivals circuit, which he's cheerfully dubbed his Corn Dog & Funnel Cake tour.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Country Legend Vern Gosdin Dies

Vern Gosdin photo courtesy of

April 29, 2009 — "You don't know about lonely 'til it's chiseled in stone." The words from one of Vern Gosdin's biggest hits echoes down Music Row. The man often referred to as "The Voice" will have his name chiseled in a headstone following his death from a stroke on Tuesday.
Noted for an aching resonance, Vern, 74, collected nearly 20 Top 10 hits from 1977 through 1991, peaking in the late 1980s with the No. 1 singles "Set 'Em Up Joe" and "I'm Still Crazy," and claiming Song of the Year honors from the Country Music Association in 1989 for "Chiseled In Stone," co-written with Max D. Barnes.
Born in Alabama and raised on gospel and country, Vern found musical footing in the 1960s when he joined brother Rex Gosdin in a California bluegrass group, the Golden State Boys, which also featured Chris Hillman, who would soon become a member of the Byrds. He wrote a song that appeared in the soundtrack of the hipp ie-era biker movie Easy Rider and finally cracked the country singles list in 1976 with a double-sided release, "Hangin' On" and "Yesterday's Gone," which featured backing vocals by Emmylou Harris. He scored several more successes in the '70s with covers of "Never My Love" and "Break My Mind" and netted a 1982 hit with "Today My World Slipped Away," which would be covered 15 years later by George Strait.
The 1983 single "Way Down Deep" reconnected Vern with his gospel roots, "If You're Gonna Do Me Wrong (Do It Right)" earned a CMA Song of the Year nomination, and 1987's "Do You Believe Me Now" reinvigorated his career after a three-year lull.
Vern encountered a string of health problems in the 1990s: He required heart bypass surgery in 1990, suffered a stroke in 1995 and incurred a second stroke in 1999. Along the way, he picked up three gold albums — Chiseled In Stone, 10 Years Of Greatest Hits (Newly Recorded) and Super Hits — and a 2005 induction in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. He earned kudos and admiration from numerous country artists — including George Jones, Randy Travis and Jake Owen — for his emotional command of a traditional country song.

Chuck Wicks Has His Last Dance

Chuck Wicks photo courtesy of Sony BMG Nashville.

April 29, 2009 — After eight weeks in which he became increasingly comfortable on the dancefloor, Chuck Wicks' ride on "Dancing With The Stars" came to a conclusion Tuesday when he received the fewest votes from the public for Monday's performance on ABC-TV.
Chuck had started with no dance experience but showed weekly improvement. In fact, the judges gave Chuck and girlfriend Julianne Hough a score of 26 points out of 30 for their performance of the Cha Cha. But it wasn't enough to keep him in the competition.
"To all the critics that thought we weren't going to last: We did it," he said. "Now I'm going to go out on tour and enjoy doing what I love, and that's country music."
Chuck and the other remaining male dancers spoofed a "Saturday Night Live" skit by doing a mambo in leotards to Beyonce's hit "Single Ladies" on Monday, and Chuck laughed it off as the final dagger in his20quest.
"I think," he said, "the team dance did us in."
The good news: Chuck no longer has to fit concerts in between the hectic training and shooting schedule for "DWTS" in Los Angeles. Among his upcoming appearances is a co-hosting job with Jessica Harp and GAC's Suzanne Alexander at the Country Weekly Fashion Show & Concert at Nashville's Wildhorse Saloon June 10. The following day, he'll appear nearby at the Riverfront Stage during the CMA Music Festival. Also playing that same afternoon will be Phil Vassar, Diamond Rio, the Bellamy Brothers, Neal McCoy, Heidi Newfield, James Otto, Randy Rogers Band and Ashton Shepherd.

Lady Antebellum’s Constructive Job History

Lady Antebellum photo by Andrew Southam, courtesy of Capitol Nashville.

April 29, 2009 — Barely a year after the release of its debut album, Lady Antebellum has a nice career going, and vocalist Charles Kelley certainly appreciates the gig. He's earned paychecks in the past doing much more mundane jobs, and in at least one case, the work was a little risky. "I worked with my oldest brother, and he did some commercial real estate stuff, a lot of like house renovation," Charles told Suzanne Alexander on the national radio show GAC Nights: Live From Nashville. "So I was knocking out walls a lot. And also, he co-owned this waste hauling company, so one day I'd sit there at a computer, the next day I'd be out dumping trash in a landfill, the next day I'd be knocking out asbestos walls. It's probably why I've got this gritty voice right there: There was too much asbestos!"
That voice is working for him at this point. Lady A worked its way into country's Top 15 on the Country Aircheck chart this week with "I Run To You," the trio's third single to reach that mark.

Dierks Bentley’s Career Goes South

Dierks Bentley photo courtesy of Capitol Nashville.

April 29, 2009 — Dierks Bentley adds a new experience to his career path this week when he performs in Australia for the first time on Friday.
Dierks launches his first show Down Under as the opening act for Brooks & Dunn in Perth, and the itinerary takes him to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane during a nine-day run.
"We got a taste of international touring last summer when we played all over Europe, and I'm hooked," he says. "I've heard that Australia has some hard-core country music fans, so I am looking forward to getting down there and playing for them. You can't go to Australia without exploring the local culture in the pubs, so I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't equally as excited about that."
Just a few weeks after returning to the U.S., Dierks sets out on the American Saturday Night Tour as an opening act for Brad Paisley. Also aboard is Jimmy Wayne, with Charlotte, N.C., slated as thei r first destination on June 5.

Jamey Johnson Fans Come From All Over

Jamey Johnson photo courtesy of UMG Nashville.

April 29, 2009 — Ever since Jamey Johnson launched "In Color" and the album That Lonesome Song, he's discovered a growing audience of fans who appreciate his rough and rowdy approach. How those fans have found him, however, remains a bit of a mystery.
"I'm not sure if there is even a way to tell how much comes from the live shows and how much comes from the album or from word of mouth or what," he told Pollstar. "We're not gonna go out there with a questionnaire and try to figure out where our people are coming from. We don't have time for that."
Jamey's first album, The Dollar, earned some attention but nothing like what he's experienced with That Lonesome Song, which he originally released on his own without the benefit of a record label. In fact, his manager toted the project to labels all around Nashville, and Mercury Records was the only place wher e executives thought it would connect with the public.
"I never thought we'd see the day where, if you came out with a traditional country song, you're not just in the minority but you're almost shunned for having done it," Jamey said.
Fortunately, Jamey's been embraced over the long haul. "In Color" won Song of the Year at this month's Academy of Country Music Awards. The album went gold two weeks ago.

Kenny Chesney Finds New Place to Play

Kenny Chesney photo courtesy of Sony BMG Nashville.

April 29, 2009 — He's filled stadiums, won multiple Entertainer of the Year awards and co-produced a Willie Nelson album, but Kenny Chesney is still finding new ways to showcase his music. On May 12, he'll tape his first-ever appearance on the concert series "Austin City Limits," now in its 35th year on PBS.
The list of acts that has have played the show is loaded with heavyweights: Van Morrison, Norah Jones, Ray Charles, John Mayer, Coldplay, the Dixie Chicks, Keith Urban and Willie, who was the very first artist to appear.
"There is so much history when you look back at the artists who've played 'Austin City Limits' over the years," Kenny says. "If you wanna know about American music, about Texas music, about music that comes out of the South — whether it's the Allman Brothers and Widespread Panic, or songwriters like Jackson Browne and John Prine, Western swing like Asleep at the Wheel or classic cou ntry like Merle Haggard, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette — that's the place you go."
It's a good time for Kenny to visit "Austin City Limits." One week after he shoots the installment, he releases his second greatest-hits album, featuring 15 new tracks, including the current single "Out Last Night."
"I can't think of a better place to revisit the songs of the past eight years," he says. "'Austin City Limits' is all about the music, and these songs — for me — have certainly withstood the test of time. What a great place to play them and get to consider what they've meant to me and a lot of other people."
In the meantime, Kenny continues the Sun City Carnival Tour this weekend in Texas, playing San Antonio, Dallas and Houston with Miranda Lambert and Lady Antebellum.

Rascal Flatts' Jay DeMarcus Presents Piano on Behalf of CMA, Nashville Alliance

Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts helped deliver a new piano to McGavock High School in Nashville on behalf of the Country Music Association and the Nashville Alliance. The two organizations have raised more than $2.2 million for music programs in Metro Nashville Public Schools. In presenting the Baldwin piano, DeMarcus also fielded questions from students who are active in the school's band, choir and music theory programs.

Jason Michael Carroll, Collin Raye Release New Albums

Jason Michael Carroll and Collin Raye are among the artists who released new albums on Tuesday (April 28). Carroll's second album, Growing Up Is Getting Old (Arista), contains his current single, "Where I'm From." Raye is in New York for a series of national TV appearances to promote his new project, Never Going Back (Time Life). Also now in stores are newcomer Dean Brody's self-titled release for Broken Bow Records, bluegrass quartet NewFound Road's Same Old Place (Rounder) and California based singer-songwriter Tim Easton's Porcupine (New West).

Bryan Adams, Jason Aldean Schedule CMT Crossroads

Canadian rock legend Bryan Adams will join Jason Aldean for a new episode of CMT Crossroads scheduled to premiere June 26. The show will be taped before an invitation-only audience in Nashville in early May. A singer-songwriter who still tours more than 150 days annually, Adams is best known for hits such as "Summer of '69," "Run to You," "18 'Til I Die," "It's Only Love," "Somebody," "The Only Thing That Looks Good on Me Is You." He is an Officer of the Order of Canada and has been inducted into the Canadian Juno Hall of Fame and Canada's Walkway of Stars. After selling more than 2 million copies of his first two albums, Aldean recently released Wide Open, which sold more than 100,000 during its first week of release. His string of hits includes "Hicktown," "Why," "Amarillo Sky," "Johnny Cash," "Laughed Until We Cried" and his current single, "She's Country."

CMT Insider: Taylor Swift Is Obsessed About Her Role as Concert Headliner

She Talks About Launching Her Fearless Tour With CMT Insider Host Katie Cook
For the past few years, Taylor Swift has connected with country fans as an opening act for big names like Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts and George Strait. This month, she embarked on her first headlining tour, complete with semi trucks and dancers. Just before taking the stage in Evansville, Ind., last week, Swift visited with CMT Insider host Katie Cook about her latest obsession.

Cook: This is so much to organize and so much to pull together, but I know you were born for this kind of work. Is it like a dream for you?

Swift: Yes, I'm pretty obsessed with it! My life these past couple of months has been completely circling around this tour. It's just all I think about. It's everything to me, and I'm so excited that we actually get to kick this thing off.

And it's so much your vision. How does it feel knowing that you're not warming up someone else's crowd now?

It's pretty awesome. It's insane to see the trucks pull in, and the trucks have pictures of me on them and not all the other people that I've been opening up for. Having all the buses out here and having all the control over what the backstage area looks like and getting to decide all this stuff to put this show together, I'm so excited!

It's kind of an awesome responsibility. You seem so cool about it.

It's a really, really great responsibility. For me, pressure really motivates me. It's something I really live for. It's the pressure of getting something ready on time, so that's been really fun for me -- to be down to the wire, making sure all the video content is right, making sure all the cues and the lighting cues and timing and the sound and everything is perfect. It's so fun for me.

I've heard you have six dancers?

We have six dancers with us.

Does this mean you're going to be dancing, too?

No! No! There's no choreography that's going to be going on here, but it's cool to have them to accent pieces like "Love Story," where they're completely decked out in period piece costumes. A lot of what we do onstage at this show is theatrical, so they play different parts and different characters, and it's really fun to make it more of a theatrical show.

I know you've got to keep some secrets, but can you tell me a little something about the stage itself?

The stage itself is giant. It's the first time anyone's ever really done this where the entire stage is projectable so it changes every single time we have a new song -- like the stage completely changes and you're seeing something completely different. ... We're going to have a constant flow of entertainment going on. My basic goal for this show is to make it a show and not just a concert and make something where everyone feels they walked out entertained.

Vern Gosdin Dies at 74

Country music star Vern Gosdin, known for such hits as "Set 'em Up Joe" and "I Can Tell By the Way You Dance (You're Gonna Love Me Tonight)," died at midnight last night. He was 74.
Gosdin, who suffered "a pretty bad stroke" about three weeks ago, died peacefully in his sleep at a Nashville hospital, his administrative assistant Dawn Hall said this morning.
A one-time bandmate of The Byrds' Chris Hillman, Gosdin covered a variety of musical styles, working early in a bluegrass act and even writing a song that appeared on the soundtrack to the rock biker classic Easy Rider.
But Gosdin found his greatest success doing mainstream country, as he scored No. 1 singles with "I Can Tell by the Way You Dance," the Ernest Tubb quasi-tribute "Set 'Em Up" and "I'm Still Crazy."
His recording of "Chiseled in Stone" claimed the Country Music Association's song of the year honor in 1989, and George Strait found success by rerecording Gosdin's hit "Today My World Slipped Away."
He was born in Woodland, Ala., on Aug. 5, 1934.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Jason Aldean is "Country" & No. 1

Jason Aldean on the Orange Carpet at the 44th Annual ACM Awards in Las Vegas on Sunday, April 5, 2009. Photo © Sara de Boer / Retna Ltd.

April 28, 2009 — There's likely never been a song that rocked harder that hit the top of the country chart. Jason Aldean's "She's Country," with its loud-and-proud hard-rock guitar chords backing images of a blue-jeans babe, sits atop the USA Today Mediabase country singles chart this week.
It's the second time Jason's cracked the No. 1 position in his career.
"Man, it's hard work to get up to that No. 1 spot, and I don't take it for granted," Jason says. "I've got a small, but mighty team...from the guys at the label to my crew out on the road. Thanks to them and all my friends at country radio, we'll be celebrating extra hard this week."
He can't do too much celebrating, though, because there's a ton of work on his plate. He' s got TV appearances coming on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," "The Bonnie Hunt Show" and "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," and a slew of concert dates, including a number as the opening act on Keith Urban's Escape Together World Tour. Among those live shows is a just-added concert June 12 at Nashville's Wildhorse Saloon. The same night, Jason plays across the Cumberland River at LP Field during the CMA Music Festival. Others on the bill for that evening include Rodney Atkins, Luke Bryan, Jake Owen, Lady Antebellum and the Zac Brown Band.

Kenny Chesney Hits the Stadiums

Kenny Chesney photo courtesy of Sony BMG Nashville.

April 28, 2009 — With a handful of shows already under his belt, Kenny Chesney plays the first of a dozen stadium shows during his Sun City Carnival Tour on Saturday at Pizza Hut Park outside Dallas.
It's an important reason why he's recognized among country's biggest attractions: He's playing more stadiums than anyone else in the business, and he's not afraid to share the stage with a bunch of other acts. Helping beef up the bill are Sugarland, Miranda Lambert and Lady Antebellum.
"It feels great to be back out there," Kenny says. "You spend so much time getting ready, thinking about what the fans might like, and you have all this time, working and figuring stuff out. But when you're on that stage, the band's rocking and you're looking into the faces of all the people who are so into the music, it just makes all that work mean even more than whatever you [put] into it. And I know in Texas, it's even more so. Every time we go down there, we have a blast."
In addition to Saturday's gig, Kenny also plays San Antonio's AT&T Center Friday and Houston's CWM Pavillion Sunday. And it's likely the shows will include his current single "Out Last Night." It's one of 15 tracks featured on Kenny's Greatest Hits: Vol. 2, slated for release May 19.

Darius Rucker Celebrates Shift 0n "Backstory"

Darius Rucker photo by Russ Harrington, courtesy of Capitol Nashville.

April 28, 2009 — Darius Rucker first established his reputation as the lead singer of the pop-rock band Hootie + The Blowfish, but when he made his Grand Ole Opry debut in July, he cemented new country credentials.
"When I left the Opry House that night I felt like, 'I'm becoming a part of this family,'" he says on GAC's Backstory: Darius Rucker, the second installment in a series of specials about country's biggest stars.
Since that Opry performance, Darius has emerged as one of the strongest new performers in country, hitting No. 1 with both of his two singles in the genre, "Don't Think I Don't Think About It" and "It Won't Be Like This For Long." Backstory follows him from his South Carolina youth to his rock persona and his new country position. The edition features not only Darius, but several family members, Hootie bass player Dean Felber=2 0and golfer Tiger Woods.
Ultimately, Darius envisions his future story as one that will play itself out in country.
"This is my career move," Darius says. "This is me saying to country music, 'I'm here as long as you want to play my records, and as long as you want to listen to me play I'm going to be here.' I'm a country singer."
Sara Evans was the focus of the first edition of Backstory in April. Darius' feature debuts Saturday on GAC at 10 p.m. ET.

Jason Michael Carroll's "Old" is New

April 28, 2009 — More than two years after he released his debut album, Jason Michael Carroll has a new CD in stores on Tuesday with Growing Up Is Getting Old.
Once again, the project teams him with producer Don Gehman, noted for his work with John Mellencamp and Hootie + The Blowfish, and with those connections in mind, it's appropriate that the art work on the Growing Up sleeve has a classic-rock feel to it.
"First time I looked at it, I thought, 'You know what, that is such a cool cover,'" Jason says. "Especially bein' in a country market, because that's more of a Bob Seger kind of cover. It just looks more like a early, mid '70s, retro kind of album cover, and I love that! I think that's one of the coolest things about it. That's why I think it's probably gonna stand [out on] the shelves hopefully."
The album's first single, "Where I'm From," found its way into country's Top 20. In the meantime, Jason is finding his=2 0way to Lebanon, Tenn., for launch day. He's flying the 30-mile distance via "Hello Copter" to do an acoustic mini-concert at a local Wal-Mart. He's also featured on the Tuesday edition of GAC Nights at 8 p.m. ET.

Randy Houser Finds All "Goes" Well

Universal Records South threw an industry showcase for their newest acts, Randy Houser & Jonathan Singleton And The Grove, on January 27, 2009 at Nashville's Mercy Lounge. Randy Houser photo by Kay Williams, courtesy of Universal Records South.

April 28, 2009 — Randy Houser's first experience with a hit record came behind the scenes in Nashville when he and Jamey Johnson co-wrote the Trace Adkins hit "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk."
Now he knows what it's like to get some name recognition, too, since Randy's the guy who sang "Anything Goes," a post-breakup song in which he sings with the same kind of from-the-gut soul as Ronnie Dunn. "Anything Goes" is filled with guilt and regret, but it was an atypical way to introduce Randy to the general public.
"Most people go with a big ol' up-tempo single ditty for their first single," he told The Los Angeles Times. "I didn't want to do that. At the same time, it was tough for me to put a song out there that I didn't write as my first single. But those guys had really written a great song, and I sure didn't mind it getting on the radio."
"Those guys" are Brice Long, who also authored the Gary Allan hit "Nothing On But The Radio"; and John Wiggins, who wrote Joe Nichols' "Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off."
Randy's shown a distinct appreciation of traditional country, but it's hardly all he does. In a recent Nashville showcase, his band exhibited as much alt-rock influence as honky-tonk, making for an interesting blend of genres.
"Pop country is what's been hip here for the last 10 years," Randy said. "We're just not into it. We're trying to make country cool again."
Randy and his "Badonkadonk" pal Jamey cross paths again May 28 when they play a benefit for the Grand Ole Opry Trust Fund at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Also on the bill will be another successful Music City songwriter: Jerrod Niemann, who co-wrote Garth Brooks' salute to Chris LeDoux, "Good Ride Cowboy."

Team Rio, Team McGraw Have Run of Nashville

Diamond Rio's Jimmy Olander celebrating his finish at the 2007 Country Music Marathon and 1/2 Marathon. Jimmy represented Team Rio 2007 Presented by Arby's as a Celebrity Running Captain. He completed the half in 1:56:49... take a bite out of that!
The Team raised $120,000.00 for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee, the preimier mentoring agency.
Photo by Action Sports International,

April 27, 2009 — Some of the key streets in the heart of Nashville were closed on Saturday morning for the tenth annual Country Music Marathon & Half Marathon as more than 31,000 runners and walkers — including members of the country music community — hit the streets in a hot, sweaty mass.
Diamond Rio's Team Rio and Tim McGraw's Team McGraw fielded loads of participants to raise money for charity. Diamond Rio vocalist Marty Roe and guitarist Jimmy Olander were among 160 members of their team, which raised more than $79,000 for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid dle Tennessee, according to the team site. Marty ran the 13.1-mile half-marathon course in 2 hours, 20 minutes, The Tennessean reported, while Jimmy completed it in 2 hours, 10 minutes.
Team McGraw hit the pavement to raise money for brain tumor research, with 40 people running the route. Tim McGraw's brother, actor Mark McGraw, did the half-marathon in 2 hours. Keyboard player Jeff McMahon, of Tim's band the Dancehall Doctors, finished in 3 hours, 36 minutes.
GAC's Suzanne Alexander was among the runners, too, moving through the 13 miles in 2 hours, 24 minutes. Newcomer Skyla Spencer was one of numerous musicians who dotted bandstands along the way. Cover bands kept the field pumped with such songs as Hank Williams' "Hey, Good Lookin'" and Sugarland's "Settlin'." And the route passed numerous music-related landmarks, including the Country Music Hall of Fame; Tootsie's Orchid Lounge; Belmont University, the alma mater of Josh Turner and Brad Paisley; and the former Columbia Recording Studio, where George Jones recorded "He Stopped Loving Her Today."
When it was all over, Billy Currington performed an evening post-marathon concert at the Sommet Center, the annual home for the Country Music Association Awards. Plenty of runners were emotional over their achievements, and Billy had his own cause for sentimentality. Playing the Sommet was a full-circle personal event.
"Most people don 't know I used to pour concrete in Nashville for Metro Ready Mix, and I was a part of building the arena," he told The Tennessean. "We poured all the concrete in that place from the very beginning to the very end. It took us like two or three years, so I have a lot of memories of that place."
"Every day," he continued, "I always used to think, 'One day I'm going to be playing this place.' That's what I was born to do. It's many, many, many years later, but here we are."
With sore feet, chafed thighs and very grateful hearts.

Brad Paisley’s "Then" Hits Home

Brad Paisley photo by David McClister, courtesy of Arista Nashville.

April 27, 2009 — Brad Paisley's current hit "Then" is one that anticipates the ongoing growth of a relationship. The message is one that listeners can relate to on a personal basis, but it also has some relevance to Brad's career, since he tries to anticipate the way that his songs will translate in his relationship with his fans.
"Looking ahead at the lives of people that you touch as a singer, it's certainly always fun to think about what that does and the effect that you can have as an artist on, just, people in the world and all that," Brad says. "I do think that that's the thing that we forget sometimes as we make these records and sing is that there are people whose lives are changed by records and music and, well, I'm glad that that happens."
"Then" currently ranks at No. 10 on the Billboard Country Songs chart. Brad is the featured artist on Thursday 's edition of the national radio show GAC Nights: Live From Nashville.


Tickets On Sale Now for May 9th Show


NASHVILLE, TN – Superstar entertainer Reba McEntire is set to return to the Grand Ole Opry stage on Saturday, May 9th.

The performance will mark Reba's first Opry appearance since starring on Broadway in Annie Get Your Gun -- which garnered her both an Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk Award -- as well as starring for six seasons in her top-rated CW sitcom, Reba -- for which she earned a Prism Award, Family Television Award and People's Choice Award for her acting chops.

On May 9th, fans will be treated to a four-song set from the country music icon during a bonus 9:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. segment of the Opry's 7:00 p.m. show. Tickets to the show are available at and 615-871-OPRY.

Reba says, "The Opry holds a special place in my heart -- from family vacations when I was a kid, to the first time I got to play, to the night I was asked to joined. I can't wait to take the stage and see all of my Opry family and friends!"

In addition, Reba's new single "Strange" soare d into the Top 25 this week on the Billboard Top Country Songs Chart, resting at #23.

The sassy, tongue-in-cheek rocker, from her late-summer Valory Music Co. debut, is the fastest-rising solo single of her 33-year career of charting songs on Billboard's Top Country Songs Chart. The single – from her first solo studio album in six years - also rose to #26 on the USA Today/ Country Aircheck chart (powered by Mediabase).

The superstar entertainer signed with The Valory Music Co. in November 2008. The move reunited the multimedia entertainer with industry leader Scott Borchetta, now President & CEO of Big Machine Records and sister label The Valory Music Co.

One of the most successful female recording artists in history, Reba has sold over 55 million albums worldwide and her last 13 studio albums have all achieved platinum-plus status.

The Valory Music Co. , the sister label to Big Machine Records, was established in November 2007 with an initial artist roster that includes multi-platinum recording artist Jewel as well as Country Soul singer Jimmy Wayne and newcomer Southern Country stylist Justin Moore. The Valory Music Co. celebrated its first #1 album with Jewel's Perfectly Clear , only 7 months after opening its doors. The label celebrated its first #1 single 3 months later when Jimmy Wayne's "Do You Believe Me Now," spent 3 weeks atop the Country sin gles charts. The Valory Music Co. possesses an exclusive, in-house promotion branding team while utilizing existing Big Machine Records backroom service and is distributed by UMGD.

Bob Dylan, John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson Announce Ballpark Tour

Bob Dylan, John Mellencamp and Willie Nelson will tour minor league baseball stadiums this summer, according to Dylan's record label. Billed as the Bob Dylan Show, the tour will begin July 2 in Sauget, Ill., and conclude Aug. 15 in Stockton, Calif. Dylan's new album, Together Through Life, will be released Tuesday (April 28). This is the second time in 24 years that the three musicians have shared a stage, the first being the inaugural Farm Aid concert in 1985. Dylan and Nelson also toured minor league ballparks together in 2004.

Jake Owen Opens Fan Club Party to the Public

Jake Owen will open his annual fan club party to the public on June 11 during the CMA Music Festival in Nashville. Owen will perform a free, hour-long set at the LongHorn Steakhouse in Brentwood, Tenn., at 3 p.m., and will be available for photos and meet-and-greet with fans. Owen is also scheduled to perform at the CMA Music Festival's nightly concert at LP Field on June 12. His hits include "Yee Haw," "Startin' With Me" and "Don't Think I Can't Love You." In addition, he earned the top new male vocalist award from the Academy of Country Music earlier this year.

Keith Urban, Sugarland, Def Leppard Added to CMT Music Awards

Keith Urban
Keith Urban
Keith Urban, Sugarland and Def Leppard will perform at the 2009 CMT Music Awards, which will be held in Nashville on June 16 -- one day earlier than previously scheduled. Tickets go on sale Saturday (May 2). Previously-announced performers include Toby Keith, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts and Taylor Swift. CMT will announce the four finalists in each of the categories, except video of the year, on May 19. Fans can then vote at through June 15 to determine the winners. The final nominees for video of the year will be announced at the beginning of the live show. Fans can vote at throughout the broadcast (ET/CT only) to determine the winner.

Kenny Chesney and Brad Paisley Captivate Stagecoach Festival Crowd

Reba McEntire, Kid Rock, Miranda Lambert Also Grab Attention at California Event
Brad Paisley
Brad Paisley
Photo Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images
INDIO, Calif. -- If anyone still requires proof that country music is a big tent, consider the penultimate performers on the main stage each night at this past weekend's Stagecoach Festival in the southern California desert.

On Saturday (April 25), Oklahoma redhead Reba McEntire was family-friendly enough in a post-dusk slot, never getting any racier than "Fancy" or any stranger than "Strange." In the same spot Sunday (April 26), self-proclaimed urban redneck Kid Rock alternated his metal-meets-hip-hop riffage of old with unabashedly obscene honky-tonk ballads, sending many parents with young children fleeing as if for their lives.

But what was most notable wasn't who was going, but who was coming. Neither extreme desert wind gusts nor the recession nor fear of the swine flu could keep country fans from their appointed rounds with the third annual gathering, which reached new attendance heights at th e sprawling polo grounds in Indio over the weekend.

"This is the greatest festival in the history of music!" exulted Saturday night's headliner, Brad Paisley. Maybe Paisley says that to all the buoyant country gatherings, but there is certainly a shared feeling among many artists that Stagecoach might already be the nation's premier live-twang blowout, having grown from a curious experiment to a country music institution in just a couple of years.

Promoters for the festival won't reveal actual ticket sales figures until later in the week, but 2008's 40,000-a-day figures were clearly eclipsed -- and why wouldn't they be, with the biggest touring draw in any genre of music, Kenny Chesney, as Sunday's headliner? With the sea of lawn chairs now backing up about as far as the perimeter concession stands in any direction, it's hard to know where Stagecoach could squeeze any more patrons in ... unless it would be in the two massive tents along the site's eastern flank, where an admirable lineup of bluegrass and Americana legends had the usual trouble siphoning fans away from the main stage's mainstream stars.

Among the other booking quirks that lend Stagecoach serious cred points, festival promoter Paul Tollett clearly has a fondness for California's role in the development of country-rock. This year, that led to a historic reunion of Poco=2 0with three members who left at various points in the 1970s -- Timothy B. Schmit, Richie Furay and Jim Messina -- joining longtime mainstays Rusty Young and Paul Cotton.

"I would be surprised if it ever happened again," said Young, the only founding member who's been with Poco for all of the band's 40-plus years. "Timothy hasn't played with the band since 1977, and he's got a day job." (Schmit left Poco to join the Eagles, who headlined Stagecoach last year.)

Young saw Poco's legacy reflected throughout the festival, whether the younger performers acknowledge it or not.

"What the Kenny Chesneys and 90 percent of these artists are doing is basically the same music that we started in 1969, 1970 -- rock 'n' roll using country instruments as color," he said. "That's pretty much what country music is these days: a country singer with a rock 'n' roll band and maybe banjo or steel guitar. A lot of this came from what the early California country-rock scene was like -- the Burrito Brothers, Eagles, Poco, Pure Prairie League [who also played Sunday's bill], Firefall, all those acts. So there's definitely the heritage there. But us old-timers get the small stage, and the new kids get the big stage."

However, Young isn't myopic enough to let the Golden State take sole credit for today's country: "There's a lot of Lynyrd Skynyrd in it, too, and you can't ignore that."

Kid Rock certainly hasn't, playing the "Sweet Home Alabama"-sampling "All Summer Long" early in his set. The other influences on today's acts came through clearly in their choice of cover material -- mostly rock of a decidedly post-Poco (but pre-Nirvana) vintage. Chesney sang John Mellencamp's "Jack and Diane." Lady Antebellum covered another Mellencamp tune, "Hurts So Good," along with AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long" and the Doobie Brothers' "Long Train Runnin'." Miranda Lambert also found time for three covers: Joan Jett's "I Love Rock 'n' Roll," the Faces' "Stay With Me" and a Motown classic, "I Heard It Through the Grapevine." Little Big Town opened with Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain." Even the bluegrass and string-band outfits got into the act, with Greensky Bluegrass doing Prince's "When Doves Cry" and the Duhks closing their set with Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love." Hey, some souls might have been asking, "Would it kill anybody to cover a country song?"

But be careful what you wish for, because it was Kid Rock keeping things real and down-home by crooning an, um, classic by -- uh-oh -- < a href="">David Allan Coe, the unprintable lyrics of which have to do with how the singer wants to ... well ... make love to an ex-girlfriend one more time. That provided the ideal entrée into the countriest song in Kid Rock's repertoire, the famously Pam Anderson-dissing "Half Your Age." In the time-honored tradition of country "answer songs," the Kid had his drummer, Stephanie Eulinberg, come up front to sing a gender-reversal version of the tune in which she boasts that her new guy's genitals are twice as ... . And, suddenly, having the kids out this late on a school night seemed even more foolish than it had a few minutes before.

As polarizing as Kid Rock's set was, most among the tens of thousands of largely inebriated twenty- and thirtysomethings the fleeing parents left behind seemed to regard his appearance as a festival highlight, particularly eating up his duet on "Picture" with Miranda Lambert (who threatened to shoot him when he threw her off-guard with some typically risible improvised lyrics).

It was far from a rock-averse crowd. A show of hands during one set even revealed a sizable number of fans who'd also attended the indie-rock-oriented Coachella Festival on the same grounds the previous weekend. Immediate differences were apparent for any returnees from Coachella, though. The preceding weekend, the first thing anyone encountered upon entering the front gates wa s a disco dome. In the same spot this weekend were the Budweiser Clydesdale horses. At Coachella, lawn chairs aren't allowed -- it's a free-range festival. At Stagecoach, nearly everyone brings a chair or blanket and plants it in front of the main stage early in the afternoon.

While wandering from stage to stage is the main endeavor at the rock fest, it's the exception here, and nomads who don't stake a claim in the main field may later find that just about the only spot left to get a view of the superstar action is from behind the counter at a barbecue booth. Speaking of which: At Coachella, Morrissey, an artist who is a vegan, complained about the stench of cooked flesh. This weekend, the closest thing to a vegetarian sentiment was someone wearing a PETA T-shirt ... which, upon closer inspection, turned out to stand for "People for the Eating of Tasty Animals."

Coachella also had a procession of movie and TV stars backstage, while Stagecoach had to settle for the daytime soap cast members who introduced bands and signed autographs in a nearby tent. Oh, and Kevin Costner, who played with his country band, Modern West, on Saturday afternoon. Costner did mention, a la the other Oscar winner who's trying to forge a career in country, that "I did music before I did movies," but otherwise there was no Billy Bob Thornton trip going on. Costner even acknowledged that half of those in attendance probably had to be d ragged to see him, saying, "Thank you, men, for coming with your women." At times, Costner seemed almost too eager to fulfill every country music trope, whether it was singing about having a "NASCAR dream" in "Backyard" or picturing angels carrying dying soldiers to heaven in "Southern Rain."

Later Saturday night, Charlie Daniels drew the biggest crowd of any act playing in a side tent, getting some of his biggest cheers for "Simple Man," which calls for lynching dope dealers. Note to self: Do not invite Daniels to the same party as the Zac Brown Band (who encouraged the audience to "sit in the sun and roll a big fat one") or Kid Rock (who repeated his famous lyric about how he "met the president when I was half-stoned").

Two awards for special merit go to the Knitters, who played to one of the healthier tent crowds on Sunday afternoon. One is for being the only musicians to appear at both Coachella and Stagecoach and play the same song at both festivals. The previous weekend, John Doe, Exene Cervenka, and DJ Bonebreak played "In This House That I Call Home" as a punk song with their other band, X, before reviving it as a country song at Stagecoach. Their other significant accomplishment? Being the only act all weekend to cover someone who was playing simultaneously. In honor of bluegrass king Ralph Stanley , booked into the same time slot in the adjacent tent, the Knitters played the classic "Rank Strangers." (The competition wasn't always so kind: When Stanley was singing his a cappella "O Death" for a couple of hundred sober souls in the smallest tent, he was being all but completely drowned out by the massiveness of Lambert's "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.")

As headliners, Paisley and Chesney left few doubts why they are currently two of the most popular acts in country music. Paisley is the only guy alive who can credibly evoke Jimi Hendrix and Little Jimmy Dickens in the same song, as his "Better Than This" name-checked the latter legend on top of incorporating a few guitar licks from "Purple Haze." If only his repeated promises to pay overtime fines and play till the middle of the night didn't end with the star playing a standard-length set that ended 45 minutes shy of the festival's midnight curfew on Saturday.

Chesney went on a half-hour late Sunday for his festival-closing set, thanks to some preceding acts going overtime. (Here's looking at you, Kid.) But he did benefit from his warm-up act in at least one way: While Chesney has been accused of not hewing close enough to his rural roots, after Kid Rock, he suddenly seemed like Hank Williams reincarnate. There were no Yoo-Hoo concessions in sight, but this didn't stop the star from performing a full contingent of his h ottest warm-weather hits: "It's almost ... ," he began before stopping himself. "Hell, it's always summertime in California!"

This was wishful thinking: Wind gusts of up to 45 mph that had seemed so refreshing earlier in the day suddenly seemed almost wintery, causing everyone to bundle up -- except, of course, for Chesney, who'll wear shirt sleeves on stage the day Reba covers Kid Rock's "Bawitdaba." Should it be any surprise that the guy who made tractors sexy can do the same thing for goose pimples?

View photos from the Stagecoach festival.

Book explores musician Jimmie Rodgers' influence on U.S. culture

By Peter Cooper • THE TENNESSEAN • April 28, 2009
Music historian Barry Mazor pondered the question about "Father of Country Music" Jimmie Rodgers' impact on American culture.
"The thing is, it took 325 pages to answer your question," said Mazor, whose new book is Meeting Jimmie Rodgers: How America's Original Roots Music Hero Changed the Pop Sounds of a Century. Mazor will speak about Rodgers and sign copies of the book at noon Friday at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
"Some people recognize his influence and some don't," Mazor said. "That's not a sign of weakness in what Rodgers has meant to pop music, but rather a sign of strength. His music and his image are deep in the DNA of American music, and you don't have to be aware of that to get the influence."
Discovered in 1927 at a Bristol, Va., cattle-call-style recording session, Rodgers was a major music star by 1929. He died in 1933, but his swagger, his infatuation with railroad songs and images and his bluesy yodel fascinate artists and audiences to this day.
"He knew he had tuberculosis, and he knew what that meant. He knew it would kill him," Mazor said. "He was dying, even before his first recording was made."
Rodgers' illness kept him from international travel, but he played hundreds of shows=2 0throughout America. As he extended his fame and wealth, he carved out an often-emulated model.
"His Mississippi accent is on the records, and he never got rid of it," Mazor said. "Here's a guy who sold something close to a million records with his first hit, but for many people in the South he came to represent them. His records were selling in Australia and Japan, and what he was doing was bringing the wider world to the rural and small-town people of the South, where he came from. That's so closely tied to how people related to him, and it also relates to who Elvis Presley became or who Dolly Parton is."
Three decades ago, Nolan Porterfield published Jimmie Rodgers: The Life and Times of America's Blue Yodeler, and that book stands as definitive biography.
Rather than merely update Porterfield's work, Mazor focused on Rodgers' impact and import. He was able to unearth some previously unreported information, though, by consulting family scrapbooks, Rodgers' musician's diary and other sources.
"One thing I wanted to know was whether the Father of Country Music ever played Nashville, the city that became the home of country music," Mazor said. "It turns out that in the summer of 1932, he played in Nashville on one of the very last of the working steam-powered showboats. It was a boat that held 700 people, called the Hollywood, and it was on the Cumberland all summer long. They booked him, he listed the date in his diary, and I found in the Nashville Banner a tiny, one-inch ad. He played on the boat at midnight. And the tiny ad was next to a one-third-page article announcing that WSM had just conducted its first test of its new, 50,000-watt transmitter."

Monday, April 27, 2009

Rodney Atkins Has No. 1 Song With "It's America"

Rascal Flatts' Unstoppable Still Top Album
Rodney Atkins
Rodney Atkins
Rodney Atkins' "It's America" has ascended to No. 1 on the Billboard country singles chart while Rascal Flatts' Unstoppable holds the No. 1 perch for the second week on the top country albums chart.

Two albums make their debut this week: John Doe and the Sadies' Country Club (at No. 39) and The Best of Trick Pony (No. 58). Returning to the chart are the companion various-artists collections, Bill Gaither Presents: Country Bluegrass Homecoming Volume One and Volume Two at No. 64 and No. 68, respectively.

New to the songs chart are Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me" (No. 32), Joe Nichols' "Believers" (No. 53) and Miranda Lambert's "Dead Flowers" (No. 59). Staging comebacks are Pat Green's "What I'm For" (re-entering at No. 55) and Lee Ann Womack's "Solitary Thinkin'" (No. 56).

Arrayed in the No. 2 through No. 5 slots behind Unstoppable are Jason Aldean's Wide Open, Swift's Fearless, Keith Urban's Defying Gravity and Carrie Underwood's Carnival Ride, in that order.

Darius Rucker's Learn to Live, a former No. 1 album, is on the rebound, taking a big leap this week from No. 10 to No. 6.

Among the current Top 5 songs, Rascal Flatts' "Here Comes Goodbye" slips back to No. 2. At No. 3 is Aldean's "She's Country." Underwood holds the No. 4 berth with "I Told You So." And Tim McGraw completes the set with "Nothin' to Die For."

By Nielsen SoundScan's count, the Top 75 country albums sold a mere 470,815 copies this week. That's scary.

Taylor Swift Presented Key to the City of Evansville, Ind.

Taylor Swift accepted a key to the city of Evansville, Ind., prior to her concert there on Thursday (April 24). In addition, City Council President B.J. Watts declared Wednesday (April 23) as Taylor Swift Day. The sold-out concert was the first stop for her first headlining tour. Kellie Pickler and new group Gloriana are the opening acts. Swift has divided her set into three acts, with an acoustic portion in the second set. She plays seven instruments and undergoes eight costume changes during her performance. Swift's tour is currently scheduled through Oct. 10. View photos of Taylor Swift's visit to Evansville, Ind.

Friends for 16 Years, Keith Urban and Monty Powell Celebrate "Sweet Thing" Success

Co-Writers Attend Party for No. 1 Song at SESAC's Nashville Office
Keith Urban and Monty Powell
Keith Urban and Monty Powell
Photo Credit: Ed Rode
Keith Urban and Monty Powell celebrated the No. 1 success of "Sweet Thing" with a small party at the SESAC offices in Nashville on Thursday afternoon (April 23). Both songwriters declined to formally address the industry crowd, but they also co-wrote Urban's new single, "Kiss a Girl," and their collaborative track record is well-established: "Days Go By," "Tonight I Wanna Cry," "Who Wouldn't Wanna Be Me," "She's Gotta Be" and "These Are the Days," among many others.

Prior to the party, Powell recalled the first time he heard Urban perform.

"It was at the Ace of Clubs in 1993-ish," he said. "It's funny, because we had a meeting about me producing his band, the Ranch, before I even ever heard him play. He just took a cold call. He came and told me what he was doing and said they were going to be playing later that week. ... The first time you see that band and his guitar playing and his singing, all at one time, it was like, 'I definitely want to get connected with this.'"

Asked what set Urban apart, Powell said, "I think it was the combination of his musical artistry -- his guitar playing and the way he fronted a power trio. You see a lot of people who can stand there and sing a song but a star -- a front man, one who carries an entire show or band with him -- is rare."

The two men struck up a business partnership, with Powell ultimately producing a few sides that ended up on the Ranch's album released by Capitol Nashville in 1997. Unsuccessful the first time out, the label reissued the album with bonus tracks in 2004. When Urban went solo, he chose their mutual friend, Matt Rollings, to produce the album.

"I was like, 'OK, cool. My role as a producer maybe has had its place, but there's still a creative place where we can connect and it's in songwriting,'" Powell says. "So we never looked back."

The first time they actually wrote together, Powell still couldn't get over Urban's instrumental prowess: "I remember thinking, 'If I could play guitar like that ... .' Honestly, if I could play a guitar like that, they would have to come find me on Mars. I mean, it's just unlimited"

A native of Resaca, Ga., Powell moved to Nashville in 1980 to attend David Lipscomb College. After co-founding a production company, he composed a jingle for Allstate that aired during the Super Bowl. One of his jingle singers, Van Stephenson of BlackHawk, introduced him around town and helped him find a publishing deal. In the early '90s, Powell co-wrote numerous songs with Diamond Rio, a band he recruited to the fledging label, Arista Nashville. The band quickly established itself at country radio with songs like "Norma Jean Riley" and "Nowhere Bound," both of which Powell co-wrote. Incidentally, his college roommate was Diamond Rio singer Marty Roe.

Powell's other songwriting credits include Alabama's "Pete's Music City" (his first cut), Brooks & Dunn's "I Am That Man," Tracy Byrd's "Love Lessons," Chris Cagle's "What a Beautiful Day," Billy Ray Cyrus' "Could've Been Me," Billy Dean's "Cowboy Band," Tim McGraw's "One of These Days," Rascal Flatts' "She Goes All the Way," Collin Raye's "My Kind of Girl," Restless Heart's "Dancy's Dream" and Lee Ann Womack's "When You Gonna Run to Me." He won a CMA Award in 1994 for production work on the multi-artist collection, Common Thread: Songs of the Eagles. He's currently involved in an artist management firm representing new artists James Otto, Trent Tomlinson and Chuck Wicks.

Powell says "It's a Love Thing" -- one of the first songs he and Urban co-wrote -- is what finally convinced the industry that Urban was for real. The song reached No. 18 at country radio in 1999.

"I feel like we were constantly trying to explain to everyone around us, 'No, you don't understand. This is the deal,'" Powell said. "It took a little while to get critical mass. I think the very thing that ... made it be really cool is the very thing that made it be obtuse to a lot of people. Here's a guitar slinger -- a good-looking kid who's not even from this country -- and yet who can recite every Don Williams album and Glen Campbell song. They were just not sure what to make of him or what convenient little slot to put him in.

"'Love Thing,' which was his first single as a solo artist, showed that not only could he keep all of those elements about himself together, he could also deliver it in a package that made sense to a country audience and country radio. So when all those elements kind of fused in that first song, everyone said, 'Oh, now we can see how this is going to work in our format.'"

When he hears "Sweet Thing" on the radio now, Powell says he's proud of the consistency of their collaborations.

"Keith can write with whoever he wants to, whenever he wants to, and he has taken plenty of creative excursions down other roads," Powell said. "Clearly, I take creative excursions all the time as a songwriter. I think it requires a certain amount of commitment to each other personally and loyalty to come back to that and give it a chance to work again because it would be easy to say, 'You know what, we've gone to that well a lot of times, and I'm ready for something new.' But we both keep coming back to that thing, and it keeps working."

View photos from the No. 1 party.

HOT DISH: Hanging With the Stars in Indianapolis

Brad Paisley, Trace Adkins, Rascal Flatts and Martina McBride Are Making News
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

Departing Music Town for Indianapolis and the big Country Music Expo there, I knew the second Paisley son had arrived, but I did not know his name. There's no telling how many phone calls I made from Indy to Nashville during the next 48 hours looking for the name -- which turned out to be Jasper Warren Paisley. Weighing in at 9 pounds, 6 ounces, that boy almost outweighed his pretty mama. Congratulations Brad, Kimberly and big brother Huck on the family's new addition.

Most of you are aware that my various jobs include calling radio station WFMS in Indy with morning reports about what's going on in the world of country music. And I always look forward to attending the station's expo and meeting listeners.

Big Machine/Valory Music's John Zarling drove with me to Indy. On the way, he and I talked to Jack Ingram, who was in Texas and driving from Austin to College Station for a concert. When he's in driving distance, Jack likes to head home following a concert so he can see his three kids the next morning.

On the morning of April 18, we hit the Indiana Fairgrounds coffeed-up and ready to roll. The place was mobbed. Looking like a star, Jessica Harp was singing onstage. She was followed by Jamie O'Neal, who can just about outsing anybody. It was great seeing Jamie. Since she's been in my kitchen, Jamie sent hellos to all my Southern Fried Flicks folks.

When it was my turn on stage, I went out and talked 45 minutes without catching my breath -- Q & A, telling stories and enjoying the country music fans. When I left the stage, I realized the next person to perform was ever-so-gorgeous Blake Shelton. Blake and I had about 15 minutes of true country music fun. We talked about CMT's Lance Smith, Blake's lady (Miranda Lambert) and hit songs and a few misses. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Blake Shelton has got the goods to become the next superstar. He sings great, looks great and is truly funny.

The next night, the wonderful WFMS morning folks -- Jim Denny, Kevin Freeman, Deborah Honeycutt and Gator -- joined Zarling, my grandson Jeremy and me when I met up with a couple who bid $1,000 to eat supper with me. (Are you believing that?!) Their bid was through a WFMS auction to raise money for a children's charity. We had a wonderful sit-down meal with the couple and some of their friends.

We slept too late for breakfast during the Sunday we were there. Upon rushing to the fairgrounds, people were lined up backstage for prime rib. Starving, we piled it on and chowed down.

"Jeremy, isn't that the Lost Trailers?" I asked.

"Don't know," Jeremy mumbled between huge bites of beef on bread.

"I know that's that cute Manny," I said. So here they came -- all five of them -- with hugs and kisses. I saw their performance on Jumbotron screens, and they were hot.

I sat down and chatted with Mark Chesnutt, one of the all-time great traditional country singers. He was in a hurry to fly to Houston and head home to Beaumont, Texas. "My wife said we had 10 inches of rain down there," he said. "Twenty miles from the Gulf, when the rains come in like that, you can look for trouble."

I saw Heidi Newfield in the hallway, but I was going to the WFMS booth to visit with the fans, and she was headed for the stage, so we just said howdy. Ditto the Eli Young Band, who were in and out. I really like those guys, so I'm sorry to say I totally missed their performance. Backstage and all-access passes are nice at concerts, but I was so busy, I didn't get to see this hot up-and-coming hot band from Texas. You know I like those young, cute musicmakers!

The two girls of Little Big Town are so nice and so cute, and so are the two guys. Both girls fell into my arms to say hello as they explained that their label head, Mike Dungan, said good things about me the night before in Nashville. There are several great vocal groups happening at the present time, and Little Big Town is definitely one of the best. Not only do they sing great, they are great looking onstage and off. I heard several fans who met them saying, "They are so nice." And they are.

I saw both Lee Ann Womack and Darius Rucker but did not get a chance to even say hello. Each did a 30-minute set. Lee Ann looked great, singing all her hits, and Darius is one of the more charismatic performers in any genre of music.

It seemed like the person who received the biggest applause and walked away as the best of the expo was Jason Michael Carroll. His new short haircut really helps showcase his handsome face. It's obvious, too, that he's been going to the gym. Onstage, he gave all he had, and the fans loved him. His current single, "Where I'm From," looks like it's going to be a huge record for him.

Trace Adkins Plans Memorial Day Performance
One of my favorites is Trace Adkins. He will perform "Til the Last Shot's Fired" as the closing performance at the National Memorial Day Concert in Washington, D.C. He will be accompanied by his band and the National Symphony Orchestra, along with the U.S. Army Chorus, the Soldiers Chorus of the U.S. Army Field Band and the U.S. Navy Sea Chanters. The event will broadcast live from the West Lawn of the Capitol on PBS.

Rascal Flatts Schedule Stadium Shows
Following the lead of George Strait and Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts will be headlining two stadium shows this summer. On July 18, they will appear in Chicago at Wrigley Field with opening act Darius Rucker and special guest Vince Gill. On Aug. 9, Rucker and Dierks Bentley will open for the trio at Columbus Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, the hometown of Rascal Flatts cousins Gary LeVox and Jay DeMarcus.

Martina McBride in the News
Us Weekly has unveiled its "Hot Hollywood Style" issue this week, and Martina McBride is the token country music star to be honored amongst a bevy of musicians, actresses and entertainers. Martina's two noteworthy fashion choices for the photos are a sassy Diane Von Furstenberg mini-dress and a Badgley Mischka gown.

And in other Martina news, Blackbird Vineyards in Napa Valley, Calif., will be introducing her signature series of wine. Each label will be stamped with Martina's autograph. Since McBride and husband John named their recording complex Blackbird Studio, it's quite fitting for the singer to choose to partner with Blackbird Vineyards. The wine will retail for $60 a bottle through her Web site.

Jimmy Dean's Home Burns
The secluded Varina, Va., home of Jimmy and Donna Meade Dean suffered extensive fire damage last week. The Deans and their caretaker escaped to safety, but three firefighters suffered injuries. The fire started in the basement but quickly spread to the attic. Dean did manage to salvage his Grammy Award presented in 1961 for "Big Bad John" presented in 1961. The 80-year-old entertainer founded the Jimmy Dean Sausage Company in 1969 and sold it to Sara Lee Corporation in 1984, making himself much moola.

Another Williams Boy
Musician, singer, songwriter and actor Paul Williams has been elected president and chairman of ASCAP, the performing rights organization. A member of the Songwriter's Hall of Fame, he received an Academy Award for co-writing "Evergreen" with Barbra Streisand for the movie, A Star Is Born. To country fans, he may be best known for his role of Little Enos Burdette in the Burt Reynolds movie, Smokey and the Bandit. He's well known for the classic pop hits he wrote for the Carpenters, Three Dog Night and others, but Williams always seemed comfortable on Music Row when he was collaborating with country singers and writers.

No Telling Who You'll See at the Opry
Backstage at last week's Tuesday night Opry was Peter Noone, lead vocalist for Herman's Hermits, the British band that enjoyed success in the '60s with hits like "Henry the VIII, I Am." I wonder if he wants to record an album with Alison Krauss like Robert Plant did.


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