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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Alan Jackson’s Home: for $38 Million, It’s Yours!

Alan and Denise Jackson arrive on the Red Carpet for "The 42nd Annual CMA Awards," broadcast live from the Sommet Center in Nashville, WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 12 (8:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. © Adam Larkey / ABC / Retna Ltd.

June 30, 2009 — The same day Alan Jackson filled a Nashville club this month with a free concert celebrating his 20th anniversary as a recording artist, a lengthy story in The Nashville Scene indicated he was planning to put his suburban mansion, Sweetbriar, up for sale.
Not too many people can afford the hefty $38-million price tag, but a bundle of pictures of the home — both inside and out — can be viewed at Occupying 19,000 square feet, the home has six bedrooms, seven bathrooms and two half-baths, plus a 20-car garage. Add to that a gymnasium, three ponds, and a boathouse on their 135-acre spread, and you get an idea of what selling 50 mi llion albums can do for your lifestyle.
While the Jacksons can afford about whatever they want, it seems, but their lifestyle is no longer suited much for a place he compares to Disney World.
"We realized, as our girls got older, that they don't really use the property much," he told The Scene. "Once they get to be teenagers, they're mostly hanging out with their friends and on the iPod and cell phones in their rooms. If I'd had three boys instead of girls, they might be out here fishing and riding four-wheelers or something."
Alan plans to build a new home on a smaller lot nearby. In the meantime, he's contributing to the Fourth of July celebration in his original hometown. The Newnan Times-Herald reports he's recorded a version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" to be played at the fireworks celebration Saturday in Newnan, Ga.

Brad Paisley: Solo Artist, Group Effect

Brad Paisley's 2009 CD, American Saturday Night, photo courtesy of Arista Nashville.

June 30, 2009 — When Brad Paisley writes his songs, he typically does it with no more than two other people in the room, but when it's time to record, he's been known to turn it into a party. There've been big, gang vocals on several of his hits — including "Alcohol" and "I'm Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin' Song)" — and he incorporated a marching band into "Online."
Brad and his producer, Frank Rogers, used that effect even more in his new album, which comes out Tuesday.
"That's the thing about an album called American Saturday Night, it needs to feel like that," Brad says. "It needs to feel like an event, a gathering. And that's what this album was, you know? And these crowd parts, Frank and I were like, 'You know, this is the most we've ever done this.' Every other album had maybe one, and he said, 'Yeah, I think it's important.' He said, 'I think it is what this album is, to some degree.' And it's how the album was written. It was written in a group, essentially. That's how it was recorded. It was a group effort by a lot of different people, and it reflects that in the production of it."
Brad's not exactly the only guy who's put gang vocals to work. Garth Brooks' "Friends In Low Places," Trace Adkins' "Ladies Love Country Boys," David Lee Murphy's "Party Crowd," Dierks Bentley's "Sideways," Montgomery Gentry's "One In Every Crowd" and Brooks & Dunn's "Rock My World (Little Country Girl)" are among the other hits that have employed them.
In the meantime, Brad's planning on drawing a big crowd when he appears in New York's Central Park Friday for the summer concert series on "Good Morning, America." He's also part of the first group of artists who've been officially announced as performers on ABC's three-hour August special "CMA Music Festival: Country's Night To Rock." His rain-delayed, after-midnight show will be highlighted alongside music from Kenny Chesney, Lady Antebellum, Taylor Swift, Kid Rock, Darius Rucker and Sugarland.

Country Thunder Roars on GAC

Suzanne Alexander interviews Neal McCoy and friend during the annual "Country Thunder" event held in Phoenix, Arizona

June 30, 2009 — Country Thunder USA, in its 17th year as one of the nation's leading festivals, will get big exposure next month on GAC. The four-day event — featuring Taylor Swift, Alan Jackson, Tim McGraw and Rodney Atkins, among others — welcomes Suzanne Alexander, who'll cover the festival for GAC Nights and Top 20 Country Countdown.
"We couldn't be happier — having GAC on-hand to celebrate the weekend with us, and with the great lineup," Country Thunder executive producer Brian Andrews says. "Adding Neal McCoy will make Friday night a huge party. He puts on an incredible show."
Held in Twin Lakes, Wis., Country Thunder promises more than 30 acts during the run of the festival, including Tracy Lawrence, t he Lost Trailers, Restless Heart, Heidi Newfield, Diamond Rio, Jack Ingram and Terri Clark. It's filled out nicely by a number of newcomers such as Gloriana, Joey+Rory, Jason Jones, Colt Ford and GAC web series stars KingBilly.
The festival often draws 30,000 fans or more per day. Officials already expect the crowd will consume 5,000 pounds of hamburger and one ton of Wisconsin cheese, leaving 10,000 bags of garbage.

Dierks Bentley is "Sideways" Over No. 1 Hit

Dierks Bentley photo courtesy of Capitol Nashville.

June 30, 2009 — Dierks Bentley tried to create a party atmosphere when he recorded his current single, "Sideways," and now it's given him a great reason to throw a real one.
The song is No. 1 on the Billboard country chart, joining the title track as his second chart-topping release from the Feel That Fire album.
"We've been kicking our show off with 'Sideways' and it gets the party started quickly," he says. "Thanks to all the fans that have fun, get wild and a little 'sideways' during our show because we feed off of that energy. I can't wait for the No. 1 party for this one! I always said that this song would sound best blasting through boat speakers. We might just need to celebrate out at Party Cove."
Dierks presumably means the Party Cove at Percy Priest Lake in Nashville, though there are also Party Coves at Lewisville Lake in Texas, Lake Of The Ozarks in Arkansas and at Kincaid Lake in Illinois. And likely others, too.
Most of Dierks' partying this week will come in the form of concert appearances. He's slated to play Kansas City on Thursday; Eufaula, Okla., on Friday; and Killeen, Texas on Saturday.

Lost Trailers Find Baby

The Lost Trailers photo courtesy of Sony/BMG Nashville.

June 30, 2009 — Lost Trailers guitarist Stokes Nielson and his wife, Maria, added a second child to the family with the birth of a boy June 22 in Nashville.
The new addition comes at the start of the summer touring season, meaning Dad will be away from his son about as much as he's home.
But he's going to dates in a different manner than many of his fellow country artists. The Trailers are on their Lean, Clean & Local Tour, in which they're trying to help the economies in the towns where they play, cut their energy usage and clean up the environment. Instead of taking a crew with them on a tour bus, they're hiring locally and flying to the dates on commercial airlines, using equipment from the town where they play. They estimate they've reduced their carbon footprint by a whopping 132 tons.
"We travel really light so that we can roll into town, hire the crew=2 0and also hire local equipment," Andrew Nielson told CNN. "[Jeff] Potter's a drummer, and everywhere we go, we rent drums."
The southeastern-bred band is working on the tour with Keep America Beautiful, a non-profit organization that promotes recycling and the reduction of litter. KAB takes part in post-concert clean up.
"I think as country artists, it's really important to preserve the things that we grew up with," lead singer Ryder Lee said. "We're naturally outdoors men because of where we grew up, and keeping the rivers and streams clean is part of being country, and we're really proud of that. And Keep America Beautiful and their efforts in recycling and litter cleanup was really fitting for us, so it was a natural place to reach out — not to mention, at our shows, there tends to be a few bottles and cans that build up."
New daddy Stokes and the rest of the five-man crew, including bass player Manny Medina, are in the central U.S. this week. They play Milwaukee Summerfest on Wednesday; Hays, Kan., on Friday; and Laramie, Wyo., on the Fourth of July.

Lady Antebellum Represents Country on Upcoming Now! 31 Compilation

Lady Antebellum's "I Run to You" is the only country song to be included on the Now! 31 compilation, which will be released Tuesday (June 30). Other artists on the album include Beyonce, the Black Eyed Peas, Kelly Clarkson, Flo Rida, Jamie Foxx, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, TI and Justin Timberlake. "I've got one word. ... Beyoncé!" said singer Hillary Scott. "It is hard to describe what it feels like for me to see our name on the same CD package as hers. I'm seriously pinching myself."

Toby Keith, Jason Aldean Coming to Country USA Festival in 2010

Toby Keith and Jason Aldean will perform at the Country USA Festival in Oshkosh, Wis., in 2010, according to event promoter Dan Liebhauser. The 2009 event concluded on Sunday (June 28) with performances by Jamey Johnson, Lady Antebellum, James Otto and Gretchen Wilson. According to the Oshkosh Northwestern, the festival may break its attendance record of 172,000 set in 2007, thanks in part to Taylor Swift's appearance there on Wednesday (June 24) to an audience of about 44,000.

Alan Jackson Records National Anthem for Hometown Celebration

Alan Jackson has recorded the national anthem for the Fourth of July celebration in his hometown of Newnan, Ga. His recorded version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" will have its world debut at the event. Jackson's sister, Newnan resident Cathy Wright, was approached by the local Rotary Club to ask Jackson about recording the song. Jackson's next tour date is scheduled for July 16 at Jamboree in the Hills in St. Clairesville, Ohio. Jackson and his wife, Denise, both grew up in Newnan.

Tanya Tucker Honors Her Father's Favorite Music on New Album

My Turn Features Classics Made Famous by Male Country Legends
Tanya Tucker
Tanya Tucker
As a grade-schooler in Arizona, Tanya Tucker and her father, Beau Tucker, would convince touring country singers like Ernest Tubb and Little Jimmy Dickens to give her a moment in the spotlight, too. And by the time she was 13, Tucker was working her own shows in a Las Vegas nightclub, fearlessly performing honky-tonk classics like Faron Young's "Wine Me Up." So it's no surprise the 50-year-old singer sounds perfectly comfortable on her new album of country classics, My Turn. She says she recorded famous songs by the likes of Lefty Frizzell, Buck Owens, Ray Price and Hank Williams to honor her late father.

"He's the one that got me started in this business, and he's the one that got me hooked on country music from the very beginning, so it only makes sense that I dedicate this album to him," she said. "I wanted to call it The Songs My Dad Wanted Me to Sing ... but I finally decided on My Turn, which I think is a good title, too. He's the one that had these records when I started singing. He was my mentor."

Tucker possesses one of the most familiar voices in country music, with 40 Top 10 singles and 10 No. 1 hits. These days, she divides her time between Malibu, Calif., where her daughters are pursuing film work, and Franklin, Tenn., a small town about 20 miles south of Nashville. During a phone interview, she discusses the healing power of music, the first demos she was pitched and why she's keeping her vinyl collection.

CMT: Preparing for this record, did you go back and listen to the original versions?

Tucker: Not really. [Producer] Pete Anderson came over to my house in Malibu one night, and it was the first time I ever met him. We started talking about the songs that we really liked. There was a list about 20 to 30 songs. He was dead set about some things. There was one that I wasn't really sure of -- "Big Big Love." I was hoping to do something like "It's Such a Pretty World" by Wynn Stewart. But he was set on "Big Big Love" and even right up until I recorded it, I really didn't know if I was going to like the song. But after I recorded it, I really loved it. That's one of my favorites on the record.

When you moved to Malibu, did you keep all your vinyl records, and do you listen to country music on vinyl?

Oh, absolutely. I haven't lately because I don't have anything to play it on. All my turntables are in storage. I haven't gotten to listen to them in a long time. But I love all the white noise.

You can't bear to part with those.

No, never will. That's the beginning, you know. That was the core. That's what got us here.

When you listened to material for your studio records, were most of those demos sung by men?

Yeah, it's true. I've made a career out of singing songs that mostly were men's songs. I mean, I have definitely cut some songs that had female demos, but I have always been attracted to men's songs. I always turned them around into stronger kind of songs. I have made a career out of that. Nobody would really know, I guess, but me and my producer.

Did the industry ever tell you that since you're a female country singer, you're only going to appeal to women?

Oh, no, no, I was never told that. I think they wanted me to appeal more to men, especially when I got a little older. The facts are that women buy the records. It's always been that way. Somehow through them wanting me to appeal to men, I ended up appealing to women because of the strong songs. There is just a little more strength in a woman's song these days. I never have really been attracted to "poor little me" songs -- "I'll do anything if you take me back." I never have liked that kind of attitude. (laughs) I have had a lot of women come to me and say, "Man, you helped me get through a divorce." It's amazing how powerful music is. It never fails to amaze me. I think sometimes artists get so involved in making the music, we forget really how important it is as far as changing lives and helping people through a bad part of their lives. It's very, very powerful.

In your early career, one of the first songs you were pitched was "Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A.," which later became a Grammy-winning song for Donna Fargo. What was going through your mind the first time you heard it?

I thought it was a good song, but I didn't think at that time it was for me. Of course [music publisher] Al Gallico brought it in because he had the publishing on it. He knew Billy Sherrill had this new 13-year-old kid he was producing, so he put it together and brought it in and said, "This is a monster." ... So we really could have recorded it if we had wanted to, but I just said it wasn't my song. Billy told the guys, "Well, you heard her." And they're going like, "Oh, God, he's lost his mind. He's starting to listen to a 13-year-old kid." (laughs) Billy was a little left-of-center anyway. It was to be expected, I guess. But when I heard "Delta Dawn," which is what he played me next, it was an Alex Harvey guitar vocal, and I said, "Now that's my song."

So they thought, "He's lost it." But, in fact, it was the best thing he could have done. As kids, we're unafraid. I was unafraid. That's the way you've got to be when you're starting out in this business -- and when you want to stay in this business, that's for sure. You can't get scared too much.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Brad Paisley Gets Personal


Brad Paisley's 2009 CD, American Saturday Night, photo courtesy of Arista Nashville.

June 29, 2009 — The first day of June marked 10 years since the release of Brad Paisley's first album, Who Needs Pictures. The last day of the month will see the release of his latest, American Saturday Night.
In the last decade, Brad's risen to the ranks of the top entertainers in the genre, mapping out a trail of awards victories with his singing, songwriting and guitar-playing. Still, he's never gotten quite as personal in the course of an album as he has with this one.
"There's been songs in albums before that were personal, but this album, it's how I feel," he says. "I feel like this album is finding my soul a little more than the others. You could subtitle it We Mean It. You know what I mean? We mean everything we do, but, you know, when you got 'Ticks' and 'Online,' and so I was like that on the last few records. It's like, 'Well, yeah, we mean it, we're havin' a good time, but you know, they're all in good fun.' This one is meant. I hope you have fun. I think you will, but we mean it."
Leading up to an all-American Saturday night — this Saturday is, after all, the Fourth of July — Brad will be featured on Thursday's edition of GAC's Headline Country, and he'll appear Friday on ABC's "Good Morning, America" concert series.

Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift: New Songs Coming


June 29, 2009 — Taylor Swift earned her first hit with a song titled "Tim McGraw" — now she shares a release date with the artist she celebrated as both singers have new tracks coming out on Tuesday.
But they're not alone: Reba McEntire and Brad Paisley likewise have new material in the pipeline.
Here's the scoop:
• Taylor has regularly cited Shania Twain as her biggest inspiration, but when she covers a major act on Tuesday, it'll be a male classic rocker. Taylor and her band, The Agency, have a live version of Tom Petty's "American Girl" available for sale beginning Tuesday via Rhapsody.
• Tim McGraw publicly criticized his record label last year when it released a third volume of greatest hits instead of putting out his next CD. The first song from that new project will be released digitally to radio stations beginning Tuesday, according to Tim's previously shown an interest in songs with clever twists of phrases when he recorded "Back When" and "Do You Want Fries With That." Tuesday's release is similar: It' s titled "It's A Business Doing Pleasure With You."
• When Reba McEntire appeared with George Strait at the inaugural concert in Cowboys Stadium, she introduced the audience to "I Want A Cowboy," a song slated for her next album, Keep On Loving You. A special mix of the song is being sent in the next week to country dance clubs. She first heard the song on the self-titled debut album by Katrina Elam, who opened for Keith Urban in 2004 and 2005.
• A day before his American Saturday Night album comes out, Brad Paisley's new single, "Welcome To The Future," is being released Monday to country radio stations. The song was inspired, in part, by the experience he had watching public reaction to President Obama's ballot-box victory when Brad was in New York on Election Day.

Montgomery Gentry Goes Full Circle in Joining Opry


Montgomery Gentry celebrates their induction into the Grand Ole Opry on June 23, 2009. (l-r) Pete Fisher, VP and GM Grand Ole Opry, Little Jimmy Dickens, Marty Stuart, Eddie Montgomery, Troy Gentry. Photo courtesy of the Grand Ole Opry.

June 29, 2009 — When the Grand Ole Opry welcomes new members, the inductees get to pick which current member makes the presentation, and when Montgomery Gentry joined last week, their choice had a strong connection to their very first appearance on the show.
Marty Stuart and Little Jimmy Dickens handled the induction, and Marty in particular has a huge place in their memories of their Opry debut in March 2000.
"I remember sitting back in a dressing room, and Marty Stuart was back there and him just startin' to tell some stories about Porter Wagoner," Eddie Montgomery says. "It was pretty cool. I mean, to be honest, I don't know if I was really listening to the stories as much as I'm going like 'Can you believe I'm=2 0sitting back here man talking to Marty Stuart and he's telling me a Porter Wagoner story?!'"
While it doesn't quite qualify as an Opry show, there was another performance that was significant for Montgomery Gentry that took place at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, which was the home of the Opry for 31 years.
"We had the pleasure of recording with Waylon Jennings when he did the [Never Say Die] album," Troy Gentry remembers. "It was very special because Eddie and I both [grew] up with Waylon Jennings, playing Waylon Jennings music. It was very cool to be on that stage with him, one of our mentors and people we grew up admiring."
To round out the full-circle part of their induction, immediately after they became members, Montgomery Gentry sang "Hillbilly Shoes," their debut single from 10 years ago. They also looked forward that evening by playing their newest single — which they hope will also become their next hit — "Long Line Of Losers."

Brooks & Dunn Shoot High-School Video


Brooks & Dunn hanging out backstage at the 43rd Annual ACM Awards, Sunday, May 18, 2008 in Las Vegas, NV. Photo courtesy of Getty and the Academy of Country Music.

June 29, 2009 — It was kind of like "Friday Night Lights": high-school football being shot for TV. Except it was on a Monday night, instead of Friday; and it was for a video, and not for a regular series.
Brooks & Dunn's "Indian Summer" got a hand from two football programs in Central California when the Chowchilla Redskins lined up against the Dos Palos Broncos over, and over, and over again. Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn's parts for the video had already been shot in Tennessee, but director Shaun Silva needed to find two rival schools to create the images for a sort of modern Romeo And Juliet story. Instead of being from feuding families, as the lead characters were in that William Shakespeare classic, the quarterback in "Indian Summer" is in love with a cheerleader from the opposing squad.
Shaun 9 4 who's worked with Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts and Sugarland — chose the San Joaquin Valley as a location because he grew up there, and the students got a chance to see what a video production is really like. It was, like most, a lot of hurry up and wait.
"It was an interesting and fun experience," Chowchilla coach John Henson told The Merced Sun-Star. "The Redskins aren't used to working on Hollywood time. We were there past midnight. There was a lot of standing around, waiting for equipment and directors — all the things you read about Hollywood in the papers. Only we experienced it up close and personal."
The two teams spent more than four hours shooting a 20-yard touchdown play that won't take up more than 10 seconds in the final video.
It was particularly grueling for the Dos Palos club. The players had to experience the other team scoring a game-winning touchdown against them over, and over, and over.
The Broncos "got to see their sidelines jumping up and down, people running out onto the field," Dos Palos coach Mike Sparks told The Sun-Star. "We might have to show them this tape a couple of times before we play again. Bring it up, so they remember what happened."
Brooks & Dunn, topic of a motivational speech. A release date for the "Indian Summer" video has not been announced. The single is currently at No. 21 on the USA Today Mediabase country chart.

Zac Brown Band Pushes Limits


June 29, 2009 — The Zac Brown Band sure gets around when it comes to musical styles. Earlier this month, the group was one of the few country acts that showed up at the Bonnaroo rock music festival in Manchester, Tenn. The next day, the band played the CMA Music Festival with a four-song set that stretched from folk to reggae to a high-octane cover of Charlie Daniels' "The Devil Went Down To Georgia."
Tearing down walls is kind of the band's reason for being.
Bonnaroo "was my favorite show that we've done in a long time," Zac told The Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "I love the challenge of being in front of people that haven't heard us before. Good music is good music, period."
Growing up in Georgia, Zac was shaped by some of the same musicians who've been cited as influences on Garth Brooks. But Zac grew up in a different decade. And while Garth matched pop influences with honky tonk, Zac and his crew shift genres almost at will.
"When everybody [my age] was listening to Nirvana, I was listening20to James Taylor, Jim Croce, Dan Fogelberg, Gordon Lightfoot, Cat Stevens," he said. "James Taylor is the single biggest influence I have, period. The James Taylor Greatest Hits tape, I stretched three of those 'til they just snapped."
Plenty of young musicians are now listening to Zac. The band's album The Foundation was certified gold and its first hit, "Chicken Fried," was certified platinum. ZBB's next single will be the island-flavored "Toes."

Taylor Swift Sets Attendance Records at Country USA Festival

June 26, 2009
Taylor Swift set an attendance record at the 14th annual Country USA festival in Oshkosh, Wis., on Wednesday night (June 24), according to event organizer Dan Leibhauser. Swift brought in 42,000 fans to the festival grounds, Leibhauser told the Oshkosh Northwestern newspaper. He also said one of the vehicles used in Swift's tour jackknifed on one of the exits, leading to waits of two hours to leave the festival grounds. Montgomery Gentry headlined Country USA on Thursday (June 25). This weekend's performers include Brad Paisley (June 26), Dierks Bentley (June 27) and Gretchen Wilson (June 28).

CMT Insider Interview: Miranda Lambert Talks About "Dead Flowers"

Song Is First Single From Her Upcoming Album, Revolution
Miranda Lambert reunited with director Randee St. Nicholas to shoot the music video for "Dead Flowers." It's the first single from her third album, Revolution, scheduled for release in late September.

St. Nicholas, who also directed Lambert's "More Like Her" video, is a photographer who evolved into a highly-successful director whose country credits include Alan Jackson's "Like Red on a Rose." She has also directed videos for Prince, the Bee Gees, Marc Anthony and many others.

At the video shoot, CMT Insider talked to Lambert about the song and the video.

"This song is pretty special to me," she said. "I wrote it by myself, and it was the last song I wrote before I went into the studio [to record the new album]. It being the first single, I definitely wanted the video to reflect the song and the lyrics and how I felt when I wrote the song."

It didn't take Lambert long to write the song.

"This was really one of those songs that just hit me," she said. "It just wrote itself. It was about 30 minutes -- and I'd written it. I'd thrown the flowers in the yard that I'd gotten for Valentine's Day. It was sad, you know. They weren't dead, but I had to leave and go on the road. They were going to be dead when I got back, so that's kind of where the song came from.

"The video is basically written around every single lyric of the song -- from dead flowers to Christmas lights to the wind. It's just a kind of a going through your house type of thing -- just being really introverted and just really depressed about the state of your relationship. I love it when video directors take the lyrics of your song and really portray every single little detail because, as a writer, that's my baby, and I want it to be a real depiction. Randee St. Nicholas is a great director. I knew that she could draw that emotion back out of me because I obviously had that emotion at one time."

Despite the success of her CDs and tours, Lambert acknowledges that her biggest hit so far, "Gunpowder & Lead," only reached No. 7 on Billboard's country chart. At this point, she's not making any predictions about the ultimate chart success of "Dead Flowers."

"I don't know what's going to happen," she said. "I've only had one song in the Top 10 in my career so far, so I'm not sure -- as far as radio goes -- what will happen. I hope it's my first Top 5, but if it's not, I think the fans love it. Slowly but surely, they're starting to sing along a little bit, and they hear it on the radio. Either way, I think it's a success."

Kenny Chesney and Hannah Montana Still Top the Country Charts

Three Generations of the Williams Family Debut New Albums
Kenny Chesney
Kenny Chesney
The names are the same at the top of Billboard's country albums and songs charts this week, where Kenny Chesney's "Out Last Night" and the soundtrack CD to Hannah Montana: The Movie continue to hold sway.

Album sales and song downloads increased substantially for several artists this past week, probably due to the double promotional whammy of the four-day CMA Music Festival (which concluded June 14) and the 2009 CMT Music Awards (telecast live June 16).

The total number of country albums sold during the week just tabulated (June 14-21), according to Nielsen SoundScan, was 487,342 copies. There were 403,269 units purchased the week before (June 7-14).

Several songs performed on the CMT Music Awards experienced digital sales boosts in the week following the broadcast. The biggest week-to-week increases went to Trace Adkins' "You're Gonna Miss This" (83 percent), Lady Antebellum's "Lookin' for a Good Time" (65 percent), Darius Rucker's "Alright" (59 percent), Toby Keith's "God Love Her" (44 percent) and Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me" (32 percent).

This may be the first time ever that three generations from the same family have charted new albums during the same week. That distinction, as might be expected, belongs to the legendary Williams clan. Hank Williams Jr. boasts the highest charting debut with 127 Rose Avenue, which sweeps in at No. 7.

Next in line is his daughter, Holly Williams, whose Here With Me arrives at No. 38. Finally, there's her unsinkable granddaddy, Hank Williams Sr., whose illogically titled The Unreleased Recordings: Gospel Keepsakes ambles in at No. 72.

How about a triple round of cheers?

The week's other new albums are Rodney Carrington's El Nino Loco (No. 19) and Rhonda Vincent's Destination Life (No. 52).

Re-entering the chart are Elvis Presley's Collector's Edition: Elvis Inspirational Memories (No. 66) and the Lost Trailers' Holler Back (No. 73).

There are four new songs: Sugarland's "Joey" (No. 50), Holly Williams' "Mama" (No. 55), Matt Stillwell's "Sweet Sun Angel" (No. 58) and John Rich's "The Good Lord and the Man" (No. 59).

Following Hannah Montana on the Top 5 albums list are Swift's Fearless, the Zac Brown Band's The Foundation, Chesney's Greatest Hits II and Rascal Flatts' Unstoppable, in that order.

Songs No. 2 through No. 5 are the Zac Brown Band's "Whatever It Is," Dierks Bentley's "Sideways," Brad Paisley's "Then" and Keith Urban's "Kiss a Girl."

HOT DISH: What's Going to Happen to All These Blondes?

How Can Country Radio Accommodate the Long List of Female Singers?
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

Following up what I already wrote about the recent CMA Music Festival, I wonder if we should bless or curse all those blondes. Should they have a hit single, and will there be room for them on the chart? Can radio find a place for all the blondes? Do they have a snowball's chance in hell to last, or will they have a meltdown before our very eyes? There seems to be a harem of 'em.

Beginning with Taylor Swift, who is batting a thousand these days, there's no doubt the curly-headed blonde will lead the pack for a while. She's writing songs, singing, producing and selling out concerts. And she is cute as a button. Teens, tweens and young boys love her. The girl's enthusiasm is contagious, and she is so smart. Did you catch her on the CMT Music Awards show when she gave credit to Garth Brooks and Shania Twain?

Next comes the Oklahoma beauty who won American Idol and is still winning fans wherever she goes. Carrie Underwood has worked really hard to become the superstar she is. She's co-writing songs, has been inducted into the Grand Ole Opry and is headlining tours. One of the prettiest and one of the best singers, Carrie is a good example for wannabe singers. There's nothing trashy about her.

My fellow North Carolina native, the cute and darling Kellie Pickler, has changed her hairstyle a half-dozen times since she was a runner-up on American Idol, but she has kept it blonde. Kellie's attitude and smile have helped make her a favorite. You cannot help but love this girl. She's currently opening concerts for her friend, Taylor Swift. Her personality reminds me of another famous blonde named Dolly.

The talented Julianne Hough has proven she's a great dancer on ABC's Dancing With the Stars, and if it comes together, the lovely blonde will no doubt prove she's an actress, as well. She is in negotiations to star with Gossip Girl's pretty boy Chace Crawford in a remake of Footloose. In the meantime, Hough is opening shows for George Strait.

Holly Williams, the 28-year-old daughter of Hank Williams Jr. and granddaughter of Hank and Audrey Williams, is carrying on the family's musical heritage by writing songs with meaning. Tall, blonde and beautiful, Holly has the famed Williams bloodline but looks a lot like Audrey.

Blonde twins Kate and Kacey made it to round four on the first season of CMT's Can You Duet. These identical hotties co-wrote a song with Jamey Johnson that George Strait included on his Troubadour album. This duo could take off in a big way.

A lot of country girls will admit they went skinny-dipping in the creek as a kid, but only one -- Whitney Duncan -- sings about it. A native of Scotts Hill, Tenn., the blonde beauty has been working hard to get the attention she surely deserves. No one is prettier than Whitney, and she's a good singer and songwriter, too. Give her a break, radio!

It amazes me that Emily West hasn't already connected with a huge audience. When she sings, this blonde from Iowa reaches way down into her soul -- like Patsy Cline did. She's a "wow" singer. Everybody says "wow" when they hear her. I'm betting on this sweet singer-songwriter to make it to the big time.

Miranda Lambert is a real woman -- whether walking onstage with her guitar, tromping through the woods with her gun or driving her truck. Yes, she is blonde, but she's also tough when being tough is needed. On the other hand, she'll stop in the road and pick up an injured dog or cat (or any animal) and take care of it. She does like to pick her guitar, loves to hunt and she definitely loves her fans.

Heidi Newfield, the former vocalist for Trick Pony, hosted her first fan club bash during the music festival. The blonde performed her recent songs and gave fans an up-close meet-and-greet. Heidi says she's very happy with her solo career.

Newcomer Sarah Darling is another blonde beauty who is stirring up a lot of action. A good singer, Sarah tries hard and is not afraid of work. So many good-looking girls want to get paid to decorate the place.

Sarah Buxton looks more blonde in some photos than in others. I guess that's why we have hair rinse, don't you think? Born in Lawrence, Kansas, Sarah is signed to Lyric Street Records. She co-wrote "Stupid Boy," the song that was a huge single for Keith Urban. It jump-started Sarah and her career.

Julie Roberts was employed at Mercury Records as assistant to boss man Luke Lewis when he accidentally discovered that the pretty blonde was a singer. So he signed her to the label. Not a lot has happened yet career-wise, but she has talent and may end up as the cream of the crop. Cream always rises.

A song titled "Blue" brought LeAnn Rimes to the attention of the world of country music and, until this day, it remains the best thing this blonde has ever sung. LeAnn recently co-starred in a TV movie, and rumor has it that she and actor Eddie Cibrian were spotted kissing in Los Angeles. Rimes denies that her marriage to dancer Dean Sheremet is in trouble. Time will tell.

Tall, thin and with long blonde hair, Jennifer Hanson could easily pass for a model. But the singer-songwriter is still betting on a career in country music. She's been trying for quite some time now and has had several nibbles, a few bites and a catch or two. She's a good person who is willing and able to work as a singer.

Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland is a major star. Her hair may be blonde, but it's always uncombed, so I'm not sure. I said once her hair favors mine: It looks like it's styled with an eggbeater. When you're as hot as this act, though, hair is not an issue.

Amber Dawn, part of the real cute group known as Jypsi, is sometimes blonde. Give this wonderful group an ear and thank me for turning you on to them. I think these kids are stars.

Sunny Sweeney is a Texas girl who was signed to Big Machine Records, but label exec Scott Borchetta has moved her over to his new label, Republic Nashville. Sunny writes songs and sings and is a cute girl, but I think she leans more toward the Americana genre.

Two singing blondes make up the duo of Bomshel. I'm really not that familiar with these girls and their music, but I can see they are very pretty and very blonde. Good luck.

There are a couple of blonde gals now signed at Universal South Records. One is Bailey Brown and the other is Ashley Ray. I don't know these girls. I've never even seen their picture. My friend, Fletcher, tells me they are beauties, so I take him at his word. He says they sing good, too. We will see.

Now what concerns me is country radio. Who will they play? Is there somebody seated in a big office in a big city telling the small-town radio guys and gals which songs they can play? What about country music fans? Don't they have any say as to what song they want to hear? Can my nieces call local radio and request their favorites? Or can I? Can you?

But back to where I started ... about the charts. How in the name of the Good Lord can we find enough chart space to include all of these blonde females along with the brunettes and redheads -- not to mention the guys? Just asking.

Cool News
Joe Nichols dressed in his very best and trucked off to New York City to blow away the famous and near-famous when he sang "If I Loved You" from the Broadway musical, Carousel. Snobs and down-home folks like us gave Joe the standing ovation he deserved at the Songwriters Hall of Fame banquet.

Kenny Chesney invited his opening act, Jason Michael Carroll, to sing "Take It Easy" with him at his recent show in Somerset, Wis.

Has David "nailed" it? Looks like the "Red Light" single by David Nail might be something to brag about.

The happiest two guys in all of Music City this past week had to be Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry of Montgomery Gentry when they were inducted as the newest members of the Grand Ole Opry. Their tour sponsor, Jim Beam, bought a full-page color ad in The Tennessean newspaper to congratulate them.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Taco Dip.

Jimmy Wayne's Twittering Brings Both Triumph and Trouble

Posted Jun 29th 2009 10:00AM by Vernell Hackett
Filed under: Humor

Jimmy Wayne fans know where their favorite singer is at almost any given time of day. All they have to do is follow him on Twitter.

"I want to bring fans closer into where I am on the road," Jimmy tells The Boot of his religious Tweeting. "Sometimes I'm in an airport lying on the floor, and I'm like, 'Oh you gotta see this.' So I send it out over my phone and it reaches everybody all over the world. No matter where they are, they can be with you -- it's fun!"

One of Jimmy's most recent Twitter photo uploads -- a picture of him looking very ill just before he exiting the Batman Rollercoaster at Six Flags -- brought in a sea of comments and advice on how not to get sick while riding one of those metal dragons. On a more positive note, he Twittered that he brought in 500 new fans in six days, bringing him up to over 3,000 followers.

While Jimmy loves to Twitter just about anything to his fans, his record label would sometimes like him to be a little more selective in his posts and pictures. "Sometimes it's a mistake, and you can't erase a picture once it's up," Jimmy admits. "I've been called by the record company more than once for putting up stuff. For instance, when I Twittered, 'Hey guys, this is what it looks like when I'm not in my underwear,' and I took a picture of my underwear. It got millions of hits though!"

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Brad "Prankster" Paisley Visits "Top 20"


Brad Paisley photo by Kurt Markus, courtesy of Arista Nashville.

June 26, 2009 — Ten years after he released his first album, Brad Paisley issues his latest on Tuesday, and he'll drop by this weekend to chat about it with host Nan Kelley on GAC's Top 20 Country Countdown.
The album, American Saturday Night, has already brought him a hit with the ballad "Then," and he's targeted "Welcome To The Future" as the follow up. With references to advances in technology and in cultural relations, Brad says it's favorite song of any he's every written.
Brad's already launched the appropriately titled American Saturday Night Tour, which has him on the road most weekends with Dierks Bentley and Jimmy Wayne. Both those opening acts are well aware that they'll likely be pranked sometime during the tour, since Brad is widely regarded as country's top practical joker.
"When you're on the road, it can get pretty boring," he told People. "It makes me think of the British version of 'The Office.' It's kind of a daily grind. Pranking is one way to battle that boredom. I have a great crew that has really helped my pranking reputation. They'll say, 'You know, Saturday is Rodney Atkins' last day on tour. Can we talk about some ideas we have?' I get credit for being smarter than I am about it."
The American Saturday Night Tour is on hiatus this weekend, though Brad will headline the Chippewa Valley Country Festival in Cadott, Wis., with Craig Morgan, Jake Owen, Jamey Johnson and Joey+Rory. For those not at the show, Brad Paisley: The Collection airs on GAC at 9 p.m. ET.
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. Kellie Pickler "Best Days Of Your Life"
2. Taylor Swift "You Belong With Me"
3. Billy Currington "People Are Crazy"
4. Reba McEntire "Strange"
5. Keith Urban "Kiss A Girl"
6. Lady20Antebellum "I Run To You"
7. Alan Jackson "Sissy's Song"
8. Miley Cyrus "The Climb"
9. Jason Aldean "She's Country"
10. Kenny Chesney "Out Last Night"
11. Gloriana "Wild At Heart"
12. Dierks Bentley "Sideways"
13. Darius Rucker "Alright"
14. Carrie Underwood "I Told You So"
15. Martina McBride "I Just Call You Mine"
16. Rodney Atkins "It's America"
17. Randy Houser "Boots On"
18. Rascal Flatts "Here Comes Goodbye"
19. Joey+Rory "Play The Song"
20. Zac Brown Band "Whatever It Is"

Kenny Chesney Makes Big Bucks: Forbes


June 26, 2009 — Three of the Top 12 money-makers in music last year came out of country music, according to a new Forbes study, and Kenny Chesney — who ranks fifth among all musicians — is tops in the genre.
Kenny grossed $65 million since June 2008, according to the financial publication's estimates, thanks in large part to more than 1 million annual sales of concert tickets and to several endorsement deals. Currently on his Sun City Carnival Tour, Kenny's tally is impressive, though it lags far behind top-seeded Madonna, who brought in $110 million. Celine Dion, who ranked No. 2, pulled in $100 million, making her the only other artist to reach the nine-figure plateau.
Kenny placed just behind Bruce Springsteen, who generated $70 million; and just ahead of Rascal Flatts, who tied with Coldplay and AC/DC for No. 6 at $60 million. Toby Keith ranked No. 10, and the dozen acts on the chart also feature several other artists with some degree of country connectivity: country-rock band the Eagles are No. 9; Bon Jovi, which topped the country charts by collaborating with Jennifer Nettles, is20No. 11; and Dave Matthews, who sits with Willie Nelson on the board at Farm Aid, brings his band in at No. 12.
The details on Forbes' country money-makers:
• Kenny Chesney, No. 5, $65 million
• Rascal Flatts, No. 6 (tied), $60 million
• Toby Keith, No. 10, $52 million

Country Music & the Late Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett

June 26, 2009 — Celebrity deaths, it's been said, come in threes, and that was certainly true this week with the passing of Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon.

They were not country figures, but each of them had a small level of influence on the genre. And in the middle of their much-covered deaths, the loss of songwriter Tim Krekel — who authored a pair of hits — was overshadowed.
The roll call:
• The controversial Michael Jackson never appeared on the country chart on his own, though the mass collection of stars known as U.S.A. For Africa did show up in 1985 with the benefit record "We Are The World." It put the Gloved One in the studio with country stars Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kenny Rogers. Michael's pop hit "She's Out Of My Life" was also covered with minor success in 1980 by Johnny Duncan & Janie Fricke, who altered the title to "He's Out Of My Life." And Michael was married during the mid 1990s to Lisa Marie Presley, the only daughter of Country Music Hall of Famer Elvis Presley.
"I grew up listening to him and in fact I used to moon walk down the hallway in school when I was in the sixth grade," Jimmy Wayne told The Gaston Gazette. "I just can't believe it. We have now experienced a day like my Mom explained to me the world experienced when Elvis died."
• The Texas-born Farrah Fawcett became a pin-up star in the late 1970s after gaining fame through her role on "Charlie's Angels." Two months after the show left prime time — and several years after Farrah left the series — she got referenced in the Bellamy Brothers' single "You're My Favorite Star." That song also mentioned Elvis and Brigitte Bardot while David and Howard Bellamy firmly planted tongue in cheek with the line "I'm beggin' Dolly's pardon if I'm hurtin' Charley's pride."
"Farrah Fawcett is a legend," said Wynonna Thursday in a statement. "It just seems impossible to me that she is gone. I just saw her smiling face on TV last night and today found out that she is no longer with us. She fought so long and hard. I admire her strength and her willing spirit. What a gift she gave to us all. She will be deeply missed."
• Ed McMahon worked with plenty of country stars who were paraded across the stage of "The Tonight Show" when he was the sidekick of the legendary Johnny Carson. Ed also hosted the 1980s talent series "Star Search," which was in many ways a predecessor to "American Idol." Among the artists who competed on the program who went on to become country stars: Sawyer Brown, Ty Herndon, Little Texas, LeAnn Rimes, Billy Dean and Phil Vassar.

• Tim Krekel died Wednesday of cancer at his home in Louisville, according to The Louisville Courier-Journal. He had two stints in Jimmy Buffett's=2 0band and was among the musicians on "Cheeseburger In Paradise." He also wrote Crystal Gayle's 1984 No. 1 hit "Turning Away" and Patty Loveless' 1996 No. 1 "You Can Feel Bad."
• A memorial service for record producer and keyboard player Barry Beckett has been set for July 12 at the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville. Barry produced hits by Lorrie Morgan, Kenny Chesney and Neal McCoy and played on Dolly Parton's "Why'd You Come In Here Lookin' Like That," Paul Simon's "Kodachrome" and Rosanne Cash's "The Way We Make A Broken Heart."
• Violinist Lillian Vann Hunt died at age 95 in Nashville last month, according to The Tennessean. Her first love was classical music, and she was a founding member of the Nashville Symphony. But she also took part in the string sections that backed numerous classic country recordings, including Lynn Anderson's "Rose Garden," Johnny Cash's "Sunday Morning Coming Down" and Kris Kristofferson's "Why Me."
• Symphony violinist Cate Myer died at age 49 on June 5, The Tennessean reported. As a member of the studio ensemble the Nashville String Machine, she contributed to Keith Urban's "Everybody," Carrie Underwood's "Just A Dream" and Lee Ann Womack's "A Little Past Little Rock."

Taylor Swift Studies Shania Twain


June 26, 2009 — Taylor Swift was all of five years old when Shania Twain released her ground-breaking album The Woman In Me in 1995, thus through almost all the formative years of her life, Taylor has never known a world without Shania in it.
Not surprisingly, Canada's sweetheart is a big influence on Taylor, who's taken particular notice of Shania's continued impact seven years after the release of her last album of all-new material.
"Every single award show it was, 'Where's Shania? When's she gonna come back? When's she gonna put out something new?"' Taylor told the Canadian Press. "The fact that she's so memorable means she's done such an incredible job at really implementing herself in country music to where she's never, ever gonna be gone. And I love that."
Shania did that by writing songs that were catchy, memorable and distinctly different from the material of her fellow country artists, which Taylor has also done. In addition, Shania's tours backed her songs with a significant amount of choreography and production. Taylor, not surprisingly, has incorporated a huge amount o f those elements into her first headlining tour.
"I wanted to make it more theatrical than anything I'd seen in the country shows that I'd opened up for," Taylor said. "What I thought would be cool was to have a big element of the tour revolve around the theatrics of my songs, because really they're all just dramatizations of what I've gone through. So I wanted to take that opportunity to show the audience what I'm seeing in my head when I'm playing these songs."
Taylor's taking a breather from headlining this weekend. She opens for Keith Urban on two shows in the Midwest. She returns to the Fearless Tour July 8 with a performance in Calgary, Alberta.

Lady Antebellum’s Summer Soul-stice


June 26, 2009 — With its crafty harmonies and buoyant stage presence, Lady Antebellum has quickly emerged as one of country music's top groups — even though the trio has thus far released just one album.
Lady A picked up a nomination at the Grammy Awards this year for Best New Artist, pitting the band against pop acts Adele, Duffy and the Jonas Brothers, as well as R&B newcomer Jazmine Sullivan. It was appropriate company for Lady A's Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood.
"People would be surprised to know that I listen to a lot of R&B and rap," Hillary told The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot. "My nickname on the bus is 'Dance Party.' I can't stop listening to Ne-Yo."
Underscoring the multi-genre influences, Charles has the vocal timbre of a soul singer, and Lady A regularly covers John Mellencamp's "Hurts So Good" during concerts on Kenny Chesney's Sun City Carnival. That's not too far removed from Kenny's attitude — he's got a member of the Wailers in his road band and has been known to whip out covers of the Steve Mille r Band and Tom Petty.
But while many of Kenny's songs celebrate alcohol and its pleasures, Lady Antebellum does very little partying on the road.
"You can't, honestly," Hillary says, "because the voice is the first thing to go. Plus, we're working on the new record when we're in Nashville, and we can't use that time to recover from the weekend. I'm not going to lie — we are having a great time. But there are no keg stands and beer bongs."
There may be reason for partying in the near future, though. Charles is getting set to marry music publicist Cassie McConnell, and the formal event with family and friends is likely soon. Country Aircheck reports they tied the knot earlier this week in advance of a "destination" ceremony.
The band's destination this weekend with Kenny is Philadelphia, where they'll play Lincoln Financial Field, the home of the NFL's Eagles. Also on the bill: Sugarland, Montgomery Gentry and Miranda Lambert.

Keith Urban Shares the Joy


Keith Urban brought to an end the Nashville rehearsals for his "Escape Together World Tour" on April 30, 2009. Photo by Jeff Johnson, © Guitar Monkey Tours.

June 25, 2009 — Keith Urban's Defying Gravity is a doggedly upbeat album, and there's good reason for it. He recorded it just last year, not long after he and Nicole Kidman welcomed their first daughter, so the songs came along when he was in an extremely happy place.
"The songs on this album have not been sitting around for years," he told The Raleigh News & Observer. "They're all very new. In some cases, they're only a few months old, even to me... All these songs really capture where I am at this point. Had they been from the previous several years, they would've been very different. I like the fact that these were fresh and I took them straight to the studio, still new. It's very clear and consistent to me."
Keith's concerts likewise lean toward the positive. With "Somebody Like You ," "Better Life," "Who Wouldn't Wanna Be Me" and "Days Go By" setting the tone, the shows are loaded with sing-along choruses, driving tempos and bright images. But the concerts also feature a good share of extended guitar solos and have a stage that's built specifically to allow Keith to meander into the audience on a whim.
"Making a record is not the same as putting on a live show, not the way I do it," Keith said. "They're different forms of art, and the live show has got to be a different experience. Otherwise, you'd just put the CD on at home. I like to put on a really entertaining show, and so do the artists I really love. Garth [Brooks] is a great example. His records are one way, and his concerts are a whole other thing again."
Keith brings his current tour to Milwaukee on Friday, when he'll share the stage with Counting Crows. Taylor Swift opens for him Saturday in Des Moines and Sunday in Moline, Ill. During the Iowa date, he'll also shoot the video for his next single, "Only You Can Love Me This Way."

Sugarland, the New Judds?


June 25, 2009 — When the Judds reunited at the CMA Music Festival in Nashville earlier this month, Naomi Judd took a moment to address the crowd while a gospel choir kept "Love Can Build A Bridge" going in the background.
"So many of you are having hard times," she told the crowd. "There is a word: hope."
The next night, Sugarland popped up on the same stage with mostly buoyant material and made it clear: Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush are filling Wynonna and Naomi's shoes as country's uplifting duo of the moment. "Settlin'" treats joy as a mission, "All I Want To Do" is light and silly and even "It Happens" — a three-minute laundry list of things gone wrong — makes a bad day sound like a good time. Make no bones about it: Sugarland is on a mission of good cheer.
"Our goal has always been, since we put this band together, to reach as many people as we can with what we're saying," Kristian told The Roanoke Times. "I think what's happening is we're moving from a culture of acquisition of things into a culture of acquisition of meaning. And I think t he world is moving in that direction. I see it in our shows. I see it in the faces of the parents that I drop my kids off next to. People are looking for meaning more than they're looking for more money to buy another whatever. And we are that band."
Naomi and Wynonna are symbols of overcoming fear. Naomi tackled the terror of her hepatitis C diagnosis in the early 1990s and entered a new period in her life as a parent and a public figure. Wynonna, practically forced to accept a solo career, did the same.
Kristian and Jennifer have had their own fears, which are pretty much ingrained into any artist. They've been supportive to each other as friends and performers, and it's made a huge difference in allowing them to overcome those fears and continue building on their talents.
"Sometimes you don't know what kind of talent you have in you until someone tells you that you have it," Kristian said. "It's strangely a fear-based place. If you're not scared to walk out and play guitar hero on a stage, then you do it, and all of a sudden, you're it."
Sugarland follows in the Judds' footsteps in one other way. Wynonna and Naomi had their first television special, "The Judds: Across The Heartland," 20 years ago. Jennifer and Kristian have theirs, "Sugarland: Live On The Inside," ready to go on ABC Aug. 3.

Kid Rock Teams With Rick Rubin for Next Album

June 25, 2009
Kid Rock has teamed with producer Rick Rubin for the follow up to 2007's double-platinum Rock N Roll Jesus, according to Billboard magazine. Rubin's credits include projects with the Beastie Boys, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Dixie Chicks, along with Johnny Cash's American Recordings series. Although Kid Rock says he has 18 to 20 songs ready for the album, no release date has been announced. He also said his band is rehearsing some of the new material at his concert sound checks in case he decides to introduce it to his set list. Kid Rock won a CMT Music Award on June 16 for his video, "All Summer Long."

Jason Aldean's Wide Open Certified Gold

June 25, 2009
Jason Aldean's newest album, Wide Open, has been certified gold by the RIAA for shipments of 500,000 copies. The album was released on April 7 and reached gold status in a record-setting 10 weeks. Aldean's two previous albums were certified gold after 12 weeks of release. The album includes "She's Country" and "Big Green Tractor." Aldean's next concert will take place on Friday (June 26) at Country Jam USA in Grand Junction, Colo.

Tim McGraw, Kellie Pickler Will Play Country Stampede This Weekend

June 25, 2009
Dierks Bentley, Tim McGraw, Kellie Pickler, Blake Shelton, Phil Vassar and the Zac Brown Band are among the performers scheduled to appear at Country Stampede this weekend in Manhattan, Kansas. The four-day festival begins Thursday (June 25) with evening performances from Luke Bryan and Julianne Hough. Other artists at the festival include the Bellamy Brothers, Wade Bowen, Creedence Clearwater Revisited, Jack Ingram, the LoCash Cowboys, the Lost Trailers, James Otto, the Randy Rogers Band, Sawyer Brown, Jonathan Singleton & the Grove, Lane Turner and Aaron Watson.

NASHVILLE SKYLINE: Brad Paisley, Here's Your 10-Year Gold Watch

But Don't Go Anywhere and Please Keep the Songs Coming
Nashville Skyline
Nashville Skyline
(NASHVILLE SKYLINE is a column by CMT/ Editorial Director Chet Flippo.)

Ten years on in his country music career, Brad Paisley is often overlooked as a major architect of the structure that is modern country music. There were very good reasons why he was awarded three major Buckle honors at the CMT Music Awards show on June 16. Country fans clearly acknowledge what he is doing for the music -- since they voted him more awards than anyone else. I think this very clearly amounts to the fact that they were thanking him for trying to make country music what it ought to be.

I'm not saying he's a genius or anything. I don't think we have any around today. Personally, I never want to hear Paisley's song "Ticks" again. The reason being that I think it's a waste of his considerable talents. And I suspect that sometimes he takes a too-obvious approach in being sentimental with a song such as "He Didn't Have to Be." But that's OK. He's got plenty of other songs I want to hear and enjoy listening to. I don't mean this as any kind of testimonial, but I think Paisley is due some thanks for what he's done and is still doing.

Besides building a significant and rewarding body of songs, Paisley has also -- importantly -- raised musical standards a significant amount since he started recording in Nashville in 1999.

He got to Nashville as one of many Belmont University music students who are working in country music today, including his producer Frank Rogers and co-writer Kelley Lovelace.

His career launched 10 years ago last February with the song "Who Needs Pictures," and he continues to strive to write and/or record songs as good as that.

His magnificent recording of "Whiskey Lullaby" (written by Bill Anderson and Jon Randall) with Alison Krauss is unmatched in modern country for a genuine sense of the gothic majesty of country music's long tragedy-steeped traditions while still translating it to current sensibilities. And that's not an easy thing to do.

What I think he has stood for is a genuine attempt for sincerity and authenticity in his songwriting and musicianship (especially his flair on lead guitar), his obvious devotion to family ties and his respect for tradition and heritage.

Finally, I don't think he's gotten the attention he deserves for his music videos. More than any other modern country star, Paisley has paid so much careful attention to his videos that he almost single-handedly caused the country industry to follow him in elevating the genre. The storytelling, the attention to detail, the careful casting of celebrities, his own animations -- all of these mark Paisley videos.

His new album American Saturday Night touches on those musical elements and elaborates on his approach to today's country. Plus, he still knows how to have a good time, as the cuts "Catch All the Fish" and "Water" show. In what has become a Paisley trademark, there's a tale of Grandpa's wisdom, with "No." Listen especially to "Welcome to the Future," Paisley and Chris DuBois' well-written wrap-up of the future as now. It's so good that Paisley reprises it here twice. The first is a short, acoustic account of meeting his wife-to-be and the life that has ensued, and the second is a hidden track, a blistering instrumental version.

Many of Paisley's contributions to music have been intangible and show in the numerous ways he tries to keep the music on track, to keep it country, to keep it from veering off into impossible ventures into bombastic pop country and to keep it from turning into a cartoon version of itself. And I do mean "tries." No one person can keep this ungainly, unmannered creature in line. But when it comes to taking true pride in what is now being presented as country music, Paisley has quietly done as much or more than any other person I can think of.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hannah Montana: The Movie Soundtrack Certified Platinum

June 24, 2009
The soundtrack to Hannah Montana: The Movie has been certified platinum by the RIAA for shipments of 1 million copies. Released on March 24, the soundtrack also remains in the No. 1 position on Billboard's country albums chart this week. Although most of its songs are performed by Miley Cyrus, including "The Climb," the compilation also features songs by Billy Ray Cyrus, Rascal Flatts and Taylor Swift.

Brad Paisley Will Attend Children's Foundation Fundraiser on Sunday

June 24, 2009
Brad Paisley will attend a fundraiser for the Shjon Podein Children's Foundation on Sunday (June 28) in Rochester, Minn. The organization supports charities that aim to improve the lives of children in difficult situations. Podein, a National Hockey League veteran from Rochester, won a Stanley Cup ring in 2001 as a member of the Colorado Avalanche team. Other guests at the gala will include Olympic figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi and ESPN sports announcer Sean McDonough. Tickets are $50. Paisley also donated an autographed guitar to the charity auction. Paisley's weekend tour dates include the Country USA festival in Oshkosh, Wis., on Friday (June 26) and the Chippewa Valley Country Festival in Cadott, Wis., on Saturday (June 27).

Keith Urban Adds Australian Dates, Plans New Music Video

June 24, 2009
Keith Urban has added several Australian dates to his Escape Together World Tour. Urban will perform Dec. 12 in Melbourne, followed by shows in Wollongong (Dec. 14), Sydney (Dec. 16) and Brisbane (Dec. 18). Urban's next tour date is in Milwaukee, Wis., on Friday (June 26). In addition, he will film a new music video for "Only You Can Love Me This Way" during his concert Saturday (June 27) in Des Moines, Iowa.

Holly Williams Bares Her Soul on New Album, Here With Me

Singer-Songwriter Talks About Her Music and Her Legendary Father and Grandfather
Holly Williams
Holly Williams
At a time when artists seem to emerge from the woodwork to prove just how "country" they truly are, some are simply born that way. Take, for example, Holly Williams.

Her last name speaks volumes about her heritage and her involvement with country music. After all, her grandfather, Hank Williams Sr., helped pioneer that lonesome country sound. And later, her father, Hank Williams Jr., followed in those same footsteps, establishing his own country music career and becoming a second-generation superstar.

"I think people are expecting, rowdy, Bocephus' daughter, drinking songs," Williams said of her just-released second album, Here With Me. "And I love those songs. They're great, but my dad wrote all the best ones. I don't want to try to top those."

Instead, the 28-year-old singer-songwriter is harvesting a style all her own. Her music is perhaps somewhere between the boisterous style of her father and the solitary songs of her grandfather, but whispers of her family legacy are sprinkled throughout.

"I've always written songs that are very introspective, very personal," she said during an interview with "I like writing that way. Anytime it makes me nervous, I just think about my favorite song and my favorite artists and [how] I'm so happy when they completely bare their soul. I'm really touched by honesty, and I'm trying not to let fear get in the way of that."

She has written or co-written a majority of the songs on Here With Me. The emotions range from serious matters of divorce and near-death to whimsical fantasies of a one-night stand with a stranger. Her music is soft and insightful, a window into where she's been and where she may be headed next.

She wrote "Without Jesus Here With Me" after she and her sister, Hilary, were involved in an automobile accident near Memphis in 2006. The wreck left them both with serious injuries and nearly took Hilary's life. It wasn't until a year and a-half later that Williams could revisit that violent and tragic event, an experience she now calls a miracle.

"It was weird to think that something came out of it," she said. "The only thing that I could really focus on was that it was an absolute miracle. My sister told me to put my seatbelt on about a mile before. The whole thing was just a miracle that she lived and went through everything she did. That's the only song that I've ever written out of it."

In the opening of the song, she admits she doesn't pray enough or know why she lived that Wednesday morning, yet she is certain that Jesus was with her that day. She leans on a faith firmly rooted in the lyrics of a man she never knew -- her grandfather. She sings, "The preacher tried to make me learn/I memorized his favorite verse/But Hank's words, they taught me everything/Thank God, I saw the light for me."

"I got as much spiritual teaching out of Hank Sr.'s lyrics as I did something I would have read about in church or growing up with the Bible," she explains. "I think there's a lot you can find in his lyrics even though it's from a person that's struggling. It's still relatable because we're all struggling."

She has been told that her songwriting style is similar to the approach taken by her grandfather, who suffered from depression and substance abuse before dying at age 29.

"I definitely did not struggle with the demons that he did," she said. "I think he really suffered from the kind of common singer-songwriter bouts of depression and just low, low points. We've all had our ups and downs."

She also tackles the struggles of divorce through song. In "Mama," she commends her mother for standing firm and strong during her divorce from Hank Williams Jr. and applauds her for handling the situation with such finesse.

"My dad was on tour 300 nights a year at the time," she said. "We were little girls. She was raising us alone. To be a single mom and trying to have two kids and your husband on tour and dealing with all that stress is really amazing. She was always positive. She was always smiling.

"I think it probably saved me a lot of therapy because I had such a great mom" she said. "And Dad was great about it, too. It's just my little thank you."

But not all of Williams' songs touch on such delicate issues. "Three Days in Bed" entertains the idea of spending three days in Paris and in bed with a complete stranger -- making love, drinking wine and smoking menthol cigarettes. She throws all caution to the wind in her daydream, a song she thought best to record live.

"It's so great for me to hear someone's album, and you hear just them and the instrument," she said. "Then you really get to see what they're about."

Here With Me gives Williams' listeners just that -- a peek into her life through song. She's already generating radio airplay for her current single, "Keep the Change." After establishing a devoted following with her first album, 2005's Those We Never Knew, she hopes to attract even more listeners to her music.

"It's kind of a new road for me" she said. "It will be interesting to see what people think -- probably that I'm a little different than Dad, but hopefully they still like us both."


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