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Friday, July 31, 2009

Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley Tour "Top 20"


Brad Paisley chats with Nan Kelley as Top 20 Country Countdown visits with Brad on his American Saturday Night Tour. Photo by Cheryl Ecton.

July 31, 2009 — Brad Paisley has his American Saturday Night Tour on the road this summer, but he brings it to TV this weekend on GAC's Top 20 Country Countdown.
Brad and his opening acts, Dierks Bentley and Jimmy Wayne, are all on hand as the special guests for the countdown, which comes in the wake of one of Brad's top career moments. He performed four songs in the East Room of the White House last week, including "Welcome To The Future," which was inspired by Barack Obama's election. Brad wasn't the only Saturday Night act who figured in that exclusive D.C. showcase. Before the concert kicked off, the president quoted Dierks as he explained the role of country music in America's psyche.
A GAC special, Country At The White House, debuts Aug. 15 at 9 p.m. ET with Brad, Charley Pride and Alison Krauss + Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas.
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. Billy Currington "People Are Crazy"
2. Kellie Pickler "Best Days Of Your Life"
3. Luke Bryan "Do I"
4. Taylor Swift "You Belong With Me"
5. Keith Urban "Kiss A Girl"
6. Lady Antebellum "I Run To You"
7. Reba McEntire "Strange"
8. Darius Rucker "Alright"
9. Martina McBride "I Just Call You Mine"
10. Miranda Lambert "Dead Flowers"
11. Dierks Bentley "Sideways"
12. Kenny Chesney "Out Last Night"
13. Randy Houser "Boots On"
14. Gloriana "Wild At Heart"
15. Darryl Worley "Sounds Like Life To Me"
16. Alan Jackson "Sissy's Song"
17. Miley Cyrus "The Climb"
18. Rascal Flatts "Summer Nights"
19. Trailer Choir "Rockin' The Beer Gut"
20. Zac Brown Band "Whatever It Is"

No. 1 Party: "It Happens" For Sugarland Co-writer


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

Suzanne Alexander with Bobby Pinson during the annual "Country Thunder" event held in Phoenix, Arizona

July 31, 2009 — Leave it to the guy who originated shhhhh? "It Happens" to recast a medley of Sugarland songs as a story about needing to find a bathroom on the interstate.
Bobby Pinson has plenty of reason to laugh these days, and he laughed a lot at Thursday's No. 1 party at BMI, where he was toasted for topping the charts with Sugarland's Kris tian Bush and Jennifer Nettles as the authors of "It Happens" and "Already Gone."
It was, to be certain, Bobby's idea to play with the frowned-upon S-word in "It Happens," though it took Kristian and Jennifer to bring it into full bloom. Bobby had tossed out the idea to several songwriters previously, but they always passed on that theme, figuring no artist would touch something so borderline in content.
Fortunately, Kristian and Jennifer — as artists with their own record deal — have an outlet for even their wackiest ideas, and they're not afraid to take chances.
"I think it took Sugarland to put the smile in that, because if somebody rougher and gruffer and more hardcore woulda sung a song like 'Shhh? it happens,' [people would say] they're an outlaw," Bobby suggested. "But Sugarland comes along and puts their little bubbly smile and their little pop and groove to it, and we got to say somethin' there, and it's fun. It's kinda like 'Hey, man, it's a joke.' And when Sugarland does that, people get it."
Sugarland certainly "gets" Bobby Pinson. They met around 2005, when Bobby was working his own album as an artist, which netted one hit, "Don't Ask Me How I Know." He didn't get another chance to make an album, but he did get brought into Jennifer and Kristian's circle of friends, and he's now had four No. 1s with the duo, including "Want To" and "All I Wan t To Do."
Dressed casually in a black "CASH" T-shirt and John Deere ballcap, Bobby reveled in the attention from Music Row executives Thursday and pulled in a bevy of awards and plaques from BMI, the Country Music Association, Country Radio Broadcasters and Country Weekly magazine.
He was not casual, however, in proclaiming his appreciation for his wife, Lucy, who's seen him through both good times and bad. He can still remember the first check he ever received for the use of his songs — it was for just $1.67, he said, "and I had to cash it."
"You don't realize," he said of Lucy's support, "how much somebody loves you until you don't love yourself for a couple of months."
Bobby's felt the love from Sugarland, but that's not that only place he's found admiration for his work. He's also picked up hits as a writer on Trent Tomlinson's "One Wing In The Fire," Toby Keith's "Lost You Anyway" and Josh Gracin's "We Weren't Crazy." And if that's not enough, Brooks & Dunn is set to release another song he wrote.
Ultimately, Bobby seems quite content — with his place as a songwriter and without the glaring spotlight that comes with being an artist.
Counting up the benefits, he cheered, "I can eat all the carbohydrates I want to!"

George Strait Gets it Write with Son


George Strait photo by Vanessa Gavalya, courtesy of UMG Nashville.

July 31, 2009 — A lot of father-son relationships are filled with animosity, but that's not the case in the George Strait household. In fact, George and his son, Bubba, are co-writers on the current hit "Living For The Night," one of three songs they had a hand in writing on George's forthcoming album Twang.
That's particularly unusual because George has, for the bulk of his career, left the writing to others. His 1995 compilation Strait Out Of The Box featured three obscure songs he wrote and recorded in the 1970s: "I Just Can't Go On Dying Like This," "(That Don't Change) The Way I Feel About You" and "I Don't Want To Talk It Over Anymore." The only other time he penned a song for one of his projects was "I Can't See Texas From Here," and that appeared on his Strait From The Heart album in 1982, meaning it's been 27 years since he recorded a new song he wrote for on e of his albums.
But when George ended that lull, he ended it big-time. He and Bubba actually wrote two more of the songs on Twang: "He's Got That Something Special" and "Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind."
"Bubba had actually been writin' a bit," George told Buzz Brainard on on the national radio show GAC Nights: Live From Nashville, "and he kind of inspired me to get back into it, and so we started messin' around [with ideas]. Actually, Norma [George's wife] had the idea for 'Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind' and told Bubba, and he started writin' it. And then I kinda helped him out. Then we decided to continue on from there, and we were at the ranch writin' songs and decided it'd be pretty cool if Dean [Dillon] came down, so I called Dean, and a few days later he flew in and we spent about four or five days there writin' together."
Dean is no slouch when it comes to that line of work. He's written 14 of George's hits, including "Unwound," "Ocean Front Property," "Marina Del Rey" and "She Let Herself Go." Meanwhile, Bubba got yet another song onto Twang; it's titled "Arkansas Dave."
The Twang album is released Aug. 11.

Holly Williams Gets Engaged


Holly Williams and her fiance, Nashville drummer Chris Coleman. Photo courtesy of UMG Nashville.

July 31, 2009 — Congratulations to Mercury recording artist Holly Williams, who got engaged to Nashville drummer Chris Coleman last week.
Coleman proposed to Holly in Leipers Fork, TN with an antique three-banded diamond engagement ring circa 1923. First he treated Holly to a picnic and then a hike, where they searched for civil war relics. Holly found something even more valuable.
"I dug up a beautiful wooden box with my favorite love quote on it," Holly told People magazine, "and the engagement date carved in roman numerals. He wood-burned the letters onto the box! He got on one knee and I opened the box. Underneath the flowers and basil were the rings."
No wedding date has been set. Holly is currently touring in support of her CD, Here With Me. In addition to opening select dates for Sugarland, she will be joining Madeleine Peyroux on tour in August.

Can You Duet Finalists Perform at Country Music Hall of Fame Luncheon

July 30, 2009
CMT's Can You Duet finalists performed Thursday (July 30) at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville during a luncheon hosted by the Nashville Superspeedway and Toyota Motorsports. Big Machine Records president Scott Borchetta, who is also a Can You Duet judge, introduced the three acts -- Ryan & Avalon, JB Rocket and Steel Magnolia. Prior to the performances, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Toyota driver David Starr and NASCAR artist Sam Bass spoke to the audience where Bass later unveiled his Gibson Les Paul trophy guitar. The guitar will be awarded to the winner of the Craftsman Truck series' Toyota Tundra 200 on Saturday (Aug. 1). Bass will serve as the grand marshal, and former Tennessee Titan Frank Wycheck will drop the green flag to start the race. The Can You Duet season finale premieres Aug. 8 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CMT. View photos from the luncheon.

Cross Canadian Ragweed Among Americana Festival Performers

July 30, 2009
Cross Canadian Ragweed is among the bands performing at the Americana Music Festival this year in Nashville. The event takes place Sept. 16-19. The band will release a new album, Happiness and All the Other Things, on Sept. 1 on Universal South Records. They're also opening select shows this summer for the Rebels of Rock tour with Kid Rock and Lynyrd Skynyrd, as well as planning their annual Red Dirt Roundup in Fort Worth, Texas, on Sept. 6. The Americana Music Festival will also feature Asleep at the Wheel, the Band of Heathens, Radney Foster, the Greencards, Will Hoge, Jim Lauderdale, Buddy Miller, Reckless Kelly, Charlie Robison, Marty Stuart, J.D. Souther and many more.

CMT Insider: Gloriana Anxious to Release Debut Album

Self-Titled Project Arrives in Stores on Aug. 4
Gloriana's self-titled debut album will be released Tuesday (Aug. 4), and the four members of the group can't wait.

"Our whole lives, we've been imagining this moment where we get the record deal, make the album and then release it. And now it's really happening," vocalist Rachel Reinert tells CMT Insider. "I had one of those 'oh, my gosh' moments the other day when we pre-signed 1,200 of our CD inserts. Looking at it -- the physical copy of it -- was pretty crazy. It was like a 'real' moment."

Gloriana was formed in 2007 after Tom and Mike Gossin -- brothers who sing and play guitar -- moved to Nashville after years of working in clubs in North Carolina. They soon met Reinert and, later, Cheyenne Kimball, who provides vocals, mandolin and guitar to the quartet.

Their album is being released by Emblem Music Group, the new label founded by Matt Serletic, known for his work with Willie Nelson and Matchbox Twenty. The group has gained attention with "Wild at Heart," a song Serletic wrote with Josh Kear and Stephanie Bentley. In addition to the music video's success on CMT Top 20 Countdown, the single is currently at No. 16 on Billboard's country songs chart.

As for the next single, Reinert says the choice will likely be the album's opening track, "How Far Do You Wanna Go?"

"It's similar to 'Wild at Heart' in that it's very energetic, so I think it's going to come out with a bang," she says. "We're really excited about that one."

NASHVILLE SKYLINE: Garth Brooks' Musical Progeny: Monster or Misunderstood?

His Alter Ego, Chris Gaines, Marks 10th Anniversary of Greatest Hits Album
Nashville Skyline
Nashville Skyline
(NASHVILLE SKYLINE is a column by CMT/ Editorial Director Chet Flippo.)

Ten years ago on Sept. 28, a gigantic creature came bursting to life from a Nashville recording studio and was unleashed upon the world. Fully formed at birth, Chris Gaines sprang into being with a complete back story, a brand new greatest hits album and a story to tell -- or hint at. And maybe a future movie and more. What a grand concept.

How to easily explain "Chris Gaines"? Well, the prevailing theory is that Garth (may I call him that?) began to get bored of massive pop-country success and enormous record sales that were, to be sure, beginning to show a decline. Ever the visionary, he imagined an alter ego releasing records into a receptive rock market. And with that would come a revitalized career with a major movie on the horizon. The movie had reached serious talking stages between Garth's production company, Red Strokes Entertainment, and Paramount Pictures.

It was an audacious plan on a grand scale, and it could have worked. No popular music artist has ever even attempted a total reinvention successfully and, in fact, I don't know that it has ever been tried on this scale. So Garth deserves congratulations for thinking large.

The initial step of the campaign was a greatest hits album, to be followed (after a year or so of audience acclimation) by the major motion picture, The Lamb, starring Chris Gaines as a troubled rock singer (with a new concept album of the same name). For the project, Garth lost weight, got a rock 'n' roll wardrobe and hired a movie makeup artist to transform him into Gaines for a music video and album photo shoot.

The album was titled Garth Brooks in ... The Life of Chris Gaines on the front of the CD case, and the back showed only Gaines' name and the Greatest Hits title. It was helmed by top-line producers Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and Don Was with Garth, and the songs came from top-line songwriters including Wayne Kirkpatrick, Gordon Kennedy and Tommy Sims. The album, billed as a prequel soundtrack for the movie, included hits from through Gaines' career with his group, Crush, and solo albums from throughout his career.

According to his official bio, Christian Gene Gaines was born in 1967 in Brisbane, Australia, and his family moved to L.A. when Chris was 5, perhaps explaining his lack of any Aussie accent. Gaines dropped out of high school and formed the rock band Crush. After the group's lead singer (who was Gaines' best friend) was killed in a plane crash, Gaines secluded himself before returning with a solo album -- which was a smash. Then, Gaines had a tragic car wreck and again went into seclusion.

His albums included Crush's self-titled 1986 debut, 1989's Straight Jacket, 1991's Fornucopia, 1994's Apostle and 1996's Triangle. They purportedly traced his music through an evolution that by turns sounded Beatlesque and a bit like Prince, Fleetwood Mac and so on. The cuts on the hits album are representative of each era.

To promote the greatest hits release, Garth hosted Saturday Night Live as himself, with Gaines performing "Way of the Girl" on the show -- with no explanation from Garth. He also appeared on a VH1 "mockumentary" on its Behind the Music series.

The Garth/Chris hullabaloo only added to the chaos that was Capitol Nashville records in those days. Label head Jimmy Bowen, a forceful executive who did not always see eye to eye with Garth, had retired and was replaced in 1995 by a respected music producer, Scott Hendricks. Garth did not seem to regard Hendricks favorably, and by the end of 1997, Hendricks was forced out and replaced by a marketer, Pat Quigley. So the business side of Capitol Nashville was not always totally focused then.

Brooks' push for Chris Gaines debut in September 1999 consumed much of Capitol Nashville's attention and energy. That all served to incidentally stifle the progress of a new Capitol Nashville release by a fledgling young artist trying to get solo exposure after his group, the Ranch, released a debut album that failed commercially. That was Keith Urban, whose self-titled solo album was released in October of 1999. More than one journalist noticed that both Urban and Gaines were born in Australia in 1967 and raised in Brisbane and that their music was much closer to pop and rock than to Nashville country.

Gaines' album release came and went. Country fans overwhelmingly did not understand it or accept it. The songs "Lost in You" and "It Don't Matter to the Sun" briefly charted country. ("Lost in You" peaked at No. 62 while "Matter" made it to No. 24). "Lost in You" became Garth's only Top 5 pop hit. Once the album more or less fizzled by Garthian sales standards, the impetus for the movie disappeared. Chris Gaines withdrew into Garth's bag of tricks. In 2000, Garth announced he was retiring from recording and performing.

Chris Gaines' video of "Right Now" is still playing on YouTube, where there are also many cover versions of other Gaines songs. The Greatest Hits album is still available at Nielsen/SoundScan reports that the album is platinum, with total sales just over 1.1 million copies. (In 1999, when it was released, projected sales were expected to be over 2 million). Obviously, Chris Gaines has some fans.

I spent some time tonight with the CD and its elaborate notes and photographs and felt an odd affection for this Icarus-like leap for the sun. It was a grand attempt. Thus do eras end. Not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

George Strait, Toby Keith, Zac Brown Linked: You Bet Your Ass!


George Strait photo by Vanessa Gavalya, courtesy of UMG Nashville.

July 30, 2009 — The FCC still levies hefty fines on broadcasters who drop the F-bomb on the public airwaves, but one word that was formerly considered off limits has been assimilated into acceptability, thanks in part to George Strait, Toby Keith and now the Zac Brown Band.
Toby, of course, found himself at the center of controversy in 2002 when his song "Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue (The Angry American)" employed the phrase "We'll put a boot in your ass/That's the American way." The controversy was less about the use of the word "ass" than about the bomb dropping it insinuated, but the fact that it was played incessantly on drive-time radio showed "ass" is OK in country music. For what it's worth, badonkadonk fan Trace Adkins is giving his own thumbs up to "ass" by joining Toby on their current tour to sing "Courtesy" during the evening's encore.
The Zac Brown Band has no ifs, ands or butts about20using the word. The group's current single, "Toes," leans on its backside in the key hook of the chorus: "I got my toes in the water/Ass in the sand." The song is at No. 37 on the Country Aircheck singles chart and moving up quickly — cracking the A-word hasn't hurt Zac at all.
Which brings things to George Strait. During a shift on the national radio show GAC Nights: Live From Nashville, Buzz Brainard asked George if he'd spoken about his Pure Country role to Joe Nichols, who will be reprising it next year on Broadway.
"I haven't talked to him," George allowed, "but if I had one thing to say to him about it, it'd probably be, 'Go on. Get your ass outta here. Go on. Get your ass outta here.'"
That's a line that George's character, Dusty, uttered during Pure Country, and it seems to be the one that's stuck most in people's minds.
"If they want me to say one line from the movie," George said, "that's the line they want me to say for 'em."
George obliges them, but he's still just a shade uncomfortable saying the A-word on the air.
"You might," he told Buzz, "wanna cut that out."

Lonestar Has "Amazing" Ride in U.K.


Lonestar photo courtesy of Webster & Associates.

July 30, 2009 — Ten years ago this week, Lonestar's "Amazed" was the No. 1 single on the Billboard country charts in the U.S. This week, the group remains at No. 1 in the U.K.
"Amazed" is the favorite choice for the bride and groom's first dance at wedding receptions, according to a poll of 2,000 wedding videographers in the United Kingdom. It's one of three country songs to make the Top 10, The Telegraph Of London reported.
Shania Twain had two songs on the list — "From This Moment On" and "You're Still The One" — and "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing" appeared at No. 2, though it's the Aerosmith version that was cited, and not the Mark Chesnutt country rendition.
"Amazed" has a rather appropriate connection to weddings. Two of the song's three writers, Chris Lindsey and Aimee Mayo, became a couple after they wrote it and eventually got married. They've also been co-wri ters on Kellie Pickler's "Red High Heels," Martina McBride's "This One's For The Girls" and Tim McGraw & Faith Hill's "Let's Make Love." In addition, they co-wrote Caitlin & Will's current single, "Address In The Stars."
The complete Top 10 list of U.K. first-dance songs includes:
1. Lonestar, "Amazed"
2. Aerosmith, "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing"
3. Shania Twain, "From This Moment On"
4. Bryan Adams, "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You"
5. Take That, "Rule The World"
6. Van Morrison, "Have I Told You Lately"
7. Westlife, "Flying Without Wings"
8. Robbie Williams, "Angels"
9. Shania Twain, "You're Still The One"
10. Jack Johnson, "Better Together"

Julianne Hough Joins Red Cross

July 30, 2009 — The American Red Cross announced five new additions to its National Celebrity Cabinet, a group of celebrity supporters who promote Red Cross services by donating their time, helping neighbors prepare for emergencies, responding to disasters and lending a helping hand to those in need.

Country singer/dancer/actress Julianne Hough is a new cabinet member, joining fellow celebs Anika Noni Rose, Demi Lovato, Sally Pressman and Amanda Peet.
"I am honored to be a part of the American Red Cross Celebrity Cabinet and help support an organization that offers neutral humanitarian care to the victims of war and aid to victims of devastating natural disasters," says Julianne. "Being part of this amazing organization will provide me with an opportunity to join its efforts to help others and encourage the American public to become involved with their local Red Cross and make a difference."
The announcement of these celebrity supporters closely follows First Lady Michelle Obama's official launch of the United We Serve initiative, a call for nationwide service to begin a sustained, collaborative and focused effort to meet community needs. The initiative spans throughout the summer and will culminate with a National Day of Service and Remembrance on September 11. During this time, the Red Cross will promote volunteer opportunities throughout its network of more than 700 chapters to help encourage community service.
Other members and/or pas t members of the Red Cross Celebrity Cabinet include Sara Evans and Rascal Flatts.

Garth Brooks Flips for the Kids


Garth Brooks photo by Mark Tucker, courtesy of Pearl Records.

July 29, 2009 — Garth Brooks has made plenty of money in his career, but on Sunday he didn't handle it very well.
Garth and Trisha Yearwood served as captains for Chelsea, a British soccer team, when it played a game in the World Football Challenge at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. In that role, Garth conducted the pre-game coin toss, but flubbed it on camera. Garth apparently tossed the coin right into his own face, and a photo of the incident appeared on
Garth likely laughed it off — he had much bigger concerns on the day. He captained the Chelsea team in a fund-raising capacity: The ballclub's global charity affiliate, Right To Play, is partnered with his own Teammates For Kids Foundation.
"Connecting the two charities at a world-class soccer event helps bring recognition to the importance of helping children through sports," Garth told
Garth's awkward coin toss didn't fa ze Chelsea. The team shut out Club America 2-0, according to The Dallas Morning News, claiming the title in the World Football Challenge, a six-city round robin tournament.
Garth was not the first country artist to venture into the new Cowboys Stadium. That honor belonged to George Strait, Reba McEntire, Blake Shelton and Lee Ann Womack, who played a grand-opening concert at the facility in June.

Gretchen Wilson Makes a New Shopping List


Gretchen Wilson photo courtesy of SonyBMG Nashville.

July 29, 2009 — Gretchen Wilson is in the market for a new record company now that she's departed from Sony Music Nashville, where she took the country genre by storm five years ago with "Redneck Woman."
Sony indicated the two parties have "mutually decided to part ways" in a press release issued Tuesday. Gretchen leaves three CD releases for the label to mine for catalog sales in the future, but it appears she may be taking her newest recordings with her as she goes.
Gretchen had started recording an album more than a year ago, fitting sessions in between her work on the road, studying for her GED, and her commitments as a single mom. She looked specifically for songs that mixed country roots with a Southern-rock background, attempting to rekindle the fire she experienced when she first gained national attention.
She released one single from the project, "Don't Do Me No Good," in June 2008, but it failed to crack the Top 40 on the Country Aircheck chart. The album, titled I Got Your Country Right Here, was originally supposed to come out last fall, but finding songs that Gretchen and Sony could agree on apparently became difficult.
"They thought the record was missing something, and we went on a hunt," Gretchen told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Typically, record labels shoulder the costs for recording sessions and retain control of the masters. In this instance, Gretchen is attempting to buy back the tracks from the label, allowing her to get them to fans through another avenue.
Gretchen and her management are "still working that out," her spokesman, Craig Campbell says. "Everybody's hoping that's gonna work out, because from what I understand, she was pretty much done" with the album."
If Gretchen is able to reclaim the rights to her master recordings, she would then be free to shop the music to another major label or an independent record company, or to release it on her own.
"All that stuff is being talked about," Craig said. "There's nothing in concrete at all. I don't think there's anything even in clay right now."
While record companies are in the business of knowing what will and won't sell, they don't always get it right, and artists have been known to rejuvenate careers by taking their work from one label to another. The best-known instance came 10 years ago when Toby Keith angrily left Mercury Records in a dispute about the quality of his latest recordings. He bought the masters and took them to DreamWorks, where the album in question launched him from a middle-of-the-pack artist to superstardom. The album in question: How Do You Like Me Now?!.

Recording Academy Salutes Vince Gill


Vince Gill photo courtesy of MCA Nashville.

July 29, 2009 — The Recording Academy will honor Vince Gill at its first-ever GRAMMY Salute To Country Music. The event will be held Sept. 9 at The Loveless Barn in Nashville, Tenn. Honoring 20-time GRAMMY winner Vince will be his wife, contemporary Christian artist Amy Grant, Alison Krauss, actor/comedian/musician Steve Martin, singer/songwriter Michael McDonald and Brad Paisley.
"We are thrilled to be celebrating country music in its epicenter of Nashville, and to honor a legendary artist like Vince Gill who has made an indelible mark on the genre," said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy. "Our 'Salute To' series pays homage to and celebrates the work of extraordinary people and organizations that continue to ensure that these genres remain a vital part of our culture. This event shows our commitment to recognizing musical excellence all year long, and the impact it has on our lives everyday."
"We are proud to partner with The Recording Academy in support of the=2 0GRAMMY Awards and more events celebrating music, including this exciting tribute to Vince Gill," said Chris Jogis, senior vice president, U.S. marketing, MasterCard Worldwide. "Music plays an important role in our culture, and MasterCard has a rich history of embracing the industry, and bringing our cardholders closer to renowned music artists. This partnership allows us to bring priceless music experiences to MasterCard cardholders throughout the year."
This inaugural event joins others in the GRAMMY Salute To series including GRAMMY Salute To Classical Music, Jazz, and Gospel Music, and marks the birth of a new Academy partnership with MasterCard Worldwide.
Originally from Norman, Okla., Vince's music career has spanned more than 30 years. He has garnered 20 GRAMMY Awards, sold more than 26 million albums, and in 2007 was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He has recorded 21 albums, including 2006's These Days, successfully weaving country, pop, bluegrass and rock influences together in a groundbreaking four-CD set. As a strong influential force in the country music scene, he has been a coveted duet partner for countless performers including Dolly Parton, Barbra Streisand and his wife, celebrated singer Amy Grant. A true humanitarian, Gill has been active in various charity events including his own pro-celebrity golf tournament, The Vinny, supporting junior golf programs in Tennessee.

9 to 5: The Musical Closing on Broadway

July 29, 2009
The Broadway production of 9 to 5: The Musical, with a score written by Dolly Parton, will close on Broadway on Sept. 6 due to disappointing ticket sales. However, a new touring production of the musical will be launched in Nashville on Sept. 21, 2010. The musical won a Drama Desk award earlier this year following a record-setting 15 nominations. "I couldn't have asked for a better experience on my first Broadway show," said Parton. "I've had the privilege of working with an amazing group of people who have become like family to me. I can't wait for this show to hit the road so people across the country can see why I'm so proud of everyone involved. And I'm so pleased that we'll be opening the tour in Nashville. Great things happen in Nashville."

Lady Antebellum Earns First Gold Digital Single

July 29, 2009
Lady Antebellum earned its first gold digital single this week for "I Run to You." The certification recognizes 500,000 digital downloads. "When we write, we never know which of our songs will end up connecting with people," says band member Charles Kelley. "The minute we put 'I Run to You' in our show, we knew that people were starting to respond to it because the voices were growing louder every night. I still can't believe that 500,000 people even know who we are ... much less downloaded a song we wrote at the Loveless Café over lunch one day. It's crazy!"

Kenny Chesney's Music Videos: On the Beach and on the Sidelines

Looking at 15 Years of a Superstar's Career
Kenny Chesney
Kenny Chesney
On stage, Kenny Chesney is a prancing dynamo who draws his energy from applause and spotlights. But in most of his 30-plus videos, he's more like a casual observer of life, even when he's the guy with the guitar. Behold a few of the best examples.

"The Tin Man" (1994) -- Kenny in chrysalis. His resonant, reassuring voice is emerging, but at this early stage of image development, the singer is clad in a form-shrouding sport coat and wearing his hair longer in the back. The close-ups show a man who's keenly in touch with the emotions he sings about.

"That's Why I'm Here" (1998) -- Chesney throws himself into this one literally as he sprawls on a grimy restroom floor in a drunken stupor. The song is the cry of a man who's trying to kick his alcohol addiction while simultaneously pleading for understanding from his aggrieved wife or girlfriend. The video is permeated by dark, sickening, institutional colors that offer no ray of mental relief. Here, in the service of authenticity, Chesney exposes his receding hairline. After all, falling-down drunks rarely succeed in keeping their hats on.

"How Forever Feels" (1998) -- Welcome to the tropics. This video introduces us to Chesney's passion for sunny beaches and soothing waves, and it's the first to show his sculpted bare chest. In one scene, he even wears a parrot on his shoulder.

"The Good Stuff" (2002) -- After a dustup with his old lady, Chesney C-clamps himself to a bar and asks for some liquid relief -- the "good stuff." But the wise old bartender (played by Chesney's longtime manager, Dale Morris) knows what the kid really needs is some philosophical perspective on his debilitating self-pity. The drunker you are, the more profound this one will seem.

"There Goes My Life" (2003) -- Country songwriters love nothing better than taking a catchy phrase and working it into different and even contradictory contexts. Here, it's "there goes my life" because my girlfriend's pregnant, followed by "there goes my life" because my little baby girl is what I hold most dear. And, finally, "there goes my life" because my beloved grown-up daughter is leaving home. That's the story this video tells. Chesney relates the action but does not participate in it.

"Anything but Mine" (2005) -- Of all Chesney's beach-themed videos, this is my favorite. The scene is a seaside or lakeside amusement park near the end of summer. While Chesney and his band play off to the side, the two young lovers try to pack as much joy into their final day together as the imagination allows. Wistful and beautifully bittersweet.

"Who You'd Be Today" (2005) -- The poets Robert Frost and John Greenleaf Whittier each spoke of roads not taken and opportunities lost because of fear, caution or arbitrary choice. "For of all sad words of tongue or pen," Whittier wrote, "the saddest are these, 'It might have been.'" This video dwells on the theme of potential cut short by tragedy: the playground friend later killed in a war and the promising young life that's snuffed out in a car wreck. Again, Chesney sings on the periphery as the sad scenes unfold.

"You Save Me" (2006) -- The East Tennessee native does some fine understated acting here. He plays the weary, mysterious stranger who's coming home to his lover, the one person who truly understands and accepts his "gypsy soul." As he stares out the side window of the cab he's riding in, his face is a palette of dark and unexplained emotions. But all his pain is swept away when he's finally frolicking in the arms of his woman. ( also offers a director's cut of this video that goes a long way toward explaining the cause of Chesney's angst.)

"Don't Blink" (2007) -- After his interview with a 102-year-old man reminds him that life is fleeting, a TV newscaster begins to rethink his own hurried existence. Even if you do blink, you won't miss this didactic story line.

"Out Last Night" (2009) -- The only difference between this poolside panorama and Chesney seaside epics (e.g., "Old Blue Chair" "Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven," "When the Sun Goes Down," "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem," "I Lost It," "How Forever Feels") is that it features a lot more babes than drinking buddies.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Jamey Johnson Album Vinylized


Mercury recording artist Jamey Johnson celebrated the gold status of his latest album, That Lonesome Song, on the rooftop terrace at BMI in Nashville, Tenn. on Tuesday, May 20, 2009. Jamey's guests included (l-r) Alabama's Teddy Gentry and the Oak Ridge Boys' William Lee Golden. Photo by Peyton Hoge, courtesy of UMG Nashville.

July 28, 2009 — Next week is one year since Jamey Johnson's album That Lonesome Song came out on Mercury Records, but he's already gearing up for his next CD. This time around, the album will come out simultaneously on retro vinyl, an appropriate move since much of the music he loves was recorded at a time when the CD hadn't even yet been released.
"That's how I listen to music," Jamey says. "It's my favorite, No. 1 preference at home, to go put a vinyl record on my great grandmother's old record player."
His current album includes two songs that appeared on Waylon Jennings' Dreaming My Dreams, released when the only real competition to the vinyl LP was the 8-track tape. That Lonesome Song embraced influences from that era and proved that a market still exists for raw, authentic country. Even in the midst of declining album sales, Jamey's project shipped 500,000 copies; Jamey and Mercury jointly celebrated with a gold party, something he never anticipated as a kid.
"Hell, I never even dreamed of it as an adult," he laughs. "When we found out the album went gold, I said, 'We're going to need a whole lot of plaques because I want to be able to give them out to everybody.'"
A release date hasn't yet been announced for the new album, though the first single, "My Way To You," has already been released to radio stations. Beginning Monday, it will be available as a free download at The song goes to digital music stores Aug. 11.

Kenny Chesney a Radio Shoe-In


July 28, 2009 — A year ago, Kenny Chesney launched his own own station, No Shoes Radio, on XM Satellite Radio. This year, Kenny's reintroducing the channel with an online franchise,
The channel debuts at noon ET on Aug. 6, with the playlist dictated in great part by Kenny's musical tastes. It'll feature his music, as well as songs from other artists programmed into his iPod. And he'll use the station as a focal point for his fan base featuring interviews with Kenny, his musical friends and crew members.
"Growing up, I don't think anybody listened to any one kind of thing," he says. "What I think of as country, well, that's not really what we do. But then again, I think most of our fans are listening to other stuff, too, whether it's Dave [Matthews], [Bruce] Springsteen, [Tom] Petty or Jackson Browne, not to mention Bob Marley, who I think may be the great equalizer among all kinds of music."
The Aug. 6 debut comes as Kenny prepares for a concert that evening in Orange Beach, Ala. Tour mates Miranda Lambert and Lady Antebellum are expected to drop by th at afternoon during the station's first hours online, and Kenny will likely play a few songs, too. That evening's show will be streamed live on No Shoes Radio, and there will likely be more simulcasts as Kenny keeps the station up and running into the future.
"It's gonna be cool," he promises, "and then it's gonna keep rocking."
Now that his current single, "Out Last Night," has peaked at No. 1, Kenny's released a new song to radio. "I'm Alive," which features guest vocals by Dave Matthews, was sent to stations on Monday. And it's a good bet it'll air on No Shoes Radio.

Michelle Branch Returns with New Music


Michelle Branch of The Wreckers on the CMA Awards Red Carpet at "The 42nd Annual CMA Awards" on Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2008, broadcast live from the Sommet Center in Nashville on the ABC Television Network. Photo courtesy of the Country Music Association.

July 28, 2009 — Michelle Branch — known to country fans as one half of the chart-topping duo The Wreckers — is set to release her first solo album in six years. The pop singer/songwriter formed the country duo, The Wreckers, with Jessica Harp in 2004 and together they enjoyed the 2006 No. 1 song, "Leave the Pieces."
Now both women are promoting solo albums – Jessica's A Woman Needs and Michelle's Everything Comes and Goes, which will be released in late fall. Michelle's first single, "Sooner or Later," premiered today on iTunes exclusively and goes to radio August 11.
While on tour with The Wreckers, Michelle wrote the album's title track after realizing that the duo could not continue. "I was on the bus that night and I couldn't sleep," she recalls. "That's when I wrote 'Everything Comes And Goes' which was the first song I had written by myself in two years. Sitting in the tour bus at five in the morning with the sun coming up and having written that song — that was the start of me saying, 'That's it. I'm making my own record next, and that doesn't have to be a sad thing.'
"I've always been kind of a control freak, so it was actually nice remembering I could write on my own," she continues. "And that song captured everything I was feeling at that moment — that change is inevitable, it's part of life. So instead of dwelling on everything, I should just do what I do and write some songs."

Justin Moore Undies for Sale


Justin Moore photo by Kristen Barlowe, courtesy of the Valory Music Co.

July 27, 2009 —When Justin Moore recalls making his first video, "Back That Thing Up," the main thing he remembers is the static he got from his mother about the song's suggestive nature. Now Justin's giving his mom something else to cringe about – "Hank It" panties.
"Yes, that's right, we have a new merch item on the road in honor of the song 'Hank It'," says Justin, whose song "Hank It" (featured on his self-titled CD, in stores Aug. 11), was penned in honor of his musical hero Hank Williams Jr. "My mother must be so proud again! The chorus' lyrics say that sometimes you've got to 'Hank it, drank it, crank it, and ? SPANK IT! Every time I sing that line in concert, the women scream a little louder. I don't know if they're scared, or they like it, but I definitely know my mom isn't part of the group that likes it!"

Justin's current song, "Small To wn USA," is already a Top 15 hit. Click here to watch our interview with Justin as he recalls making his mom and wife "proud" with his first video — and vote for your favorite debut video!

Lifelines: Keith Urban, LeAnn Rimes & Others


Keith Urban on stage during his "Love, Pain & the whole crazy World Tour." Fans can bring Keith's live performances home on his new "Love, Pain & the whole crazy World Tour" live DVD. Visit for more details. Photo courtesy of Capitol Nashville.

July 27, 2009 — Keith Urban and Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles were both plagued with physical ailments, Mel McDaniel is improving and LeAnn Rimes' marriage is at a crossroads.
Some of country's most significant stars are working through health and personal issues. They include:
• Keith Urban is battling a pinched nerve, though it hasn't kept him off the concert stage. He told concert-goers in California that the injury was "wicked," according to The Sacramento Bee. He didn't use the ailment as a crutch. He waited until near the end of the night to tell the audience he was in pain.
• LeAnn Rimes was spotted several months ago on dates with actor Eddie Cibrian. Now it appears her marriage to Dean Sheremet is crashing after seven years. She's been spotted in public without her wedding ring, and People magazine indicated the country couple is living apart. In the meantime, Eddie Cibrian's wife, Brandi Glanville, told Us Weekly that she had left Eddie, saying Eddie and LeAnn "deserve each other."
• Grand Ole Opry star Mel McDaniel has been moved from a Nashville-area hospital to a rehabilitation facility as he continues his recovery from a heart attack in June. During his hospitalization, he was placed in a medically induced coma. A benefit concert for Mel has been slated for Aug. 13 at the Nashville Palace with guest appearances by Gene Watson, David Ball, Jim Ed Brown and Buddy Jewell, among others.
• After cancelling a pair of shows more than a week ago, Sugarland backed out of three more concerts this past weekend, citing Jennifer Nettles' vocal problems. The duo hopes to be back on the road by next weekend. In the meantime, they'll be featured on the Aug. 3 ABC special Sugarland: Live On The Inside, the night before their CD/DVD with the same title gets released. The full concert will likewise be featured in movie theaters across the U.S. on Aug. 6.

Tracy Lawrence, Wanda Jackson Lead Country Honorees


Tracy Lawrence photo courtesy of Rocky Comfort Records.

July 27, 2009 — Tracy Lawrence will become an honorary citizen of a Texas city, Neal McCoy will be inducted into a music hall of fame, and rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson will have an alley named after her.
Numerous country stars are receiving civic honors in the coming weeks and months:
• Tracy Lawrence will be named an honorary citizen of San Antonio when he plays a concert date Cowboys Far West on Aug. 14. Tracy is the first country artist recognized in that fashion by the city.
• Oklahoma City is honoring the first lady of rockabilly music by renaming an alley in the Bricktown neighborhood as Wanda Jackson Way, according to Known for such pop and/or country hits as "Fujiyama Mama," "There's A Party Goin' On" and "In The Middle Of A Heartache," Wanda was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year. She's not the first performer to have a Bricktown street named in her ho nor. She was beaten to the punch by Vince Gill, jazz musician Charlie Christian and The Flaming Lips.
• Neal McCoy is slated for induction into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in Carthage on Aug. 15. Also joining that same day are Michael Martin Murphey and Linda Davis.
• Aaron Tippin collected the DAR Founder's Medal for Patriotism from the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution earlier this month at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. The award is given in "recognition of deeds, service or educational pursuits that go far beyond the obligations of an individual's employment or normal duties."

• Mount Airy, N.C., has set Oct. 29 as the date to rename a local road as Donna Fargo Highway, The Mount Airy News reported. N.C. 103 will bear her name across a 5.8-mile stretch in Surry County. Donna was one of the most successful country artists of the 1970s, earning million-selling singles with "Funny Face" and "The Happiest Girl In The Whole U.S.A."

Gene Watson Teams with Trace Adkins


Gene Watson performs at the "Dr Pepper Mega Music Show" at the Greased Lightning® Daytime Stages at Riverfront Park on Thursday, June 7 in Downtown Nashville during the 2007 CMA Music Festival. Photo Courtesy of the CMA. Photographer: Theresa Montgomery / CMA.

July 27, 2009 — Trace Adkins recently joined one of traditional country's smoothest voices, Gene Watson, in the studio to record a new song called "We've Got a Pulse."
"This song is an answer to the huge hit 'Murder on Music Row'," Gene tells AOL's The Boot. "It was written by Jerry Salley and Billy Yates, and in one word I'd say the song is 'defiance.' There's not a better song out there that states how I feel about country music."
The lyrics of "We've Got a Pulse" state that country is alive and well and will continue to live — and with Trace and Gene at the mic, there's no doubt about it.
Gene tells AOL the collaboration with his friend Trace came about naturally . "The song is even more special because Trace recorded with me," he says. "I've been a longtime admirer of him, both as a person and a vocalist, and it is a huge honor that he recorded the duet with me."
"We've Got a Pulse" is the first single from Gene's upcoming album, 'A Taste of the Truth,' which will be out August 25 on Shanachie Records. "This is a unique album for me because we stepped out a bit to include some more modern instrumentation but still keeping my style," says Gene, who topped the charts in 1981 with the song "Fourteen Carat Mind." "We've got plenty of fiddle and steel but some beautiful orchestration on one song and some contemporary songs by today's hottest writers."

Vince Gill Subject of First Grammy Salute to Country Music

July 28, 2009
Vince Gill will be honored by the Recording Academy in the first-ever Grammy Salute to Country Music, an invitation-only event on Sept. 9 at the Loveless Barn in Nashville. Steve Martin, Michael McDonald, Alison Krauss, Brad Paisley and Gill's wife, Amy Grant, are among those scheduled to appear at the event. The Recording Academy has previously hosted similar salutes within the classical, jazz and gospel genres. Neil Portnow, president/CEO of the Recording Academy, said the series "celebrates the work of extraordinary people and organizations that continue to ensure that these genres remain a vital part of our culture."

Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser Headlining CMT on Tour '09

July 28, 2009
Jamey Johnson and Randy Houser will headline CMT's eighth annual tour kicking off Oct. 8 in Brooklyn, N.Y. Billed as CMT on Tour '09: Jamey Johnson and Randy Houser, the first leg of the 30-city tour was announced Tuesday (July 28). Johnson and Houser are longtime friends and co-writers. "This tour is about 50 combined years in the making," Houser said. "I've been playing on the road since I was 15. Jamey and I both have been picking these guitars as long as we've been able to hold 'em. This is a chance to show the rest of the world how far we've come." The initial tour dates include appearances at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City, House of Blues in Las Vegas and Club Nokia at L.A. Live in Los Angeles. Tickets in select markets are on sale and available at and

Gretchen Wilson, Sony Music Part Ways

July 28, 2009
Gretchen Wilson and Sony Music Nashville have "mutually decided to part ways," according to a press release issued by the label on Tuesday (July 28). Wilson originally signed with Epic Records, which released the Redneck Woman album in 2004. The title track spent five weeks at No. 1 on Billboard's country singles chart and created national media attention for Wilson. The following year, she reached No. 8 at country radio with "All Jacked Up," but no subsequent singles reached the Top 20. Epic was folded into the RCA Label Group during Sony Music's merger with BMG in 2005 and 2006. The press release announcing Wilson's departure from the label indicates she and Sony Music Nashville will cooperate on future releases from her existing music catalog. Wilson's other Top 10 hits include "Here for the Party," "When I Think About Cheatin'" and "Homewrecker."

Dolly Parton Reflects on Moving to Nashville, Making Smart Decisions

She Reminisces About Meeting Her Husband, Filming With Porter Wagoner
Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton
With so many young people returning to college in a few weeks, visited with Dolly Parton -- who accepted an honorary doctorate in May from the University of Tennessee -- about moving to Nashville, meeting husband Carl Dean and making smart business decisions and managing employees.

You moved to Nashville immediately after graduating from high school. What do you remember about your first summer in Nashville?

Parton: Well, I met my husband my first day in Nashville because I was doing dirty laundry at a little place down on Wedgewood Avenue called the Wishy Washy. I was here looking around, thinking of my future and what all it was going to be, and that there were going to be no men in the picture at that time. So I met him and two years later, I married him. But he never held me back on my dream because he knew I had come here to be a singer and a songwriter. I just couldn't believe the day I got here. I thought, "I'm here. I'm really here. I'm really here forever. I'm here to live and to be part of it." I had made different trips back and forth, of course. It was home and has been ever since '64.

What odd jobs did you have when you first arrived?

Actually, I got lucky early on. I got a chance to write for a publishing company and had a little bit of money coming in. But before that, I used to fill up the ketchup and mustard bottles and fill the salt and pepper shakers at a restaurant called Couser's. They're still in business. It's the best country food in Nashville. It was then and it is now. They used to let me eat free if I would do those little things, so it really wasn't about money as much as it was just a swap-off for food.

You scored some cuts as a songwriter before your own performing career took off. What do you remember about that time?

Actually, the first one that was recorded by another artist was a song my uncle Bill Owens and I wrote. It was called "Put It Off Until Tomorrow," and it was the BMI song of the year (in 1966). ... Bill Phillips on Decca Records recorded it. I had sent the demo over. My uncle was singing the lead and I was singing harmony, so when [Phillips] got ready to record that, he said, "I want whoever that girl was to sing the same harmony." So I went to sing with him, which was a big deal because he was a big artist at that time. ... It was because of me singing on it that people started saying, "Who is that girl?" And when they found out, that's how I got my first record deal, as well.

I've seen episodes of The Porter Wagoner Show from the '60s where Porter puts his arm around people and pulls them right up to him. Was that typical of his personality?

Oh, yeah. Porter was a very warm, friendly country boy and was a real down-home person. Country people believe in putting their arm around you or slapping you on the back or whatever.

Being so early in your career, were you nervous about the TV cameras?

I was nervous with Porter! (laughs and lightly kicks the reporter in the shins) Getting back to being serious ... I remember when I was a little kid back in Knoxville, I was singing on a local show and one of the camera men said to me, "Just make friends with that camera and these red lights on the front of the camera." He said, "I know that'll be intimidating, but just look at that camera like you are looking at somebody in your family -- like you're looking at your mama." So from then on, I just looked at the camera like it was someone I knew, like it was my family looking back at me. Or somebody I had a crush on, depending on what song I was singing. If it was a love song, I'd look at that camera and flirt with it like it was a boy. ... I was never afraid of the camera, and I learned how to move back and forth with the red lights. I learned that early on.

When did you realize you had a knack for business?

Well, you don't really realize what you know until you look back later, when other people say, "How'd you know to do that?" To me, it was just natural to be protective of my songs. The second I was able to publish my own songs, I thought, "Why do I need to be letting other people handle my songs?" You have to do business in order to get ahead. ... The second I saw that I had enough going that I could start my own publishing company, not even knowing what I was doing, I started putting that together. That was one of the best moves I ever made.

What advice would you give for entrepreneurs hoping to hire the right people?

It's helpful if you've got that thing inside you to know what to do. If you don't know what to do, at least have a feel for what kind of people to choose. ... Knowing you don't know everything, go find the people that do know and don't begrudge what little dab of money you're going to pay them. A lot of people don't want to pay a percentage to have a manager or somebody to help them. But it's like that old saying: "I'd rather have half of something than all of nothing." You've got to let people do what they do, and you've got to find the people that know what they're doing. Keep your eye on them and make sure they're honest people. If they're not, get away from them as soon as you can. Take your losses and run.

View photos of Dolly Parton.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Jamey Johnson, Wilco Join Farm Aid Lineup

July 27, 2009
Jamey Johnson, Wilco, Jason Mraz and Phosphorescent have joined the concert lineup for Farm Aid 2009 on Oct. 4 in Maryland Heights, Mo., near St. Louis. The roster will also feature Farm Aid board members Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews. The annual event raises money and awareness for family farmers. Nelson is the subject of Phosphorescent's latest album, To Willie, which features covers like "I Gotta Get Drunk," "The Last Thing I Needed (First Thing This Morning)" and "The Party's Over."

Jason Aldean Schedules Live DVD for Aug. 25

July 27, 2009
Jason Aldean will release a concert DVD, Wide Open Live & More, on Aug. 25. He filmed the DVD during a concert in Knoxville, Tenn., on March 6. Filmed in high-definition, the collection features 15 songs, including "She's Country" and his latest hit, "Big Green Tractor." The DVD also features bonus interview footage. "This is the coolest thing we've ever done together as a band," Aldean said. "The energy in Knoxville was off the charts, and it's just really special for us to have that night recorded. Now, people who might not be able to make it to one of the shows, but are curious to know what we do, can check it out, too."

Taylor Swift Sets Record Attendance at North Dakota State Fair

July 27, 2009
Taylor Swift helped the North Dakota State Fair set an attendance record on Saturday (July 25), with more than 50,646 people attending the event in Minot, N.D. It's the first time daily attendance surpassed the 40,000 mark, fair organizers said. Swift joins Huey Lewis & the News as the only entertainers to sell out a concert during the event, with more than 16,000 in attendance. Swift's next concert will be Friday (July 31) in Boston.

CMT Insider: Alan Jackson Interview at Aquapalooza

An Estimated 35,000 Fans Showed Up for Concert on Lake Martin in Alabama
Editor's note: See more coverage of the concert on the new episode of CMT Insider premiering Saturday (Aug. 1) at 1:30 p.m. ET/PT.

"I'm gonna tell you, this has got to be the coolest show I've ever done here tonight," Alan Jackson said Saturday (July 25) to some 35,000 fans who traveled by boat to attend his concert on Lake Martin near Alexander City, Ala.

In addition to the crowd estimate, law enforcement agencies also reported that more than 4,000 boats showed up for the concert that also featured the Carter Twins, Jypsi, Matt Stillwell and Caitlin & Will. Jackson's performance was filmed for a concert special to air Sept. 4 on CMT.

An avid outdoorsman, Jackson told CMT Insider he looked forward to the informal show on Lake Martin.

"This Aquapalooza show has been going on for several years at different lakes," he said. "It was just good timing for me. It worked out that we were available to do this, and they let us come and be part of the show. It's a great event. And it's on a lake that I love."

It's not the first time Jackson has performed in such an isolated setting.

"I've done a few lake shows in Tennessee up on Center Hill [Lake]," he said. "Those are some of the best shows because, you know, you can't charge people to come. It's just kind of fun and laid back. People that love the water and love being on the lake and on their boats, they look for something to do and an event to go to -- whether it's a restaurant or a Fourth of July fireworks or something like this concert. It's a cool thing to be able to go on your boat and sit around and hang out with your family and friends and goof off and have fun and enjoy the music."

The concert attracted fans from as far away as California and Michigan, and many used inner tubes to paddle close to the stage. Jackson arrived in a vintage 1923 Hacker-Craft boat and reminisced about his visits to Lake Martin while growing up in Georgia.

"It's been twenty-something years since I've been here," he said. "It's been really cool to come back and be able to do a concert here on the water."

View photos of Alan Jackson's performance at Aquapolooza.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Julianne Hough Hopes for New Single Later This Year

July 24, 2009
Julianne Hough hopes to release a new single to country radio before the end of the year, with an album to follow in early 2010, according to an interview in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "This is the one, I think, that's going to make me or break me," she told the newspaper. "I could stay where I'm at or, hopefully, catapult." Currently on tour with George Strait, Hough starts filming a remake of Footloose in March with co-star Chace Crawford. A two-time winner on Dancing With the Stars, Hough turned 21 on Monday (July 20).

Charlie Robison Bandages the Wounds of Divorce in Beautiful Day

Album Chronicles Singer-Songwriter's Split From the Dixie Chicks' Emily Erwin
Charlie Robison
Charlie Robison
It would be rude to ask Charlie Robison about his divorce from the Dixie Chicks' Emily Erwin if he hadn't made it the centerpiece of his new album, Beautiful Day.

"As I was writing, I just couldn't act like it wasn't there," he tells Six of the 10 songs are Robison's own compositions. Keith Gattis, Bobby Bare Jr., Charles Bracco and Bruce Springsteen provide the other four. Robison also produced the project.

Brave though the album title sounds, it's obviously ironic -- and more than a little hopeful. Robison sings of the amputated limb that still aches. While he's past the first shockwave of the breakup, he's still in the zone where he desperately wishes it weren't happening.

Listening to the songs in sequence is like watching the running of a hooked fish, which, when the line is slack, can revel in the notion that it's actually free.

The title track attempts to be philosophical about the whole separation thing. "Yellow Blues" pulsates with righteous indignation. "Feelin' Good" and "She's So Fine" are exercises in wishful thinking. And so it goes -- light one minute, dark the next (as summarized most eloquently in Gattis' "Down Again").

Although he continued to perform regularly between recordings, Beautiful Day is Robison's first album in five years. He says he didn't approach it as a vehicle to convey the emotional fallout of his divorce.

"It just became that way," he explains. "I'll always go for a good song before worrying about stuff like [an overall concept]. I could tell when the songs were coming out they were some of the favorite songs I'd written, even though they were about that personal stuff."

Robison admits he wrote the songs as though his ex-wife were looking over his shoulder.

"I definitely envisioned her listening to them," he said. "I kind of felt that if the shoe were on the other foot, she'd be writing about the same thing. The record's not a vindictive one or anything like that. It's written more about me than it is her."

The outside songs, Robison says, were ones he was familiar with before he started recording the album. "It wasn't like I went looking for them," he said. "They were just right there whenever I was thinking about the subject matter."

It is perhaps a measure of Robison's own suffering that the songs never allude to his and Erwin's three children and the effect the divorce might have on them. He says he still spends a lot of time with them at his ranch in Texas.

Overlapping the album's theme of lost love is the dawning awareness of lost youth. "Gotta car full of dents/And a face full of lines," Robison sings in "Middle of the Night." And he ends the album with a sensitive cover of Springsteen's "Racing in the Street," which probes, among other things, an aging man's substitution of action for feeling.

Writing about his pain helped him relieve it, Robison says. "Basically, it was cheaper therapy. Once I got it down on paper and started looking at it kind of as an outside person, I was able to gain perspective on a lot of things.'

Now -- a year after his divorce became final -- Robison says he can listen to his Beautiful Day songs and for "99 percent of the time" feel like they're about someone else

Billy Currington's "People Are Crazy" Is This Week's Top Country Song

Taylor Swift's Fearless Reasserts Itself as No. 1 Album
Billy Currington
Billy Currington
Let's have a hand for Billy Currington, whose "People Are Crazy" pops this week to the top of Billboard's country songs chart. And a jaunty thumbs up as well for Taylor Swift's Fearless as it reasserts itself as the No. 1 country album.

Otherwise, it's a pretty tranquil scene -- just one new album and one new song to report, neither of which makes a big wave. Country Classics, a multi-artist collection of hits, barely cracks the chart at No. 75. Brad Paisley's "Water," a track from his new American Saturday Night album, sneaks in at No. 58 as his current single, "Welcome to the Future," climbs to No. 21 just four weeks after its release.

Albums returning to action include the Lost Trailers' Holler Back (re-emerging at No. 69), Craig Morgan's That's Why (No. 72), the Randy Rogers Band's self-titled release (No. 73) and Elvis Presley's Collector's Edition: Elvis Inspirational Memories (No. 74).

Rebounding into the songs chart are Kate & Kacey's "Dreaming Love" (No. 57), Lady Antebellum's "I Was There" (No. 59) and Mark Chesnutt's "She Never Got Me Over You" (No. 60).

Rounding out this week's Top 5 albums list are Paisley's American Saturday Night (last week's No. 1), the soundtrack to Hannah Montana: The Movie, the Zac Brown Band's The Foundation and Jason Aldean's Wide Open, in that order.

The No. 2 through No. 5 songs are Darius Rucker's "Alright," Lady Antebellum's "I Run to You" (last week's No. 1), Swift's "You Belong With Me" and the Zac Brown Band's "Whatever It Is.

HOT DISH: The First Family Gets a Taste of Country Music

Brad Paisley, Alison Krauss and Charley Pride Entertain the First Family
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

For six months, I've watched President Barack Obama laugh and frown, but I saw America's leader smile Tuesday night (July 21) when Brad Paisley, Alison Krauss and Country Music Hall of Famer Charley Pride performed in the East Room of the White House. He smiled a happy, pleased smile that made me know the main man of the U.S.A. likes country music -- and so does our first lady, Michelle Obama. Both of them were bobbing their heads in time with the music.

Eddie Stubbs, the Grand Ole Opry announcer who introduced the musical acts at the White House, made Obama aware that every president since Nixon has made it a point to visit the Opry. Just so you know, I was there when the first President Bush and his wife Barbara were there. They are huge country music fans. And then there was another time at the Opry when I was wearing sandals and then-Vice President Walter Mondale stepped on my toe. Ohhh!

Big guns like Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and Sony Music Entertainment Nashville chairman Joe Galante were among those who looked on proudly as Brad, Alison and Charley performed. Guitarist Dan Tyminski, a member of Alison's Union Station band, sang his award-winning version of "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow" from the movie, O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Not to say that Alison was nervous about performing for the president, but she allowed, "I can't look down. It's like when relatives are seated on the first row."

Brad, visually moved by being in the East Room of the White House, began his set with the title song from his new album, American Saturday Night, and followed it with "Then" before Alison joined him to sing "Whiskey Lullaby." Brad closed with his current single, "Welcome to the Future," his favorite of all the songs he's written. Brad makes some great observations in it, so it's my hope that fans will give the lyrics a close listen.

Speaking of Brad, I got a call from him, but I wasn't home. We used to talk a lot, but these days, he's so busy being famous. As for me, I was out checking out school clothes with my beautiful singing granddaughter. I returned the call to Brad, but it was the day he was heading to the White House. Returning a call to the White House or Hazel's house -- one takes precedence over the other, I suppose.

Dolly and Kenny Are Together Again

Back in 1983, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers had a huge hit with "Islands in the Stream," a song written by the Bee Gees that topped the country and pop charts. Well, Dolly and Kenny are at it again with a song titled "Tell Me That You Love Me." Wait until you hear it! I don't think very many people have heard the song yet, but the two of them sing like angels.

Sammy Kershaw Gets Hot

One of Sammy Kershaw's friends recently sent him a text message that asked, "Are you watching True Blood on HBO?" Sammy wasn't tuned in to the hit series, but he flipped the channel and pretty soon he heard part of "Louisiana Hot Sauce," a song he co-wrote with Keith Stegall in 1999 that was on his Maybe Not Tonight album. With True Blood being hailed by critics, bloggers and fans, Sammy's song was one of the top downloads at iTunes the following morning. Sammy's Web site was so overloaded with traffic that day, it crashed several times.

Entertainment Weekly has bragged on whoever is picking the music on True Blood. I spoke with Sammy, and he isn't sure who chose his song. He did tell me he's just finished an album and hasn't nailed down a home for it as of yet. If I owned a record label, I'd sign Sammy. He's one of our finest country singers.

Trace Adkins Becomes Action Hero

The wonderful Trace Adkins can now add action hero to his long list of accomplishments. In November, a new comic book series will feature Luke McBain, a tough Southern action hero based on Trace, the singing star. He's the first country artist to be featured as a fictional character in a comic book series. The drawing of the character favors Trace, and the comic book's plot will reflect some of his philosophy. The story takes place when McBain returns home to rural Louisiana after serving 14 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

Julianne and Emmy

Multi-talented Julianne Hough is nominated for an Emmy. She and brother Derek share the nomination for outstanding choreography for their dance routine to "Great Balls of Fire" on Dancing With the Stars. The Emmy Awards show airs Sept. 20 on CBS. The last I heard, Julianne will be co-starring with Chace Crawford in the remake of the film, Footloose. I'm wondering when that pretty girl is going to find time to work on her country music career.

Mac McAnally Ready for Album Release

A wearer of many hats, Mac McAnally is a respected singer, guitarist, songwriter and producer. He'll release his self-produced album, Down by the River, on Aug. 4 on the Show Dog Nashville label. Mac has pledged the royalties from the first single, "You First," to the Wounded Warriors Project. Earlier this year, Mac performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., to honor wounded soldiers.

Mac was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2007. The following year, he was named the CMA's musician of the year and was inducted into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame. Best known for his work on the road and in the studio with Jimmy Buffett, Mac has played behind or sang harmony for Roy Orbison, Hank Williams Jr., Travis Tritt, Linda Ronstadt, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Dolly Parton and many more.

More News

Kenny Chesney will be in Central Park in New York City on Aug. 14 for an appearance on Good Morning America's summer concert series.

In spite of the rumors, my dear friend who has worked with Merle Haggard for four decades assures me that Hag's recent concert cancellations were a result of a headache. We send prayers to the great Merle Haggard because we need him. Aren't Merle and Willie recording together in December?

With three No. 1 singles so far, Alan Jackson's Good Time is on the way to becoming his latest platinum album. The latest single, "I Still Like Bologna," is an ode to all things good and simple in the country life.

Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles has been put on voice rest. The duo had to cancel several shows after she strained her voice.

Brandi Glanville, actor Eddie Cibrian's wife and the mother of their two young sons, has filed for divorce and moved out, according to the New York Daily News. She accused country singer LeAnn Rimes of stalking her husband. Glanville also told Us Weekly that they deserve each other. According to the magazine, Rimes is still dating Cibrian.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Egg Custard Pie.


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