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CMA Awards Tickets Pre-sale

PRE-SALE - 43rd ANNUAL CMA AWARDS! Country superstars Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood host "The 43rd Annual CMA Awards" Wednesday, Nov. 11 LIVE from Nashville's Sommet Center, and you can BE THERE with all the stars!

Tickets go on sale to the public Saturday 9/19 at 10AM/CT, but you can buy early in a special CMA Exclusive PRE-SALE 9/16-9/18.

Visit Ticketmaster.com and use code EXCL09!
Pre-sale dates: Wed, Sept. 16 at 10AM/CT thru Fri, Sept. 18 at 10PM/CT

VIP Packages will be on-sale at Ticketmaster.com this Saturday 09/19/09 at 10AM/CT.

For full CMA Awards details, visit CMAawards.com.

Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood return to host in 2009 the 43rd Annual CMA Awards this year live from Nashville, TN on Wednesday, November 11 on ABC.
The song “Mama’s Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To be Cowboys?”  was written by Ed Bruce
2009 Willie Nelson's  new album “American Classic”  (Blue Note) is his first album of jazz standards since 1978's  “Stardust.”
Willie Nelson is on the road with Bob Dylan for a 2009 tour of minor league ballparks with John Mellencamp. The trek includes  more than 30 dates, with many of the stops at farm club stadiums across the U.S. Dylan and Nelson first teamed up for a tour of minor league baseball parks five years ago, and they reprised the baseball-themed road trip in 2005. But their current tour marks only the second time since the mid-1980s that Dylan and Nelson have shared the bill with Mellencamp
You know that when these artists travel they find the best equipment leasing rates possible.
ABC-TV will air the 43rd Annual Country Music Association Awards  Wednesday, November 11th  2009
live from the Sommet Center in Nashville, Tennessee.
The "Voice of Country Music" Vern Gosdin passed away April 29th 2009 age 74

Five More Stars Added to the 2009 CMA Music Fest Lineup
NASHVILLE – The excitement continues to build for 2009 CMA Music Festival as Jason Aldean, Rodney Atkins, Jamey Johnson, Jake Owen, and Taylor Swift are added to the performance lineup for the Nightly Concerts on the VAULT™ Concert Stage at LP Field. The four-day festival takes place Thursday through Sunday, June 11-14, in Downtown Nashville.

"We are delighted to add four of Country Music's brightest stars to our incredible talent lineup," said Tammy Genovese, CMA Chief Executive Officer. "Youthful and electrifying, this group of artists bring a new level of energy and excitement to the event that cannot be beat."

Former CMA Horizon Award winner and co-host of the 2008 CMA Music Festival television special, Swift
is a triple threat. The talented singer/songwriter can now add acting to her resume after appearing on an episode of "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation." In addition, Swift was the biggest selling artist of 2008 in any genre of music, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Swift's career record sales now top seven million.

Two-time CMA Award nominee Aldean has sold more than two million albums and is a Music Festival favorite with his high-octane performances. His third album, Wide Open will be available April 7, while the lead single, "She's Country" is currently in the Top 10.

Another two-time CMA Award nominee, Atkins had an astonishing four No. 1 hits from his Platinum selling 2006 album, If You Are Going Through Hell. His current single, "It's America," is a Top 10 hit and his album of the same name will be available Tuesday.

A CMA Award winning songwriter in 2007, Johnson exploded on the scene as an artist in 2008 with his hit "In Color" from his critically acclaimed album That Lonesome Sound. Johnson has also had songs recorded by Trace Adkins, George Jones, and George Strait.

After debuting with a Top 10 single, Owen's sophomore album, Easy Does It, debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Country Sales Chart. This will be his first "full band" performance on the VAULT™ Concert stage at LP Field as he performed an acoustic set in 2008.

These artists will perform during the Nightly Concerts on the VAULT™ Concert Stage at LP Field, along with previously announced performers Trace Adkins, Dierks Bentley, Brooks & Dunn, Julianne Hough, Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride, Reba McEntire, Montgomery Gentry, Brad Paisley, and John Rich. Additional artists will be announced in the coming weeks. Surprise guests have also become a hallmark of the Festival, enriching an already star-packed lineup.

Four-day tickets for 2009 CMA Music Festival are available now. The four-day ticket package includes the Nightly
Concerts on the VAULT Concert Stage at LP Field, exclusive access to the Greased Lightning® Fan Fair® Hall in the Nashville Convention Center, exclusive access to the Photo Lines at LP Field and Riverfront Park, exclusive access to the event shuttle between venues, and a registration bag, with collectible pin, and 2009 souvenir program book.

Buy tickets
Visit the all-new
CMAfest.com now!

MORE 2009 CMA Music Fest
Talent Announced

 June 11-14, 2009 in Downtown Nashville

NASHVILLE – The initial lineup of performers for 2009 CMA Music Festival is a strong mix of superstars and fan favorites.

“The talented folks that make up our initial artist lineup leave me in awe every time they perform,” said Tammy Genovese, CMA Chief Executive Officer. “We know our attendees are going to be thrilled.”

The list of performers on the main stage during the Nightly Concerts on the VAULT™ Concert Stage at LP Field includes:

• Former CMA Entertainer of the Year and four-time CMA Female Vocalist of the Year winner Reba McEntire, who last performed at the Festival in 2007.
• Four-time CMA Female Vocalist of the Year winner Martina McBride, who last performed at the Festival in 2007.
• Reigning CMA New Artist of the Year Award winner Lady Antebellum.
• Festival favorite and five-time CMA Award nominee Trace Adkins.
• Country Music entertainer and “Dancing with the Stars” sensation Julianne Hough.
• Musical firebrand and six-time CMA Award nominee Miranda Lambert.

CMA Music Festival will be held Thursday through Sunday, June 11-14, in Downtown Nashville. Over four jam-packed days, Nashville’s signature music event features concerts, autograph signings, family activities, and more. For 38 years, the event (which started as Fan Fair in 1972) has been an unparalleled celebration of America’s music, drawing thousands of fans and media from all corners of the globe to Nashville. CMA Music Festival was dubbed the “crown jewel of Country Music Festivals” by USA Today and winner of the International Entertainment Buyers Association’s 2004, 2006, and 2008 LIVE! Award for Festival of the Year.

The 2009 CMA Music Festival benefits music education in Music City. CMA, in a partnership with the Nashville Alliance for Public Education, has donated $2,245,421 million to further music education programs for the more than 75,000 children in Metro Nashville Public Schools. The philanthropic program, aptly titled “Keep the Music Playing,” was founded in 2005 as a way for the CMA Music Festival and its participating artists to give back to the community.

“We are thankful to our artist community for donating their time to CMA Music Festival in order to support music education in our local public schools,” said Genovese.

Tickets for 2009 CMA Music Festival are available now. To order, call 1-800-CMA-FEST (262-3378); visit www.CMAfest.com to download an order form to fax or mail; visit www.ticketmaster.com to buy online or charge-by-phone at 1-800-745-3000. Prices do not include applicable handling fees. Ticket prices are subject to change without notice. All sales are final and non-refundable.

Dolly Parton will be presented with an honorary doctorate from the University of Tennessee during the school's  May 18th spring commencement ceremony,  Parton is being honored for her career as an performer, philanthropist, and education advocate.

Little Jimmy Dickens underwent  brain surgery on January 13th 2009 in Nashville, after being  diagnosed with a subdural hematoma, a clot created when blood vessels tear and blood accumulates in the space between the brain and its protective covering within the skull. He is reportedly doing well.

Trace Adkins, Martina McBride, Michael McDonald, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Randy Travis and Jo Walker-Meador were recently  honored with the unveiling of commemorative sidewalk markers in the Hall of Fame Park in downtown Nashville.


 Merle Haggard recently had a cancerous growth removed from his lung  at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital. According to the hospital, the surgery was a success and he is in stable condition.
Hank Williams Jr. will be honored by Broadcast Music Incorporated this fall with the BMI Icon Award.  Artists chosen as icons have, "a unique and indelible influence on generations of music makers." Hank Junior has logged ten number one country singles, six Platinum and 20 Gold albums, 13 of which reached the number one spot on the charts. Williams will receive the award during an invitation-only ceremony in Nashville on November 11th.

A $95 million dollar upscale "senior living" facility for those who have made music their career is in the planning stages. It will becalled the Crescendo at Westhaven, located about 30 minutes south of Nashville in Williamson County. The 180-unit compound is projected for groundbreaking in 2011 and occupancy in 2013. The  project will be owned and supervised by the Crescendo Music Community Fund, a nonprofit organization made up of music industry and community officials, and is to be financed through tax-exempt revenue bonds. In addition to living quarters, the Crescendo will also have a recording studio and performance spaces.


Ricky Skaggs has  nominations for the 2008 19th annual Bluegrass Music Association International’s awards show. He his band, Kentucky Thunder, are nominated for Instrumental Group of the Year. Skaggs’ album “Honoring the Fathers of Bluegrass – Tribute to 1946 and 1947” is on the list for Album of the Year. Ricky and The Whites received nods for Gospel Performance for their collaboration, “Salt of the Earth.” That project is also up for Recorded Event of the Year. The 19th annual IBNA awards will be held October 2nd 2008 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.
Arlo Guthrie and Jerry Lee Lewis are among the new additions to the 2008 Farm Aid lineup. For Guthrie, it'll be his first appearance at the event since the 15th anniversary show back in 2000. While he was originally slated to take part in the 2006 Farm Aid, health problems forced him to cancel his appearance at the last minute. But the folk veteran is no stranger to the multi-artist charity show. He was an active participant in the early years of Farm Aid, performing at four of the first six concerts. Lewis doesn't have quite the same history with the event. He'll be taking part in his second Farm Aid, after making his debut at the event two years ago. Others on board for Farm Aid 2008 include organization founders John Mellencamp, Neil Young, and Willie Nelson, as well as longtime board member Dave Matthews, country star Kenny Chesney, The Pretenders, singer-songwriter Steve Earle, and Jakob Dylan. Farm Aid 2008 will take place in Mansfield, Massachusetts on September 20th.
Graceland has joined MySpace for a nationwide "Elvis Week Karaoke Contest." Participants can go MySpace's karaoke site at ksolo.myspace.com and get in on the competition by recording their versions of one of three Elvis songs: "Hound Dog," "If I Can Dream" or "Suspicious Minds." The winner gets to perform at Graceland on August 12th 2008. Recordings can be submitted until August 4th.
Steel guitar player Don Helms underwent heart surgery Monday and is doing well. Doctors expect him to make a full recovery.
 A new, two-hour TV special, Elvis: Viva Las Vegas, will air August 11th on CMT. The DVD and Blu-ray disc will go on sale exclusively at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club on August 12th. The special includes rarely seen footage of Presley performing in Las Vegas, numerous interviews with people who knew him and musical performances by Faith Hill, Toby Keith and Joe Perry, Chris Isaak and Brandi Carlile.
The CMA Awards will be held at the Sommet Center in
downtown Nashville, Tennessee on November 12 2008 during a live broadcast on ABC-TV.
An exhibit honoring Kitty Wells will open August 15th 2008 at
the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. Wells will be interviewed at the museum on August 16th and will also sign autographs in the museum store. Wells joined the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1976. She is best known for singing the groundbreaking country song, "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels." The exhibit will run through June 14, 2009.
Olivia Newton-John married businessman John Easterling during a private ceremony on June 21st 2008 in Cuzco, Peru, followed a week later with a second ceremony in Jupiter, Florida.
Tickets for 2009 CMA Music Festival, June 11-14 in Downtown Nashville, are available now!
To order tickets, call 1-800-CMA-FEST (262-3378); visit
CMAfest.com to download an order form to fax or mail; visit ticketmaster.com to buy online or charge-by-phone at 615-255-9600.
Prices do not include applicable handling fees. Ticket prices are subject to change without notice. All sales are final and non-refundable. Four-day ticket package categories correspond to a different level of seating at LP Field. Children 3 years and younger are admitted FREE.
The Tennessee portion of U.S. 45 has been named
“Rockabilly Highway.”
The U.S. highway runs through Presley's hometown of Tupelo, Miss., and Perkins' home of Jackson. The entire span of road goes from just north of Mobile, Ala., to Ontonagon, Mich., which is on the shores of Lake Superior. Only the nearly 55-mile section of road from the Mississippi/Tennessee state line to Interstate 40 was named Rockabilly Highway.
On the Web: www.CMAfest.com
Eddy Arnold has died
By Pat Harris - May 2008

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - Eddy Arnold, country music's "Tennessee Plowboy" whose rendition of "Make the World Go Away" was an international hit in the 1960s, died on Thursday at age 89 in Nashville after a lengthy illness.

His death was announced by his biographer, Don Cusi.

Rising from a poverty-stricken childhood in Henderson, Tennessee, Arnold connected with the Pee Wee King Band as a singer and went on to a career in which he was named to the Country Music Hall of Fame and received the County Music Association's first entertainer of the year award.

He won many other awards as he moved from pure country into pop-oriented arrangements that attracted a wider audience. In addition to "Make the World Go Away" he scored 16 other consecutive hits in the 1960s. His concerts sold out in New York's Carnegie Hall and he performed in Hollywood's Coconut Grove and top clubs in Las Vegas.

Before his retirement from active singing, he released a new RCA album, "After All These Years," in 2005.

Arnold starred on the Grand Ole Opry in 1943, signed with RCA the following year but did not have a hit until 1946 with "That's How Much I Love You."

Coming under the management of Col. Tom Parker, Elvis Presley's manager, Arnold quickly scored a string of hits and graduated from radio to television.

Many in the country music industry disapproved of his merging country and pop, but with his smooth baritone he quickly gained the reputation of being country's version of Bing Crosby. He sold more than 85 million records and had 147 songs hit the charts.

Among others, his hit singles include "Cattle Call," "Just Call Me Lonesome," "After Loving You," "I Want to Go With You" and "Tennessee Stud."

Arnold's wife, Sally, died earlier this year.

Earl Scruggs will receive a GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award,  for his part as an influential creator who has crafted or contributed to some of the most distinctive recordings in music history. Earl is recognized as a musician who revolutionized and popularized the banjo, developing what is known as the “Scruggs Style Picking.”
The Nashville Music Garden will be located in the Hall of Fame Park, and will feature flora of The Nashville Music Collection, special roses named for artists including Barbara Mandrell, Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, Lynn Anderson, Elvis, Amy Grant, Pam Tillis and Minnie Pearl. There will also be roses named after songs including “Ring of Fire,” “Tennessee Waltz,” and “Rocky Top.”
Marty Stuart, Ricky Skaggs, Ralph Stanley, Rhonda Vincent, Sam Bush and Jerry Douglas will  perform at MerleFest 2008, Doc Watson's annual Americana music festival, to be held April 24-27 in Wilkesboro, N.C.
The Nashville Songwriters Association International are buying the  Bluebird Café in Nashville to use as a songwriters venue.  The club has hosted performances by virtually every major songwriter in Nashville.
Rosanne Cash will undergo brain surgery in New York for a rare but benign condition. Rosanne, daughter of the late Johnny Cash, has been diagnosed with chiari I malformation, a congenital malformation of the skull that affects the brain and spinal cord.  She is expected to make a full recovery.
Emmylou Harris and Lyle Lovett will take fans on a cruise through the Caribbean early next year. The trip is being billed as “Cayamo, A Journey Through Song.” Pop singer Brandi Carlile and folk singer Patti Griffith are also expected to join the excursion, which sets sail on February 4th 2008and returns six days later.
Porter Wagoner died Sunday night 25th October 2007 in a Nashville hospice at age 80 from lung cancer
Porter Wagoner marked his 50th anniversary with the Opry back in May. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame five years ago.
Jamie Foxx To Join Rascal Flatts on CMA Awards
The Merritt Mountain Music Festival
Click here
Mary Gauthier
A large amount of  Elvis Presley memorabilia has been  lost in the Southern California fires. Lilly Lawrence had a priceless collection of mementos from the rock pioneer's past, which went up in smoke with her famed Malibu Castle Kashan, including original movie scripts from 32 of The King's films. These were documents Elvis actually used, and in the margins he'd written notes for the various projects. Also destroyed were songsheets for the tunes "Heartbreak Hotel" and "American Trilogy
“Family Tradition: The Hank Williams Legacy,” will open at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum next March 28th. and will include  Williams family scrapbooks and correspondences. Instruments and costumes belonging to Hank Sr. and Hank Williams Jr.
George Jones received a surprise 76th birthday party at Logan’s Roadhouse in Franklin, Tennessee, along with some 250 of his friends
Ricky Skaggs and the Whites have recorded their first album together, “Salt of the Earth,” set for September 25th release on Skaggs Family Records. The project features Ricky Skaggs, his wife Sharon, sister-in-law Cheryl and father-in-law Buck. Skaggs' band, Kentucky Thunder, performs on the album as well.
Willie Nelson is part of the cast of  a political comedy titled “Swing Vote.” . The film is being produced by Kevin Costner's Treehouse production company and will also feature Dennis Hopper, Kelsey Grammer, George Lopez and Costner. No release date has been announced.
Jerry Lee Lewis and Tom Waits will join Neil Young for his annual Bridge School Benefit Concert October 27th and 28th.  The two-night fundraiser will raise money for the Bridge School, a special educational facility that helps children with severe speech and learning disabilities.  The 21th annual Bridge School Benefit Concerts will take place at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California
Second leg of Keith's Love, Pain & the whole crazy World Tour
The second leg of Keith's Love, Pain & the whole crazy World Tour has been announced! Be sure to log onto KeithUrban.net throughout the month to see new tour dates and when Keith is coming to your area!

Each tour city will host its own web party on Keith's Tour page. So click your city to see what's happening. Find out when your Monkeyville pre-sale begins and when tickets go on sale to the public. You can also check out your local country radio stations as they announce the tour and find out what promotions are going on in your area. Don't forget to chat with your friends within the community forum - each tour city has its own thread!

The place for all your tour information is KeithUrban.net. See you on the road!

CMA Songwriters Series Lands at "Joe's Pub in the Park" in NYC
On Thursday, Sept. 20 (7:00 PM/ET),
the CMA Songwriters Series will be part of "Joe's Pub in the Park," a two week musical festival held at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park.
The CMA Songwriters Series at "Joe's Pub in the Park," will include performances from Bob DiPiero ("Blue Clear Sky" recorded by George Strait and "You Can't Take the Honky Tonk Out of the Girl" recorded by Brooks & Dunn); Gretchen Peters ("Independence Day" recorded by Martina McBride and "The Secret of Life" recorded by Faith Hill); Rivers Rutherford ("Ain't Nothin "Bout You" recorded by Brooks & Dunn and "Real Good Man" recorded by Tim McGraw); and Victoria Shaw ("The River," recorded by Garth Brooks and "I Love the Way You Love Me" recorded by John Michael Montgomery).
Tickets for "Joe's Pub in the Park" on Sept. 20 are $50. For information about Joe's Pub or to order tickets, visit joespub.com or call (212) 967-7555. Joe's Pub is located at 425 Lafayette St. in New York City.
New Artist Spotlight:
Luke Bryan

By Kristen Scherer
© 2007 CMA Close Up News Service / Country
Music Association, Inc.

Luke Bryan comes by his Country-as-cornbread credentials honestly. Growing up in rural Leesburg, Ga., the young singer/songwriter spent a good deal of his time farming peanuts, corn and cotton on surrounding farms and helping his dad in the fertilizer business. Country Music was everywhere, and Bryan grew up on a steady diet of Alan Jackson, George Strait, Conway Twitty and Hank Williams Jr. His dad bought him an Alvarez guitar and was soon taking him to Skinner's, a local watering hole, to let the youngster display his already-impressive vocal and guitar chops with local bands.

After high school, Bryan seemed destined for a Country Music career when tragedy struck the family. Just as the singer was preparing to leave for Nashville, the news came that his older brother Chris had been killed in an auto accident. Devastated, Bryan resolved to put aside his plans, enrolled in Georgia Southern University and after graduation, took a "real job" in the area at his father's agriculture business, to stay close to his family.

Finally, with his family's encouragement, Bryan moved to Music City in September 2001, secured a publishing deal with hit songwriter Roger Murrah's company and began writing the songs that would lead to a contract with Capitol Records Nashville.

Bryan co-wrote all 11 tracks on his self-titled debut released on Aug. 14, which was produced by Jeff Stevens, and includes debut single, "All My Friends Say," written with Stevens and Lonnie Wilson.

"I'm glad I waited before moving to Nashville," Bryan said. "Not only am I a better writer and singer with more performing experience, but I've also lived a lot more. I'm ready."

Who is your musical hero?
"Randy Owen."

Which song would you secretly like to cover?
"'Single Thing in Mind' by Conway Twitty."

What song do you wish you had written?
"Earl Thomas Conley's 'Might Be What I'd Say.'"

What word or phrase do you find yourself saying over and over again?
"We'll get it handled."

Who is your dream duet partner?
"Dolly Parton."

On The Web: lukebryan.com
Photography courtesy of Capitol Records Nashville.
A Woman's Touch: Country's Female Producers Rise to the Top
By Holly Gleason
© 2007 CMA Close Up News Service / Country Music Association, Inc.
In hip-hop, there's Missy Elliot. In pop, there's Linda Perry. Both are formidable female producers that artists flock to in hopes of scoring a hit. In the past year, Country Music has seen Alan Jackson and Toby Keith, two genre-defining current superstars - enlist women to marshal in new colors to their palette with Alison Krauss and Lari White respectively assuming the producer's mantle.

The question that faces artists who opt to work with a woman at the console is this: Aside from their individual talents, do female producers bring something different to the creative table by virtue of their gender? CMA Close Up sought the answer by bringing together three successful female Country producers - hit songwriter Victoria Shaw, who is currently working with up-and-coming Nashville trio Lady Antebellum; critically-acclaimed Southern California artist/writer Wendy Waldman, a veteran producer whose credits include albums by Matraca Berg, Suzy Bogguss, the Forester Sisters and New Grass Revival; and multi-dimensional songwriter/artist White - and inviting them to talk about what a woman knows. Ironically, the one thing that seemed to be universal was the notion that gender wasn't as much a factor as one might think.

Victoria Shaw       Wendy Waldman       Lari White
What advantage does being a woman give you?
Shaw: "Honestly, my biggest advantage is not being a woman but being a songwriter whose hits were sung by men. As for the fact that the biggest demographic in Country Music happens to be women over 30, well, I have a little more experience in that then any male producer out there."
Waldman: "Girls are taught, more than boys, to respect their intuition, to pay attention to their feelings and the subtler messages that go on between people. This is a foundation in how we raise children. So we are encouraged to rely on our instincts, to read people's moods, to hear what isn't necessarily being said; it's the natural lesson for women."
White: "I approach the studio like my house: I make sure everybody's fed really well and they're comfortable. Our studio is right by our house and we built it like a home studio, so it feels like that - except it's big enough for a whole band. In that kind of environment, I think people feel more open about throwing out an idea or trying something that doesn't work."

Was that a reason why your clients hired you to produce for them?
Waldman: "Men are still not encouraged to go to those deeper levels in interactions with people. In most cases, they're taught to ignore feelings and push on through to get the job done, where a woman in the studio will read the artist, sense his or her turmoil probably a little faster than most guys. A majority of women will tend to be able to nurture an artist better, since that's what we're equipped to do. Many artists try to mask their fear and their fragility, so unless you're really intuitive, you can miss that entirely. This can severely impact the entire record, because a frightened, or distracted, or privately worried artist will not be able to give his or her best performance. That's a major difference."
White: "For Toby, I know absolutely it was for shock value, but in the end, he'd never have done a whole album if something wasn't working - and it was like cutting butter, it was so fun and easy! The thing I do best is work with singers, because I know what's important and I speak their language. So it's easier for me to coax someone into staying with it beyond the few vocal passes to get something magical. As far as making music in general, I believe mostly in the joy of it. Toby said he'd not had that much fun making a record in a long time. That's why I try to create a place where it's really 'playing' music . a high play factor and a lot of love."

What are you looking to bring out in the song and in the artist?
Shaw: "I think I approach it a lot differently than most people. Physically, I can explain how to hit every note, every line. I am a singer, and there's a big difference when you're producing vocals. I've been working with and developing an extremely talented singer/songwriter named Hillary Scott; though she's always had an amazing instrument, I take a lot of pride in helping her discover her 'chops.'"
Waldman: "For me, everything is built from the artist out, as opposed to from the track in. A tremendous amount of thought should go into the way the artist's vocal and performances are captured; the great risk here is actually over-producing and losing the focus on the singer."

How much does gender play in realizing songs or performances?
Shaw: "One of the reasons I've been so successful as a songwriter is that I bring a woman's perspective. I've always had a knack for writing songs for men to sing that women want to hear. I've always been able to get inside the head of whatever gender I'm working with."
White: "I respond to sexy a lot, especially with ballads. It's probably different with a guy producing a guy. I'm free to go, 'Oh, that is so hot!' I can recognize that, encourage it, so there's an element of romance on the Toby record that was part of my package."

What does being a woman free you from in the studio?
Shaw: "Free me from? I never really thought about that, but since there are so few role models for woman producers, I guess that gives me a clearer path to just be me."
Waldman: "Being female allows me to step around the contention that occasionally goes on between men and can be quite serious, though it might appear as a quiet undercurrent. It's a quiet power struggle in any number of areas. The only thing a producer should ever worry about is how well you feel a groove, the mood of the artist, or where the whole package is going."
White: "I don't have to tell dirty jokes to break the ice. Beyond that, it's all the same. I have the technical knowledge to write charts and talk about mechanics and sonics, but I mostly just love players and artists and songs. Producing is a great way to share the love."

What constitutes a successful production? What do you hope to realize?
Shaw: "When the song and singer stand out, not the production. I'm so tired of great productions on mediocre songs."
Waldman: "I want what every producer wants. I hope to make records that reflect the truth of the artist or band, that help them move people. Patience is the most important quality a producer needs, and the older I've gotten, the more patient I find myself. Also, I'm not as afraid to make mistakes, to go back and start something over if it's not working. I want things to be simpler, more elegant, more powerful and not as cluttered. If only I could get my closets to do that!"

Photography: Shaw photo by Peter Nash; Waldman photo by Michael Boshears; White photo by Leslie Bohm. Photos used by permission.
The musical adaptation of the 1980 movie “9 to 5” starring Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda will hit Broadway in the spring of 2009. Parton is writing songs for the new show, but she says she won’t play the part of the secretary in the stage production.

In honor of the late Bill Monroe, mandolin masters Frank Wakefield, Mike Compton and Roland White will perform at the Monroe-Style Mandolin Camp's faculty concert taking place September 8th in Owensboro, Ky., at the Owensboro Symphony Academy. In addition to mandolinists Skip Gorman and David Long, the program will also feature Tom Ewing, who played guitar in Monroe's band, the Blue Grass Boys, during the last eight years of Monroe's life.  The camp, scheduled for Sept. 7th-9th, is presented by the International Bluegrass Music Museum.
Dolly Parton won't be dancing on “Dancing With The Stars.”, but she's scheduled  to sing on the new season's opening show
Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby are appearing at the 2007 Americana Honors and Awards Show on November 1st at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee.
The final nominees for the 2007 CMA Awards are:
And the Nominees Are...
Kenny Chesney
Brad Paisley
Rascal Flatts
George Strait
Keith Urban
Alison Krauss
Miranda Lambert
Martina McBride
Reba McEntire
Carrie Underwood
Kenny Chesney
Brad Paisley
George Strait
Josh Turner
Keith Urban
Jason Aldean
Rodney Atkins
Little Big Town
Kellie Pickler
Taylor Swift
Alison Krauss and Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas
Dixie Chicks
Emerson Drive
Little Big Town
Rascal Flatts
Big & Rich
Brooks & Dunn
Montgomery Gentry
The Wreckers
(Award goes to Artist and Producer)
“Anyway” Martina McBride Produced by Martina McBride RCA Records
“Before He Cheats” Carrie Underwood Produced by Mark Bright
19 Recordings Limited/Arista Records

“Lost In This Moment” Big & Rich Produced by Big Kenny and John Rich
Warner Bros. Nashville

“Ticks” Brad Paisley Produced by Frank Rogers and Chris DuBois
Arista Nashville

“Wrapped” George Strait Produced by Tony Brown and George Strait
MCA Nashville

(Award goes to Artist and Producer)
5th Gear - Brad Paisley
Produced by Frank Rogers and Chris DuBois
Arista Nashville

It Just Comes Natural - George Strait
Produced by Tony Brown and George Strait
MCA Nashville

Long Trip Alone - Dierks Bentley Produced by Brett Beavers
Capitol Records Nashville

Love, Pain & the whole crazy thing - Keith Urban
Produced by Dann Huff and Keith Urban
Capitol Records Nashville

These Days - Vince Gill
Produced by Vince Gill, John Hobbs and Justin Niebank
MCA Nashville

(Award goes to Songwriter and Primary Publisher)
“Anyway” - Martina McBride/Brad Warren/Brett Warren
Delemmava Music/Bucky and Clyde Music

“Before He Cheats” - Josh Kear/Chris Tompkins
That Little House Music/Mighty Under Dog Music/Sony/ATV Cross Keys

“Give It Away” - Bill Anderson/Buddy Cannon/Jamey Johnson
Sony/ATV Tree/Mr. Bubba Music/Slow Run Music/EMI Blackwood

“Lost In This Moment” -  John Rich/Keith Anderson/Rodney Clawson
Rich Texan Music/Warner-Tamerlane/Writer’s Extreme/
EMI April Music/Romeo Cowboy

“Stupid Boy” - Dave Berg/Deanna Bryant/Sarah Buxton
Song Planet/That Little House Music/Cal IV Songs/ BergBrain Music

(Award to each Artist)
Reba McEntire with Kelly Clarkson “Because of You”
MCA Nashville

Tracy Lawrence featuring Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney
“Find Out Who Your Friends Are”
Rocky Comfort Records/CO5

Jimmy Buffett with George Strait and Alan Jackson
“Hey Good Lookin’” (Live) MCA Nashville

Alison Krauss and John Waite - “Missing You”
Rounder Records

Vince Gill with Guest Vocalist Alison Krauss -
“The Reason Why” MCA Nashville

(Award goes to Artist and Director)
“Anyway” - Martina McBride Directed by Robert Deaton and
George J. Flanigen IV

“Before He Cheats” - Carrie Underwood
Directed by Roman White

“Moments” - Emerson Drive Directed by Steven Goldmann

“Online” - Brad Paisley Directed by Jason Alexander

“You Save Me” - Kenny Chesney Directed by Shaun Silva
Eddie Bayers, Jr. – Drums
Jerry Douglas – Dobro
Dann Huff – Guitar
Mac McAnally – Guitar
Randy Scruggs – Guitar
Paisley and Strait Lead CMA Awards Nominations CMA Communications
© 2007 Country Music Association, Inc.
The final list of nominees for “The 41st Annual CMA Awards” covers the broadest spectrum of the format from traditionalists, Country Music hit makers, crossover innovators with several fresh faces added to the mix.

“Country Music is thriving on the talent and creativity of an outstanding group of artists and they are well represented with our nominees,” said CMA Chief Operating Officer Tammy Genovese. “These talented performers, musicians, songwriters, producers, and directors demonstrate the artistic depth and creativity of our format. It is an exciting time for Country Music and the 2007 CMA Awards will definitely reflect that in November.”

“Since our inaugural broadcast of the Awards last year with the historic 40th anniversary, we’ve enjoyed a special and growing relationship with the Country Music Association as true partners to bring the very best of the country’s music to ABC,” said Vickie Dummer, Senior Vice President, Alternative Series, Specials, and Late-Night, ABC Entertainment. “We’re proud and honored to be the network that is home to the CMA Awards and we congratulate all of the outstanding nominees for their achievements.”

“The 41st Annual CMA Awards” will be broadcast live from the Sommet Center in Nashville, Wednesday, Nov. 7 (8:00-11:00 PM/ET) on the ABC Television Network.

For the second year, the announcement of the final nominees in five of the 12 CMA Awards categories was made on ABC News’ “Good Morning America” with Sara Evans and Sugarland from the “Good Morning America” studios in the heart of New York City’s Times Square. The remaining categories were announced by Montgomery Gentry and Taylor Swift on a special edition of CMT’s “CMT Insider” live from the CMA Awards Nominees Press Conference at the Sommet Center in Nashville.

At the conclusion of the announcements,
Brad Paisley and Country Music Hall of Fame member George Strait lead the list of nominees with five nominations each. Paisley was nominated for Entertainer, Male Vocalist, Album for 5th Gear, Single for “Ticks,” and Music Video of the Year for “Online,” which was directed by actor-turned-video director Jason Alexander .

Strait received nominations for Entertainer, Male Vocalist, Album for It Just Comes Natural, Musical Event with Jimmy Buffett and Alan Jackson on the live MCA version of “Hey Good Lookin’,” and Single of the Year for “Wrapped.” Strait could win two additional trophies as producer for Single and Album of the Year. Other nominees benefiting from Strait’s windfall are songwriters Bill Anderson, Buddy Cannon and Jamey Johnson who were nominated for Song of the Year for the “Give It Away.” Strait now has 70 career CMA Award nominations, trailing only Jackson, who has 75 with this year’s nomination for Musical Event of the Year.

Reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year
Kenny Chesney received four nominations this year for Entertainer, Male Vocalist, Musical Event with Tracy Lawrence and Tim McGraw on Lawrence’s “Find Out Who Your Friends Are,” and Music Video of the Year for “You Save Me” directed by Shaun Silva .

Alison Krauss received four nominations including Female Vocalist of the Year, Vocal Group of the Year for
Alison Krauss and Union Station Featuring Jerry Douglas, and two for Musical Event of the Year with John Waite (his first CMA Awards nomination) on “Missing You” and with Vince Gill on “The Reason Why.” Douglas was also nominated for Musician of the Year. Krauss last won the Female Vocalist of the Year category in 1995. She has been nominated in the category five times including each year from 2002-2005.

Martina McBride also had four nominations for the 2007 CMA Awards including Female Vocalist of the Year, Single, Song and Music Video of the Year for “Anyway,” which she co-wrote with Brad Warren and Brett Warren. The music video was directed by Robert Deaton and George J. Flanigen IV. McBride could pick up an additional trophy as producer for Single of the Year for the inspiring ballad.

John Rich scored a variety of nominations in 2007 including Vocal Duo of the Year and Single of the Year for “Lost In This Moment” with duo partner Big Kenny Alphin as Big & Rich, which they also produced; and as a songwriter with Keith Anderson and Rodney Clawson for “Lost In This Moment.”

After winning the Horizon Award and CMA Female Vocalist of the Year in 2006,
Carrie Underwood is back in 2007 with three nominations for Female Vocalist, Single for “Before He Cheats” and Music Video of the Year for the same song directed by Roman White. Songwriters for “Before He Cheats” Josh Kear and Chris Tompkins were nominated for Song of the Year.

Reigning Male Vocalist of the Year
Keith Urban had three nominations for Entertainer, Male Vocalist and Album of the Year for Love, Pain & the whole crazy thing, which he co-produced with Dann Huff, who is a Musician of the Year nominee. Songwriters Dave Berg, Deanna Bryant and Sarah Buxton also received a nomination for Song of the Year for Urban’s “Stupid Boy.” Urban has won the Male Vocalist Award every year he has been nominated (2004-2006). He won Entertainer of the Year in 2005.

Rounding out the nominees for Entertainer of the Year is
Rascal Flatts. The group was first nominated in the category in 2006. The category has only been won by two groups in CMA Awards history: Alabama (1982, 1983, 1984) and Dixie Chicks (2000). Rascal Flatts has swept the Vocal Group of the Year category the past four years and are nominated in that category again in 2007.

Completing the list of nominees in the Vocal Group of the Year category are
Dixie Chicks, Emerson Drive and Little Big Town. Dixie Chicks have won the category four times (1998, 1999, 2000 and 2002) and were last nominated in 2003. This marks Emerson Drive’s first CMA Awards nomination. They also received a nomination for Music Video of the Year for “Moments” directed by Steven Goldmann. Little Big Town was nominated for the first time in this category in 2006. They also received their second Horizon Award nomination this year.

Expectation surrounds the Female Vocalist of the Year category. Rounding out the list with McBride, Krauss and Underwood are Miranda Lambert and Reba McEntire. This marks Lambert’s first nomination in this category. She received her first CMA Awards nomination in 2005 for the Horizon Award and in 2006 was nominated for Horizon and Music Video of the Year.

McBride and McEntire are tied with the most wins in the Female Vocalist category in history – even surpassing Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette’s previous records. McBride won in 1999, 2002, 2003 and 2004. McEntire won in 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1987. McEntire was last nominated in the category in 2004. With her two nominations, McEntire solidifies her position as the female artist with the most nominations (45) in the 41-year history of the CMA Awards.

She is also nominated in the Musical Event of the Year category with Kelly Clarkson for “Because of You,” marking the first season “American Idol” winner’s first CMA Awards nomination.

This is the first year that
Josh Turner’s name is on the list of nominees for Male Vocalist of the Year. Turner was nominated for the Horizon Award in 2004 and 2006.

An artist may only be nominated for the Horizon Award two times and this year there are several new hopefuls joining two-time nominee Little Big Town on the list including Jason Aldean, Rodney Atkins, Kellie Pickler and Taylor Swift .

Dierks Bentley won his first CMA Award in 2005 with the Horizon trophy and in 2007, he received his first nomination for Album of the Year for Long Trip Alone, produced by Brett Beavers. A CMA Awards voter favorite, Vince Gill, is also nominated for Album of the Year for These Days. Gill could pick up an additional trophy as producer with John Hobbs and Justin Niebank .

Sugarland makes its debut in the Vocal Duo of the Year category this year with fellow nominees Big & Rich, Brooks & Dunn, Montgomery Gentry and The Wreckers .

The CMA Awards nominees and winners are determined by the 6,000 industry professional members of CMA, which was the first trade organization formed to promote an individual genre of music in 1958. Winners of “The 41st Annual CMA Awards” will be determined in a third and final round of voting by eligible voting members of the Country Music Association. CMA Awards balloting is officiated by the international accounting firm of Deloitte & Touche LLP.

“The 41st Annual CMA Awards” is a production of the Country Music Association. Walter C. Miller is the Executive Producer, Robert Deaton is the Producer. Paul Miller is the Director. The special will be shot in high definition and broadcast in 720 Progressive (720P), ABC’s selected HDTV format, with 5.1 channel surround sound.

Premiere Radio Networks is the official radio packager of the CMA Awards, including a stereo-radio simulcast of the gala event. American Airlines is the official airline of the 2007 CMA Awards. Chevy: The Official Ride of Country Music. Mary Kay® is the Official Beauty Sponsor. Additional promotional partners include Crisco®, Gibson Guitar®, and Greased Lightning® Cleaning Products.

Charlie Daniels has recorded a series of duets to be released October 9th. Guests include Brad Paisley, Brooks & Dunn, Vince Gill, Del McCoury Band, Bonnie Bramlett, Travis Tritt, Dolly Parton, Marty Stuart, Brenda Lee, Montgomery Gentry and Hootie & the Blowfish vocalist Darius Rucker.
Ray Price, Merle Haggard, Billy Joe Shaver and polka king Jimmy Sturr have been added to the list of performers at Farm Aid 2007  on September  9th at Randall's Island in New York City. This year's Farm Aid will also feature Montgomery Gentry, the Allman Brothers Band , Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews and Willie Nelson.
Hank Williams Jr. is among those being considered for induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.  The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Dinner and Induction ceremony will take place in Music City on October 14th.
Making  a movie about Carl Perkins’ life.
Carl Perkins' daughter Debbie Perkins Swift is developing the project. Swift says she was with her legendary father in his hospital room after he had suffered several massive stroke. She says she made the comment that she wished she knew where he went when he would drift out of consciousness, and claims -- even though doctors had said Perkins couldn't communicate with anyone -- that he raised his head and said, quote, "I go to the thinkin' place," and gave her a detailed description of what he told her was heaven. Debbie notes that given the circumstances, she believes she was meant to share Perkins' story. She's adds that she's hoping the movie will be released within the next two years. Paul McCartney, who owns the rights to Perkins' catalog, is also on board for the project. He's reportedly said he'll support the film and produce a record of Carl's tunes once the film is close to completion.
    George Strait                      Blake Shelson
Billboard's Top 30 Current Country Albums
(Sales week ending 8/19/07)
1. Taylor Swift, Taylor Swift
2. Luke Bryan, I'll Stay Me
3. Brad Paisley, 5th Gear
4. Tim McGraw, Let It Go
5. Carrie Underwood, Some Hearts
6. Toby Keith, Big Dog Daddy
7. Rascal Flatts, Me And My Gang
8. Big & Rich, Between Raising Hell & Amazing
9. Sugarland, Enjoy the Ride
10. Jason Aldean, Relentless
11. Billy Ray Cyrus, Home At Last
12. Alison Krauss, A Hundred Miles Or More
13. Kenny Chesney, The Road & The Radio
14. Halfway To Hazard, Halfway To Hazard
15. Tim McGraw, Relentless: Greatest Hits Vol. 2
16. Keith Urban, Love, Pain & the whole crazy thing
17. Rodney Atkins, If You're Going Through Hell
18. Bucky Covington, Bucky Covington
19. Lori McKenna, Unglamorous
20. Tracy Lawrence, For The Love
21. Kellie Pickler, Small Town Girl
22. Little Big Town, The Road To Here
23. Dierks Bentley, Long Trip Alone
24. Miranda Lambert, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
25. Josh Turner, Your Man
26. Martina McBride, Waking Up Laughing
27. Blake Shelton, Pure BS
28. Billy Currington, Doin' Somethin' Right
29. Montgomery Gentry, Some People Change

30. Jason Michael Carroll, Waitin' In The Country
(Source: Nielsen SoundScan)
Pre-Sale on CMA Awards Tickets!
As a benefit of subscribing to CMA Exclusive, you have the opportunity to purchase tickets to "The 41st Annual CMA Awards" BEFORE the public
on-sale Thursday, August 30. This members-only pre-sale for the CMA Awards broadcast begins at 10:00 AM/CT, Monday, August 27 and runs through Wednesday, August 29 at 10:00 PM/CT. Be there with the stars during “Country Music’s Biggest Night™!”

A limited number of tickets will be available so do not delay. Tickets can be purchased by logging on to
Ticketmaster.com  .

The ticket prices are as follows: $164.00 for Bronze-level seating; $218.50 for Silver-level seating; $327.75 for Gold-level seating; and $273.25 for limited-view Platinum-level seating (all prices include sales tax and exclude applicable service/handling fees).

You will be asked to provide the following promotion code: EXCL
“ I Walked the Line: My Life With Johnny,” a book by Johnny Cash's first wife, Vivian, will be released September. 4th. Before her death in 2005, Vivian told her story to TV producer Ann Sharpsteen, who shares an author credit on the book in which Vivian describes Cash's early career, how June Carter entered their life and Vivian and Johnny's divorce in 1966. Vivian is the mother of Cash's four daughters.
TV Talent Contests Help Launch Country Acts
By Deborah Evans Price
© 2007 CMA Close Up News Service / Country Music Association, Inc.

One has to look no farther than the recent success of "American Idol" alumnae and labelmates Kellie Pickler (19 Recordings/ BNA Records) and Carrie Underwood (19 Recordings/Arista) to document the impact talent competitions provide in launching new artists. However, FOX-TV's "American Idol" isn't the only such vehicle to jump start aspiring Country Music artists.

Competitions have long provided a talent pool for A&R executives at Country record labels. Sawyer Brown made its bow on CBS-TV's "Star Search" back in 1983 and became the first winner of the nationally televised show.

Brad Cotter, George Canyon, Buddy Jewell, Erika Jo, Miranda Lambert, John Arthur Martinez, Chris Young and newcomers Angela Hacker, Jason Meadows and Lance Miller are among the artists who got their start on Music Row via USA Network's "Nashville Star." In addition to those artists, Lyric Street Records' Bucky Covington and Josh Gracin both gained a national audience via "American Idol."

LeAnn Rimes hosted the 25th anniversary of the Colgate Country Showdown as North Carolina native Megan Peeler walked away with the $100,000 prize. The televised one-hour special was syndicated nationwide by MG Perin, Inc., and also aired on GAC (Great American Country). Throughout the contest's 25-year history, Garth Brooks, Tracy Byrd, Billy Ray Cyrus, Sara Evans, Brad Paisley, Martina McBride, Tim McGraw and Neal McCoy are some of the artists who won the competition at either the state or local level.

"It meant everything in getting jump started that fast," Sawyer Brown frontman Mark Miller recalled of the group's "Star Search" experience, which fans still remember as the band's springboard. "The TV show made such a big splash, especially back then for Country Music. Our first two albums went Gold and Platinum. Back in '85 for a Country act to sell 100,000 units was a big deal and we sold 250,000 albums the first couple of weeks, if I remember correctly."

Sawyer Brown still records for Curb Records and, in addition to his work with the band, Miller has several other endeavors. He owns Beach Street Records, a Christian label that is home to the Platinum-selling band Casting Crowns. He also produces other artists, among them Covington, who placed eighth on "American Idol" during its fifth season.

"He has a cool, cool sounding voice," Miller said. "I discovered Bucky because my son was his biggest fan. Literally, when Bucky got voted off, my son Gunnar made me call him. He said, 'Daddy you have to help him.' That's literally the way the whole thing began."

Needless to say, Covington was pleasantly surprised when he got the call from Miller. "The day after I got voted off the show, Mark Miller called my hometown newspaper and got my phone number and called me up," said Covington, still sounding somewhat incredulous at his good fortune.

Miller and his son weren't the only ones taking notice of Bucky, which made things easier when Miller began looking for a label deal for Covington. "I really didn't have to shop him around," Miller said. "I knew Doug [Howard] and Randy [Goodman] at Lyric Street. I literally just made a phone call and they pretty much said 'yes.' Doug had seen Bucky throughout the show and was a fan."

Sawyer Brown has taken Covington out on the road, and Miller said he's seen first hand the recognition generated by the "American Idol" phenomenon. "It is mind boggling how many people saw that show," Miller said. "When we bring him out on stage, we don't even have to introduce him. They see that long blond hair and they start going nuts. They know exactly who it is."

Lyric Street Records President Randy Goodman is not surprised. "We've always known the power of network television," he said. "You'd have to be a monk to not know the impact 'American Idol' is having on the general population."

Goodman said "American Idol" exposure helps acts break more quickly. "With somebody like Carrie Underwood and Josh and Bucky, you've got acts that are already branded to a certain degree. Radio stations know who Bucky is or Kellie Pickler is or who Josh is, and they definitely know who Carrie Underwood is. So, you've got a built in awareness and that awareness creates interest. Radio is always going to be the primary way that I sell records and that I alert and activate the audience, but 'American Idol' has created an instant recognition and awareness."

Covington said "American Idol" exposure definitely helps put a new artist on the fast track. "One of the toughest things for a new artist is you have to put out three to four good songs before people know who you are," he said. "The greatest thing about the show is you've got fans before you put the single out. That's a great head start."

Goodman said that Covington getting to work with Miller is a major plus for the new artist because he understands what it's like to gain acclaim from a talent competition. "He went through that process," Goodman said. "What's great about Mark as a mentor is he came from a contest show. He won it. He understands that immediate love that everybody pours on you, but he also understands that to build a long term career, you have to take that foundation, that kind of branding, and build on top of that with great, great songs. Mark and Sawyer Brown did that and Mark has proven to be an extraordinary businessman. There is not a better person than Mark that Bucky could be working with."
Covington's labelmate Gracin said talent contests are a great way for aspiring acts to break into the business.

"I tried to get into Country Music a long time before the show," Gracin said. "I recorded a CD and tried to plug it and get things going. It never worked. So I took a step back from music and went into the Marine Corps. Then the show came up and I thought that would be a pretty cool way to get my foot in Country Music. I tried it and I got a spot on the show. It's done wonders for me." Gracin has scored a Gold album, a No. 1 single and two Top 5 singles.

"American Idol" exposure helped make Pickler's debut album, Small Town Girl, a tremendous success. Like Gracin, she's grateful to have had "Idol" as a launch pad.

"Everyone watches it and they get to be a part of our success," she said. "They pick the winner and they get to watch you grow from the very beginning of a career, all the way to the top. And they support you afterwards, buying your albums and coming to your concerts."

Though "American Idol's" TV exposure provides that competition with tremendous visibility, the longest running Country talent competition - and the one that has launched some of the most successful artists - is the Colgate Country Showdown. It is produced by Special Promotions, Inc., which partners with 470 radio stations across the country. In 2006, the Showdown sponsored more than 550 live shows, exposing lots of new talent. Launched in 1982, Wrangler was the original sponsor of the event.

Over the years Coca Cola, Jimmy Dean, Dodge, GMC and True Value have served as title sponsors, but the one constant throughout the years has been Dean Unkefer, who spearheads the Showdown.

"Through production manuals and media coordination, we assist radio stations and fairs in their promotion of the Showdown," Unkefer said. "It's synergy. We all take pride in it and there's a place for everyone on this program."

Unkefer loves helping aspiring acts be seen and heard. "The most important thing in the Showdown is not winning or losing but having the opportunity to perform in front of live audiences and help contestants be exposed to industry professionals," he said.

Such exposure can have longterm effects. Troy Gentry won the Jim Beam Talent Contest in 1994 as a solo act, before teaming with Eddie Montgomery to form Montgomery Gentry on Columbia Records. Jim Beam supported his burgeoning career and continues to do so by sponsoring Montgomery Gentry.

"They kept up with what was going on with my solo career and tried to help me out," Gentry said. "Then Eddie and I got put together and the people who were involved in the Jim Beam contest contacted our management company to see if we could hook up for a sponsorship."

Gentry encourages other aspiring artists to try the competition route. "I think the winning of the contest was encouragement for me to keep on playing, which led to Eddie and I getting back together to form Montgomery Gentry."

Though there can sometimes be a stigma associated with being a talent contest winner, those who have used it as a portal to the music industry don't regret it.

"If this is bad, I've got it good," Pickler laughed. "At the end of the day, regardless of how you make it, you've made it. I can only thank 'American Idol' for the exposure they've given me in launching my career."

Gracin is also proud of his 'Idol' past. "It will always be a part of where I came from and what I've done," Gracin said. "I never try to downplay that at all because without it, I wouldn't be where I'm at. It's been very instrumental in everything."

On the Web: americanidol.com ;     countryshowdown.com; usanetwork.com/series/nashvillestar

Sara Evans

"The 41st Annual CMA Awards" will be broadcast live from the Sommet Center in Nashville Wednesday, Nov. 7 (9/8c) on ABC.
New Artist Spotlight:
Stephen Cochran

By Kristen Scherer
© 2007 CMA Close Up News Service / Country
Music Association, Inc.
Family tradition and true-to-life stories have been at the heart of great Country Music, and with his self-titled debut album, Stephen Cochran brings them together in 13 Country songs that seamlessly blend the old and the new.

Born in Pikeville, Ky., and raised in the heart of Nashville's creative community, Cochran watched his Dad, Steve Cochran, wrestle with Music Row's starmaking machinery as a struggling songwriter and artist.

"That was my school, coming home and watching Dad practice and play and write," Cochran said. "There's a song on the album called 'Old School' that says, 'I remember what Daddy told me, you've got to play it how it feels and just always keep it real.'"

Cochran had just commited himself to the music business when history postponed his fledgling career on Sept. 11, 2001. He joined the Marines light armored reconnaissance division and served two tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, losing a dear friend to enemy fire and breaking his back in the process.

Dedicating his recovery time to his deferred music dreams, Cochran soon ammassed the catalog of songs that would attract the attention of Aria/Quarterback Records Nashville, who will release the singer/songwriter's self-titled debut album, featuring three Cochran originals, on Aug. 28. The leadoff single "Friday Night Fireside" was written by Butter, Scott Harris, Vencent Hickerson and Isaac Rich (brother of Big & Rich's John Rich).

Who is your musical hero?
"Elvis Presley."

Which song would you secretly like to cover?
"Tracy Lawrence's 'Find Out Who Your Friends Are.' I love that song."

What CD is on your stereo?
"Waylon Jennings with Willie Nelson, If I Can Find a Clean Shirt."

What do you sing in the shower?
"'Lonesome Dove' by Garth Brooks."

What moment in your life would you relive if you could?
"May 7, 2004, the night that my friend, Ron Payne, was killed in enemy fire in Afghanistan."

Which mode of transportation do you prefer - planes, trains or automobiles?
"Planes, only because I tend to be impatient."
On the Web:
Reno Fontana recently purchased  Presley’s Palm Springs home and wants to turn it  into  a tourist attraction. The Spanish-style white stucco home has five bedrooms and seven bathrooms.  Elvis and Priscilla Presley bought the home in April 1970. The family, including daughter Lisa Marie, lived there part-time.After his death, Presley's lawyer took control of the estate.  Fontana, a lifelong Elvis fan, plans to decorate it in elaborate Elvis style and build a chapel, banquet hall and recording studio to attract weddings and recording  business
Reba McEntire's "Because of You," her duet with Kelly Clarkson, marks Reba's 55th top ten single. She's now tied with Dolly Parton as the female country artist with the most top ten hits, and is now four singles ahead of Loretta Lynn, who is in third place.
Dolly Parton planning to embark on a world tour next year which will include shows in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Australia
Vince Gill, Mel Tillis and Ralph Emery will be officially inducted during a ceremony at the Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville in October. Vince Gill is an 18-time Grammy-winner and has sold more than 22-million albums. 
US Country Music Television (CMT) Launches Artists' Blog Page.
CMT.com has launched a blog that will cover a wide range of country-related topics, including music, videos and television programs. The Wreckers, Lance Miller and Halfway to Hazard have been confirmed as future bloggers, and singer-songwriter Sunny Sweeney and the Greencards' Eamon McLoughlin have already contributed blog entries. The Wreckers are touring this summer as Keith Urban's opening act, and Halfway to Hazard and Lance Miller are part of Tim McGraw and Faith Hill's Soul2Soul 2007 tour. Additionally, Nashville Skyline columnist Chet Flippo and other members of the CMT.com editorial staff are also regularly writing for the blog. Readers are invited to read the blog entries and post comments at http://blog.cmt.com
This CMT blog is really taking off with a life of its own. Eamon of The Greencards posted a very insightful review of the Rocky Grass Festival
while Sunny seems to have incited a wicked dialog about today's commercial country radio and traditional country music. Be sure to click on the "comments" link at the bottom of each entry to peruse the ensuing dialogs.
Tanya Tucker  recently lost 500-thousand-dollars worth of stage clothes and jewelry as her  former fiancé, Jerry Laseter, was reportedly driving a U-Haul truck in a caravan from Nashville to Nevada when he left the group, then text messaged Tucker and demanded money for gasoline, and that he would sell her things if she did not pay him. Tucker reportedly agreed to give Laseter one-thousand-dollars and two tickets back to Nashville. But  Laseter allegedly took the truck to Palace Station and left it and when Tucker opened it, it was empty. Tucker has since recovered all the items that were missing from the vehicle. Laseter has been arrested along with Chrislynn Jones, who was charged as a co-conspirator. They have both been released from custody after paying three-thousand-dollars bail each.
The city of Honolulu is now the home of a life-sized bronze statue of Elvis Presley,  at the site of his 1973 "Aloha from Hawaii" concert.  The performance, which was broadcast globally via satellite, was the first musical event ever to air live world-wide.  During his career Presley played several concerts in the state, and he shot three of his films on the islands.  The unveiling of the Elvis monument is one of the many commemorations taking place this summer in conjunction with the 30th anniversary of Presley's August 16th, 1977 death. 
Graceland may level its visitors center and adjacent Heartbreak Hotel if plans to expand the Memphis tourist attraction are completed.  While Elvis Presley's former home is safe from construction, the managers of Graceland want to build a $250 million convention and tourist center, as well as a high-tech museum, which would be located on the same side of the street as the mansion for the first time. Plans by the company CFX, which bought Presley's name and image from Lisa Marie Presley in 2006, also call for a digital recreation of Presley as part of the Graceland experience. No construction schedule has been announced. The 30th anniversary of Presley's death will be observed on Aug. 16 in Memphis.
The 2008 CMA Music Festival will take place Thursday through Sunday, June 5-8, in Downtown Nashville and tickets are available now. Fans who want to experience the excitement of the Festival firsthand, can order tickets by calling 1-800-CMA-FEST (262-3378); visiting CMAfest.com to download an order form to fax or mail; or visiting Ticketmaster.com to buy online or charge-by-phone at (615) 255-9600. Prices do not include applicable handling fees. Ticket prices are subject to change without notice. All sales are final and non-refundable.
The Gold Circle section is already sold out and tickets are selling at a rapid pace. Fans are encouraged to order early for best available seating. Four-day ticket packages correspond to a different level of seating at LP Field. Children 3 years and younger are admitted free.

Gold Circle (Floor) SOLD OUT N/A
Floor Level $165 $116
Lower Level $145 $102
Club Level $135 $95
Upper Level (GA) $110 $78

CMA Music Festival is organized and produced by the Country Music Association. CMA Board member Tony Conway is the Executive Producer of CMA Music Festival. Premiere Radio Networks is the official radio broadcaster. Chevy: The Official Ride of Country Music. Mary Kay® is the Official Beauty Sponsor. Fan Fair® is a registered trademark of CMA.
Charlie Daniels, Rodney Atkins and Taylor Swift will perform at the 11th Annual Christmas For Kids Benefit Concert Monday, Nov. 19 at the Ryman Auditorium. Tickets are available at www.christmas4kids.org.  All proceeds from this and other events such as the Tour Bus Show will be donated towards the children's Christmas shopping excursion.
Ex-Elvis girlfriend Linda Thompson and actress Raquel Welch are among those sharing their memories of The King with "Ladies Home Journal."  Thompson notes that Elvis was a needy man who liked having a mother figure in his life, one of the roles she says she was happy to play for him.  But she adds that he was very paternal as well, both towards her and to his daughter, Lisa Marie.  Thompson also says Elvis didn't want to die young, but had looked forward to the future.  She says he especially wanted to see Lisa Marie grow up and have a family of her own, and he wanted to be a grandfather.  Also included are  actress Mary Ann Mobley, who co-starred with Presley in "Harum Scarum;" and rockabilly singer Wanda Jackson, an early girlfriend who also toured with Elvis in 1955 and '56 and saw first-hand how he skyrocketedd from obscurity to superstardom.  The women are featured in the August issue of "Ladies Home Journal."
TV Land is planning special programming throughout August in honor of the 30th anniversary of Presley's death.  The "Concert Weekends" will include broadcasts of the "Elvis: '68 Comeback Special," "Aloha From Hawaii," and "Ed Sullivan's Rock 'N' Roll Classics: Elvis Presley."  The channel will also present a mix of Presley films -- such as "Love Me Tender," "Easy Come, Easy Go," "Speedway," "Roustabout," "Fun in Acapulco," and "Paradise Hawaiian Style" -- with other documentaries and made-for-TV movies about The King. 
Hank Williams Jr. will be honored as a “CMT Giant” with his own two-hour special.  “CMT Giants” will air in November on CMT.
“Air Castle of the South: WSM and the Making of Music City”  will be published in November by the University of Illinois Press. Written by Craig Havighurst, the book explains how the country radio station transformed Nashville, Tennessee into a city known for music and entertainment.
Floyd Cramer played piano on Patsy Cline’s record of “Crazy” along with Walter Haynes on steel guitar, Buddy Harmon on drums, Grady Martin on lead guitar and Bob Moore on bass
Emmylou Harris and the Grascals  will be performing at the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Fan Fest October 5th -7th  in Nashville, Tennessee  at the Grand Ole Opry House.
Forty-four people were arrested in Canada during a four-day country music festival that featured Reba McEntire, Carrie Underwood, Big & Rich, and Gretchen Wilson. Some 23,000 people showed up for the final day of the Craven Country Music Jamboree in Craven, Saskatchewan. Ten people were arrested for impaired driving, but the Royal Canadian Mounted Police also investigated five assaults, two assaults with a weapon, four sexual assaults and seven thefts.
Charlie Louvin celebrated his 80th birthday on July 7th 2007 with a performance at the Grand Ole Opry and on the ”Midnight Jamboree” at Ernest Tubb’s Record Shop near the Opry House. Sunday he will celebrate the world premier of his new video “Ira,” which is about his brother Ira Louvin, at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.  Ira and Charlie Louvin were a top brother act in the 50’s and early 60’s. Ira was killed in an auto accident in 1965. Charlie is still performing.
Dan Seals is battling Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cancer at Nashville’s Vanderbilt Hospital and Houston’s MD Anderson.  He is reportedly doing well but will continue to undergo treatment.   - 2007
July 2nd,1956, Elvis Presley recorded “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Hound Dog” at the RCA Records’ New York studios. When the two songs were released as a double-sided single later that year, they hit number one and stayed there for eleven weeks. That session also marked the first time that Elvis used the gospel trio the Jordanaires as his backup group.
The Nashville Convention & Visitor's Bureau estimates the combined total attendance for the recent 2007 CMA Music Festival was 191-thousand people.
Charlie Daniels was awarded the Secretary of Defense Medal during a recent visit to the Pentagon, for his exceptional public support of the armed forces. Charlie has performed at 20 military installations around the globe for America military personnel.
The International Bluegrass Music Awards will be held October 4th in Nashville, Tennessee  at the Grand Ole Opry. The award show is part of the World of Bluegrass week, October 1st through 7th.
Willie Nelson has recorded "I Hear You Knockin'" for the Fats Domino tribute album, “Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino,’”which will be in stores on September 25th. Other artists on the album include Elton John, Paul McCartney, and Tom Petty. Proceeds from sales will be used to purchase musical instruments to be donated to public schools in New Orleans, Domino's hometown.
Crystal Gayle and Dwight Yoakam will be inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame in 2008.The Hall of Fame is located in Renfro Valley, Kentucky.
Visit CMAfest.com today to listen to the first in a series of "Road Stories" from today's road warriors - those artists hitting the pavement to take Country Music to the fans!

First up is Show Dog Nashville group
Carter's Chord , who spoke with us recently following an acoustic performance at the CMA offices.

Look for upcoming "Road Stories" from artists including Eric Church, Cowboy Crush, Ray Scott and more!
Jason Aldean: A Year To Remember
By Keith Ryan Cartwright
© 2007 CMA Close Up News Service /
Country Music Association, Inc.

Sitting on his bus parked outside of the Pengrowth Saddledome in Calgary, Canada, Jason Aldean paused to gather his thoughts before declaring, "Yeah, it's been a weird year."

If you consider snow in Las Vegas weird, yeah, it has been a weird year for Aldean. And if you consider the fire that ravaged Treasure Isle, the studio he was using to record the follow-up to his Platinum self-titled debut, it's been a really weird year for the Georgia native.

"I almost had a heart attack," Aldean recalled, of the phone call he received from producer Michael Knox. "He was like, 'Everything's cool, but the studio caught fire.' I was really nervous. You hit stuff the first time that's just on instinct. I would have hated to try and recreate it ... but once he said the masters were fine, I was OK."

"The first single is 'Johnny Cash,' and we really mixed it in a ring of fire," joked Knox, who started mixing the new album two days later amidst the reconstruction process. "We had to mix in all the ash and change clothes twice a day. It was awful, but I had no choice."

The fire happened on a Saturday in mid February, while Aldean was in Vegas filming a video with director Wes Edwards for "Johnny Cash." During an otherwise cold month in Music City, the emerging singer/songwriter thought a trip to the desert would have been a reprieve from the winter-like weather. Not so, as it snowed the day he filmed the video.

"I sure hope this is not a sign of things to come in '07," said Aldean, only half in jest.

For the past two years, though, everything has seemed to be working, especially since the release of his sophomore album Relentless, a groove-laden collection that borders on a rock 'n' roll sound.

"We're ready for some new music," he admitted. Two years ago, when Knox and his touring band cut Aldean's debut, no one knew exactly who would make up his fan base. This time, however, they have a better idea of who the fans are and what they want.

"The first record struck a nerve," Aldean said. "You want songs you like and songs they can relate to, but it's kind of a balance."

If the early success of "Johnny Cash" forecasts how fans and radio will react to the new album, then Aldean is poised for his fourth trip into the Top 10. Less about Cash as a person and more about the Man in Black as a symbol of freedom, "Johnny Cash" resonated immediately with those who have heard the hardhitting tune about a man willing to abandon his cramped routine for a life with fewer constraints.

"It embraces the attitude of Johnny Cash," Aldean explained. "I was going to put it on my first record."

Unfortunately, the publishers of the song wound up holding it for another artist. Though disappointed, Aldean responded by cutting "Hicktown," which like "Johnny Cash" included John Rich of Big & Rich and Vicky McGehee among its writers. (Big Kenny also co-wrote on "Hicktown," while Rodney Clauson shares writer credits on "Johnny Cash.")

Amidst the success of the first album, Aldean and Knox never stopped listening to "Cash," and when they started selecting songs last year, fortunately for them, "Cash" hadn't been recorded. "I still wanted to cut it," Aldean said. "'Hicktown' was a great song to introduce us with, and 'Johnny Cash' became a great intro to the second album."

"The cut you hear on the radio is the one I cut at Warner Chappell," Knox explained. "It was the one I cut to get him his record deal and the one that everyone passed on. We just went in and remastered it."

Aldean's growth as a singer is evident on Relentless. Be it the vocals of "Grown Woman," a duet with Miranda Lambert, the swampy "I Break Everything I Touch," or the hard-driving "Back in This Cigarette," Aldean solidifies the raucous, goodtime attitude he established the first time around.

"It's more me personally finding my niche," Aldean explained, "knowing what I like to sing, what comes off in the live shows and what works for me. It has the same vibe as the first album. There are some cool things on there, and we cut some things that may never be heard on the radio but they were cool to us." The "we" he refers to is the band he's toured and recorded with for the past nine years. They've embraced their success as a group, with Aldean pointing to one particular show in Portland, Ore., late in 2005, as the moment they knew their collective efforts were beginning to pay off.

"The crowds were getting a little bit bigger," Aldean said. "Until then they were honky tonks and we just happened to be there, but that night they were coming to see us. We started playing 'Hicktown' and they started singing back, word for word. That's when I realized we were making an impact outside of Nashville and Georgia.

"We're still building a fan base. We had a couple big weeks. But it's been a steady build, which is great 'cause now we're getting ready to drop the second album. It's perfect timing."

It hasn't always been this perfect.

In the summer of 2003, Aldean was ready to "throw in the towel," as he put it. His first record deal didn't materialize into anything. His publishing deal was about to expire and it didn't look as though it would be renewed. He was married to his high school sweetheart and they were expecting their first child to go along with a mortgage and two car payments he could no longer afford.

Just days before moving back to his hometown of Macon, Ga., and reprioritizing what was most important to him, he got a call saying that Broken Bow founder Benny Brown, who resurrected Craig Morgan's career, was interested in signing him. Aldean stopped applying for new jobs, put off the move home, and by January 2004, he was signed.

His debut Platinum-selling album spawned three successive Top 10 hits: "Hicktown" (No. 9), "Why" (No. 1) and "Amarillo Sky" (No. 4). More than 18 months later it remained the oldest release on Billboard's Top 20 Country Albums Chart.

The sweetest part of this picture, Aldean noted, is the creative freedom that transpires when "not only are you an artist on a label, but you experience everything together for the first time. It doesn't happen every week. When a milestone happens, it's a big deal - and it should be."

The milestones and success he had at radio have led also to extensive touring, which hasn't been easy on his family. But, Aldean observed, "you have an obligation to your career. It's not ideal for all families ... but it's our lifestyle."

On the Web: jasonaldean.com

Photographer: Kristin Barlowe
Photography courtesy of Broken Bow Records.
Charlie Louvin performed at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum's Ford Theater on July 8, that weekend he turns 80. Louvin also premiered a music video for "Ira," a song featured on his new self-titled album featuring guest appearances by numerous artists. The video was shot  at Shangri-La Records in Memphis, Tenn., with additional footage shot in Louvin's hometown of Manchester, Tenn. He wrote the song as a tribute to his late brother, Ira Louvin, who was killed in an automobile accident in 1965.  The Louvin Brothers were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001.
The Country Music Association awards will be held November 7th in Nashville, Tennessee.  They will air on ABC at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.
Kris Kristofferson was named the Country Music Hall of Fame's artist-in-residence this year 2007.
Rodney Atkins Goes Deep
By Bob Doerschuk

© 2007 CMA Close Up News Service /
Country Music Association, Inc.

There's a message buried within the lyrics on Rodney Atkins' If You're Going Through Hell album.

Actually, there are two. The more obvious one is suggested by the visual references that bring its stories to life. Thompson's Barn, Martin's Creek, that old gray fence: All of these places in his songs are real. There's a deeper meaning, though, which reveals a lot more than this artist's home ground: Atkins simply will not record, or even sing, a song that doesn't tell some truth about his life.

"That's all I can sing about," he affirmed, speaking shortly after completing a promotional video for Target near his home. "Greg Hill, from my management company [Red Light Management], has this picture of me from a photo shoot, wearing the clothes I wear every day - the ball cap, the T-shirt. And whenever we listen for new songs, he says to me, 'Okay, this guy in the picture - would he sing this song? Will folks feel comfortable with him doing it?' That's how I choose what I sing; it comes from how I live."

This was true when Atkins, an East Tennessee native, released his Curb Records debut, Honesty, back in 2003. Someone who followed the rules of radio-friendliness might not have picked the title cut for a single. Atkins himself was dubious. Luckily, for 13 years now, he has worked closely with producer/songwriter/musician Ted Hewitt, who knew that keeping it real counted more than keeping it commercial. And so, sensing that title song "Honesty" would connect, he challenged his friend to give it another shot.

"It was a four-minute ballad and another song was already slated as the first single," Hewitt recalled. "But I believed that Rodney would come around. He's a strong person. He can be set in his ways. But I respect that. And we respect each other to the point that if one of us is passionate about a song the other isn't sure about, we try to find what it is that he feels."

"The guy that drives a truck views things differently from the guy who puts on a suit every day and runs a company," Atkins said. "So when I heard 'Honesty' I thought, 'Well, that's kind of nice. It's so nice that it's gooey.' But Ted made me understand that it's about what people face every day. And I still get e-mails from folks in major corporations as well as truck drivers about how this song affects them."

"Honesty" made it into the Top 5, but the title cut from If You're Going Through Hell and the second single, "Watching You," both climbed to the top of the charts while the album went Gold within the first four months of its July 2006 release date. And it's no coincidence that both songs reveal even more of who Atkins is.

"It's funny," said Dave Berg, who co-wrote three of the tracks on this album. "Sometimes when we're writing, Rodney will play me a song that he's heard, something that blows him away, but he'll say that he's not interested in recording it because it's not really him. So when we started writing 'In the Middle,' I could see how it does reflect where he's at in his life right now. He is that everyday, blue-collar guy, living the songs he sings."

"I want to let people know through my music about my life, the decisions I make and the things I hold dear, like family and growing up in the South," Atkins explained. "People talk about getting around the kitchen table to eat supper. We don't do that: We eat on the front porch, which looks out onto the old tar-and-chip road that leads to our house. That's where the good road ends - the blacktop - and the gate used to be, when they had cattle on our property. We can see that road from the porch, and then across from that is another field and then the woods. At night you can look up and see all the stars."

The people with whom he shares this Eden are as important as the land itself. "When the alternator goes down, you call your neighbor," he said. "You ask if they can come over and help you work on this, and they do it. Or if they see you doing fencing, they'll pull their truck over and help you out. To me, that's the American way of life. When I listen to Alan Jackson, that's how he feels to me - like my neighbor. I want my songs to hone in on that too."

The songs on If You're Going Through Hell are snapshots taken from this world, especially the ones with his name among the writer credits: "About the South," a litany of lifestyle icons ("We believe the Book of John and we drive John Deere."); "Wasted Whiskey," an old-school jukebox lament that doesn't forget to recommend having a designated driver; and "In the Middle," which is actually about as close as a song can get to taking a picture of one man's life and homestead - it's so close to the bone that Atkins jokingly described it to co-writer Berg as "directions to our house."

"When I signed my record deal and went through the different producer situations while making my first album, I kind of forgot what brought me here and the kinds of songs that changed my life," Atkins said. "After I finished that album and went on the road, it came back to me: 'Oh, yeah, I'm singing to people, not to a bunch of record executives. This is what I love.' The music business is in Nashville, but out here it's just music."

All of that is true, but it's true as well that success will change even some of those things that a Country Music star-on-the-rise holds dear. With his schedule growing more demanding while he gears up to go on tour in April with Martina McBride and Little Big Town and 90-minute drives into Nashville for meetings or flights out of town, Atkins and his wife Tammy Jo are thinking about the unthinkable: leaving their home up on the ridge and moving closer to the city.

"Yeah, we're talking about that," he admitted. "But we're not talking about moving into town. Wherever we wind up, I've got to have some land around me, somewhere to ride four-wheelers and get out into the woods, because we're still the same folks we always were. I'm that guy who doesn't put the toilet paper on right or leaves something spilled on the counter or makes too much noise in the morning when he goes out fishing. Luckily, Tammy Jo loves me for who I am - not who I was or who I'm going to be, but in that moment, right then. So no matter where we go from here, these are the best years of my life."

On the Web: rodneyatkins.com
Photographers: Erick Anderson and Eric Welch
Photos courtesy of Curb Records.
New Artist Spotlight: Lantana
By Kristen Scherer
© 2007 CMA Close Up News Service /
Country Music Association, Inc.

Is Country Music ready for another prodigiously talented trio of females emanating from the Lone Star state? With their debut album, Ubridled, the three veteran musicians who comprise Lantana answer with a Texas-sized "yes." Texans Karol Ann DeLong and Biz Haddock, and Alberta, Canada-native Dalene Richelle came together in a creative and supportive club scene in Dallas and the musical magic and personal chemistry were evident immediately.

"We were three strangers who are now three friends," said group founder Haddock. "We've become kindred spirits; we laugh, we cry; we pull each other along."

Produced by Bill Green and released in September 2006 on BGM Records, Lantana's 13-song debut covers a lot of ground, reflecting the trio's wide-ranging influences that include everything from gospel and R&B to Don Henley and Dolly Parton. Right out of the box, Lantana's debut single, "Country as a City Girl Can Be" (written by Billy O'Rourke and Mitch Stephen), hit the Top 10 on the Best in Texas chart and stayed there for 12 weeks. The trio contributed one of their own songwriting collaborations to the album, the fiddle-driven "The Juice Ain't Worth the Squeeze," and showcased its softer side with the release of their sophomore single, the heartfelt ballad, "Let Somebody Love You."

Lantana played some springtime dates in France and Switzerland, the perfect warm up for the band's appearance at the 2007 CMA Music Festival in Nashville.

DeLong: "'At This Moment' by Billy Vera & The Beaters."
Hadock: "'Don't Mess Around with Jim' by Jim Croce."
Richele: "'Sweet Child of Mine' by Guns and Roses."

DeLong: "The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream by Paulo Coelho."
Hadock: "Phillip Yancy's What's So Amazing About Grace."
Richele: "Living Buddha Living Christ by Thich Nhat HanH."

DeLong: "'I Will Always Love You.'"
Hadock: "Sarah McLachlan's 'I Will Remember You.'"
Richele: "'I Hope You Dance.'"

On the Web: lantanamusic.com
Photographer: Melissa Webb
Photo courtesy of BGM Records.
John Carter Cash, has written a book about his mother. “Anchored in Love: An Intimate Portrait of June Carter Cash,” and includes stories of June’s life on the road with the Carter Family when she was only a child and stories about her life with Cash. John includes information about her various marriages, her own trial with drugs and her skill as a musician and entertainer.
Dolly Parton, Waylon Jennings and Don Williams received the Cliffie Stone Pioneer award from the Academy of Country Music during a reception on June 20th 2007 in Nashville, Tennessee
JohnnyCash.Com Radio is streaming weekly broadcasts featuring interviews with Cash family members, associates, friends and fans, plus discussions of Johnny Cash's 50-year long career, music, sound bites from the Man In Black himself, interactive contests and more.
MONOLITH marks the first ever multi-day, multi-stage festival at Colorado's world-renowned Red Rocks Amphitheatre!

A must-visit destination for any music fan, MONOLITH Festival offers the perfect excuse to finally visit the legendary outdoor venue. Hosting 50+ bands on 5 stages, MONOLITH promises an exceptional and intimate (only 9000 tickets will be sold!) festival experience sure to go down in rock history.
Contact Josh Baker to become an official 2007 MONOLITH Festival Partner or Sponsor, josh@monolithfestival.com 
or direct at 317-536-6151.

Monolith is currently presenting one of the most aggressive marketing campaigns in festival history; incorporating all aspects of online media, radio, print, direct mail, email and street level promotion. Interested in joining the party?

Contact Josh Baker at josh@monolithfestival.com  today. www.monolithfestival.com 

Download the 2007 MONOLITH Media Kit Here
Get the complete day-by-day lineup at www.monolithfestival.com 
Submit your artist now before the June 20th deadline, for a chance to perform at the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
Monolith Festival * September 14-15, 2007 * Morrison, CO
Monolith Festival * Red Rocks September 14-15, 2007 Morrison, Colorado

Tickets for 2008 CMA Music Festival
On Sale Nationwide Now!
2008 CMA Music Festival will take place Thursday through Sunday, June 5-8, in Downtown Nashville and tickets are available now.

Tickets for 2008 CMA Music Festival were available to Music Festival attendees during the event and available nationally, today. The Gold Circle section is already sold out and tickets are selling at a rapid pace – up 25 percent over 2006 and 76 percent over 2005. Fans are encouraged to order early for best available seating.

Order online at Ticketmaster.com or by calling
1-800-CMA-FEST or (615) 255-9600. Prices do not include applicable handling fees. Ticket prices are subject to change without notice. All sales are final and non-refundable.

Four-day ticket package categories correspond to different levels of seating at LP Field. Children 3 years and younger are admitted FREE.

Gold Circle (Floor), Adult & Youth - SOLD OUT
Floor Level, Adult - $165
Floor Level, Youth - $116
Lower Level, Adult - $145
Lower Level, Youth - $102
Club Level, Adult - $135
Club Level, Youth -$95
Upper Level (GA), Adult - $110
Upper Level (GA), Youth - $78
CMA Music Festival Fans 'Keep the Music Playing'

The artists and celebrities participating in CMA Music Festival donate their time. They are not compensated for the hours they spend signing autographs and performing. In appreciation of their exhaustive efforts, CMA donates half the net proceeds from the event to music education on their behalf through a partnership with the Nashville Alliance for Public Education called “Keep the Music Playing.”

To date, CMA has donated more than $1.1 million to worthy causes on behalf of the artists who participate in the Festival for free – including $368,500 from the 2006 CMA Music Festival for “Keep the Music Playing.” Several students groups participated in the Festival including drum corps from Hillwood High School and Hunters Lane High School, who marched in the Kick-Off Parade along with students from the Nashville School of the Arts, which received a Chevy Silverado truck to transport band equipment to community performances as part of the “Keep the Music Playing” campaign.
2007 CMA Music Festival Breaks Attendance Record
More than 191,000 Country Fans Attend
Kelly Clarkson, Ted Nugent and Rascal Flatts Surprise Fans With Drop-Ins
© 2007 Country Music Association, Inc.

NASHVILLE – CMA Music Festival set a new aggregate attendance record in 2007 with 191,154 people attending the four-day Festival, June 7-10, in Downtown Nashville.

“It was an amazing event on many different levels – from the outstanding lineup of artists; to our incredibly enthusiastic fans, who traveled from around the globe to be here; to the outpouring of support from Nashville and our surrounding communities,” said Tammy Genovese, CMA Chief Operating Officer. “Each year I find myself saying this, and it is happening again in 2007, but this is the best CMA Music Festival ever.”

Attendance at the Festival hit an all-time high. Single concert tickets for the Nightly Concerts at LP Field were up 14 percent from 2006. In fact, CMA opened the upper level of LP Field to meet the demand for four-day ticket packages and single night concert tickets. CMA also experienced a 20 percent increase in the sale of four-day ticket packages.

Fans enjoyed themselves and made it known at the Box Office. Tickets for CMA Music Festival 2008, June 5-8, went on sale Saturday and Gold Circle four-day ticket packages sold out in a record 90 minutes. By Sunday, advance sales bested sales during the same period in 2006, by a robust 25 percent.

“You know you are giving the fans what they want when they put down their hard-earned money for an event and we haven’t even announced who will be performing,” Genovese said. “That speaks to the dedication of our fans, the popularity of the Festival and the strength of our format.”

Aggregate attendance has grown from 124,000 in 2003, to 132,000 in 2004, 145,000 in 2005, to 161,000 in 2006, and now more than 191,000. Increased sales of four-day ticket packages and single concert tickets at Riverfront Park and LP Field contributed to the growth, as well as record attendance at CMA Music Festival’s free areas – including the Crisco® Family Zone, CMT® Fun Zone and Chevy™ Sports Zone.

Several factors accounted for the increased attendance: sales of four-day ticket packages outpaced 2006 sales; there was an extensive local advertising campaign to drive awareness; additional free performance stages were added; and with the exception of a brief storm Friday, hospitable weather helped stimulate sales of single-day tickets. Even on Sunday, four-day tickets, which allowed access to LP Field, the Convention Center and the Riverfront concerts, were still being sold.

Surprise appearances are a hallmark of this event. And 2007 didn’t disappoint. The first night at LP Field included an unannounced appearance by first season “American Idol” winner Kelly Clarkson, who joined Reba McEntire on two songs – “Does He Love You” and their recent duet release “Because of You.” On Friday evening Motor City madman Ted Nugent joined Montgomery Gentry onstage for a ferocious rendition of his classic “Cat Scratch Fever.” And reigning CMA Vocal Group of the Year Rascal Flatts made a surprise concert appearance the following night.

“We love giving our fans something special and unexpected,” Genovese said. “It is amazing to hear the stadium erupt in applause when an unannounced guest steps out on that stage.”

At its heart, CMA Music Festival is – and always will be – about the fans and their relationship with the artists and the music. The theme is universal and in 2007, Festival attendees came from every state and 21 foreign countries.

The Festival got underway Wednesday with “The Third Annual CMA Music Festival Kick-Off Parade” with an estimated crowd of 10,000 spectators Downtown. Following the procession, the fun kicked into high gear with “The Second Annual CMA Music Festival Block Party” at the Chevy Music Tour Stage on the plaza at The Sommet Center, formerly Nashville Arena. Jason Michael Carroll, Mark Chesnutt, Elizabeth Cook, Cowboy Troy, Jennifer Hanson and Darryl Worley performed for an estimated crowd of 5,000 according to police.

Nightly Concerts at LP Field
In all, 32 acts participated in the star-packed Nightly Concerts at LP Field. The lineup Thursday included Trace Adkins, Dierks Bentley, Brooks & Dunn, Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire with special guest Kelly Clarkson, The Wreckers, and a two-song acoustic performance by Jason Michael Carroll. Pre-show activities included Jennifer Hanson, singing the national anthem, the participation of the United States Marine Corps Recruiting Station Nashville Color Guard, and a fly over by three Air Force FA-18s from The Checkerboards of Marine Fighter Attack Squadrons VMFA 533, 122 and 312, from Marine Corps Air Station, Beaufort, S.C.

During her first performance at the Festival in 11 years, McEntire, was obviously moved by the adoring crowd’s thunderous welcome. She spoke with heartfelt gratitude when she said, “Ah, it’s good to hear that.”

Fans were treated to performances Friday by Jason Aldean, Sara Evans, Little Big Town, Montgomery Gentry with guest Ted Nugent, Sugarland and Carrie Underwood, who made her first Festival appearance in 2005 after being named American Idol. Former “American Idol” finalist Bucky Covington performed an acoustic set.

Saturday’s lineup included Billy Ray Cyrus, Martina McBride, Jo Dee Messina, surprise guest Rascal Flatts, LeAnn Rimes and Josh Turner. “Nashville Star” winner Angela Hacker delivered an acoustic performance.

Sunday rocked the house with Rodney Atkins, Big & Rich, Billy Currington, Miranda Lambert, Brad Paisley, Kellie Picker, Taylor Swift, Gretchen Wilson and an acoustic performance by Telstra Road to Tamworth winner Morgan Evans of Australia. Apollo Ohno’s professional dance partner Julianne Hough from “Dancing with the Stars” introduced Big & Rich.

“This is the best night of the year for people who love Country Music,” Wilson proclaimed to her cheering supporters.

Greased Lightning® Daytime Stages
Fan favorite Terri Clark got the 2007 CMA Music Festival off to an energetic start Thursday morning with her distinctive brand of power Country at the kick-off concert at Riverfront Park. Fans were waiting before dawn to see the leave-’em-rockin’ singer/songwriter. And the concert venue on the banks of the Cumberland River stayed packed all day and every day after.

Clark bonded with her audience immediately through a subject that was on everyone’s mind – the already-rising temperature that morning: “This is supposed to be the hottest day this year, of course, because it’s the first day of CMA Music Festival!”

Joining Clark in the opening morning show were John Anderson, Craig Morgan, Jamie O’Neal and Chris Young. And the dual stages bustled throughout the four days with a rich array of performers from both major and independent record labels. In all, 101 acts performed more than 33 hours of concerts. The concerts stopped for 90 minutes Friday due to a downpour with lightning and high winds, but the artists and fans returned when the storm passed without a single missed performance.

A half block away on the third-floor, rooftop patio at Graham Central Station overlooking Riverfront Park, “Good Morning America” Weather Anchor Sam Champion interviewed artists Bucky Covington and The Wreckers live on the ABC Television Network in front of an enthusiastic, sign-toting crowd.

Fan Fair® Exhibit Hall
The state of continuous commotion that’s been the standard for the Fan Fair Exhibit Hall was back in force with 349 artists and celebrities appearing at the Nashville Convention Center. Exhibit booths sold out with 212 exhibitors. Attendance over the four days was up 15 percent from 49,507 in 2006 to 56,244 in 2007.

As in previous years, dedicated fans camped out on the street outside of the Exhibit Hall starting at 8:00 PM, not only in hopes of being the first in line for autographs when the doors opened the following morning but also to share in what has become a special tradition for this group. As one of these early arrivers commented, “We’re friends from all over the country. It’s like a reunion.”

Observers estimate that Carrie Underwood attracted the longest autograph lines, due in large part to the fact that she dedicated the bulk of her time Saturday to meeting her fans and signing more than 600 signatures. Other popular artists included Trace Adkins, Big & Rich, Jason Michael Carroll, Billy Currington, Billy Ray Cyrus, Beverley Mitchell, Montgomery Gentry, Gretchen Wilson, Chris Young among many, many more. Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn made a surprise appearance in the Exhibit Hall Thursday. One of the Fan Fair highlights was when Big Machine Records presented Taylor Swift with a Platinum plaque in their booth for her self-titled debut so she could share the moment with her fans. Rock singer John Waite (“Missing You”) made his CMA Music Festival debut by signing in the Borders® Books & Music booth on Friday. And CMA COO Tammy Genovese stopped by to congratulate Country Music Hall of Fame member Bill Anderson on having an Exhibit Hall booth every year since the Festival began as Fan Fair in 1972.

The Acoustic Corner Presented by Mary Kay, which launched in 2004 as a showcase for independent artists, featured 24 solo or group performers. The area on the second floor of the Convention Center hosted a steady stream of fans.

Borders Books & Music
Borders had locations at the Exhibit Hall, Riverfront and LP Field. The Top 5 selling titles belonged to Jason Michael Carroll, Stephen Cochran, Beverley Mitchell, Carrie Underwood and Chris Young. Other bestselling artists included Jason Aldean, Big & Rich, Bucky Covington, Emerson Drive, Little Big Town, Sugarland, Taylor Swift and Josh Turner. Organizers said autograph sessions for several of the top-selling artists in the Borders’ booth contributed to their sales success.

“One of the goals with this event is to help build a marketing platform for developing artists,” Genovese said. “With the variety of artists on the list, it tells me that our fans are discovering new music at CMA Music Festival and they aren’t waiting until they get home to buy it.”

Chevy Sports Zone
CMA’s free Chevy Sports Zone was a huge hit with participants and fans looking for fun and friendly competition among celebrities, artists and athletes.

On Thursday the surest shot at the “The Sixth Annual Andy Griggs Celebrity Archery Tournament” was Rusty Tabor, winner of the 2006 tournament. He retained his crown after tying with Craig Morgan at 43 points each and then winning a five-target shootout (42 to 39). Rhean Boyer of Carolina Rain finished third with 41 points.

On Friday, “The Steve Azar Celebrity Sports Challenge” proved to be a fan favorite with an amazing array of sports champions and celebrities competing along with Azar and other artists. In the end, the Blue Team was victorious with Andrew Abide (a.k.a., the “dentist to the stars”), Rocky Calmus (linebacker, Titans/Colts), Jeanne Cho-Hunicke (LPGA Tour player), Ray Lloyd (pro wrestler), Ryan Lucotch (PovertyNeck Hillbillies), and Scott Reeves (Blue County) winning with a score of 98.

Sunday’s “The Michael Peterson/New Holland Celebrity Tractor Race” had fans revved up. Country Music artists and celebrities raced against the clock through an obstacle course on a New Holland compact tractor and the winner was Todd Fritsch, with a track time of 52.6 seconds, followed by Tennessee Titan Ben Hartsock (54 seconds) and artist Billy Yates (54.5 seconds). Fritsch shaved 1.4 seconds off 2006 victor Wade Hayes’ winning time of 54 seconds.

As an added attraction, Jay Leno’s Eco-Jet, biodiesel-powered automobile was on display at the Sports Zone on Saturday and Sunday.

Chevy Music Tour
The Chevy Music Tour free area on The Sommet Center plaza buzzed with activities featuring vehicle displays, interactive consumer experiences, games, and the Chevy Ride & Drive event. The Chevy Music Tour Stage featured 25 daily performances including a showcase of Bluegrass music and a Latin Country Music Show. Visitors were also able to test-drive an Avalanche, Cobalt SS, Colorado Crew Cab, HHR, Impala SS, Tahoe or one of three Silverados (1500 Crew Cab, Extended Cab or HD with Duramax).
Crisco Family Zone
The Crisco Family Zone was a popular destination Sunday for the Crisco® Family Picnic, featuring free lunch for the first 500 attendees. The meal was made from recipes found in the Crisco® Country Favorites Vol. III Recipe Book. Nationally-recognized chef Jon Ashton conducted cooking demonstrations throughout the Festival.

Before the Festival got officially underway, the Crisco Country Favorites Cook-Off Contest took place Wednesday at the Downtown Hilton Hotel. The Cook-Off winner was culled from thousands of mouth-watering entries. Of the 12 finalists who competed in Nashville, Beth Royals, of Richmond, Va., was the Grand Prize winner for her tasty Coffee Toffee Tart. Saturday fans gathered under a tent in the Family Zone for “The 24th Annual YW Celebrity Auction hosted by Martina McBride” with proceeds supporting programs to benefit victims of domestic violence. The auction, which has been hosted by McBride since 1995, raised $103,603. The highest bid was $12,000 for a collection of six Platinum albums McBride solicited on the spot from some of her famous friends; an autographed photo paired with a VIP package from McBride brought $7,250; and a meet and greet and tickets to see Reba McEntire raised $3,400.

The Music City’s Rising Star Youth Vocal Soloist Competition was held in the Crisco Family Zone with students from 35 states competing. The Top 5 finishers were announced Saturday on the Greased Lightning Daytime Stages. Earlier that day artist Erika Jo participated in a separate award ceremony at the Wildhorse Saloon. Winners included: Tara Clance, 16, of Georgia, fifth place; Brianna Tyson, 14, of California, fourth place; Keeghan Nolan, 15, of Vermont, third place; Amanda Stathos, 16, of Virginia, second place; and 16-year-old Avery Hovey of Tennessee was the first place finisher.On Sunday, Greased Lightning and stars gave back to those in need by helping to construct the frame of a Habitat for Humanity home for a Nashville family. Artists participating in the construction project included Clayton Bellamy of The Road Hammers, Blue County, Ty Herndon, Jason Meadows and Bryan White .

Chris McCarthy, President of the Nashville Area Habitat for Humanity remarked: “CMA Music Festival fans are like our volunteers – eager to help out and have a great time in the process.”

CMA Celebrity Close Up Presented by Great American Country
The inside track is what CMA Celebrity Close Up is all about with a lively question and answer format hosted by media personality Lorianne Crook. And she treated the audience of more than 2,500 to a bit of insider information with guests Trace Adkins, Terri Clark, Charley Pride, Neal McCoy, Montgomery Gentry and Josh Turner during two sessions on Thursday.

Great American Country (GAC) was the presenting sponsor of the celebrity gab sessions, which were taped for two television specials by the same name on the Country-themed cable network. “CMA Celebrity Close Up” will premiere on Wednesday, July 18 (9:00 PM/ET); and the second special premieres on Monday, July 30 (8:00 PM/ET). Schedule subject to change.

CMA Music Festival After Hours™
A record 19 Downtown Nashville clubs participated in CMA Music Festival After Hours™ offering drink discounts and special events for festival goers and Nashvillians.

Setting the tone for each night’s revelers was “The Official CMA After Hours Kick-Off Concerts” following the Nightly Concerts at LP Field in the Hard Rock Cafe parking lot. The free concerts Thursday through Saturday featured Emerson Drive, Lantana and The PovertyNeck Hillbillies.

Another new feature of After Hours in 2007 was the Hard Rock Cafe Writers Night, Thursday through Saturday, featuring some of Nashville’s most successful tunesmiths in the round – trading stories and playing the songs that made several artists household names.

ABC Daytime
Real life drama is a staple of both Country Music lyrics and daytime television series, and the artists and actors met at the crossroads during 2007 CMA Music Festival when the ABC daytime stars of “All My Children,” “One Life to Live,” and “General Hospital” made their first appearance during the Festival.

Daytime actors that attended CMA Music Festival included Colin Egglesfield (Joshua Madden) and Justin Bruening (Jamie Martin) from “All My Children”; Kathy Brier (“Marcie McBain”), John-Paul Lavoisier (“Rex Balsom”), and Kassie DePaiva (Blair Cramer) from “One Life To Live”; and Rebecca Herbst (“Elizabeth Spencer”) and Greg Vaughan (“Lucky Spencer”) from “General Hospital.”

The actors made several appearances in the Fan Fair Exhibit Hall and introduced concerts, but the highlight for fans had to be “Fun in the Sun,” Saturday at the Wildhorse Saloon, with interviews, performances, dance lessons, and many more activities for more than 1,200 faithful fans.

ABC Block Party
The ABC Block Party hosted by Matt Gallant on Saturday included “Ugly Betty” look-alikes, “Dancing with the Stars” champion Cheryl Burke, and ABC trivia games testing participants knowledge of “Brothers and Sisters” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” Jason Michael Carroll also performed for the packed crowd.

Media Coverage
Nearly 700 journalists were credentialed for 2007 CMA Music Festival representing more than 200 domestic and international media outlets. Among the domestic outlets at CMA Music Festival were “48 Hours,” ABC.com, ABC Radio Networks, Associated Press, Blender, CMT, CNBC, Country Weekly, “Fox & Friends,” GAC, Getty Images, "Good Morning America," People, Premiere Radio Networks, Reuters, The Sportsman Channel, The Tennessean, TV Guide, and USA Today.

Sponsorship is a key element to the marketing, fan experience and financial support of the Festival. More than 55 partners gave out more than 300,000 product samples. Greased Lightning Cleaning Products passed out more than 33,000 samples of their product and ran out Sunday afternoon. In addition to food samples and coupons, Crisco and The J.M. Smucker Company distributed more than 140,000 premium items.

The CMA Music Festival Fun Team treated fans to a wide array of premiums and samples including Cutter® Wipes, Yankee Candle ™CAR JAR® air fresheners, Crest Toothpaste, CMA Awards T-shirts, Mary Kay lip gloss samples, and iTunes® digital sampler cards.

ABC Television Special – Monday, July 23
As previously announced, the Festival was filmed for a two-hour television special “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock” scheduled to air on the ABC Television Network Monday, July 23 (9:00-11:00 PM/ET). This is the third year the special will air on ABC. The primetime special debuted on the CBS Television Network in 2004.

Both the concerts and the interaction between the artists and fans will be captured in the special with heart-pounding performances interspersed with heart-warming encounters between the artists and their avid admirers. Taped exclusively for the special, cameras followed the stories of several Festival attendees, who had their dreams come true when they were granted a once-in-a-lifetime meeting and personal encounter with their favorite Country stars.

On the Web
CMAfest.com the official Web site of 2007 CMA Music Festival, had 387,473 visitors from January 1- June 11, an increase of 23 percent from the same time period in 2006.

Fans online coordinated a party at Buckwild Saloon on Saturday through the CMA Music Festival MySpace page, where a maximum capacity crowd of filled the club. CMA surprised the fans with an autograph session by Emerson Drive and an acoustic performance by Lady Antebellum – all of which was filmed for an upcoming CMA Webisode.

For up-to-the-minute information about tickets, travel information, schedules, artists appearing at 2008 CMA Music Festival and more, visit www.CMAfest.com and sign up for Exclusive, a periodic e-newsletter with exciting artist features and Country Music news.

CMA Music Festival is organized and produced by the Country Music Association. CMA Board member Tony Conway is the Executive Producer of CMA Music Festival. Premiere Radio Networks is the official radio broadcaster. Chevy: The Official Ride of Country Music. Borders® Books & Music: The Official Music & Book retailer of CMA Music Festival. Additional promotional partners include American Airlines, BMI, Carl Black Chevrolet, CiCi’s Pizza®, CMT®, Coca-Cola®, Country Weekly, Crisco®, Cutter®, Dr Pepper®, GAC Great American Country, Gallo Family Vineyards, Gibson Guitar®, Greased Lightning Cleaning Products®, Hard Rock Cafe Nashville, Mary Kay®, Music Festivals®, New Holland Agriculture Equipment S.p.A., On the Run® at Exxon, Prilosec OTC®, Purity® Dairies, Radisson Hotel Nashville Airport, The Sportsman Channel®, Super 8®, Wrangler®, and Yamaha Motor Corp., USA. EMT services are provided by Vanderbilt Sports Medicine and Vanderbilt Life Flight. Fan Fair® is a registered trademark of CMA.

Smucker's®, JIF®, Crisco®, Hungry Jack®, Martha White®, Uncrustables® and White Lily® are registered trademarks of The J.M. Smucker Company.

CMA Exclusive!
Emmylou Harris will  headline the inaugural Cayamo music cruise, February 4 through February 10th 2008 and will take fans through Cozumel, Mexico, the Cayman Islands and Jamaica. Tickets for “Cayamo: A Journey Through Song,”  go on sale June 25.
Dolly Parton will join the Girl Scouts on June 15 at a presentation at her Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
More than 1000 Girl Scouts will join Dolly to lead her in the Girl Scout Promise and present her with the lifetime membership pin.
The Farm Aid benefit concert will be held at Randalls Island in New York City on September 9th. Performers will include  Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp,  Neil Young and Dave Matthews.
The Merritt Mountain Music Festival
Click here

Billy Ray Cyrus
New Artist Spotlight:
Bucky Covington
By Kristen Scherer

© 2007 CMA Close Up News Service /
Country Music Association, Inc.

With Bucky Covington 's arrival in Nashville, sightings of "American Idol" veterans along Music Row have become almost routine.

Thankfully, Covington's Country credentials are as real as they come and his singing is anything but routine. Growing up with his identical twin brother Rocky in Laurinburg, N.C., Covington was still a kid when he started listening to and imitating Tim McGraw, George Strait and Travis Tritt on the family's karaoke machine.

At 19, he heard guitarist Jeff Healey's "Angel Eyes," and his fate was sealed.

"The minute I heard it, I pictured myself on the stage playing guitar and singing," Covington said. "It was the best, warmest feeling I've ever had. So I bought an electric guitar."

Obsessed, it wasn't long before he had mastered the basics and was looking for a band. His first groups were decidedly rock oriented, but over the course of the next few formative years, the singer gravitated more and more to Country, finally hooking up with regional favorites Southern Thunder, where he would learn the ropes on the road and find himself musically.

Covington's first "American Idol" season five audition - a thousand miles away in Memphis, Tenn., - coincided with Hurricane Katrina and was canceled. Following a subsequent audition in nearby Greenville, N.C., he made it to Hollywood and into the finals. Among the many post-competition calls he received was one from fellow contest winner Mark Miller, whose band, Sawyer Brown , launched their hit career after winning the top prize on "Idol" predecessor "Star Search."

Covington and Miller immediately hit it off, and, with Miller and Dale Oliver producing, Covington was soon in the studio recording his self-titled Lyric Street Records debut, released on April 17.

His debut single, "A Different World," was written by Jennifer Hanson, Tony Martin and Mark Nesler .

"Elvis Presley. His showmanship was second to none and he had such wide appeal because his music crossed into every genre."

"Elvis' 'Suspicious Minds.' That's the song that got me listening to Elvis."

"The Bible."

On The Web:
buckycovingtonmusic.com   ; myspace.com/buckycovington    
This Week at the Opry

For tickets and more information, visit
opry.com/CMAFest or call 1-800-SEE-OPRY.
Montgomery Gentry

Little Big Town: Music, Momentum & Mellencamp
By Phyllis Stark
© 2007 CMA Close Up News Service /
Country Music Association, Inc.

For Little Big Town, the creative process never stops, not even in the bathroom.

Take group member Karen Fairchild, who recently came up with a verse and chorus of a new song while showering at a hotel. Worried about losing the idea, she hollered for her husband and band mate, Jimi Westbrook, to bring her something to record on. He soon produced a cell phone set to "video" mode and - given her wet and naked state - laughingly advised her to turn it toward the wall.

"So I recorded in the shower," Fairchild recounted. "You can hear water dripping and the whole verse and chorus, and all you can see is tile."

That's typical of this hard charging band's "always on" work ethic. In 2006, they did about 220 tour dates, sandwiching key media opportunities including "CMT Crossroads" and "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" in between. They also found time to land two CMA Awards nominations, two GRAMMY nominations and celebrate RIAA Gold certification of their Equity Music Group album, The Road to Here. The album has since gone Platinum.

In other 2006 milestones, The Road to Here topped Billboard's all-genre year-end list of top independent albums, and the band was named Billboard's independent artist of the year. Their first hit single, "Boondocks," sold more than 100,000 in digital downloads, scoring the band a Gold digital certification from the RIAA.

In the midst of all that, they found time to sing backing vocals on eight tracks from John Mellencamp's recently-released Freedom's Road album, including the single "Our Country," which was featured in a national ad campaign for Chevrolet. Little Big Town toured with Mellencamp as the opening act for his spring 2006 tour.

Westbrook was shocked when he got a call from Mellencamp asking the band to record with him because even though Little Big Town had performed "Pink Houses" with him every night on stage, Mellencamp had never really spoken to them. "I didn't even know if he knew my name," Westbrook said.

Over the course of recording with him, however, the band members say they became friends and developed a new level of respect for the mercurial Mellencamp. "He's a real man of action," Fairchild said. "He has some strong opinions and strong political views. Not that we share all of them, but you have to admire him because he's an activist. He's not just some guy who spews off at the mouth and then doesn't go do something about it. He really gets out there and tries to make a difference."

In June 2007, Little Big Town returned for a second consecutive year to perform, at CMA Music Festival. Also, Little Big Town hit the road with an artist sure to remember their names - Martina McBride - for three months. They're trying to slow down their schedule enough to finish recording their third album, due from Equity Music Group in the fall.

Repeating the successful formula used on The Road to Here, they'll once again co-produce the new album with their songwriting collaborator, Wayne Kirkpatrick, in his Nashville-area studio.

"It's too good a place of safety and creativity to not do it again," Fairchild said of Kirkpatrick's studio.

Added band member Phillip Sweet, "I'm looking forward to going to work in that environment with that same group [of musicians] because there's a well full of creativity there."

In that environment, said Westbrook, "It's easier to open yourself up and expose your guts."

While the recording and writing process will be the same, the band's attitude and confidence level is completely different this time around. Before recording The Road to Here, Little Big Town had been dropped by Sony Music Nashville after the one album they had recorded for that label became both a commercial and critical disappointment.

Thus, when they went into the studio with Kirkpatrick they were a bit beaten down and their confidence was shaky. As the process of recording that album wore on, however, that confidence rose as their sound and direction became defined.

"We were so second guessing our every move for a little while," said Fairchild of that time. "Toward the back half of the record where we got more confident, but the front half we kept going 'Gosh, is this right? Are we on the right path?' Now, we really know and, of course, now we've had some affirmation that we were on the right path."

Sweet said their success over the past year has provided, "a clarity of direction about who we are. It's helped us define our 'thing' a little bit more."

The band's roadwork has also boosted its collective confidence. "Night after night it just solidifies, this is us. This is our voice,'" Westbrook said.

Band member Kimberly Roads anticipates some happier tunes this time around. "When we wrote [songs for] The Road to Here, we were all at very low points in our lives," she said. "Now we're not, so it'll be interesting to see what comes out."

Westbrook also thinks the album can't help but have an upbeat feel overall. "It's a positive time in all of our lives and that's going to come through."

In the midst of a crazy year, members of Little Big Town found time to wed, including Fairchild and Westbrook, who surprised fans with their news after having kept their romance secret.

Another surprise wedding took place in late November when Roads married longtime friend Stephen Schlapman on a private island in the Caribbean. Schlapman had already quit his job to come out on the road with the band and handle merchandise sales. It was announced in late February that the couple is expecting their first child later this year.

The last single member of the band, Sweet, married Rebecca Arthur in late March.

Despite being able to travel with spouses, working the road as hard as Little Big Town does isn't always pleasant, as the band learned last summer when it played a string of county fairs in rainy, muddy conditions.

"Everywhere we went it was a mud pit," Fairchild recalled. "The conditions would be horrible and we felt so sorry for the fans. They would be drenched and muddy. Then we would get out there and we would have a ball and they would have a ball. The two hours on the stage is completely cool," she said. "It's managing the other 22 that can be a challenge."

Still, the band enjoys life on the road. "It's like going to camp with your friends," Sweet said. "You get on the big bus and you all pile up together. The living conditions are a little tight, but you do it because you love it."

"Everybody has hard jobs," Roads added. "When you look at ours, it ain't hard."

After years of struggling, the band has trouble pulling back on its tour dates, even to write and record a new album.

"If we were to really slow down a whole lot we'd be nervous," Westbrook said. "It's still hard to say 'no' when the offers come in."

"For eight years we sang for free and we really didn't know you could make money singing," Fairchild explained. "It wasn't three years ago when we were begging someone to book us."

"We wanted this really bad," Roads said. "We worked for many, many years and when the momentum began, we were afraid to say 'no' to anything because we wanted it so bad for so long."

"When children come, we may pare it back a little bit," Fairchild said of their tour schedule. Until then, it's full steam ahead.

A popular misconception outside the music industry is that as soon as an act lands a record deal and puts out a successful album, they are instantly wealthy. That is, of course, far from reality, especially when any profits must be split among four band members.

Little Big Town has seen little financial reward thus far, although that situation continues to improve. Fairchild, who has a degree in early childhood education, remembers hoping just a few years ago to one day make a school teacher's salary. Roads reports that three years ago, the band's income was below the poverty level.

"We could have applied for food stamps," Fairchild quipped. "Maybe we should get some government cheese for the bus," Sweet added. And while things have certainly improved, Fairchild said, "Last year's income tax returns were laughable. But you do what you've got to do. I'd much rather make music and be poor and happy."

Now that the band is hot, they've recently gotten offers from other labels trying to poach them. Some offers are from the same label executives who passed on the band when they were shopping for a new label deal after leaving Sony. But all four band members emphatically say they have no desire to move on.

"The great thing about where we are with Equity is we make every decision," Fairchild said. "We sit as a team and hear input from the knowledge that's in the room, but then ultimately [label President] Mike [Kraski] will look at us and go 'What's the single going to be?'"

"We're not going to go anywhere else and get that," Westbrook said. Meanwhile, as the band celebrates Platinum sales for The Road to Here, they're getting help from an unlikely place. Fairchild's parents regularly visit retail stores and check the CD stock. If they can't find their daughter's album, they'll go into what Fairchild calls "covert operations" mode, asking to speak to the store's music buyer, then reporting their findings to the label's sales team.

With supporters like that, double Platinum sales can't be far away.

Montgomery Gentry, Charley Pride and Neal McCoy will tape a session of "CMA Celebrity Close Up Series"  June seventh at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville for G-A-C for a future television broadcast.
Dolly Parton helped raise half a million dollars to build a new hospital with a benefit concert in Sevier County, Tennessee, where she grew up. 
Kris Kristofferson was recently presented  the Texas Legends award  in Austin for his contributions to the culture and music scene. The concert, “The Road to Austin,” also featuree Bonnie Raitt, Delbert McClinton,  and Joe Ely.
Tanya Tucker has sold her 500-acre estate.  Her 23-thousand-foot home is expected to become the clubhouse for an 18-hole golf course and   subdivision.   The sale reportedly brought thirteen-point-five-million dollars.
Mel Tillis will become the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry on June 9th.  Bill Anderson issued the invitation on stage.  Mel’s son, Mel Jr. and daughter Pam Tillis were also on hand.  Pam has been an Opry member since 2000.
Willie Nelson is asking fans to help stop the slaughter of horses in Texas. The singer says, quote, “The last place in the world I thought would ever support horse slaughter is my home state. No other animal symbolizes the spirit of Texas better than the horse.” He adds, quote, “We are aware of the overwhelming cruelty horses face on the trip to the slaughterhouse, and we do not mistake slaughter for euthanasia." To learn more about the issue visit www.saplonline.org/horses.htm .
Little Big Town
Gibson Guitars
Gibson Guitar is the instrument of choice for many of the world's top Country Music stars including Kenny Chesney, Miranda Lambert, Kix Brooks, Montgomery Gentry, Charlie Daniels, The Wreckers, Sugarland, Keith Urban, Joe Don Rooney of Rascal Flatts and many, many more. For more information on the Gibson family of brands go to www.gibson.com .


Emerson Drive
Sara Evans and Montgomery Gentry
Trace Adkins        Josh Turner

Terri Clark
The Oak Ridge Boys were recognized with the Bronze Winner in the Education category by the 28th Annual Telly Awards. The honor was for their part in hosting the 2006 “World’s Largest Concert for Feed the Children.”
John Carter Cash’s book, “Anchored in Love: An Intimate Portrait of June Carter Cash”  goes on sale June 19th. The book takes a look at June’s career through the eyes of her son with Johnny Cash
This year's "International Rock-A-Billy Music Festival"  in Jackson, Tennessee on August 9, 10 &11 will feature  Sonny Burgess and the Pacers, Ace Cannon and Narvel Felts. The "International Rock-A-Billy Festival" will also feature a special appearance by Johnny Cash’s band, The Tennessee Three, along with performances by the 10-0-C band, featuring Lee McAlpin who was Carl Perkins’ pianist for many years, Carl Mann, and Rayburn Anthony. For tickets or more information, contact“The International Rock-A-Billy Hall of Fame, Inc.”105 North Church Street, Jackson, Tennessee 38301   Telephone 731-427-6262  OR go to their website at: www.rockabillyhall.org  email: rock@rockabillyhall.org
Elvis Presley Enterprises has started a national advertising campaign to attract  fans to Graceland for the annual Elvis Week, August 11th thru 19th.  inviting people to, quote, "Discover Your Inner Elvis." Internationally, Elvis impersonators are taking part in contests in 23 locations, and finalists will come to Memphis to compete as part of the festivities during Elvis Week, Presley died at his Graceland mansion home in Memphis on August 16th, 1977. 
Willie Nelson has plead guilty to possession of marijuana in Louisiana. His bus was stopped last September  and a pound and a half of the substance was found. Nelson and his manager David Anderson received a sentence of six months probation and a little over one thousand dollars in fines and fees.
Josh Turner
Porter Wagoner celebrated 50 years as an Opry member on May 15th 2007.  Dolly Parton and Patty Loveless were on hand for the celebration.
Now you can take 650 AM WSM with you wherever you go! Load your favorite WSM programs onto your iPod so you can listen to them at your leisure. If you are an iTunes user, just click
here to subscribe to WSM Podcasts. If you aren't podcast-savvy, you can still use our point-click-listen archives on WSMOnline.com. Right now, you can hear interviews with Earl Scruggs and George Jones. Stay tuned for more additions soon.
Two months after Merle Haggard unveiled a song to promote Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton, rival candidate John Edwards is handing out a CD featuring a Haggard tune. Donors who contribute $50 or more to Edwards' presidential campaign will receive an advance copy of "Moneyland," a collection of songs about the plight of rural America. The CD includes a duet with Haggard and Marty Stuart called "Farmer's Blues."
Meanwhile, on his Web site, Haggard is prominently advertising copies of his new song "Hillary," which praises Clinton and declares, "Let's put a woman in charge." A spokesman for the Edwards campaign said he did not immediately have a comment on the CD. One of Edwards' policy proposals is a Rural Recovery Act, which details his plans to boost rural economies and support family farmers.
Dolly Parton, Don Williams and the late Harlan Howard and Waylon Jennings have been named the recipients of  the 2007 Pioneer Awards from the Academy of Country Music. They were honored at the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville on June 20 2007at a ceremony hosted by Marty Stuart. The late Buck Owens was remembered with the Jim Reeves International Award. 
The Gibb’s plan to build a new home on a higher part of the estate and preserve the foundation of the house the burned. The foundation of the old house will not be used in the new home construction. 
Barry Gibb plans to retain the foundation of Johnny
and June Carter Cash's former home
Barry Gibb says he plans to retain the foundation of Johnny and June Carter Cash's former home in Hendersonville, Tennessee, while building a new home on the 4.6-acre lot on Old Hickory Lake. Gibb and his wife Linda were having the home renovated when it recently burned. Gibb said. "Linda and I have decided to build our own home on the higher ground surrounding the Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash home, and the original foundations shall be kept intact and preserved for the people of Hendersonville and the people of Nashville. This land is sacred land to all of us here and must be protected forever. “
Willie Nelson is teaming with New York racetrack entrepreneur Richard Fields to develop a number of country-themed casinos. 
Kris Kristofferson will be honored at the 2007 CMT Music Awards with the  Johnny Cash Visionary Award. Rosanne Cash will present the award to Kristofferson.
Vince Gill has added wife Amy Grant and the Del McCoury Band to 18 dates on his summer tour. The shows with Grant and McCoury begin July 14 in Atlanta and conclude Sept. 11 in Rio Rancho, N.M.
Billy Joe Shaver turned himself in at a Waco, Texas jail on April 3rd, after  shooting a man at a bar. Shaver was released after posting $50,000 bond. His attorney stated that Shaver acted in self-defense after an aggressive drunk man followed Shaver out of the bar with a knife. The man was reportedly shot in the cheek. Shaver's charges included assault and a weapons charge.
Billy Joe Shaver  -2007
Arrest warrants were reportedly issued for Billy Joe Shaver in connection with a Saturday night shooting on the parking lot of a bar in Lorena, Texas. According to Shaver’s attorney, Joseph Turner, his client acted in self defense when he shot and wounded a man in the cheek at Papa Joe's Texas Saloon. "The other guy was the aggressor," according to Turner. "He was intoxicated and followed Billy Joe outside the bar with a knife." Police have not identified the victim whose injuries are not believed to be life-threatening. Shaver, 67, did not know the victim, his attorney said. Police in Lorena issued arrest warrants on charges of aggravated assault and possessing a firearm in a prohibited place. Turner said he accompanied his client Monday night when he attempted to surrender to Austin police. However, he said Shaver was not arrested because Austin authorities did not have a record of the warrants that were issued just a few hours earlier.
Brooks & Dunn

Home of Johnny Cash
Firefighters battled flames in a major fire at the home of the late country singer Johnny Cash.
Cash and his wife, June Carter Cash, lived at the house until their deaths in 2003.
The property was purchased by Barry Gibb, a member of the Bee Gees, in January 2006. Gibb and his wife, Linda, had said they planned to restore the home on Old Hickory Lake and hoped to write songs there.
Dolly Parton was inducted into London’s Wembley Square of Fame.  A plaque was unveiled honoring her 40-year contribution to the music industry.  The Square is modeled after the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 
Reba McEntire celebrated her 52nd birthday March 2007. She celebrated with husband Narvel and son Shelby at an undisclosed location.
  Rhino Entertaimnet will reissue The Traveling Wilburys' two albums on June 12th. The all-star band included Roy Orbison, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan. Rare and previously unreleased bonus tracks have been added to the package. The Traveling Wilburys Collection also includes a bonus DVD with a 24-minute documentary showing unseen footage of the band and a 16-page collectible book. The package will also be available in deluxe, vinyl and digital editions. The band's first album, 1988's Traveling Wilburys Volume 1, was certified double platinum and won a Grammy. A follow-up album was released in 1990 following Orbison's death.
Jason Michael Carroll is a
28-year-old North Carolinian who's not afraid to dream big. As a preacher's son, Carroll grew up not being allowed to listen to "secular" music, but like any resourceful young man, he eventually found his dream emanating from the radio.

Carroll became obsessed with Country Music and quickly got his first break, winning a local radio station's karaoke contest. As a result of that triumph, he was asked to join a local band. His appearance on "Gimme the Mic," an "American Idol"-style show for local FOX television affiliates, led Carroll to a national competition in New York City where he caught the attention of manager Rusty Harmon, who had helped Hootie & the Blowfish to multi-Platinum success. A subsequent meeting with producer Don Gehman (John Mellencamp , REM) led Carroll to a deal with Arista Nashville.

Things started falling into place when he was given the opportunity to write with Jewel, a singer/ songwriter he had long admired. They collaborated (with Shaye Smith) on the ballad "No Good in Goodbye," which they recorded as a duet on Carroll's Gehman-produced debut album Waitin' in the Country, released Feb. 6. An unflinching look at the life and death of an abused child, first single "Alyssa Lies" is one of five songs written or co-written by Carroll on the album, and is quickly climbing the charts. The single has already set multiple records, and its massive airplay success has now made Carroll the first new male Country artist in two and a half years to take a debut single into the Country airplay Top 5.

Make Tuesday like the weekend with the Tuesday Night Opry!

Visit Ryman.com for more information.
Colorado  Senator Bob Hagedorn says he'd like to officially make John Denver's  1973 hit "Rocky Mountain High" a state song. According to Hagedon,  Denver's tune is more memorable than the current state song, "Where the Columbine Grow." He notes that he plans to introduce legislation later this month.
Designed Birdhouses
 Martina McBride, Faith Hill, Keith Urban, Reba McEntire, and Dierks Bentley have designed birdhouses to help the W.O. Smith Music School in Nashville, Tennessee  The public will bid on the birdhouses March 8th at the annual Birdhouse Event at the Mall at Green Hills.
“CMA Songwriter Series Salutes the Men of Country Music”
“CMA Songwriter Series Salutes the Men of Country Music” will feature Keith Anderson, Bob DiPiero, Tony Mullins, Jeffery Steele and Craig Wiseman on March 29th at Joe’s Pub in New York City. They have written hits for Garth Brooks, George Jones, George Strait, Rascal Flatts, Brooks & Dunn, Tim McGraw and Montgomery Gentry. This concert kicks off a series of four singer/songwriter concerts in New York sponsored by the Country Music Association (CMA). The second concert, on May 31st, will be themed "CMA Songwriters Series Celebrates the 25th Anniversary of the Bluebird Café;" October 4th’s concert will be "CMA Songwriters Series Salutes The Women of Country Music." The final show on November 29th will be titled "CMA Songwriters Series Salutes the Groups/Duos of Country Music." Songwriters for additional shows will be announced in the coming months.
Being George Strait
By Phyllis Stark
© 2007 CMA Close Up News Service / Country Music Association, Inc.

Photographers: Sid Farbstein, John Russell and Davide Stoeckline.
Photography courtesy of MCA Nashville.
© 2007 Country Music Association, Inc.

Alan Jackson           Dierks Bentley

Big & Rich        Vince Gill,
Learn more about the great City of Nashville and its wonderful vacation offerings online at musiccityusa.com or by calling 1-800-657-6910 . Get details on Nashville vacation packages, hotel accommodations, area attractions and more.
Barbara Mandrell's Cool Country Tribute
By Phyllis Stark
© 2007 CMA Close Up News Service / Country Music Association, Inc.

As a longtime performer who knows the demands of a busy schedule, Barbara Mandrell is both humbled and gratified that so many top-tier Country artists took the time to contribute to an album that pays tribute to her and her amazing career.

"They have really given me a great gift of not only their talent and their time, but their love," Mandrell, the two-time CMA Entertainer of the Year, said in an emotion-filled voice.

The album, She Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool: A Tribute To Barbara Mandrell, was released last October on BNA Records. Mandrell, whose six No. 1 hits include "Years" and "I Was Country, When Country Wasn't Cool," is still Country and, according to the artists who participated in the tribute project, still very cool. Sara Evans was literally raised on Mandrell's songs.

"Everything about Barbara Mandrell reminds me of my childhood and growing up as a Country singer," said Evans, who contributed Mandrell's 1980 hit "Crackers" to the tribute project. "My mother had me learn every one of her songs and perform them in our [family] band."

Naturally, Evans was eager to participate in the tribute and said she chose "Crackers" because "it is so cheeky and fun." For her own version of the song, Evans recalled the things she loved best about Mandrell's original and "tried to blend that with who I am musically." In the end, she said, "I'm really happy with what we came out of the studio with."

For Terri Clark, who contributed a rocking version of Mandrell's first No. 1 hit, "Sleeping Single in a Double Bed," Mandrell's work "was the start of my love affair with Country Music that's lasted my entire life."

Clark's appreciation for Mandrell's music dates back to her childhood in Canada, where she idolized the two-time CMA Female Vocalist of the Year. As a 13-year-old, Clark was a huge fan of Mandrell's NBC-TV variety show, "Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters," which averaged more than 40 million viewers per week.

"I wrote her fan mail and spent all my allowances on magazines that had anything about her in [them]," Clark said. "I clipped them out, put them in a photo album and sent it to her. I drew pictures of her and sent them to her. I was just absolutely blown away with her and her showmanship. My mother was about to send me to therapy because she was tired of hearing about her."

For Clark, the recording session for "Sleeping Single in a Double Bed" provided a touching opportunity to show Mandrell that she was a lifelong devotee.

"I had a fan letter that I had written to her when I was 13," Clark said. "I made a practice copy of it and then re-wrote it and sent her that one, but I kept the original all these years. When we did the tribute record, I gave her the letter."

Clark describes the fan letter as "so 13-year-old. It was hilarious. I drew little pictures of cowboy hats and boots on it and signed it, 'Your friend, Terri Clark.'"

In the studio, however, Mandrell handled the moment with typical class, telling an emotional Clark she'd cherish the letter.

Although Mandrell retired from the music business 10 years ago, no one needed convincing that this groundbreaking singer, musician, actress, motivational speaker and best-selling author, who landed 55 singles on the Billboard chart between 1969 and 1989, was a fitting subject for a tribute.

Artist manager Clint Higham, a longtime friend of the Mandrell family, first hatched the tribute idea and brought it to SONY BMG Nashville Chairman Joe Galante, who said he "fell in love with the plan."

Galante called Mandrell an "unbelievable entertainer. When I first moved to [Nashville,] I remember her being on the CMA Awards show and being riveted by how she was as a host and an entertainer," he said.

Not surprisingly, Galante said, nearly all of the artists who were approached to participate "jumped up and said 'Yeah, she's meant so much to me.'"

Kenny Chesney and Reba McEntire performed "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool," with Chesney supplying the memorable George Jones parts from the original, which is Mandrell's signature song. Other tracks on the album include Dierks Bentley's "Fast Lanes and Country Roads;" Blaine Larsen's "I Wish that I Could Fall in Love Today;" Lorrie Morgan's "That's What Friends Are For;" Willie Nelson and Shelby Lynne's duet on "This Time I Almost Made It;" Randy Owen's "Years;" Brad Paisley's version of "In Times Like These;" LeAnn Rimes' "(If Loving You is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right;" Gretchen Wilson's "The Midnight Oil;" and CeCe Winans' "He Set My Life to Music."

All of the songs were Top 10 Country hits for Mandrell with the exception of "This Time I Almost Made It," which peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard chart in 1974, and "That's What Friends Are For," which topped out at No. 16 two years later. "He Set My Life to Music" was not a Country single, but rather the title track of Mandrell's GRAMMY and Dove Award-winning 1983 gospel album.

Kye Fleming and Dennis Morgan wrote many of Mandrell's signature hits including five songs that appear on the collection. "There would be no album, there would be no Barbara Mandrell, if it were not for Kye and Dennis," she said. Mandrell is delighted with the finished album, calling it the "ultimate compliment."

"This is not one of those albums where you have to skip [around]," she said. "Every single artist on there just gave it their all. I'm overwhelmed."

Higham worked with Galante and his A&R team and sought Mandrell's input in deciding which artists and songs to include in the tribute. Most of the participating artists chose the songs they wanted to cut and each artist recorded their individual track on their own, with the producer and musicians of their choice.

Mandrell thinks having multiple producers on the project "gives a distinct artistry to each individual cut." Producers on the project include Brett Beavers, Mark Bright, Buddy Cannon, Chris Harris, Dann Huff, Tim Johnson, Frank Rogers, Wally Wilson and Mark Wright. Clark and Lynne produced their own tracks.

While Mandrell was hands-on in the creation of the tribute, she gave a quick and definitive "no" when asked if anything about the process of putting the album together made her want to come out of retirement. She explained that she doesn't regret her decision to retire, no matter how much she cherished her career.

"I was never bored, never sick of it, never tired. It was all positive," she said of her lengthy stint as a top entertainer. But, she added, "I feel good that I said 'thank you' and expressed my gratitude and stepped out of the spotlight at the highest point of my career. . I wouldn't change a thing."
On the Web: www.barbara-mandrell.com
Photographer: Glen Rose
Album artwork courtesy of BNA Records Nashville
Rascal Flatts Honored by CMA and City of Nashville

CMA and the City of Nashville let the good times roll on Tuesday, when they celebrated the 2006 best-selling act of all genres, Rascal Flatts, at a Mardi Gras-style event at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.

“An accomplishment like this calls for a celebration,” said CMA Chief Operating Officer Tammy Genovese. “And we were delighted to partner with the City of Nashville to acknowledge the significance of this career milestone and the positive impact that this outstanding group has had on Country Music, Tennessee, and Rascal Flatts’ hometown – Music City, USA.”

“We take seriously the art of making music and try to put a lot of hard work and dedication into our albums,” says Jay DeMarcus, Rascal Flatts bassist and background vocalist. “We are very thankful to our fans who have given us the best jobs in the world and are grateful to CMA, the City of Nashville and the Country Music community for making this our special day!”

Me and My Gang, was the highest debuting album in 2006 with more than 721,000 units sold in its first week, and when the cash registers stopped ka-chinging at year’s end, the album was the top selling artist album of the year with 3.4 million copies sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan. And that figure continues to rise with a current tally of more than 4 million copies. These sales combined with the continued strong sales of previous albums, including Feels Like Today, earned Rascal Flatts the title of being the best selling artist of 2006 in all musical genres.

This marked the first time in the era of monitored music sales that a Country group had the top-selling artist album of the year, according to Nielsen SoundScan research.

Rascal Flatts has sold more than 13.7 million units in the six years since the release of their self-titled debut. Feels Like Today is certified quadruple Platinum for sales of more than 4 million units, while Rascal Flatts and Melt are each certified double Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Me and My Gang is the band’s fastest selling title to date.

 Country Music Hall of Fame inductee
George Strait .

New Artist Spotlight:
Sarah Buxton

Compiled by Kristen Scherer
© 2007 CMA Close Up News Service / Country
Music Association, Inc.

With a playful attitude and an irresistible rasp in her voice, Sarah Buxton has a distinct sound. Lyrically, the singer-songwriter is dedicated to painting a picture of her own life. Growing up in Lawrence, Kan., playing piano and flute and writing music was dominating Buxton's free time. At age 12, she got involved with the Lawrence Children's Choir and quickly realized she was a part of "something that was truly beautiful." Later, during her junior year in high school she sang solo for the first time at the school's talent show and here she knew she'd found her true calling.

"I stood backstage with that cordless mic, listening to the crowd," Buxton said. "I thought, 'I love this, and why am I not nervous?'"

Growing up, she was seduced by the sounds of Faith Hill, Patty Loveless and George Strait, but it was Stevie Nicks who captured her heart and inspired her to begin crafting lyrics. After graduating and actually meeting Nicks, she became more determined to make the move to Music City and chase her dreams.

Buxton enrolled at Nashville's Belmont University and quickly formed a jam band, the regionally popular Stoik Oak . The band spent three years recording and touring before calling it quits. Buxton's music took a back seat when she met and fell in love with a local guitarist. They were married and moved to a rural cabin close the Cumberland River. After a lot of housekeeping and some serious soul searching, Buxton came to realize she was unhappy in the marriage and made the move back to Music City, set up in a small apartment and began to pursue her dream in earnest.

She met with friend John Rich of Big & Rich , who encouraged her and told her she could do anything she wanted to do if she put her mind to it. Buxton signed with a song publisher and was soon co-writing with some of Nashville's top tunesmiths, who spread the word about the feisty newcomer with the amazing voice.

One of those co-writers, Craig Wiseman ("Believe," "Live Like You Were Dying," "The Good Stuff") co-produced her self-titled Lyric Street Records debut album along with veteran producer Dann Huff (Faith Hill, Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban). Buxton co-wrote 10 of the album's 11 songs, including the leadoff single, "Innocence," written with Dave Berg, Georgia Middleman and Jeremy Stover.

"These songs are the pictures in my head," Buxton said. "They are my own feelings and memories and they ring true for me today as they probably would have if I had heard them when I was 8 years old."


Who is your musical hero?
"Peter Gabriel . I love his sound but it's really about his authenticity as a performer."

Which song would you secretly like to cover?
"I'd love to add Steely Dan 's 'Fire in the Hole' when I start touring with a full band later this year. It's got the best steel solo I've ever heard."

What CD is on your stereo?
"I've really been into Steely Dan lately. I've been listening to the whole catalog, starting with their last release and working my way up to the first. Right now I'm listening to Can't Buy a Thrill ."

What book is on your nightstand?
"'The Devil and Mrs. Primm' by Paul Coehlo ."

Who is your dream duet partner?
"Lowell George of Little Feat , may he rest in peace. He's probably got one of the sexiest and most soulful voices ever."

On the Web: www.myspace.com/sarahbuxton 
Photographer: Kristin Barlowe
Photo courtesy of Lyric Street Records.
Establishment of a Johnny Cash Memorial in Dyess, Arkansas
A. J. Henson is actively involved in the establishment of a Johnny Cash Memorial in Dyess, Arkansas and hopes to have Gene Williams, Katie Lynn, Jackson Cash ( an impersonator of Johnnie) and Mickey Gilley this July the 7th, and Tommy Cash back on the 6th of July." AJ reports: "Dyess Days 2006 was such a success that memorial organizers are planning an additional event on May 19th, during Heritage Month. The show will feature many Johnny Cash impersonators. Jackson Cash has been invited to perform then also. Also see web site http://www.genewilliamscountry.com/bio%20page.htm  for Gene Williams. There is some related info about Cindy Cash at http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1289456/bio  - if you need further information please contact A. J. Henson at hensonaj@gmail.com

Loretta Lynn is to receive an honorary doctorate of music
Loretta Lynn is to receive an honorary doctorate of music from Berklee College of Music during her March 17th Grand Ole Opry performance.   The honor from the Boston college puts the 71-year-old Lynn into a select group of recording artists that includes Duke Ellington, Tony Bennett, Aretha Franklin, Quincy Jones, B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, Earl Scruggs, Sting and Sarah Vaughan.
Hank Williams Jr. fans. It’s a  limited edition guitar,
Copley Musical Instrument Company has created an acoustic guitar exclusively for Hank Williams Jr. fans. It’s a  limited edition guitar, engraved with the Hank Jr. logo. The full-sized six-string guitar has a top consisting of laminated spruce; the back and sides of the guitar sport exotic rosewood with inlaid bindings. The guitar is priced at just under 300 hundred dollars, which includes a hard shell carrying case.
Neal McCoy Launches Own Label, 903 Music
Label Aims to be Artists' Missing Link

By Edward Morris

© 2007 CMA Close Up News Service / Country Music Association, Inc.
As a performer, Neal McCoy had all he could hope for - except a record company that loved him as much as the crowds did. So he started his own label, dubbing it "903 Music" after the area code of Longview, Texas, his hometown. So far, the new enterprise has done well. For starters, it generated McCoy his first Top 10 single in nine years. It's also developed enough muscle and confidence to take on two more acts: Darryl Worley and the Drew Davis Band . Worley's first 903 album was released
on Nov. 21, while Drew Davis Band is scheduled to make its recording debut the second quarter of 2007.
After working with Charley Pride for six years, McCoy signed to 16th Avenue Records, Gaylord Entertainment's short-lived label, in 1988. In 1990, he migrated to Atlantic Records, where he would spend the next decade. His first few singles fizzled on the charts, but his career appeared to skyrocket in 1994 when "No Doubt About It" went to No. 1. He followed it with "Wink," an even bigger hit that stayed at the top of the Billboard chart for four weeks. Throughout the next three years, he scored six more Top 5 singles. Then things began tapering off. From 1997 until "Billy's Got His Beer Goggles On" came along in 2005, none of his singles rose higher than No. 22.

When Atlantic shut down, McCoy moved to Giant Records and then briefly to Warner Bros. Records. But despite being plagued by label closings, executive turnovers, priority shifts and a frustrating indifference at radio, the lanky singer was such a dynamic live performer and tireless touring act that he still racked up one Gold and three Platinum albums.

Allied with McCoy in 903 Music are two silent-partner financial backers and his long-time manager, Karen Kane. They launched the label in July 2004, Kane said, but didn't announce it until the following February, after they had a staff in place. In the interim, McCoy completed his album, That's Life , and shot the music video for his rollout single, "Billy's Got His Beer Goggles On."

"We realized that as an independent [label], we had a lot of things working against us," Kane said. "But, luckily, when we did launch the label, it was the perfect time for one in the marketplace. We needed to have a really strong promotion team in-house. That's the first thing that we did." (Prior to becoming McCoy's manager, Kane spent 13 years in marketing and sales with Warner Bros. and WEA Distribution.)

Kane's first hire was Bill Mayne, a former General Manager and promotion executive at Warner Bros. whom she once described as "Vice President of anything and everything." He was put in charge of promotion and artist development. Then came four regional in-house promotional reps, a digital content staffer, a marketing consultant and an independent publicist. Recently, Kane added Chris Rogers, the veteran music video director, to the marketing staff. The label uses independent producers.

"The landscape has changed completely," Mayne said. "To me, the exciting part is understanding the changes in the marketplace and adapting to a new methodology to getting music exposed. First and foremost, you have to have credible people and credible product. We've got a smaller staff than anybody out there in the marketplace, so it's a matter of working hard and working smart. It's not about unlimited resources and large staffs. We're forced to be more creative."

To raise both McCoy's and the new label's visibility, 903 signed on as a sponsor of the 2005 Country Radio Seminar. This enabled the video for "Billy's Got His Beer Goggles On" to be played prominently throughout the Seminar, including at the heavily attended New Faces Show. That's Life was released in August 2005, and "Billy" peaked at No. 10 in late November.
Darryl Worley
Once it became apparent that 903 was gaining traction for McCoy, the principals decided to "grow the label" by signing other acts, Kane explained. Worley was a natural choice. A casualty of DreamWorks' closing, he had a catalog of hits that included "I Miss My Friend," "Have You Forgotten" and "Awful, Beautiful Life." More important, as far as the label was concerned, he had an organization behind him.

So did the Drew Davis Band . "They're a new act, but they already have a business in place," Kane said. "They've been touring for three years. And that's really our criterion - signing acts that already have businesses in place. The way our business model works is that we view ourselves as sort of a link in the chain of the artist's business. One of the issues with Neal was that we felt like our organization was working on all levels except for our records. We decided if we did everything else in-house, why not pull that in-house too."

Based in Los Angeles, the Drew Davis Band, Kane said, already has a publishing deal and a booking agent and is managed by Doc McGhee of McGhee Entertainment. Currently, the band is shopping for songs and a producer. And so is McCoy, as he looks toward his second album.

Kane speculated that the label's album budgets will vary widely, "depending on which producer you have and what kind of deals you cut. But I think the budgets that we have for albums are comparable to what the majors have. We want to put out quality products."

While 903 products are available via all the major digital providers, Kane said that most of the company's sales are through conventional retail outlets. She turned to another former colleague at Warner Bros. - Neal Spielberg - to advise the label on how to get its albums into the marketplace most effectively. "Because we have a real seasoned professional advising us in Neal, we're pretty conservative on what we manufacture as opposed to what we ship. We want to make sure that we don't have a lot of returns. Because of Neal's experience, we've been able to keep that percentage pretty tight and not over-manufacture. Our distributor is Navarre, and they've been really great about turning around product very quickly."

Kane admitted she couldn't comprehend the gulf that exists between McCoy's enormous crowd appeal and his generally tepid reception at radio. "After 10 years with Neal, I still scratch my head about that. Of course, every station wants him for its listener-appreciation show. We try to explain to radio that their consumers are buying tickets to his shows, putting out cold cash to see him and that he has a real impact in the market. But sometimes there's just a disconnect there that I haven't really been able to explain.

"I know that [radio programmers] love Neal personally. It's not that they've turned their backs on him as an artist. But they just haven't felt - this is what they're telling us - that he's had the right songs. And then we came with 'Billy,' and they gave us that support. They felt like their audiences demanded that song. Neal's biggest successes have been from songs that consumers have demanded."

Kane estimated that McCoy does about 120 shows a year. "He would do many more," she said with a laugh, "if we would let him. He's really in heavy, heavy demand as a live performer." Later on, McCoy plans to give the Drew Davis Band a shot as his opening act.

"Neal generally tours on his own," Kane observed. "He's headlined his own tours from the very beginning because nobody would follow him."

On the Web: www.903music.com ; www.nealmccoy.com ; www.darrylworley.com ; www.drewdavisband.com
Neal McCoy photo: Erick Anderson
Karen Kane photo: Amanda Eckard, CMA
Darryl Worley photo: Jeremy Cowart
Drew Davis Band photo: courtesy of Grand Overview Magazine Chicago
New Artist Spotlight:
Kellie Pickler
By Kristen Scherer
© 2007 CMA Close Up News Service / Country Music Association, Inc.

Kellie Pickler may not have been the winner on “American Idol,” but from the opening notes of Small Town Girl, her debut album, it’s crystal clear that she has no intention of giving up on her dream. Raised by her grandparents since age 2 in Albemarle, N.C., Pickler was surrounded by the music of artists Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Martina McBride and Dolly Parton. She started singing at an early age and hasn’t stopped since.

After graduating from North Stanly High School in New London, N.C., Pickler’s life began to change after she sang her first solo at her graduation in 2004. Having caught the performing bug, she began competing in local Miss America pageants, winning the “Miss Stanly County” contest at 17 and vying for Miss North Carolina 2004.

The 19-year-old Pickler auditioned for “American Idol” in the Fall of 2005 in Greensboro, N.C. After surviving the first few rounds, it was off to Hollywood, where she became one of Idol judge Simon Cowell’s favorites. She made it to Top 6 before being eliminated. In the show’s finale, she showed off her formidable comedic skills in a segment entitled “Puck ’n Pickler” with chef Wolfgang Puck .

Following her “American Idol” experience, she returned to her hometown where she was feted with a parade and presented with a key to the city. The mayor proclaimed May 6, 2006 as “Kellie Pickler Day.” For the young singer, the whirlwind was just beginning as she hit the talk show circuit, appearing on “Today,” “Live with Regis and Kelly” and the “Ellen DeGeneres Show.” In January 2007, Pickler served for two days as guest co-host on"The View," where she was surprised by Rosie O'Donnell with the news that Small Town Girl had been certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America, signaling sales of 500,000 units.

Small Town Girl was produced by Blake Chancey and released in October 2006 on 19 Recordings/ BNA Records. Pickler is a writer on five of the album’s songs, including the lead single “Red High Heels,” which she co-wrote with Chris Lindsey, Aimee Mayo and Karyn Rochelle .
The 1940 acoustic Martin guitar played by Bill Haley on his “Rock Around The Clock” hit reportedly sold for $57,000  during a recent auction in Arizona.
Reba McEntire

Andy Griggs

FAX: 513-481-3101
Cars the Movie 
 In the six degrees of connection category, “Cars”was named Best Animated Film at the Golden Globes.  Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts and Hank Williams Sr. all had music in the film.
Porter Wagoner will tour this summer with Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives. Stuart has been in the studio with Wagoner, producing his new album.
The museum at Elvis Presley's birthplace in Tupelo, Mississippi., has just reopened to the public, after undergoing a 250-thousand dollar renovation. The collection features memorabilia given by Elvis to his personal friend, Janelle McComb.
George Strait, Reba McEntire and Toby Keith will be among the 23 acts headlining nightly concerts at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo's 75th anniversary, February 27th through March 18th. Strait has a history with the rodeo, having performed there The all-star lineup also includes performances by Alan Jackson, Josh Turner, Gretchen Wilson, Clay Walker, Pat Green, Martina McBride, Sugarland, Rascal Flatts, Brooks & Dunn, Dierks Bently and others. Strait will perform February 27th
Willie Nelson and Jessica Simpson have been added to the cast “Blonde Ambition,” a new film based on the 1988 movie, “Working Girl.” Nelson plays Simpson's grandfather. They previously co-starred in the 2005 film version of “The Dukes of Hazzard.”  
Dennis Lind has Died
Sixty three year old Dennis Linde, whose credits include Elvis Presley's "Burning Love," Garth Brooks' "Callin' Baton Rouge" and the Dixie Chicks' "Goodbye Earl," died December 22nd at a Nashville hospital after battling idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a lung disease. Linde's songwriting success began in the early '70s after Roger Miller recorded "Tom Green County Fair" and Roy Drusky scored a Top 10 hit with "Long Long Texas Road." Linde also wrote hits for Mark Chesnutt ("Bubba Shot the Jukebox," "It Sure Is Monday"), Joe Diffie ("John Deere Green"), Alan Jackson ("The Talkin' Song Repair Blues"), Sammy Kershaw ("Queen of My Double Wide Trailer"), Eddy Raven ("In a Letter to You"), Shenandoah ("Janie Baker's Love Slave") and Don Williams ("Then It's Love," "Walkin' a Broken Heart"). Dennis who rarely attended awards ceremonies or other music industry events, but was elected to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2001 and was named songwriter of the year by the Nashville Songwriters Association in 1993 and BMI in 1994.
Merle Haggard will be honored with a street named in his honor in Oildale, Calif., a small town north of Bakersfield, where he spent his childhood years. The two-mile stretch will be renamed Merle Haggard Drive. The cities of Oildale and Bakersfield had a rivalry over which town would name a street after Haggard. 

Former Bee Gee Barry Gibb is not remodeling but refurbishing Johnny Cash's lakefront home north of Nashville. Barry and his wife, Linda, bought Cash's old house last year and all the wood has been brought back to its original condition.
Kenny Chesney and Willie Nelson will be back in the studio in January, where Kenny is co-producing Willie’s new album with Buddy Cannon.  The album contains songs from  Kris Kristofferson, Dave Matthews, Guy Clark, Jimmy Buffett and Randy Newman, plus some new tunes  from Willie himself.
The Tommy Channel on Guitar Player TV is now up and running. Have a look and listen and
send the link to your friends! 
Click on the TOMMY EMMANUEL channel on the left of the screen.
Neil Thrasher's Continuing Education
By Robert L. Doerschuk
Photographer: Kiss Kavanas
© 2006 CMA Close Up News Service / Country Music Association, Inc.

The first thing you notice about Neil Thrasher is his deadpan humor; he drops punch lines into his conversation, waiting for a beat or two to make sure they register. He uses that same timing when he's saying something he knows will make a different kind of impression.

"I learn something every time I write, but I don't know if I'll ever really find my own voice," he said. "Most writers never do."

This isn't the kind of talk you expect from a former ASCAP Songwriter of the Year, whose credits include Kenny Chesney's chart-topping "There Goes My Life" and Montgomery Gentry's smash, "Some People Change," along with hits by Diamond Rio, Reba McEntire, Rascal Flatts and Restless Heart. But the more he talks, the more unexpected twists Thrasher seems to take. He admits, for instance, that unlike most of his colleagues, he only began thinking of himself as a songwriter after he'd already been in Nashville for a while.

"I came here to be a star," Thrasher said. "I actually wouldn't be writing today if it weren't for my wife, Lana. She saw something in me that I didn't know I had. She's the one who set me up with writers here in town."

Music has been a constant passion in Thrasher's life. His parents met as performers of Southern gospel music, and Thrasher grew up listening to his father's successful quartet, the Thrasher Brothers.

"To me, it was all about the singing," he recalled. "I spent a lot of time at gospel shows, paying attention to everything: the voices, the showmanship, even the outfits the groups would wear. I've got album covers of my dad and his group in matching, fire-engine red suits, or in electric blue suits. They looked like the Mafia! I thought it couldn't get any cooler than that."

He was into rock 'n' roll too, at least until his father took the time to read the lyrics on one of his KISS albums. Still, by the time he got to Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tenn., he'd spent several years playing in bands. When a stomach infection ended his plans to play college football, performing seemed like the sensible thing to do. Then he met Lana, who was working at the office of his future publishing company, Major Bob Music. She brought him into the office, where he met another young talent, Kelly Shiver. Their voices blended beautifully as Thrasher Shiver, and the pair soon had an album out on Asylum Records and two CMA Vocal Duo of the Year nominations.

"Up to that point I wasn't planning on writing for a living," Thrasher said. "That's when I started paying more attention to structure and listening to how people actually said things and started putting that into my lyrics. Lana was helpful too. She's a great song person. I've learned a lot from her about what a good song is."

Lana was running Major Bob, helping to guide the exploding career of management client Garth Brooks when she met her future husband, who was singing with a gospel quartet, in 1992.

"It was through doing demos with that band that I met Neil," she said. "I just kept noticing that Neil had so much natural talent, and of all the people in the band he was just hungry and had that burning desire to do music."

Thrasher learned a lot from his future wife, including how to handle it when a publisher or artist edits your songs.

"Listening to someone else and knowing that you don't know everything is part of the learning process," Thrasher said. "For example, when Michael Dulaney and I wrote 'What Do You Say,' the third verse had a comedy thing to it - something about someone forgetting the words at a wedding. Reba loved the song, but she asked us, 'Can y'all write me a different third verse, about life and death?' She knew more than we did about what she wanted to say and what radio wanted to play. So we didn't hesitate, and that only made the song better."

For all he has learned, Thrasher admits that the deeper he gets into the creative process, the more mysterious it seems. Inspiration can come from anywhere, usually when you least expect it.

"Wendell Mobley and I were sitting in my living room; it was one of those brain-dead nights," he said. "Then Lana comes around the corner, lights three candles on the mantel and turns the light off. Wendell and I looked at each other, and then we called Gary LeVox. That's how we got 'I Melt'" (recorded by Rascal Flatts).

"The point is, there is no formula," Thrasher summed up. "It happens when it happens. A song can come to me here or at home, in my wife's office, or in my car."

How about on the golf course? Thrasher pulls down his shades and smiles. "Well, we can say we're working out there. That sounds like a good excuse to me."

On the Web:
Willie Nelson will be co-owner in the new Austin City Limits Studio to be  built  north of Austin City Hall.  The Block 21 project will also have a new luxury hotel and high-priced condos.  This will be part of the emerging Second Street retail district. 
Dolly Parton was honored at a White House reception as one of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts honorees along with Stephen Spielberg,  Smokey Robinson,  Andrew Lloyd Webber and conductor Zubin Mehta. The men and women were being honored by the Kennedy Center for their contribution to American culture and a lifetime of achievement in the performing arts.
Josh Turner Sings from the Heart
By Robert L. Doerschuk
photos Margaret Malandruccolo
© 2006 CMA Close Up News Service / Country Music Association, Inc.

Part of it was the song - "Long Black Train," a tune that seemed to beckon from a hundred years ago, with a lyric that mixed intimations of eternity with images of rails stretching toward doom or redemption.

Part of it was the venue - the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, where every singer dreams of seizing America's imagination at just the right moment. A lot of it had to do with the feel of the singer - Josh Turner, whose upbringing in the backwoods of South Carolina invested him with an unimpeachable Country pedigree. And, of course, there was the voice, a deep baritone that turned his national radio debut into a moment that would change his life forever.

Turner didn't even have a record deal when he stepped up to the microphone on Dec. 21, 2001, and delivered a reading of "Long Black Train" that roused the audience to a standing ovation that wouldn't quit until the young artist, unknown up to that moment, sang it once again. That was nearly five years ago - a long time in the life of any emerging star. In a sense, Turner has been in a continuous state of emergence since then, playing gigs that inevitably centered on the song, the days ticking by without any second album in sight.

There's a reason for that, as Turner explained, now that his sophomore album, Your Man, has reached Platinum status and spawned two No. 1 singles, the title track and "Would You Go with Me," - a feat that even "Long Black Train," peaking at No. 13, failed to attain.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself as to how to outdo 'Long Black Train,'" he said. "I worried about overcoming that phenomenon until I finally realized that I needed to do something completely different while still being Josh Turner. So I started thinking about what Eddy Arnold told me one time: He said I should take every opportunity I could to record a love song because nothing relates to people more than the relationship between a man and a woman."

Turner resolved to follow his own instincts and, track by track, Your Man grew on a foundation built largely from songs about love. This may not be a revolutionary concept, but this focus liberated Turner to arrange his priorities appropriately. Though you can't mistake that timbre and resonance, these tunes follow melodies that another singer might be able to handle, if maybe an octave higher. And for every descent into the depths of his range, as in the last note on "Way Down South," there's a passage that climbs nearly to the tenor heights, as on the chorus of "Would You Go with Me." But that was only part of the picture. Being associated with one special song may unlock the door toward notoriety; the problem is that this door could slam shut and trap you in a smaller spotlight than you had anticipated. Turner and his producer, Frank Rogers (Brad Paisley), understood this perfectly as they mapped out their strategy for Your Man .

"We looked at the great moments on the first album and aimed at having 10 times as many great moments on the next one," Turner explained. "We began with the fact that the Josh Turner sound is very traditional, with a lot of the characteristics of the music and many of the artists that have gone before me. It's swampy, rustic and earthy and gritty to some extent. At the same time, we wanted to put a smooth texture over it, so that it feels fresh but yet you feel like you've been hearing these songs your whole life."

The sound they created bears a label that Turner, without help from any publicist or scribe, came up with on his own. "I call it 'South Carolina Low Country,'" he said, smiling. "I grew up there in a small farming community called Hannah, surrounded by fields, pine trees, dirt roads and rivers. I spent a lot of time outdoors, hunting and fishing or riding around on my four-wheeler. It was a Country lifestyle all the way."

Vital to this world was the Missionary Baptist Church that stood about a mile down the road from Turner's house. This was where he first heard music and where he cut his teeth as a singer. "The hymns we sang there are still very special to me," he said. "Songs like 'Just as I Am' are relevant even today. And I used to sing 'Without Him' in a quartet called the Thankful Harps with some other guys my age. Some of those lyrics are extremely eloquent, even though they were written before this past century."

The feel of those hymns, complemented by the Stanley Brothers and Osborne Brothers albums that he heard at his grandmother's place, instilled the belief that feeling was what all the great singers had in common. Sound wasn't an issue for Turner at that point; he was a baritone, which meant he looked to Randy Travis as a model on which to base his style. But that basso profundo hadn't yet risen up and taken shape. In fact, it wouldn't be an issue until 1996, with the onset of a medical setback that would in fact prove to be a great stroke of luck.

"I got a lesion on my right vocal cord," he recalled. "I went to the Vanderbilt University clinic, and rather than do surgery, they put me on a year's rest from singing. My coaches at Belmont University - Patricia Roberts for classical repertoire, and my commercial teacher Janet Kenyon - helped me work every day to get over this injury. After a while I started to notice that my sound was getting richer and fuller. My range was broadening. I kept chipping away until it was like, 'Wait a minute. I've never hit that note before.'"

Though his transformation left Turner with a voice that almost any male singer would envy, he maintained his focus on the song through the hubbub that followed that adulation at the Opry. This is why Your Man doesn't come across as a series of dive-bomb vocal gimmicks. Rather, it is a mature performance, from the nostalgic autobiography of "Way Down South," the comfortable profession of faith that he shares with a boyhood hero, Ralph Stanley, on "Me and God," the deadpan humor of "Baby's Gone Home to Mama," and of course those love songs that were essential to the mix from the start.

"Josh's voice isn't a gimmick," said producer Frank Rogers. "It's an amazing instrument. There's no voice like it in Country Music or even music in general. More than that, it's who he is, which is why I knew it had to be out front in the mix. This is probably the loudest I've ever turned up vocals on a record, but I wanted to make sure that you didn't just hear it - you'd feel it too."

"I'm already looking forward to the next record," Turner added. "I'm keeping a file of all my ideas for songs. There are plenty of other songs already out there that mean something to me. Hopefully, I'll have a lot of time to record them all. Sure, I'm blessed with having a great voice, but what's the point of it unless I can use it to sing from what's in my heart?"

On the Web: www.joshturner.com
           By PETER COOPER

Before Dollywood and ''9 to 5'' and ''I Will Always Love You'' and all such as that, Dolly Parton lived in a dodgy trailer on Murfreesboro Road.
Her impoverished family back in East Tennessee worried about her decision to move to a big, hard town like Nashville, and some folks back home told her she'd likely starve to death.
''I thought, 'Well, how much poorer can I be?' '' said Parton, 60, who tonight will receive the nation's highest award for artistic achievement during the 29th annual Kennedy Center Honors. ''I was poor at home in the mountains, I figured I could be poor somewhere else.''
In any case, starving to death wasn't a possibility for Dolly Parton.
''To eat, I used to go over to some of the motels, and I'd go up and down the halls and find where people had left their trays out in the hallways,'' she said. ''I'd get pieces of hamburger or whatever from their trays. I didn't feel like a bum. I felt like, 'Lord, some people waste more food than other people have.' There'd be stuff left over that people hadn't even touched.''
Parton knows that such behavior might seem at the least uncouth and at the most outright strange, and she's never been a bit scared of aberrance. She stood out as a schoolgirl who sang on Knoxville television as a pre-teen. She stood out as an early teen who wrangled a guest slot on the Grand Ole Opry with the help of Opry star Jimmy C. Newman, and she now stands as a giant of American popular music.
Her legacy, which will be celebrated at the Kennedy Center tonight with songs and praise from a gathering of surprise guests, is inherently singular. Her voice, her appearance, her songs, her career decisions and most everything else about Parton are anything and everything but typical.
Like the three other country artists who have received Kennedy Center Honors — Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash — Parton may rightly be considered a maverick. She was the first country female artist to record two No. 1 pop singles, to accumulate 50 Top 10 country singles, to be nominated for an Academy Award, to be worth $500 million (estimated in the late 1990s by Business Nashville magazine) or, in an event that caused much controversy in 1978, to appear on the cover of Playboy magazine. She was also the first female songwriter to win performing rights organization BMI's Five-Million Air Award, given for 5 million radio airings of ''I Will Always Love You.''
But even those who don't know that Parton ever set pen to paper and wrote a song tend to be aware of her enduringly curious combination punch of a mountain-pure voice and outlandish, wig-wearing, bespangled image. This is a woman who yodels in stilettos. She's not planning to tone it down in Washington this weekend, as her two scheduled luncheons, a dinner with National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice and tonight's gala awards show sent her on a shopping spree.
''I spent a fortune on those clothes, but I still look cheap in them,'' she said. ''But that's all right. They know how I'm gonna look, right?''
They do, but necks shall still crane. Glimpsing Dolly Parton is nearly as unusual and memorable an experience as hearing Dolly Parton. But even if she'd never mastered the grand entrance, the red carpet walk or the tough trick of finding the perfect wig, she'd have been a major force in music because of her catalog of self-penned songs, including ''I Will Always Love You,'' ''Jolene,'' ''Coat of Many Colors,'' ''My Tennessee Mountain Home'' and ''To Daddy.'' If she hadn't been a writer, she'd have made a mark with a voice that is the unmistakable starting point for hundreds of singers: The current crop of successful Parton-followers includes Alison Krauss and Lee Ann Womack.
It's the songwriting for which Parton is proudest. In a career that has garnered her entrance into the Country Music Hall of Fame, she is proudest of her inclusion in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and it was her songs that allowed her initial security in Music City.
'When I first realized I was going to be able to make a living out of this was when I got put on a weekly salary for my songwriting, by Fred Foster at Combine Music, in 1965,'' she said. ''I've never thought about doing anything else since then.''
That salary wasn't enough to live on, necessitating some odd jobs and some motel scavenging. The early years were full of struggle, and full of meetings with Nashville power brokers who were unaccustomed to a woman who spoke with such sweet but frank confidence.
''I think they saw somebody who was going to do it either way . . . so they might as well help me,'' said Parton, sitting in her Nashville office along 12th Avenue South. ''I was friendly, and I was country, and I was no pushover. I would go right in and say what I thought, which was, 'I'm gonna make a lot of money, do you want to get in on it?' In my mind, I was a business person: 'This is my product, I'm here to sell it. You're a business man, do you want to buy it?' I was proud to take in what I had. I thought, 'If these people are smart, maybe I'm not that good just yet but they'll see that I have potential.' I always said I had more guts than talent, but I had enough talent to back it up.''
One of the men who saw her potential, of course, was Porter Wagoner, now a Country Music Hall of Famer himself. In 1967, Wagoner hired Parton to perform on his influential syndicated radio show, and their duets were far more successful than Parton's solo efforts through the remainder of the 1960s.
By the mid-1970s, though, Parton was well-established as a solo artist, and her break from Wagoner was contentious on personal, professional and legal levels. On her own, she began her well-documented climb beyond Nashville, to pop radio and Hollywood and beyond. Along the way, she's flummoxed the country community by signing with California-based agents when that sort of thing just wasn't done and by unabashedly (and successfully) courting mainstream appeal. By the 1990s, those things were nearly de rigueur for the Nashville-based divas who followed in her wake.
''I had such strong dreams and opinions and desires of my own,'' she said. ''But, also, I leave myself open. I'm a very spiritual person. I pray every day, and I try to keep myself alert and open, and I seem to know what to do, even when other people think I've lost my mind.''
In Parton's childhood, her strict Pentecostal upbringing offered an at-times frightening spiritual vision. ''We thought God was a monster in the sky,'' she once told writer Otis James. But she is deeply attached to the notion that people — and songs, for that matter — are divine inspirations. She's also fearful of becoming a false idol to fans who clamor to follow her from concert to concert, who design their homes around themes from her songs and who express near-religious fervor for her. A recent documentary film called ''For the Love of Dolly'' explored the world of Parton's most devoted fans, and the film's scenes sometimes verge on frightening. Parton said she hasn't seen the movie but knows the phenomenon quite well.
''I'm flattered, but I worry about some of them a lot,'' she said. ''I want them to see the God light in me, not to worship me. I'm very touched, but I'm also very troubled sometimes about how people will live through somebody else.''
Living through others is, at heart, the opposite of everything Parton has stood for and sung for. She's into performing for others, to the point that she believes that people come to her concerts ''Not to see me be me, they come to see me be them. And I can be some of everybody.''
But her path to what the Kennedy Center has deemed a life of cultural significance has been one she forged for herself, through willful purpose.
''I wrote a song yesterday called 'The Sacrifice,' '' she said. ''The chorus says, 'I was going to be rich no matter how much it cost, and I was going to win no matter how much I lost/ 'Cause all through the years I kept my eye on the prize, but I knew early on about the sacrifice.'
''People ask if it was worth it and, yes, it was,'' she continued. ''While other people go on vacations, I work. And there were lots of lonely times. Looking back, all the bad and hurt falls away as you go on. I love thinking I'm leaving something in the world that wasn't there yesterday. When you start out in the business, you never know how you're going to be remembered when you're older.
''That song, 'The Sacrifice,' is about all that. It says, 'From grindstone to rhinestone I carry my pail, 'cause you can't drink the water if you don't dig the well.' That's kind of like how I feel.''



Brooks & Dunn Win Three During CMA Awards
Ronnie Dunn Also Picks Up Song of the Year for “Believe”
Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood Each Win Two
By Amanda Eckard
© 2006 Country Music Association, Inc.

Music City threw its arms wide open to welcome back “Country Music’s Biggest Night™” when “The 40th Annual CMA Awards” broadcast live from the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Downtown Nashville on the ABC Television Network.

After a successful move to New York City in 2005, the CMA Awards came back home for its 40th Anniversary. It was a homecoming fit for a king – actually, two kings. The evening’s hosts Brooks & Dunn took home the crown for most wins, including Music Video and Single of the Year for “Believe,” and their unprecedented fourteenth Vocal Duo of the Year Award. These three Awards bring Brooks & Dunn’s overall CMA Awards tally to 18, tying Vince Gill’s record for most wins.

“It’s really good to win,” Kix Brooks said backstage. “We are prepared every year to clap for someone else. We are surprised that voters aren’t tired of seeing us win every year.”

Ronnie Dunn also picked up his first Song of the Year Award with 2004 Song of the Year winner Craig Wiseman for “Believe,” a song about hope and redemption with a Gospel feel.

“It’s an amazing song and I am blown away by it,” Wiseman said backstage after praising his co-writer. “Every time I hear it it’s like I hear it for the first time.”

The duo, who took their third turn as hosts of the CMA Awards, opened the show with “Building Bridges” with Vince Gill and Sheryl Crow, which was nominated for Musical Event of the Year.

Brad Paisley picked up two Awards, including Musical Event of the Year for “When I Get Where I’m Going” featuring Dolly Parton and Album of the Year for Time Well Wasted. Paisley performed “She’s Everything,” from his Award-winning album.

“The album really encompasses a lot of people,” Paisley said backstage. “The producers, the fans, co-writers and even family get involved in the album process. And I like that. It’s an art form it should feel like a journey.”

“American Idol” Carrie Underwood took home her first Female Vocalist of the Year Award and the coveted Horizon Award, which is given to the artist who demonstrates the most significant creative growth and development in Country Music. It was the first time that an artist has won the Female Vocalist and Horizon Awards in the same year since Alison Krauss in 1995.

“Just two years ago I was watching these Awards on TV watching other people win these Awards and I never thought I would be up here,” a visibly moved Underwood said accepting her Female Vocalist Award. “Thank you anyone who has had anything to do with this past year.”

Earlier in the broadcast, Underwood performed the revenge-themed “Before He Cheats” from her triple-Platinum album Some Hearts .

Relentless touring artist Kenny Chesney took home his second Entertainer of the Year Award. “The relationship that I have with all of the people back there in the back is unbelievable,” Chesney said from the stage.

Backstage, Chesney could not say enough about his fans. “To see those people come hear the songs I sing – it’s bigger than anything I have ever dreamed.” Chesney performed current single “You Save Me” from his double-Platinum album The Road and the Radio .

Keith Urban won his third consecutive Male Vocalist of the Year Award, a feat that had not been repeated since George Strait won in 1996 through 1998. Though he was not present to accept his Award, his friend Ronnie Dunn read a letter from Urban. “I’m pained not being here tonight,” Urban wrote. “I thank you from the bottom of my heart and I look forward to coming home and seeing you soon.”

Rascal Flatts grabbed their fourth consecutive Vocal Group of the Year Award. “We’ve had an amazing year,” lead singer Gary LeVox said. “Thank you to God for giving us a stage to perform on every night.” The trio performed “My Wish” from their CMA Award-nominated album
Me and My Gang .

The Horizon Award nominees made their creative mark on the broadcast. Red hot group Sugarland performed “Settlin’” from their brand new album Enjoy the Ride. Little Big Town weaved their harmonies around the haunting “Bones” from their album The Road To Here. Fireball Miranda Lambert blazed through “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” from her forthcoming sophomore album, set to be released in February. Deep-voiced crooner Josh Turner performed his hit “Would You Go With Me” from his second consecutive Platinum album Your Man .

Alan Jackson performed the title single from his Alison Krauss-produced album, Like Red on a Rose, backed by Musician of the Year nominee Jerry Douglas on dobro. Four-time Female Vocalist of the Year winner Martina McBride wowed the crowd with the no-regrets song “Anyway.” Fresh off of the top-grossing Country tour of the year with her husband Tim McGraw, Faith Hill performed her new single “Stealing Kisses,” from Fireflies. New duo The Wreckers performed their No. 1 hit “Leave the Pieces” from the album Stand Still, Look Pretty. Dierks Bentley, the 2005 Horizon Award winner, performed “Every Mile a Memory” from his third album Long Trip Alone. “Redneck Woman” Gretchen Wilson teamed up with Big & Rich’s John Rich for “Come to Bed” off of her forthcoming third album to be released Spring 2007. Newcomer Jason Aldean performed his hit “Hicktown” from his self-titled debut album.

Twelve-time CMA Awards host Gill performed “Give It Away,” a song from his new four-disc album These Days. Crow along with Gill’s wife Amy Grant and daughter Jenny Gill provided background vocals on the song.

Country Music Hall of Fame member Kris Kristofferson introduced the newest inductees into the hallowed Hall, Harold Bradley, Sonny James and George Strait. Strait, who was the second artist inducted in the “Career Achieved National Prominence Between 1975 and the Present” category, performed “Give It Away” from his newest album It Just Comes Natural. In his career, Strait has sold more than 62 million albums, won 16 CMA Awards, and produced 53 No. 1 hits, more than any music artist in history.

“Who’d of thunk it,” the humble Strait said as he accepted his induction plaque. “To my fans, don’t think I don’t realize why I am up here.”

Bradley, a noted session musician and producer, was inducted in the “Recording and/or Touring Musician Active Prior to 1980” category.

“Thank you God for 60 years of working with the greatest singers, greatest songwriters, greatest musicians and greatest producers in the business,” Bradley said.

James, who co-hosted the very first “CMA Awards Banquet and Show” in 1967, was inducted in the “Career Achieved National Prominence Between World War II and 1975” category.

Guitarist Randy Scruggs won his third Musician of the Year Award which he won in 1999 and 2004.

The CMA Awards’ new network home, ABC-TV, brought out its presenter star power for Country Music’s Biggest Night™. “Desperate Housewives” stars Eva Longoria and James Denton, Kimberly Williams-Paisley of “According to Jim,” Cameron Mathison of “All My Children,” and the Disney Channel stars of “Hannah Montana” Billy Ray and Miley Cyrus all presented Awards during the broadcast.

Presenters included Gary Allan, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, Billy Currington, Barbara Mandrell, Montgomery Gentry, Kellie Pickler, LeAnn Rimes, Lee Ann Womack and Trisha Yearwood .
You can hear the Grand Ole Opry online at:   http://www.wsmonline.com/
Billy Joe Shaver married Wanda Lynn Canady, his most recent ex-wife, for the second time on October 13th 2006 in Las Vegas.  Shortly after the wedding, Shaver cracked a vertebra while "Indian wrestling" with a friend but is expected to recover fully.
Sugarland to Wake Up Nashville and Nation on 'Good Morning America' CMA Awards Morning!
In celebration of the Nov. 7 release of their sophomore album Enjoy The Ride, Mercury double Platinum-selling group Sugarland will wake up Downtown Nashville Monday, Nov. 6 with a live performance on "Good Morning America." The special concert event will take place on The Chevy Stage at Gaylord Entertainment Center's outside plaza at the corner of Broadway and Fifth Avenue. The public is invited to come out for this free event on GEC Plaza at the corner of Broadway and Fifth Avenue.

"We couldn't think of a better way to kick off the CMA Awards and the launch of our new album," exclaimed lead singer Jennifer Nettles. "Get ready Nashville, we are taking to your streets!"

Special guests Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi will join Sugarland that morning and that night, as the two groups will vie for a trophy in the Musical Event of the Year category at the CMA Awards for their collaboration on "Who Says You Can't Go Home." Additionally, Sugarland is nominated for the Horizon Award and Vocal Group of the Year.

ABC's "Good Morning America" will also celebrate "The 40th Annual CMA Awards," airing later that night (8:00-11:00 PM/EST) live from the Gaylord Entertainment Center, for the first time on the ABC Television Network.
read the full release
Carrie Underwood's
Wild Ride
By Peter Cronin

© 2006 CMA Close Up News Service / Country Music Association, Inc.
In the year since she beat out blue-eyed soul shouter Bo Bice to emerge victorious as the 2005 American Idol, Carrie Underwood hasn't had a whole lot of time to savor her victory. As demanding and life-changing as the "Idol" experience was for Underwood, it was only a small taste of what was to come as her life became an endless series of press interviews, TV appearances, photo shoots, awards shows, concerts and coast-to-coast travel. And then she made a record. Released in November 2005 and propelled by its chart-topping leadoff single, "Jesus, Take the Wheel" (six weeks at No. 1), Underwood's debut album, Some Hearts, quickly became the fastest triple-Platinum female Country debut in history, spending a phenomenal 15 weeks at the top of Billboard's Top Country Albums chart. No doubt about it: for this 23-year-old singer from Checotah, Okla., the past 12 months have been one wild ride.

"I think the only word that I can say is, Wow!" Underwood enthused at a recent triple-Platinum celebration thrown by her label, 19 Recordings/Arista Nashville. There's a lot to celebrate. Underwood's is the kind of out-of-the-box success that hits Music Row every once in awhile, boosting percentages and providing the Country format with a much-needed shot in the arm. In other words, everybody's talking about Underwood. They may be debating her pop leanings or her reality-TV beginnings, but there's one thing they all say: This girl can really sing. That is made crystal clear with every one of Underwood's incredibly poised and pitch-perfect live performances. While she's glad her contest days are behind her, Underwood is quick to give some of the credit for her "overnight" success to the sink-or-swim ethic of "American Idol."

"It was basically like a boot camp," she said. "There was nobody to tell me what I should sing, or what to do, and being away from my friends and family, pretty much on my own, I had to grow up. If I could survive that and not go crazy then I could survive everything that followed. It so prepared me for what I do now."

Immediately following her "Idol" win, Underwood was hustled into the studio to record the contest-winning power ballad, "Inside Your Heaven." The single debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart and became the best-selling song of 2005. While the track displayed her stunning vocal chops in a big pop setting, Underwood insisted on recording a vocally challenging Martina McBride classic for the B-side.

"I think 'Inside Your Heaven' is a good song, but I didn't choose it," she stated. "That's why we put 'Independence Day' on the back, because we don't want to confuse everybody. I like to try new things, but I'm a Country girl and that's the kind of music that I made it clear I wanted to sing."

"Carrie from the very beginning always made the point that she was a Country singer," said SONY BMG Nashville Chairman Joe Galante. "She took a risk by doing that because it's obvious that Simon Cowell is not a fan of the music - but that is who she is. She is going to have a long and successful career here - and that is going to be a big shot for everyone in Country Music!"

Growing up in a fairly typical but non-musical family in small town Oklahoma, Underwood was nonetheless exposed to all kinds of music in all kinds of places.

"We'd take car trips and my parents always had it on the oldies station," she said. "I got a lot of Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater Revival, John Denver and all that. My sisters were teenagers when I was growing up and they were in their rebellious stage, so I got a lot of '80s rock music out of them. But being from Oklahoma, Country Music was always playing everywhere. In every store you went into, if there was a radio on, 95-percent of the time it was a Country station. So it was something that had a lot of influence on me."

Songs including "Jesus, Take the Wheel" and the follow-up single, "Don't Forget to Remember Me," are powered by Underwood's undeniably pure Country sensibility, but deeper album cuts "We're Young and Beautiful" and her current single, "Before He Cheats," showcase the singer's more mischievous and sassy side.

"I think that has to do with what I grew up with," she said. "Dann Huff, who was one of the producers of my album, without me saying anything said, 'Do you listen to a lot of rock music?' And I said, 'Yeah, I like it.' And he was like, 'I can tell. A lot of choices you make vocally are choices that a person with a more rock edge would choose.'"

She may be comfortable with her rocking side, and she does possess one of those voices that can go just about anywhere, but when it came time to decide where she wanted to make her music, where she lived, for Underwood there was no hesitation.

"I'm sure a lot of meetings were held to try to figure out a way to market me," she said." But my management company made it very clear that I was going to sing Country Music and that's what I wanted. I love all kinds of music, but I feel like I fit with Country and that's the kind of music I love."

Preparing to record her debut, Underwood went directly to the heart of Nashville's creative songwriting community. Her management team set up a "retreat" at Nashville's Karian Studios, giving Underwood a chance to mingle and even co-write with some of Music Row's biggest hitmakers. Songwriters including Brett James, Hillary Lindsey and Rivers Rutherford took the time to get to know the person behind the image and custom-crafted songs to reflect Underwood's life and concerns, including one she co-wrote about her hometown.

"I wanted to meet the songwriters, get to know them and let them know the kind of album I wanted to make," Underwood said. "They broke off into little groups and I'd bounce around from room to room and give suggestions and sing part of what they'd written. We even recorded some rough drafts right there in the studio. 'I Ain't In Checotah Anymore' came from that time, and I co-wrote on another one that didn't make the album. I can't wait to get into the next one. I want to have a bigger hand in it and co-write on a lot more songs."

Underwood has also been busy touring and getting to know her fellow Country artists, gaining some valuable advice along the way.

"The advice most people have given me is to take it all in," Underwood said. "Don't just go and go and go and not have fun with it. You've got to have fun."

As hectic as things have gotten, Underwood is definitely enjoying the trip, and she makes a point of taking regular breaks, heading home to Checotah and to her alma mater, Northeastern State University in nearby Tahlequah, where she recently graduated Magna Cum Laude and where she still loves to spend time with her old, reliable, pre-"Idol" friends.

"I try to get home about once a month, so it's not that bad," she said. "I miss my family and my animals, but they're always waiting for me when I get home. And a lot of my friends still go to college in Tahlequah, so I'll go hang out with my sorority sisters for a few days. The people that knew me before still treat me the same . when we go out it's a different story."

As she reflects on all she's learned and experienced in the past year, including being nominated for four CMA Awards (Horizon, Female Vocalist, Single and Music Video of the Year), and gets ready to perform at "The 40th Annual CMA Awards" in November, Underwood has her Country Music priorities perfectly straight.

"I like the intimacy of the studio and hearing how everything evolves from the demo to the finished product," she said. "But there's nothing like being in front of the fans. Especially now, they come to see me, and they give off a great energy. They're happy to be there, and I'm happy they're there.
On the Web: www.carrieunderwoodofficial.com
Photographer: Andrew Southam
Photography courtesy Arista Nashville.
“Smart Blonde: The Life of Dolly Parton”
is the first book on Parton to be released in 15 years and includes interviews with family and friends as well as musicians and producers who have worked with her throughout her career. The book chronicles her career as a singer and songwriter in Nashville and follows her to Hollywood, where she also became a film star alongside Jane Fonda, Burt Reynolds and Sylvester Stallone.  “Smart Blonde: The Life of Dolly Parton” is scheduled for a November 1st release.
George Jones and Merle Haggard have teamed up for “Kickin’ Out The Footlights … Again,” to be released  October 24th. 2006 Each singer chose five songs to record that were made popular by the other. Together they chose four additional songs as duets. One of the duets, “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” was recorded in California while Jones was on tour in Haggard’s home territory.  The two also perform the title track and a newly written Haggard song, “Born With The Blues.” Among the songs Jones chose of Merle’s are “The Way I Am,” “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink” and “You Take Me For Granted.” Haggard picked “The Race Is On,” Things Have Gone To Pieces” and “Window Up Above” among the five Jones songs he recorded.
Tex-Mex Singer Freddy Fender, 69, Dies
Posted by Charley Connor on 10/14/2006, 4:03 pm

Click here for Tribute
Freddy Fender's Web site: http://www.freddyfender.com
• Full project participation by Lucinda Williams
• Features a newly remastered version of the album
• Includes 2 previously unreleased tracks:
Alternate version of “Still I Long For Your Kiss” & “Down The Big Road Blues”
• The original unissued version of “Out Of Touch”
• Previously unreleased FULL concert performance (WXPN LIVE AT THE WORLD CAFÉ recorded July 11, 1998)
• Featuring 13 performances drawn from the Car Wheels album, as well as riveting versions of some of her earlier-penned songs “Pineola,” “Hot Blood” & Changed The Locks”
• Guest performers include Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Charlie Sexton and Buddy Miller
• Deluxe digipak packaging features lyrics, photos and essay
10/20/06 Malibu,
Willie Nelson cited for possession of  marijuana and psychedelic mushrooms after their tour bus was stopped for inspection. 
Martina McBride          Keith Urban
John Russell / CMA
2006 -Sara Evans and Partner Tony Dovolani Dance the Paso Doble, Request Fan Votes!
Photo: courtesy of ABC
The competition is getting stiff on ABC's hit show "Dancing with the Stars" and Sara Evans needs the support of the Country Music fans and community to help her move on to the next round! She has wowed the judges in recent weeks with her moves – especially a Country-infused Jive dance last week. And as she prepares to dance the Paso Doble with partner Tony Dovolani tonight, she isl counting on votes from the fans to help her advance in the competition!

Sara is representing Country Music before a national television audience. Please support her by tuning in every Tuesday night at 8/7c on ABC and vote!

WIVK’s Americana Highway HEMI Awards
WIVK’s Americana Highway with Jack Ryan announced the winners in the 2006 Americana Highway
HEMI Awards during a special broadcast on Sunday, September 24.
The Americana Highway 2006 HEMI Awards winners:
Favorite Female Artist – Rhonda Vincent
Favorite Male Artist – Mike Dekle
Favorite Band/Duo – Blue Moon Rising
Favorite Song – “Step Out Of The Shade” by Amy Speace
Favorite Album – “This World Is Not My Home” by Amy LaVere
Favorite Future Female – Tresa Jordan
Favorite Future Male – Michael O’Neill
Favorite Future Band/Duo – Lou Reid & Carolina
Favorite Local Female – Karen E. Reynolds
Favorite Local Male – Phil Leadbetter
Favorite Local Band/Duo – Lone Mountain Station
Favorite Local Song – “Papaw Taught Me” by Blue Moon Rising
Favorite Gospel Performance “Jesus Built A Bridge To Heaven” by Rhonda Vincent
Favorite Instrumental Performance – “Unionhouse Branch” by Alison Krauss + Union Station
Favorite Acoustic Performance – “Within” by Carolyn Dawn Johnson
Favorite Special Event Recording – “Being Me” by The Grascals with Dierks Bentley
Favorite International Artist – The Greencards  Congratulations!! from Ragepage
Favorite Songwriter – Doug & Telisha Williams
Favorite Cover Song – “Runaway Train” by Darcy Lynne Ward
Favorite Song From A Movie – “Jackson” by Reese Witherspoon & Joaquin Phoenix

The Americana Highway listeners also voted for an artist to be the first inducted into The Americana Highway Hall of Fame. The artist selected for induction is Dolly Parton.

“The voter turnout was magnificent,” said the show’s host Jack Ryan. “We knew there was a passion for this kind of music – bluegrass, Americana, folk, acoustic, alt. country – but quite honestly we were a little surprised by the number of votes cast. Over 40,000 votes! That’s pretty amazing. Especially since this was our first year of the doing these awards. I can’t wait ‘til 2007!”

Listeners of the show on WIVK-FM could vote either online or through email for this one-of-a-kind awards competition. The winners were then determined by combining both the online and email ballots.

The Americana Highway with Jack Ryan is a weekly radio program broadcast on WIVK-FM in Knoxville, Tennessee on Sunday evenings from 10:15 p.m. to Midnight EST. The program is streamed worldwide on the Internet via www.wivk.com . Information about the program can be found at www.americanahighway.com .

   Alan Jackson       Carrie Underwood           Rascal Flatts  

Sara Evans  on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars.
Bradley, James, Strait Newest Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees
© 2006 Country Music Association, Inc.
NASHVILLE – The Country Music Association has announced that influential musician/ producer Harold Bradley, legendary singer Sonny James and multi-award-winning entertainer George Strait, will become the newest members of the coveted Country Music Hall of Fame. Formal induction for the artists will take place during “The 40th Annual CMA Awards,” which will be broadcast live on the ABC Television Network, Monday, Nov. 6 (8:00–11:00 PM/ET) from the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Nashville, Tenn.
(read the full press release)

Harold Bradley
– A Nashville native born Jan. 2, 1926, Bradley and his older brother Owen (who was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1974) grew up to become instrumental in both Country Music and Nashville’s music history.

Fascinated early on with the banjo, Bradley expanded his talent to the guitar. His skill on the guitar led him to tour with Ernest Tubb and the Texas Troubadours prior to graduating high school.

After serving with the U.S. Navy, Bradley studied music at George Peabody College in Nashville and played guitar on the Grand Ole Opry. In 1946, he held his first recording session with Pee Wee King and the Golden West Cowboys. Bradley became one of the busiest studio musicians in Nashville, playing rhythm, lead and/or bass guitar as well as banjo. He was known for creating the “tic-tac” style of muting bass notes for the bass guitar.

In the late 1940s, Bradley and his brother Owen built Nashville’s first recording facility, Castle Recording Studio. In 1955 they built the larger facility Bradley Film and Recording Studios on Sixteenth Avenue South in Nashville; the founding studio on “Music Row.” In 1962, Bradley Studio was bought by Columbia Records.

Through the years, Bradley became the most recorded guitar player in history and would come to be known as “the Dean of Nashville Session Guitarists” and was one of the original “A Team” studio musicians of Nashville. In addition to recording with hundreds of artists, Bradley recorded three solo albums of instrumentals and performed on a variety of film soundtracks.

Bradley also worked as a producer. He co-produced 39 half-hour episodes of the late 1950s television series “Country Style, USA,” which featured many Grand Ole Opry artists. He appeared briefly in Robert Altman’s 1975 award-winning movie “Nashville” and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) named him music director for their fundraising telethon, “Legends of Country Music” in 1985.

Bradley has served as the first President of the Nashville chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) and the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) in Nashville since 1991, and was named the AFM International Vice President in 1999. Bradley is one of 12 musicians inducted into the Studio Musicians Hall of Fame at RCA’s Studio B. He also received the NARAS Superpicker Award for six consecutive years (1974-1979).

Sonny James
– Born James Hugh Loden on May 1, 1929 in Hackleburg, Ala., the boy who would grow up to be known as “The Southern Gentleman” was raised on a 300-acre farm in a family of musicians. At the age of 3, James began singing and playing a homemade mandolin. The Loden Family began performing locally, prior to becoming regulars on regional radio shows with headliners like Chet Atkins and Johnny Wright.

Loden finished high school just prior to being called to become a member of the First National Guard troops sent to Korea for the Korean Conflict in Sept. 1950. While there, Loden began seriously writing songs while playing both the guitar and fiddle. Loden returned to Nashville after two years overseas and met up with Atkins who had become an established recording artist and session musician. Through Atkins, Loden secured an audition and later recording contract with Capitol Records’ under the stage name of Sonny James and tagline – “The Southern Gentleman.”

In 1953, his single “That’s Me Without You” hit No. 9 on the Billboard Country chart. James began appearing on important radio shows and
co-hosting the television show “Ozark Jubilee.” James’ singles continued to be hits. Between 1960 and 1979, his singles spent an incredible 57 weeks in the No. 1 position – more than any other Country artist.

In 1967, James and Bobbie Gentry co-hosted the first CMA Awards. Throughout his career James received five CMA nominations throughout his career including Entertainer (1967); Male Vocalist (1967; 1969); and Album of the Year (1967;1976). In 1961, he became the first Country Music artist to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Billboard named him the No. 1 Country Artist of 1969.

A man of many talents, James expanded his career by producing other artists and entering music publishing in the early ‘70s. He also continued to perform concerts, appear on national television shows such as “Hee Haw” and participate regularly in Fan Fair, now CMA Music Festival. In 1983, James retired from performing to raise cattle in Alabama. He currently lives in Nashville, Tenn.
George Strait
-George Strait photograph by Tony Baker, courtesy of MCA Nashville.

Click here to read about the Life of Roy Orbison
Country Industry Makes Inroads to World of Sports
By Amy Green
© 2006 CMA Close Up News Service / Country Music Association, Inc.

Photo courtesy of Webster & Associates.
Are you ready for some football?
Hank Williams Jr. made the question famous, but a growing number of Country artists - Big & Rich and Tim McGraw among them - have moved to "the big leagues" to lend their names to promote national sports events and shows.

Artists long have sung the national anthem during pre-game shows - both Brooks & Dunn and Carrie Underwood performed for the last NBA Playoff series of games. And acts have long rendered their own tunes at halftime shows. What's new is Country's more prominent place in promoting national sports. More than a decade after Williams first asked his rowdy question on ABC's "Monday Night Football," McGraw joined the broadcast with his song, "I Like It, I Love it," and Big & Rich joined ESPN's "College GameDay" with their song, "Coming To Your City," the first single from their sophomore album, released in November 2005.

The trend to feature more Country acts is a result of broadening audiences both for Country and sports, said Kathy Armistead of the William Morris Agency, a talent and literary agency. Country now borrows sounds and fans from rock and pop, while sports saturates fans with its many cable shows and video games. The fan bases have collided, she said.

"I think it's new for the mass market to choose a Country song to maybe anchor a sportscast or a large event in the sports world, to choose a Country song versus maybe an old rock anthem from the '80s," said Armistead, a Nashville agent who specializes in commercials, endorsements and tour sponsorships.

The entire industry stands to benefit, according to Paul Jankowski, whose Nashville agency provides brand development services for companies and celebrities from Jo Dee Messina to Beyonce to Evander Holyfield.

"I think Country Music is very relevant right now," he said. "It's all about marketing. It's about having an edge. It's about having something fresh and new, and so when they're marketing those programs, music is an enormous part of the brand that they're trying to portray. It's a huge testament again to Country Music."

Often it's the lyric or mood of the Country song that connects with the audience which sports program producers want to target. ESPN featured Carolina Rain's raucous song, "Let's Get It On," during its "College Football Primetime" show in November.

Most times a network contacts an artist's agency or management about a deal, perhaps after an executive is inspired by personal preference or a recommendation from a family member. But it can work both ways. An artist's management may pitch song placements, too. After negotiations, the appropriate parties agree to a song licensing deal for a specified time. Sometimes the deal may include performances or appearances.

Artists must have a clear brand. They must demonstrate they are relevant through tours and sales, but also that they are relevant to what the network is promoting, Jankowski said. The artist's demographic and brand should match that of the sports program. For example, McGraw is ideal for "Monday Night Football" because he is athletic, a co-owner of the Arena Football League's Nashville Kats and he appeals to both men and women. Trace Adkins, known for his brawn and bass voice, was a good choice for the 2004 "Orange Bowl Fed Ex Halftime Show," along with mainstream pop celebrities Kelly Clarkson and Ashlee Simpson.

"How can my artist help you move your product?" Jankowski asked. "I need to understand their business and what drives their bottom line way beyond 'they can stamp a banner on my tour bus.' That is the new generation of building marketing partnerships."

ABC executives suggested a "Monday Night Football" partnership with McGraw in 2004 after McGraw performed during halftime at a Washington Redskins game, his manager Scott Siman said. The two parties negotiated for six months and for the 2005 season decided to air weekend highlights to the chorus, "I Like It, I Love It," with lyrics rewritten each week to match the highlights. It's not been decided whether McGraw will continue with "Monday Night Football" now that it has moved to ESPN, Siman said.

"It was a good thing for both of us," he said. "It was a ratings success from their perspective, and from ours we saw a really dramatic increase in the sale of Tim's greatest hits record after the 'Monday Night Football' program."

Big & Rich have partnered with ESPN since 2004 when the duo did a large promotion for the network using their single, "Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy," their manager Marc Oswald said. The network asked for music suggestions for last season's "College GameDay" and were given three tracks off the duo's latest album, including "Coming To Your City." As part of the one-year deal, Big & Rich opened the season with a performance at the University of South Carolina marking Steve Spurrier's return, and they closed the season with a six-song concert before the Rose Bowl national title game.

The partnerships worked because McGraw and Big & Rich each cultivate an image, or brand, that blends well with sports, Jankowski said.

Meanwhile, Williams, who helped define the core image of pro football, made his fifth Super Bowl appearance, singing in the pre-filmed opening introduction to the game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks.

Country and sports likely will continue expanding the partnership, said CMA Board member Robert Deaton, Co-owner of Deaton Flanigen Productions, which directed and produced Williams' "Monday Night Football" opening for eight years.

"Sports is about America, and that's what Country is. Country Music is about America," he said. "It goes hand-in-hand."
On the Web: www.HankJr.com 
“The 40th Annual CMA Awards” will be hosted for the third year by Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn of super duo Brooks & Dunn and broadcast live from the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Nashville Monday, Nov. 6 (8:00-11:00 PM ET/delayed PT) on ABC.
read more
Photographer: Kristin Barlowe
Photo courtesy of Broken Bow Records
New Artist Spotlight:
Megan Mullins
By Peter Cronin
© 2006 CMA Close Up News Service / Country Music Association, Inc.
Indiana native Megan Mullins began studying violin at 18 months, using the Suzuki method. At 3 years
old she won the Indiana State Fair Showmanship Award at the State Fiddle Championship performing "Rocky Top." Soon after, Mullins and her brother Marcus were performing together, eventually appearing on the Grand Ole Opry.

Mullins became Concert Master in the Fort Wayne Youth Symphony at 10 and won the Ohio Grand Champion Fiddle contest the same year. She followed up the next year with a win at the Young Artist Classical Competition in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Mullins has performed at fairs, festivals, coffee houses, pubs, churches and the CMA Music Festival. She also studied dance and gymnastics and graduated early from high school at age 15.

Proficient on violin, mandolin, guitar, piano, bass, clarinet, and accordion, today Mullins is part of the Nashville Star house band. She's toured with Catherine Britt and Sherrie Austin playing fiddle and contributing background vocals, as well as appearing in Austin's videos, "Streets of Heaven" and "Drivin' Into the Sun."

Mullins, who signed with Broken Bow Records and who cites Patsy Cline, Alison Krauss and Dolly Parton as musical influences, has released her first single, "Ain't What It Used To Be," written by Tony Martin and Mark Nesler.

Which song would you secretly like to cover?
"It wouldn't be a secret if I told you!"

What CD is on your stereo right now?
"I have a Ryan Adams CD in my stereo."

What is your pet peeve?
"I don't have a pet peeve, but I do have a pet dog, Maxie."

Do you have a lucky charm?
"Cross necklaces from my parents."

Which mode of transportation do you prefer - planes, trains or automobiles?
"Tour Buses!"

What actor would portray you in a biopic about your life?
"Natalie Portman"

When they look back on your life in 50 years, what do you hope people say about you?
"What a lady."
On the Web: www.meganmullins.com
Martina McBride Records an Album of 'Timeless' Classics
By Bobby Reed
© 2006 CMA Close Up News Service / Country Music Association, Inc.

Martina McBride has been surrounded by traditional Country Music her entire life.
At age 7, the Kansas native joined her father's band, which played cover versions of chestnuts including "Heartaches By The Number," "Satin Sheets" and "I'll Be There."

Then she grew up to become a Country Music superstar.
In 1995, McBride joined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry, where she has frequently shared the stage with trailblazing artists such as Country Music Hall of Fame member Loretta Lynn, Jeanne Pruett and Connie Smith.

With the October 2005 release of her album Timeless, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and has since gone Platinum, McBride has come full circle, returning to the classic Country songs that were such an important part of her formative years. The singer's eighth studio album is comprised of 18 new recordings of songs from the 1950s, '60s and '70s, including tunes that were hits for Lynn, Pruett and Smith.

The album's lead single was "(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden," a song written by Joe South that became a No. 1 Country hit for Lynn Anderson and helped her earn the honor of CMA Female Vocalist of the Year in 1971.

The key inspiration for Timeless was a new version of Buck Owens' "Together Again," which McBride recorded for My Heart, a compilation of her music that was sold exclusively at Hallmark Gold Crown® stores in 2005.

"That was the spark that started this whole thing," McBride said. "I had such a great time recording 'Together Again,' and it reminded me how much I loved this music and loved singing it. I thought, 'Someday, I'm going to do a whole album of this music.' And then I thought, 'Why wait until someday? Why don't I just do it now?'"

In addition to paying tribute to legendary stylists, the album also salutes the craftsmanship of some of the genre's most revered tunesmiths. McBride delivers dazzling renditions of Bill Anderson's "Once A Day," Johnny Cash's "I Still Miss Someone" (with guest vocalist Dolly Parton), Harlan Howard's "Heartaches By The Number" (with guest vocalist Dwight Yoakam) and Hank Williams' "You Win Again."

"Martina's love and understanding of Country Music is part of every word she sings on this album," said Joe Galante, Chairman, RCA Label Group. "There is no doubt in my mind that the writers of these timeless songs would agree that they have been given an equally timeless voice."

McBride has a deep respect for all the artists whose songs she interprets on Timeless, but she feels a special kinship with the pioneering female vocalists. Throughout her career, McBride has drawn inspiration from those courageous women who triumphed in an era when chauvinism and gender discrimination were prevalent in the music industry.

"Those women made it possible for me to do what I do," McBride said. "They had to face obstacles that I don't even have to think about now because of the path that they've set for us. In choosing these songs, I wanted to pay my respects to those women. So I went back and listened to how Loretta and Connie sang the songs. I didn't want to copy them note-for-note, but I did pay respect to their phrasing and enunciation and the kind of style in which they sang the songs."

McBride has become a groundbreaking artist in her own right, combining Platinum sales with social commentary. Her hit singles, such as "Independence Day," "A Broken Wing" and "Concrete Angel," have often addressed social ills, and she has served as the spokesperson for the National Network to End Domestic Violence. To date, McBride has sold 15 million albums, and has won the CMA Female Vocalist of the Year Award in 1999, 2002, 2003 and 2004.

Timeless is a landmark album for McBride because it is the first release for which she was the sole producer. She and Paul Worley co-produced several of her earlier albums.

"Paul has been a mentor to me in the truest sense," McBride explained. "He taught me everything I know about making albums. I felt that I was at the point where I could make an album by myself. So I asked Paul to come play on the tracks and to be available to me if I had a question or needed help with a final mix. It was the best of both worlds because I was able to make the album 90 percent on my own, but I still had him available for whatever I needed."

"Martina had the image in her head of what the album should sound like," said Worley, who played acoustic guitar on Timeless. "Once the magic started happening on the very first song, we all had the sense that we were doing something historic. And something that people were really going to love."

McBride hand-picked most of the musicians for the sessions, and they used vintage instruments, microphones and amplifiers. In another nod to the techniques of the golden age, McBride recorded her lead vocals live in the studio, backed by an ensemble.

"I put together a band that was just as excited as I was about making this album,'' McBride recalled. "I wanted to get the feel of the original recordings. I was really open to everyone's input and suggestions because the passion for this project was something we all shared."

The core musicians for the sessions included Eddie Bayers (drums); Stuart Duncan (fiddle); Paul Franklin (steel guitar); Steve Gibson (guitars); Gordon Mote (keyboards); Marty Schiff (guitar); Glenn Worf (bass); and Larry Paxton (bass).

"Martina presented these songs to us in a way that utilized our creativity, allowing us the freedom to make each song our own while maintaining the integrity of the original classic," Franklin said. "I was so impressed by the way Martina's voice captured the soul in each lyric. In my solos, I tried to capture the same kind of emotional connection she had with the song."

McBride has a long personal history with the tune "I'll Be There," which was a hit for Ray Price in 1954. "I have a 78 rpm of my dad singing it when he was probably 15 years old," McBride said. "He won a contest and the prize was making a record at a recording studio somewhere in Kansas. When we were kids, my grandma would pull out this record and play it for us."

McBride recorded another memorable classic, "Harper Valley P.T.A.," for Music From And Inspired By Desperate Housewives, released in 2005 by Hollywood Records. The TV soundtrack includes contributions from Sara Evans, k.d. lang, LeAnn Rimes, SHeDAISY and Shania Twain.

In July 2005, McBride joined the ranks of icons such as Elvis Presley, Diana Ross and Frank Sinatra by being immortalized with a collectible Barbie® doll from Mattel. The Martina McBride Barbie® doll retails for $19.99 and is available at Toys "R" Us and other stores.

"We like to partner with the No. 1 person in his or her category, and Martina McBride has cross-generation appeal for both our older and younger collector," said Elizabeth Grampp, Mattel's Barbie® Collector Senior Marketing Manager.

"Having been a fan of Barbie® doll since I was a little girl, it's incredible to actually have a Barbie® created in my likeness," McBride said.

The singer is promoting Timeless with a headlining tour that continues into the fall. In late November, McBride launches the fourth year of her "The Joy of Christmas" tour, which will hit 16 cities, concluding Dec. 22.
On the Web: martina-mcbride.com
Photo courtesy of RCA Records.
George’s 1962 # one "He thinks I still care" was written by Dickey lee
Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton  has been invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  Dolly’s new membership means that she can vote on the Oscar winners for 2007.  Dolly will be welcomed into the organization on September 20th at an invitation-only reception at the Academy’s Fairbanks Center for Motion Picture Study in Beverly Hills, CA. The exclusive invite goes to people who have distinguished themselves in the field of theatrical motion pictures.
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum annual Calendar
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum has chosen the 12 artists to be featured in its annual calendar, including  Big & Rich, Brooks & Dunn, Kenny Chesney, Faith Hill, Alan Jackson, Toby Keith, Martina McBride, Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley, George Strait, Keith Urban and Gretchen Wilson. The calendar also includes dozens of archival photos from the museum's collection and country music facts for every day of the year.
Kris Kristofferson just celebrated his 70th birthday - 2006
Kris Kristofferson just celebrated his 70th birthday. The CD "The Pilgrim: A Celebration of Kris Kristofferson" features  Gretchen Wilson, Rosanne Cash, Willie Nelson, Jessi Colter, Shooter Jennings, Emmylou Harris, and Rodney Crowell.
Flashback CMA Music Festival / Fan Fair and IFCO Show.
Christian Lamitschka  Germany ( Ch.Lamitschka@t-online.de )
The four day CMA Music Festival / Fan Fair in Nashville has proven to country fans again, what seems to be impossible in Europe. It only takes good will and an awesome lineup of artists to make the biggest party in the world.

For music lovers, there was a lot to see and hear. The convention center floor was a giant meet and greet where you could line up and get your picture taken with your favorite stars and get their autographs and a few minutes to talk with them.

The riverfront area had concerts every day, all day long. So many artists played there, I will not even attempt to name them. The crowds excited the artists and the artists excited the crowds.

The same goes for the nightly concerts in the stadium. They were really great even though just like last year, it rained at night. Other than that, it was sunny and hot. But that didn’t bother the true country fans because everybody was having a good time no matter where they were or what they were doing. There was so much to see and hear that you couldn’t do it all. With so many events going on at the same time, you had to choose which ones you were going to see and which ones your were going to miss.

There were also many private parties for fan club members and I was privileged to attend the party given by Andy Griggs and Tracy Byrd at the Wildhorse Saloon. It was a very special concert experience. Andy and Tracy were on stage singing hit song after hit song with just their guitars. From time to time they would invite special guests like Rhett Akins or Marty Brown to join them, also only with their guitars, no band. It was a very warm and personal show with their long term fans who filled every seat in the house.

During the CMA Music Festival / Fan Fair week, the International Fan Club Organization (IFCO) has it’s annual show at the Ryman Auditorium and it’s always a very special treat. It is much more quiet than the outdoor venues and therefore the music can be enjoyed even better. Be sure to check out their website www.ifco.org as well as read my interviews with the stars from backstage at the mother church of country music and home of the Grand Ole Opry, the Ryman Auditorium. You might even want to join one of the many fan clubs and let them know we love country music in Europe too.

If you would like to see the CMA Music Festival in 2007, tickets are already available at www.cmafest.com . All I can say is, bring suntan lotion so you don’t get sun burned.

Here’s a hot tip for you. When you travel to the States you can get good travel deals at Reisebüro Sareiter, www.sareiter.de/country . They make it a priority to have the best prices you can get anywhere. Also, it’s always nice to catch a concert featuring your favorite artist. You can get concert tickets at a good price at www.starticketsplus.com.

Christian Lamitschka ( Ch.Lamitschka@t-online.de )

Tommy Emmanuel , heaped praise on Keith Urban to his audience at a recent concert he held. Keith had once said about Tommy's guitar playing," that some people are touched by the hands of God, Tommy is the hands of God, the way he plays guitar"!  Click here Keith Urban Artist Report page   Tommy Emmanuel Artist Report Page
Record-Breaking 161,000 Country Music Fans Attend 2006 CMA Music Festival
By Wendy Pearl
© 2006 Country Music Association, Inc.

CMA Music Festival set a new attendance record in 2006 with 161,590 people attending the four-day Festival, June 8-11, in Downtown Nashville.

"It was an amazing event on many different levels - from the caliber of the artists and our surprise guests, to our incredibly enthusiastic fans, who traveled from around the globe to be here, and the growing support from Nashville and our surrounding communities," said Tammy Genovese, CMA Chief Operating Officer. "Each year we say it, and it is true again in 2006, this was the best CMA Music Festival ever."

Attendance at the Festival hit an all-time high. Single concert tickets at the Greased Lightning® Daytime Stages at Riverfront Park and the Nightly Concerts at LP Field were up eight percent from 2005. In fact, CMA opened the upper level of LP Field for the second year and doubled the amount of seating to accommodate the demand for single night concert tickets. CMA also experienced a six percent increase in the sale of four-day ticket packages.

"Increased single concert ticket sales are an indication of increased local support and participation in the Festival," Genovese said. "It is a trend that started last year and I'm happy to say we saw it continue in 2006. Local companies and individuals are embracing this event as never before - especially now that it benefits music education."

Fans enjoyed themselves and made it known at the Box Office. Tickets for CMA Music Festival 2007, June 7-10, went on sale Saturday and Gold Circle four-day ticket packages sold out in a record two hours. By Sunday, advance sales bested sales during the same period in 2005, by a robust 41 percent.

"They are coming back based on the experience they had this year, and from the initial response and what we are hearing from the Box Office, they obviously had a good time and will be back in 2007," Genovese said.

Attendance has grown from 124,000 in 2003, to 132,000 in 2004, 145,000 in 2005 to more than 161,000 in 2006. Increased sales of four-day ticket packages and single concert tickets at Riverfront Park and LP Field contributed to the growth, as well as record attendance at CMA Music Festival's free areas - including the Family Zone, Fun Zone, Chevy Sports Zone, and Chevy "All Access Music Tour."

"Our aim has been to grow this event into a world-class Festival for our fans, our artists, our industry, and our city," Genovese said. "And working together with our key stakeholders and partners, we are well on our way to accomplishing that goal."

Several factors accounted for the increase including moving the Chevy Sports Zone from the LP Field side of the Cumberland River to a new location adjacent to the Family Zone; an extensive local advertising campaign to drive awareness of the free areas; additional programs, including a sports challenge with celebrities and pro-athletes; additional performance stages; activities for children; and the weather, which had stayed clear and dry until the very end of the event.

The concert at LP Field was delayed Sunday night for more than an hour due to heavy lightning and storms, but the fans weren't ready to call it quits and the music continued with Sugarland after the storm passed. Unfortunately, a second weather system made it impossible for unannounced, surprise guest reigning CMA Female Vocalist of the Year Gretchen Wilson to perform.

"We were fighting the clock and weather, and we ran out of time with another storm approaching," Genovese said. "The Office of Emergency Management was advising against going any later and we have to put the safety of the artists, our fans and hundreds of on-site workers and volunteers first and foremost."

Surprise appearances are a hallmark of this event. And 2006 didn't disappoint. Thursday night reigning CMA Horizon Award winner Dierks Bentley made an unannounced appearance, while CMA Entertainer of the Year Keith Urban joined CMA Awards hosts Brooks & Dunn during their set. On Friday, Country superstar Kenny Chesney also made a surprise appearance.

"We love giving our fans something special and unexpected," Genovese said.

And it all benefits children and music education in Nashville. The artists and celebrities participating in CMA Music Festival donate their time. They are not compensated for the hours they spend signing autographs and performing. In appreciation of their exhaustive efforts, CMA donates half the net proceeds from the event to music education on their behalf.

To date, CMA has donated more than $800,000 to worthy causes on behalf of the artists and in 2006, CMA launched "Keep the Music Playing," which earmarks music education in public schools for this important initiative through a partnership with the Nashville Alliance for Public Education. CMA anticipates contributing $300,000 toward music education for Metro Nashville's 73,000 public school students in 2006.

The charity donation is appreciated, but at its heart, CMA Music Festival is - and always will be - about the fans and their relationship with the artists and the music. The theme is universal and in 2006, Festival attendees came from every state and 27 foreign countries including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and Uruguay.

New this year was the "CMA Music Festival Block Party" following "The Second Annual CMA Music Festival Kick Off Parade," featuring special guests Big & Rich and a variety of artists, celebrities, and athletes riding in classic Chevy vehicles and the newest model cars.

Following the Downtown procession, the party kicked into high gear with a free block party at the Chevy "All Access Music Tour" stage on the plaza at the Gaylord Entertainment Center. Big & Rich made a surprise appearance and Cowboy Troy acted as host and emcee for the event, which drew an estimated crowd of 3,000 according to police estimates.

Nightly Concerts at LP Field
In all, 33 acts participated in the star-packed Nightly Concerts at LP Field.

The lineup Thursday included Gary Allan, Dierks Bentley, Brooks & Dunn with Keith Urban playing guitar on "Believe," Sara Evans, Pat Green, Little Big Town, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Blake Shelton, and Hank Williams Jr. Pre-show activities included Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell; Mark Wills, singing the national anthem; and the participation of the United States Marine Corps Recruiting Station Nashville Color Guard and a fly over by three Air Force F-16s from The Checkerboards of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312, from Marine Corps Air Station, Beaufort, S.C

Midway through Evans' hit-filled set, the singer stopped to introduce Kristen Wright and Sean Marks, both 24 of Buffalo, N.Y. When Marks dropped to his knee and asked Wright to marry him, the crowd erupted into cheers.

Fans were treated to performances Friday by Trace Adkins, Jason Aldean, Kenny Chesney, Terri Clark, Billy Currington, Montgomery Gentry, Wynonna, and Trisha Yearwood.

During her performance, Yearwood stopped to say, "We always hear so much about how great it is for the fans to see all their favorite artists in the same place, but it's the same for me. I just love coming here and getting a chance to see all the fans."

Saturday's lineup included Billy Ray Cyrus, Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride, Craig Morgan, Brad Paisley, Josh Turner, and Carrie Underwood, who made her first Festival appearance in 2005 after being named American Idol.

"It's been a great week," Underwood shouted to the enthusiastic audience. "It wasn't too long ago, I was sitting out there with y'all."

Sunday rocked the house with Keith Anderson, Clint Black, Los Lonely Boys with Ronnie Milsap, Joe Nichols, LeAnn Rimes, SHeDAISY, and Sugarland -- who capped the night and the Festival.

"Country Music fans are the best fans in the world," Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles shouted as the band launched into "Something More," to the delight of the wet, but eager crowd.

(Read the full story online at CMAfest.com )
New Artist Spotlight: Carrie Underwood
By Gary Voorhies
© 2006 CMA Close Up News Service / Country Music Association, Inc.

"American Idol" winner Carrie Underwood grew up in Checotah, Okla., where her father worked at a paper mill and her mother taught school. The youngest of three girls, Underwood started singing at church at 3 years old.

By seventh grade, the "little girl with the big voice," began to enter local talent shows.

Underwood's early music influences varied. "I grew up listening to The Four Seasons and The Bee Gees, John Denver and The Beatles. I learned to love the music of the '80s through my sisters. And growing up in Oklahoma, it was hard not to know Country Music really well. I started listening to it in the car and then my mom and dad picked up on it," she said.

Underwood studied journalism at Northeastern State University in Oklahoma, where she produced a student-run television program, wrote for the school paper and performed in a Country Music show on campus. One night after a show, Underwood drove to St. Louis, where she waited eight hours to sing Martina McBride's "Phones Are Ringing All Over Town" for the "American Idol" audition.

After a series of callbacks, Underwood earned a spot on the show. When she won, Underwood signed to 19 Recordings/Arista Records. Her first release, "Inside Your Heaven," made Billboard chart history as the first Country Music song to debut in the top spot on the Hot 100. She embarked on a 40-city "American Idol" summer tour and appeared in national advertising campaigns for Hershey's chocolate and Skechers.

Produced by Mark Bright and Dann Huff, Underwood's debut album, Some Hearts, was released in November 2005 and features the single, "Jesus Take the Wheel," written by Hillary Lindsey, Gordie Sampson and Brett James. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Albums chart, selling 314,000 copies in its first week, making Underwood the highest-debuting new artist in the Country genre during the SoundScan era. The album went Gold after only two weeks and remained at No. 1 for five consecutive weeks. In January, Some Hearts went Triple Platinum and is the RIAA's fastest-certified and Nielsen SoundScan's fastest-selling debut Country album.
The album has also become the fastest-selling "American Idol" project to date, outpacing earlier CDs at the six-week sales point.
Brooks & Dunn: The Game's Just Getting Started
By Michael McCall
© 2005 CMA Close Up News Service / Country Music Association, Inc.

One of Brooks & Dunn’s many talents is downplaying their talents. Like all good male duos - from Abbott and Costello to Starsky and Hutch to Mel Gibson and Danny Glover - these two have mastered the pose of playing the fool while making the difficult look easy.

They may come off as the good-timing, honky tonk twins; just two rambunctious roughnecks out for a good time. But look past the swaggering front and you'll find plenty of soul, sensitivity and songwriting smarts.

"We are real competitive," Dunn said. "We see all these hot new acts coming up, and it motivates us to keep our level high. It inspires us."

Now, after 28 million albums sold and 23 No. 1 hits - as well as a whopping 15 CMA Awards, including the 1996 Entertainer of the Year honor - the duo that once graced the cover of a Corn Flakes box are making their best, most soulful recordings yet. Their "Deuces Wild Tour" which ran through Oct. 30, featured fellow duos Big & Rich and the Warren Brothers. Rather than relaxing into senior statesmanship, Brooks & Dunn have stepped up their game.

Dunn recalled a conversation he and Troy Gentry of Montgomery Gentry had while on tour together. "Why are you guys so dang competitive," Gentry asked Dunn. The veteran responded, "I told him I wasn't shooting for him. I'm just trying to keep my draw as sharp and fast as it possibly can be."
Their latest album, Hillbilly Deluxe, co-produced by the duo and Tony Brown, proves that they are indeed as sharp as ever - and that their songwriting is gaining even more depth as the years pass. "We feel we're doing our best work," Brooks said. "Something happened with Red Dirt Road that changed us for the better. We knew we were at a crossroads, and we needed to either raise the level or cut our losses. We took some chances, we dug deeper, and apparently something clicked."

Dunn agreed: "We rode that good-timin', honky tonk thing forever - maybe too long. Obviously it was working, but then you realize you can do more. There's more depth here that we're capable of. Whatever it was going to cost, we had to take that risk. We had to try and do something grittier."
After the success of the true-life tales of Platinum-selling Red Dirt Road, there was no turning back. "We feel our mandate now is to write meaningful stuff," Dunn said. "We've challenged ourselves to draw on our lives and to open up and tell the truth in our songs, and frankly it's been real exciting to take this step."

Brooks feels the same sense of inspiration. "I always felt I was a songwriter first and foremost, and now it's as if we're saying, 'OK, buddy, show me what you've got," he said. "Red Dirt Road was partly there, it was the beginning. But on Hillbilly Deluxe, we take it all the way. We weren't going to compromise or settle for anything less."

They still rock, of course. Brooks & Dunn rounded up writers Larry Willoughby, Hank DeVito, Radney Foster and Darrell Brown in addition to co-writing with Bob DiPiero, Craig Wiseman and Terry McBride. "Building Bridges" includes guest performances by Sheryl Crow and Vince Gill. The first single, "Play Something Country," written by Dunn and McBride, shows how Brooks & Dunn have been at the forefront of changing how guitars sound in mainstream Country Music.

"My dad used to use that phrase all the time," Dunn said. "I'd start into something that rocked a little, and he'd interrupt me and say, 'Play something Country!' This song is my revenge, because it has both Country and rock in it."

Brooks sees the song as part Rolling Stones, part Merle Haggard. "What we do isn't Southern rock," he said. "Everything we do has a real Country base to it. It's honky tonk music kicked up a bit. A lot of time when people think of rock associated with Country, they immediately think Lynyrd Skynyrd and that kind of thing. We dig that stuff, but that's not what we do. We take real Country Music and put some swagger behind it."

Also on the album are the Brooks vocal showcase "Her West Was Wilder," and two stellar Dunn co-writes, "Believe" and "She's About as Lonely as I'm Going to Let Her Get."

"Everything we write, and what we write about, comes out of being inspired by Country songwriters," Brooks said. "The same goes for our vocals. Ronnie's such a great, authentic Country singer. So when we take a song and rock it up, it still has that real Country thing to it. To me, that just feels good."

The album title Hillbilly Deluxe refers to the Southern blue-collar experience, and its work-hard-and-play-hard ethos.

"Hillbilly Deluxe is about people working hard all week, then breaking that chain that's holding them down and getting out and making the most of a Saturday night," Brooks said. "It's about a kind of life that's very much alive today. You can take that message downtown to a big city, or you can take it out in the country to smalltown U.S.A., and they'll all get it."

Brooks & Dunn are set to perform during the 2006 CMA Music Festival. Look for the high-energy performers at the Thursday night Coliseum show, alongside Gary Allan, Sara Evans, Pat Green, Little Big Town, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Blake Shelton and Hank Williams Jr. Additionally, the duo will be featured on the ABC Television special “CMA Music Festival: Country Music’s Biggest Party” when it airs Monday, July 24.
On the Web: www.brooks-dunn.com 
© 2005 CMA Close Up News Service
Photo courtesy of Arista Nashville.
The Changing World of Brad Paisley
By Michael McCall

Photographer:  Jim Shea
© 2006 CMA Close Up News Service / Country Music Association, Inc.

Until recently, Brad Paisley resisted repeated suggestions that he jazz up his concerts with high-tech flash. He worried, as an emerging artist, that glitz might overwhelm the connection between him and his audience. He wanted listeners to get to know his growing catalogue of songs, and by extension, get to know him. He didn't want his show to grow faster than he did.

The strategy worked, too. Fans seeing the young West Virginian perform for the first time realized they were seeing an exceptionally multi-talented artist. He sang well and looked good, sure. But he also played like a guitar hero and wrote distinctive songs in a wide range of styles. The songs revealed a witty, whip-smart personality with an everyman quality. Paisley's shows connected with fans through sly jokes and an easy-going, confident manner that brought everyone into the party with him.

But with five No. 1 hits, four multi-Platinum albums and more than 6 million in sales, it was time to up the ante. For the "Time Well Wasted" tour featuring Sara Evans and special guest Josh Turner, Paisley brought on the glitz and the gadgets and the high-tech flash. The crowds were already there and already with him. The next step was delivering more bang for their buck.

"We really started seeing crowds big enough to justify investing in what we do," said Paisley while relaxing at his Franklin, Tenn., farm on a rare day off. "So we took the plunge, and it was a good move, because it became a more enjoyable experience for the audience as well as for us."

For such a laid-back guy, Paisley is a constant innovator. He didn't want to just add fireworks, more screens, bigger stages and fancier lighting to his show. He wanted to do something distinctly his own.

He personally created a cartoon that animates each band member during the performance of the instrumental "Time Warp." Alison Krauss magically appears on screen during "Whiskey Lullaby," and Little Jimmy Dickens visits the show via satellite. Also, Paisley's Web site comes up each night on the widescreen to show the results of an online contest to pick a song from his back catalog for the band to perform.

"The song contest makes it a different show each night," Paisley said, "and that makes it fun for the fans and fun for us."

For the cartoon, Paisley writes his own script and uses Toon Boom software to create animation. "It was something I was dared into doing," he noted. "It gave me something to do on long airplane flights."

He'll act as if learning animation is no big deal, which tells you something about Paisley. Many young artists like to beat their chests and demand attention for every accomplishment. Paisley tends to politely smile and let the work speak for itself. Those who figure out he is a busy artist involved in all levels of artistry in his career, do so on their own.

It's also instructive to observe where in the show he uses the cartoon. "'Time Warp' is a long, fast instrumental that without the cartoon might not be as entertaining for the crowd," Paisley said. "It's the kind of song musicians and music geeks appreciate, and hopefully the cartoon makes it enjoyable for those who might otherwise get restless during an instrumental."

On the other hand, Paisley knows the added stage flash might rub some fans wrong. Including an instrumental is one of many ways he reaches out to them.

"There are musical purists out there who might not enjoy the pyrotechnics and other distractions, but we lace those within songs with a lot of playing and a lot of musicality," he said. "So that's the trick we try to pull off. Hopefully the yin and yang of the show leaves everyone entertained at some level. It seems like it's working, that we're pleasing the very critical and the easy-to-please fans at the same time."

For Paisley, it's been a steady six-year climb into the hearts and minds of Country fans, who accepted him as a humble yet multi-dimensional artist who loved and respected the music's traditions yet had a vision for its future.

His progress from promising upstart to emerging star to headliner and genre leader can be verified in every measurement, from radio play to album sales to concert audience to awards shows. His four GRAMMY nominations were the most among Country artists this year, just as his six nominations at the 2005 CMA Awards, including his first in the elite CMA Entertainer of the Year category, ranked him as the most nominated performer that night.

This year shows even more growth. Besides his hit tour, Platinum album Time Well Wasted and gracing the cover of the April issue of Vintage Guitar magazine, he's scored another big hit with "When I Get Where I'm Going," a touching, spiritual tune with harmonies by Dolly Parton, re-affirming the singer's ties to Country's past while bringing depth to today's sound. While it's his fifth No. 1, it's telling that many of Paisley's career songs - "Alcohol," "Celebrity," "Whiskey Lullaby," "Little Moments" and "Me Neither" - didn't reach No. 1, even though they'll remain Country mainstays for decades to come.

"There does seem to be a heightened awareness," said Paisley with typical understatement. "All these nominations kind of put you on the offensive. It makes you want to live up to it every night. That's a welcome kind of pressure."

He also acknowledges that positive encouragement only pushes him to work harder to keep things fresh. "I feel like we've got a really great show right now," he said. "It's the most fun I've ever had on stage, times 10. But there isn't a night I don't worry if people will come. I can be told it's sold out, and I'll still worry until I'm out there and see for myself. I'll think, 'They're wrong, they're not coming, they made a mistake.' I don't know what that's about, but it makes me work hard every night."

He also recognizes that he's part of a new Country vanguard that's taking the music into the 21st century with endless promise and possibilities for expansion. Paisley sees himself as a team player in a crusade led by the CMA to show the nation and the world the universal appeal inherent in Country Music. Paisley praises the forward-looking advances made in the CMA Music Festival and the CMA Awards in recent years, pointing out that both have brought greater attention to the music and its stars. He's proud to be performing at the Festival this June.

"It seems like everything has a little lift to it these days," he said. "The music feels alive, and so does the business around it. We're looking at new ideas and finding new ways to get the music to people, and the CMA is definitely at the forefront of that. Country Music is in a great place, and the CMA should be credited. There are a lot of moves being made that are really well-planned and really well thought out."

On the Web: www.bradpaisley.com 

LeAnn Rimes: the Little Girl with a Big Voice is All Grown Up
 New Artist Spotlight: Danielle Peck
By Edward Morris
© 2006 CMA Close Up News Service / Country Music Association, Inc.
Photographer: Kristen Barlow
When Danielle Peck likes a song, she sticks with it. Her parents say the first song she learned was Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues," which remains part of her live show today. Born in Jacksonville, N.C., Peck is the daughter of a U.S. Marine and spent her formative years in Coshocton, Ohio. Her mother's side of the family traveled and sang in churches. Her father's family played Country Music at local dances.

With music all around her, it's no surprise that Peck sat on the kitchen counter and pounded out the Cash song at 3 years old. Peck, who made labels for her own imaginary albums as a child, performed in church and joined a band at 16.

"We played weekends and hit the local summer fairs," she said. "While my friends were into sports, I was consumed with music."

When she graduated from high school, she hit the road leading her own band, working up to regional fairs and festivals. Shortly after, Peck moved to Nashville to pursue a record deal. She met a publishing executive, which led to her first publishing contract. A chance meeting with music industry executive Scott Borchetta while working as a waitress prompted a late-night singing audition. Borchetta eventually established Big Machine Records, distributed by Universal Music Group, and signed her.

Peck wrote or co-wrote seven of the tracks on her self-titled debut album, which carries production credits by Byron Gallimore, Tommy Lee James and Jeremy Stover. The album, which was released as a digital download on March 14, is set for release in stores June 6 and includes the leadoff single, "I Don't," which Peck penned with Burton Collins and Clay Mills. Peck is the opening act for Toby Keith on his "Big Throwdown II" tour, which kicked off in January.

Which song would you secretly like to cover?
"'I'll Stand by You' written by Chrissie Hynde, performed by The Pretenders."
What CD is on your stereo?
"Tammy Wynette's Greatest Hits."
What is your pet peeve?
"Slow drivers."
What moment in your life would you relive if you could?
"The first time I fell in love."
Do you have a lucky charm?
"A green amber necklace and bangle bracelet. I also make a wish at 11:11 AM and PM."
Joe Melson
Joe Melson was the man who co-wrote together with Roy Orbison and together they created some of the biggest hits in the world. Two of these songs had the most airplays worldwide.
Read full interview:
Editor & Journalist for Country Music
Christian Lamitschka
An der Pfingstweide 28
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Hank Williams Sr. will have a bronze statue erected in his honor on the steps of the Municipal Auditorium in Shreveport, Louisiana.  Williams was a major member of the Louisiana Hayride, which broadcast from the Auditorium, for nine months before he went to the Grand Ole Opry.
Merle Haggard says he’s thought about filming his life story for 20 years, and on May 11th2006, he’ll start to film a documentary. According to Merle, “I’m trying to get ‘em talked into doing a series like ‘The Waltons’.” He says the series would be based on episodes in his life, and his role would be as the writer or narrator. He hopes he’ll have the time to tell his life as it really happened.
A TV commercial for Tennessee's tourism department features a current day Dolly Parton riding in a convertible with a '60s-era Elvis Presley, thanks to digital video technology.  The digital scene was recreated from his 1967 film, “Clambake,” and is the first time Elvis Presley Enterprises, the corporation that administers his estate, has authorized the late singer's likeness to be used in a TV commercial with another celebrity.
Asleep at the Wheel’s Ray Benson was on hand for the official announcement of Austin, Texas Guitartown, a ten foot tall Gibson Guitar sculpture, designed to highlight the Lone Star State's flag. The sculpture will serve as a reminder that Austin Guitartown displays will be located throughout the city for charity. The arts project brings together visual artists and musicians in a display of up to 50 ten-foot tall Gibson Guitar sculptures, which will be on display this summer.
New Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum
The new Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum is a proposed multi-million-dollar facility that will honor all musical styles and feature memorabilia from artists from across the globe.  The Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum will feature an eclectic mix of artifacts, ranging from the Nashville stage where a young Jimi Hendrix honed his talent and to the hardware used during a variety of recording sessions.  Instruments played on sessions for Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley and Neil Young will sit alongside those used for recordings by country legend Hank Williams, Sr., modern rock group the Red Hot Chili Pepper, and other performers. 
Trisha Yearwood Learns Digging Deep Pays Off
By Michael McCall

Photo courtesy of MCA Nashville.
Photographer: Russ Harrington
from  CMA Close Up News Service / Country Music Association,
With Jasper County, Trisha Yearwood's first album in four years, the two-time CMA Female Vocalist of the Year proves that a grand entrance more than makes up for an extended absence.

In 2001, after 20 Top 10 hits with nine at No. 1 in 12 years, the singer decided that she'd take a year off from recording and touring. One year stretched to two. "I was anxious to get into the studio and get a record done," she recalled. "But I was in such a hurry that we forced it. We started working in the studio before I was ready."

Yearwood believes she works best when she takes the time to learn new material and lets it seep into her bones before starting the recording process. "When you're not a songwriter, you have to live with songs for awhile and make them yours," Yearwood explained. "It's hard for me to find songs that say what I would say if I could write them myself. That's what I look for, songs that allow me to say something personal or something I can relate with."

In 2003, she headed into the studio. But after recording plenty of tunes, Yearwood realized she wasn't satisfied - she hadn't spent enough time making her song choices.

"It wasn't that they were bad songs," she said, "it's just that they weren't the right ones." She called her producer, Garth Fundis, to relay her concerns. "To Garth's credit, he was the one who said, 'OK, let's start over.'"

Yearwood and Fundis ditched all but two tunes, then began re-visiting publishing houses to explain that this time they wanted to dig deeper - and the new selections are reflected on her new album, Jasper County, released in September 2005. The CD features the kind of songs that Yearwood is known to excel: emotionally rich lyrics about heartbreak, confrontation, inner strength and moving on.

"My goal was to make a Trisha Yearwood album," said the Georgia native. "After having been off the radio for awhile, I didn't want to come back with something radically different. I wanted to do what I think I do well."

That means stately songs with lyrics that probe life and love with a scalpel instead of a hammer. Yearwood strives to delve into difficult truths delivered with subtle grace rather than easy slogans conveyed with conspicuous sentimentality.

"Songs are like mini-movies to me," Yearwood noted. "I really like to put myself in the middle of the experience and to feel whatever the person in the song is feeling. That's just how I was when I grew up listening to songs, and that's how I am now when I sing them."

With the album's first single, "Georgia Rain," Yearwood convinced songwriters Ed Hill and Karyn Rochelle to alter the original tune so she could slip into character more readily and make the song feel autobiographical. "I'd been looking for a song about Georgia for a long time," she said. "I loved this song immediately, but the original title was 'Augusta Rain.' That's Augusta, Ga., of course, but a lot of people might not know that."

Yearwood maintains a deep respect for songwriters, and she's never previously asked that a lyric be altered. "I just thought I could make a much stronger personal connection if I sang 'Georgia Rain,'" she explained. "So I asked if they'd change the song, and if they could put Jasper County in it, since that's where I'm from. They were happy to do it, and, I must say, it made the song very personal. That song really set the tone for everything on the album."

A sweeping epic, the tune not only says we can go home again, but suggests that, in this transitory time, returning home can feed your soul. "It was very easy to put myself into that song and feel everything it says," she said. "I think that's why I'm drawn to ballads. They tend to be a lot more dramatic."

That doesn't mean she can't rock. From "That's What I Like About You" and "XXX's and OOO's (An American Girl)," to "A Perfect Love" and "Squeeze Me In," her 2001 duet with Garth Brooks, Yearwood repeatedly has proven she can growl and soar with gritty punch. Jasper County shows this off with a raucous roadhouse take on an Al Anderson/Leslie Satcher song, "Pistol," one of the most ferocious cuts Yearwood's ever recorded.

That song - about falling in love with a wild soul and the trouble that comes with it - also serves as the subject of another of Yearwood's new recordings, "Trying to Love You," written by Beth Nielsen Chapman and Bill Lloyd. Quiet and contemplative, the lush ballad showcases Yearwood's ability to convincingly communicate tender emotion and tough truths within one song.

"That song is probably autobiographical for anybody," she explained. "Anyone who's been in a relationship ends up having a hard time at some point. But I think that song is ultimately positive - even if it acknowledges that when you love someone, you sometimes grow frustrated with them. I think people can relate with that kind of honesty."

The singer is quick to point out that not every song is autobiographical. "Who Invented the Wheel," for instance, tells of a woman lashing out in frustration at a deceitful, absent lover. "I certainly don't feel that way in my life right now," she said with a laugh. Still, she explains, it allows her to flash anger in a song, which she enjoyed.

On the other hand, she knows exactly how the happy, strong woman feels in "Gimme the Good Stuff." "Who doesn't want to cheer for someone who's saying that they're not going to settle for less, that they're going to be happy, and bring it on?" she said. "That's a great statement to make for anyone."

Jasper County is sequenced so that it follows a storyline with which Yearwood also can relate. It begins with a woman realizing that she had to leave her lover to save herself. A couple of tunes deal with heartbreak and ends with several positive love songs. That emotion, said the newly engaged singer, was easy to tap.

"There was a time when I didn't feel comfortable singing happy songs," she said. "Part of it was that I didn't think they were as serious or meaningful as the sadder ones. But I think your songs can reflect where you are in life, and I'm definitely a happy girl these days. I didn't have to pretend on the fun songs, and I think that makes them feel more real to me."

Her relationship with Country Music's most famous retiree, Garth Brooks, certainly colors her music, she revealed. It also had much to do with why she took so long between albums. She moved with Brooks to Oklahoma, lending a hand in raising his daughters. "It's a very small town," she explained. "You know everybody, pretty much. And there are a lot of soccer games. It reminds me of how I grew up."

Getting away from Nashville also helped minimize the gossip, though the couple remained a hot topic for the tabloids. "You just have to laugh at it, because it's ridiculous. It's never right," Yearwood said.

Of course, headlines and spotlights aren't anything new to Yearwood. The three-time GRAMMY winner has performed duets with pop stars Aaron Neville and Don Henley and opera great Luciano Pavarotti. She's drawn ovations when singing at the Academy Awards, the closing ceremonies of the '96 Olympics, The White House and the Library of Congress.

Now that she's back in action, Yearwood figures press coverage will intensify. But she remains focused on her career.

"Music is something that's a very important part of who I am. I've got plenty still to do," Yearwood said.

On the Web: www.trishayearwood.com
Cindy Walker
Our deepest condolences go out to family and friends of Cindy Walker, who passed last Thursday. Arguably one of the greatest female songwriters of all time, Cindy's musical legacy will live on for many years to come. For more information, please visit: http://www.cmt.com/artists/news/1526976/
Buck Owens has Died
Honky-tonk singer Buck Owens has Died suddenly at age 76yrs.  He sold more than 16 million albums and his songs hit #1 more than 20 times known for hits like Act Naturally, also the long running TV show Hee Haw. Click here
Cindy Walker has passed away
Perhaps the finest female composer in country music history, Cindy Walker who became a charter member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970 and was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1997.  She has had Top Ten hits during each of the five decades spanning the 1940s through the 1980s. Her credits include such country standards as “Cherokee Maiden” and such as “You Don’t Know Me.”
CMA Music Festival http://www.cmafest.com

Kimberley Dahme who is a Nashville Singer/Songwriter and who sings and plays bass for the WORLD famous band BOSTON
For more information or photo’s on both Kimberley Dahme and Freedom Reign, visit their Website at
www.kimberleydahme.com  and www.freedomreign.com 
Faith Hill Never Stopped Being a 'Mississippi Girl'
By Michael McCall
© 2005 CMA Close Up News Service / Country Music Association, Inc.
Faith Hill peppers her conversation with sudden bursts of uninhibited laughter and with phrases like "Bless your heart," "Oh my gosh," "God bless them," "Isn't that sweet?" and "Don't you just love her?"

In other words, she sounds exactly like thousands of other 30-something women raised in religious families in small Southern towns. Like many others, she moved to the city, worked hard, found success and gave shape to her dreams. Yet she held onto a piece of her rural identity, not only in the way she talks, but in the way she lives. As the song says, "a Mississippi girl don't change her ways just 'cause everybody knows her name."

Only now, after Hurricane Katrina, taking pride in being a Mississippi native has assumed new layers of meaning. As with many things creative, Hill's artistic move has, by coincidence, taken on significance she never could have predicted.

"I'm so glad I am out there telling the world I'm from Mississippi right now," Hill said. "It's something I've always been proud of, but with all the devastation and damage, there's a lot of concern and I'm feeling a lot of connection."

For Hill, Mississippi's plight resembles experiencing a loved one facing a serious illness. Suddenly she wants to visit more often, and home occupies a larger part of her thoughts and her heart.

"I have so many friends and relatives along the coast," she explained. "They're doing OK, but you worry about them more. My parents and my older brother live north of the coast, and they were without power or water for about a week and a half or two weeks. There were a lot of trees down in Star, but it's nothing like on the coast."

Hill has toured the damaged areas along the Gulf Coast, and as with other eyewitnesses, she says that television footage and print photos can't convey the vastness of the damage. "I couldn't believe it when I went there to see it," she explained. "It's just mind-blowing, the devastation. I'd spent a lot of time there in the past, and I'd just recently been to Biloxi to work before all this happened. The amount of destruction is just unbelievable. It was so widespread and so far inland."

The storms and floods came as the single, "Mississippi Girl," from Hill's album Fireflies gained daily radio play and sat at the top of the charts. What surprised Hill was how she had to defend her choice to record a song about her raising and defend putting it on an album that had a more stripped-down, acoustic sound than her two previous albums, 2002's Cry and 1999's Breathe.

"There's been so much said about it, and a lot of it is just plain wrong," she said. "But how do you defend it? Oh my gosh, I've even had the question, 'Is your hair dark now because you're going back to your roots?'"

She lets out one of her characteristic bursts of laughter. "I mean, what do you say to that? Is that supposed to be a joke?"

She continues to laugh, but it dies down to a somber chuckle as she shakes her head in disbelief. "You know, to me, I've never left my roots behind," she continued. "I didn't on Cry, and I didn't on Breathe. They just sound differently because at that time, I was interested in going into a different part of who I am and what I want to sing. I cut my musical teeth in the church, in raise-the-roof Pentecostal churches. Of course, I was raised on Country Music as well, on Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn and George and Dolly and Reba.

"But those are two different things - the church music and the Country Music. So my musical tastes are so extreme. I feel like I'm influenced by all the music I grew up with, and all the music that I love listening to now. Trying to find my place in all that is sometimes very complicated."

She accepts that her decisions can be confusing to others. "I know that Cry wasn't something that worked for Country radio, but it sold 3 million copies, and no one ever talks about that," she said with a laugh. "It's written about like it was a bomb, but it wasn't. I'm still very proud of it."

What she can't accept, she says, is people describing Fireflies as a calculated move - a return to straightforward Country Music inspired only by business, not artistic merit.

"That doesn't even fit into my realm of reality," she said. "I couldn't be less like that. The toughest part of all this is hearing that kind of criticism. That's what hurts. People mistake your actions for ... whatever. When someone can't see that things are honest and come from your heart, that's difficult to take. But I'm a big girl. You just have to stand tall and walk forward."

Hill says she created Fireflies because songs that came along that inspired her worked best in a sparer, rootsier setting. And after a couple of albums in which her music grew increasingly fuller and more theatrical, she felt a desire to do something simpler and more straightforward.

John Rich of Big & Rich and Adam Shoenfeld co-wrote "Mississippi Girl" for Hill.

"I basically stalked Faith Hill because I wanted to write a song for her," said Rich, who got to know the singer during Big & Rich's first national tour as opening act for Tim McGraw. Hill and the couple's daughters often joined McGraw during the tour, with Hill dressing down in her ballcap, jeans, T-shirts and sneakers. Rich got to see a side of the superstar few ever do, and she impressed him with how down-to-earth she was.

"I've always admired the emotional way she sings," Rich said. "I knew I wanted to write a song for her. But I started hiding out watching her, and I wanted to capture that part of her in a song."

She had already gathered some other key songs including "I Ain't Gonna Take It Anymore" and the album's second hit, "Like We Never Loved at All." She'd put aside a jazzy tune called "Paris" (a hidden track on Fireflies), at first thinking it might be too unusual for her to record. But as the album filled out, she realized it wasn't so different after all.

Then, as she thought she was nearing the end of recording, Nashville song publisher Melanie Howard sent Hill a song by Lori McKenna, a Massachusetts singer-songwriter and mother of five. Hill listened to the song, "If You Ask," and flipped for it. She immediately requested to hear everything McKenna had written. It turned out to be quite a lot - McKenna had released four independent albums.

"I couldn't believe the honesty in her writing," Hill said. "It was so human. I just fell in love with her. There was a while there that I didn't listen to anything but her records. I knew I was going to cut several of her songs."

Besides "If You Ask," Hill cut McKenna's "Stealing Kisses" and "Fireflies," which became the album's title. The two appeared together on an "Oprah" segment devoted to Hill. McKenna has since been signed to Warner Bros. Records and had her most recent album, Bittertown, re-released by the major label.

"There's still not a week that goes by that I don't listen to Lori's music," Hill said. "She just kills me. And I love her as a person now. I've really gotten to know her and she's just a great girl - very funny, very smart and a great mom."

At one point, Hill thought McKenna's "Stealing Kisses" would be the leadoff cut. But others convinced her to start with "Mississippi Girl," a decision that obviously worked well. "It was a good way to introduce myself back into the market," she conceded. "It was what I needed to say at that moment, and it's fun to sing live and the crowd loves it. If it was up to me, I could've done a whole album of Lori McKenna songs, but it's good to hit different marks on an album. You have to have those feel-good songs that make you feel great."

So there she goes again - defending herself for having contradictory creative impulses. She laughs loud and long at that thought. "You know, I have to walk to the beat of my own drum, for sure," she sighed. "Who wants to be predictable, to be a follower? I have three daughters, and I want them to see that I follow my heart and don't always take the safe, easy way. I'd want them to be the same way."

On the Web: www.FaithHill.com 
DJ Willy wants artists to send cds to station.   He will play them on Europe radio
Brooks and Yearwood tie the knot (12-Dec-05)
\Country music stars Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood said "I do" on Saturday in a private ceremony at their Oklahoma home.

Brooks, an Oklahoma native, and Yearwood exchanged vows before family members, said Nancy Seltzer, a publicist for the couple.

"They said it is the perfect Christmas gift to each other and they couldn't be happier," Seltzer said. She declined to provide any other details.

Brooks, 43, got down on one knee and proposed to Yearwood, 41, in May in front of 7,000 fans at the "Legends in Bronze” event at Buck Owens' Crystal Palace in Bakersfield, Calif. Ten larger-than-life bronze statues honouring country stars were unveiled during that event, including one of Brooks.

The marriage is the second for Brooks, who has three children, and the third for Yearwood.

Brooks is credited with widening the genre's appeal in the 1990s by merging traditional country with honky tonk, pop, folk and rock. His Ropin' The Wind album was the first such country recording to debut at the top of the pop music charts. His latest album, Scarecrow, went triple platinum.
Yearwood was named the Country Music Awards female vocalist of the year in 1997 and 1998. Her latest album is Jasper County

CountryHome is proud of the fact that Germany's Country Music Band #1 give readers of CountryHome -
Germany's Premier Country Music Magazine - chance to win 3  current albums, T-shirts and Badgeholder of Silverwood.
Check out http://www.countryhome.de/gewinnspiel/silverwood/silverwood.htm
CountryHome - Germany's Premier Country Music Magazine -
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Scottish Design Instruments
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We look forward to hearing from you soon.
Paul Brandt - www.paulbrandt.com
The Wilkinsons - www.wilkinsonsonline.com
Jason McCoy - www.jasonmccoy.com
Fred Eaglesmith - www.fredeaglesmith.com
Sean Hogan - www.seanhogan.net
The Laws - www.thelaws.ca
Take Country Back  (USA Fan Site)
official CMA Fest website at http://www.countryhome.de/
http://www.americanmusic.tk/   (discography - Belgium music online site
Keith Urban to guest on Dolly Parton's new CD: Those Were The Days
From the Nashville City Paper (Oct 10): "Dolly Parton continues her run of exceptional tribute and concept works with her latest collection Those Were The Days (Sugarhill), which is being released this week. The astonishing guest list includes Norah Jones, Judy Collins, Keith Urban, Lee Ann Womack, Alison Krauss, Mindy Smith, Porter Wagoner, Joe Nichols, Kris Kristofferson, Yusuf Islam (aka Cat Stevens) and Nickel Creek. Parton offers stunning, sometimes unusual interpretations of classic numbers from Bob Dylan, John Lennon, the Byrds, Collins, Kristofferson, and even Tommy James. Country, bluegrass, and folk elements converge through both Parton’s tremendous singing and the interaction she enjoys with the great group of collaborators on what is another marvellous entry in her distinguished catalogue, one that she also produced."

Photos 2005 - Country Thunder USA
Slovak country-music band " MLOCI "  http://mloci.vadium.sk
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country star KENNY CHESNEY
have now untied the knot!
 The  couple were married on the beautiful island of St. John in the
U.S. Virgin Islands, where the singer has a home. It was a short,
15-minute ceremony performed by a female preacher in front of a small
group of family and friends, the bride wore CAROLINA HERRERA, one of
her favorite designers, while the groom was reportedly barefoot. Both
laughed and cried during the ceremony.
The marriage was a first for both stars, although the 37-year-old
Kenny reportedly broke off an engagement to another woman in 1999,
three weeks before the wedding. Prior to marrying Kenny, Renée dated
WHITE STRIPES singer JACK WHITE and her 'Me, Myself & Irene' co-star
Steve Earle and Allison  Moorer
Steve Earle and Allison  Moorer were married 11 August 2005.  It is the 7th marriage for Steve Earle (married twice to the same woman)  Allison Moorer has been married once before.
Ray Charles exhibit at the hall of fame
 "I Can’t Stop Loving You: Ray Charles & Country Music," will open  March 10, 2006 at The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, and  will trace Ray’s life-long love affair with country music, ultimately helping to redefine American popular music. The 5,000-square-foot Ray Charles exhibit will include artifacts, instruments, song manuscripts, costumes, photographs, computer inter-actives, rare music and moving images to tell a country music story about an impoverished blind child who grew up listening to the Grand Ole Opry and became known as the Genius of Soul
“The Tao of Willie,” will be a book about Willie’s life and his secrets to spiritual happiness. The 72 year old Nelson is writing the book with Turk Pippen and release date is set for next May.
View the new Mary Gauthier video "Mercy Now" at:
 Download Mercy Now album at iTunes and receive a Bonus track:
"Mercy Now" - Radio Edit
Download Real Music Store's "I Drink" exclusive single
Download Napster exclusive "Too Soon To Tell"
Purchase CD & Download

Mary Gauthier (pronounced Go-shay ya'll) releases Mercy Now, her fourth full-length album and Lost Highway debut. Mercy Now features 10 songs overflowing with beauty, darkness, raw emotion and unflinching honesty, from a truly compelling artist.
Buddy Miller
Quote: "I don't have any tricks up my sleeve. I record everything in our home, using an old two-inch tape machine, ProTools (computerized sound engineering programs), and really old gear — vintage instruments, amplifiers and microphones, things I've collected over the years. I like it to sound messy ... like my house." - Buddy Miller, Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter (Greg Quill/Toronto Star)
JERRY SCOGGINS, the voice behind The Ballad Of Jed Clampett on the Beverly Hillbillies TV series, died on Tuesday (December 7 2004) in Los Angeles. He was 93.
Scoggins' deep voice accompanied Lester Flatt on guitar and Earl Scruggs on banjo, with that familiar first line: "Come and listen to a story about a man named Jed." He also sang the theme song for the 1993 film version of the show.
The original series ran from 1962 to 1971. Scoggins was also a member of the Cass County Boys, who were closely associated with Gene Autry's performing career.
Recordings by Elvis Presley in Film
Several classic holiday recordings by Elvis Presley and Brenda Lee are included in the film, "Christmas With the Kranks," Tracks include Elvis' "Blue Christmas" and Lee's "Jingle Bell Rock.” The album will be in stores on November 23 2004, and the film in theaters two days later. "Christmas with the Kranks" stars Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Dan Akroyd, and Cheech Marin, and is based on a novel by John Grisham.
Holly Williams
Holly Williams is the daughter of Hank Williams Jr. and the Grand Daughter of the legend Hank Williams Senior.  Holly was a special guest on Australia's Kasey Chambers 's American Tour.  From what we have heard Hank Williams Senior would be very impressed.
Shania Twain
Shania Twain and husband Robert 'Mutt' Lange have bought a 61,000 acres property (rugged and scenic farmland) for 21.4 million on the South Island of New Zealand.   They will use it as a holiday getaway.  They live in Switzerland.
Dolly Parton
By Kevin C. Johnson
Post-Dispatch Pop Music Critic
The perky, impossibly proportioned pop icon told her 2,700 fans at the Concert Club at Savvis Center Sunday night she came dressed as Dolly Parton, which truly is a costume in itself, and she "brought my pumpkins with me," one of several references to her famously large breasts. Later, she mentioned Janet Jackson's Super Bowl debacle: "If I pulled a trick like that, I might take out the first four rows."
Around the same time, she managed to throw out her moldy signature line: "It's amazing how much it costs to look this cheap."
Dolly Parton, you gotta love her.
Wearing a "power pack" (a microphone headset) for the first time, the chatty Parton said she hated it but liked the freedom it provided. She said this tour involved a lot of extra things, touting her lights and video screens as if they were something never seen in concert before. She also said parts of the show would be "enhanced" - "not to fool you but to entertain you" - which may have raised a few eyebrows considering Ashlee Simpson's recent lip-synching controversy. It's still not clear exactly what Parton meant, though it seemed as if an invisible choir assisted her during her cover of John Lennon's "Imagine."
Parton opened the 100-minute show with a "Hello, Dolly" routine, with lyrics like "Well, hello, I'm Dolly." But even she knew it was cheesy, asking, "Who do I have to see to get out of this song?" She then moved on to "Two Doors Down."
Making a scraping sound with her acrylic nails, she asked if they sounded like a typewriter, an obvious introduction to one of her biggest hits, "9 to 5." Other big hits - "Jolene," "Here You Come Again" and "Why'd You Come in Here Lookin' Like That" - unjustifiably received the shortened medley treatment.
She claimed she was no Norah Jones when she played piano on "The Grass Is Blue." Parton also sat atop a piano and dueted with a member of the band on "Baby, It's Cold Outside." She recorded the song with Rod Stewart for his latest "Songbook" collection.
The goofy "PMS Blues," which Parton performed on acoustic guitar, was exactly what its title implies. An Elvis impersonator joined her for one rollicking country song, ending with a riff on "I Will Always Love You." Afterward, she told the crowd Elvis Presley once wanted to record the song but needed her to sign over half of the publishing rights, and she refused. "My family needed that money more than Priscilla and Lisa," said Parton, who then performed the hit song, which continues to stand the test of time.
Parton felt especially nostalgic for home late in the show, performing "My Tennessee Mountain Home," "Smoky Mountain Memories" and "Coat of Many Colors," before wrapping it up with a new song from her recent "Halos & Horns" CD titled "Hello God," a big power ballad that came with some post 9/11 reflections and hackneyed lyrics.
The Grascals, who were among the players in her large band, opened the show with its own set and supported Parton on "Viva Las Vegas" and "Rocky Top."
Gary Allan's wife has died - 2004
Funeral services was held Thursday morning (Oct. 28) near Nashville for Gary Allan's wife, Angela L. Herzberg, who died early Monday at the couple's home.
Police say Herzberg, 36, apparently shot herself. A preliminary autopsy indicated she died from a single self-inflicted wound.
Allan has now cancelled additional tour dates, including three concerts with Rascal Flatts taking place Nov. 4-6 in Knoxville, Tenn., Greenville, S.C., and Winston-Salem, N.C. Rascal Flatts will perform the three shows without an opening act. Allan also cancelled a Nov. 3 solo show in Indianapolis, in addition to previously announced cancellations this week in Maine, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

Johnny Cash
"Ring of Fire," a new musical based on the life and songs of Johnny Cash, will embark on a multi-city tour in the fall of 2005, followed by a Broadway opening in 2006.
Willie Nelson
Willie Nelson is a big proponent of bio-diesel fuel—oil made out of agricultural products. He says he drives a Mercedes and his wife drives a Volkswagen, and they both run on vegetable oil. Willie is also working to get politicians to reinstate the Homestead Act, which would let farmers grow corn and soybeans on unused land, helping to create more bio-diesel fuel. Willie says, “My plan is to get 5 million farmers on 5 million farms that have just been laying there to grow fuel so we don’t have to go around the world starting wars over oil.”
She's just a coal miner's hipster

Loretta Lynn is hip for the first time in her long career, and she won't pretend she saw it coming. On the contrary, she was braced for disaster after she saw the bare-bones gear in the funky old house chosen by Jack White of the White Stripes as the site of her latest recording, Van Lear Rose.

"I walked in there, and I thought, God be with us, we'll never get anything out of here," said the 69-year-old country singer, during a phone interview from her Nashville home. "But I figured if it didn't work, I could always make another record real quick." No need. Van Lear Rose sold 37,000 copies in its first week -- her best showing ever (total Canadian sales are nearing 20,000).

The album was feted in publications that have ignored Lynn for decades, and on TV shows such as Late Night with David Letterman. The fabled Coal Miner's Daughter has become an instant favourite of people who previously knew her mainly through TV viewings of the 1980 movie based on her autobiography.

Everything about her dealings with White has surprised her. She couldn't fathom why a man known for bluesy, elemental garage rock would dedicate an album to her (White Blood Cells, the Stripes' breakthrough disc of 2002). She didn't know why he wanted to record her next album, and she sure couldn't get used to his working methods.

"I just let him have his way, and he took it," she said, with a ripe Kentucky twang. White put her in the old house (pictured on the album cover), brought in his own players, and wouldn't let her do second takes. He added all kinds of extra tracks, including his own vocals, after she'd gone home for the day. He even recorded her on the sly, taping a long conversational anecdote and ornamenting it later with his own music.

Lynn seems to have received these indignities with a kind of bemused shock, as if reacting to charming misbehaviour by a house guest. She may have been slow to understand White's shenanigans, but she could see that he had a clear idea of what he wanted.

"He was trying to get the sound I had when I first came to Nashville," she said. "Randy Scruggs did my last album, Still Country. It was polished, it was perfect. I loved it. But I think people are getting tired of that polished sound. Jack's record sounds like we're sitting in the front room, singing. It's the countriest thing I've done since I've been in Nashville. . . .

"This boy will make a great producer," she said. "When he was doing the listening part, he put me in mind of Owen [Bradley], the way he hears every little thing, even things I wasn't hearing." There's some irony in her reference to her first Nashville producer, and she knows it. Bradley, who made Lynn's most successful discs in the sixties and seventies, was all for using the best technology and the most polished performance, even if he needed a dozen takes to get it.

Recording with White was often more like flying without a net, in someone else's circus. His long, distorted guitar introduction to Portland, Oregon, added in after her singing was recorded, has no precursor in Lynn's experience of country music.

"My first reaction was that he played enough music for another song," she said. "I had to laugh. I said, 'You know what the disc jockeys are gonna do, Jack? They're gonna know exactly where to start playing this one. They're gonna drop the needle just before the vocal comes in.' "

And yet she feels quite at home with the overall direction of the album. It's the first disc since her debut in 1960 to feature nothing but her own songs.

There are some moments when White's rock pedigree blares forth, but there are also tunes that feel like they were recorded within shouting distance of Lynn's old Kentucky home. Others revive the rough, ramblin'-woman spirit of Lynn's early days as a country star whose first hit was called I'm a Honky Tonk Girl.

The timing for the disc couldn't be better. Country music is indeed seeing a revolt against the sleek productions of cover-girl divas such as Faith Hill. Earthier talents such as Gretchen Wilson and Toby Keith are storming up the charts. Wilson, whose debut album Here for the Party sits at No. 1 on the Canadian country list, revels in her identity as a beer-swigging Redneck Woman (the title of her hit single) who really has lived in trailer parks.

As well, the deaths of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash last year alerted the broader music public to the irreplaceable qualities of the elder generation of country stars, the ones who really did grow up on cotton farms and play in juke joints. Lynn's humble origins may not be that different from Wilson's, but she has a gracious patina that belongs to her experience and her generation.

At its most elemental, Lynn's music isn't far from the old-timey stuff brought back into vogue by T. Bone Burnett and the Coen brothers (in their film O Brother, Where Art Thou?

White, who has frequently covered Dolly Parton's Jolene in concert, expressed his taste of the old moonshine during the making of another recent film, Anthony Minghella's Cold Mountain. The soundtrack features White singing some vintage tunes with accompaniments by the likes of Norman Blake, the finger-picking guitarist from the old Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. One of those songs, Sittin' on Top of the World, had previously been recorded by Bob Wills, Carl Perkins and the Grateful Dead. Rock's debt to country music and western swing couldn't be more succinctly noted.

Lynn's music, however, didn't come into being solely in an atmosphere of coal dust and poverty. She made a point, during our conversation, of remembering how a Canadian named Norm Burley played a crucial role in her early career.

"He'd seen me on the Buck Owens show, and he sent for me to come up to Vancouver and record," she said. "He was a pretty wealthy man, he had a lumber yard. He sent me to L.A.
, he furnished everything, the gas and everything. And by golly, Honky Tonk Girl broke the ice for me. He was the one who really let everyone know that I sang." That first single appeared on Burley's Zero Records, which he invented for the sole purpose of recording Lynn. When she drove to Nashville and was offered a deal with Decca and Bradley, Burley happily released her from her contract.

The rough and tumble of her early days, when she and her late husband Doo drove around the United States delivering her singles to every country station they could find, still resurfaces occasionally, often in the lives of her family. Her son Ernest, described in Coal Miner's Daughter as a man who "could find trouble if you tied him in chains," was arrested last month for vehicular homicide, after being involved in a fatal crash while drunk.

More recently, she had to cancel her June concerts because of back problems. But dates at the new Niagara Fallsview Casino remain in place for early July, and a tour with White is being mooted for the fall.

Loretta Lynn plays the Niagara Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls, Ont., on July 9 and 10.
Born: Roy Linwood Clark
Born Apr 15, 1933 in Meherrin, VA
by David Vinopal

In the '70s, Roy Clark symbolized country music in the U.S. and abroad. Between guest-hosting for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show and performing to packed houses in the Soviet Union on a tour that sold out all 18 concerts, he used his musical talent and his entertaining personality to bring country music into homes across the world. As one of the hosts of TV's Hee Haw (Buck Owens was the other) for more than 20 years, Clark picked and sang and offered country corn to 30 million people weekly. He is first and foremost an entertainer, drawing crowds at venues as different as Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and the Opry. His middle-of-the-road approach has filled a national void, with Clark offering country that was harder-edged than Kenny Rogers but softer and more accessible than Waylon Jennings. Among his numerous vocal hits are "Yesterday, When I Was Young" and "Thank God and Greyhound." Instrumentally he has won awards, for both guitar and banjo. Clark has also co-starred on the silver screen with Mel Tillis, in the comedy Uphill All the Way.
The son of two amateur musicians, Roy Clark began playing banjo, guitar, and mandolin at an early age. By the time he was 14, he was playing guitar behind his father at local dances. Within a few years, he had won two National Banjo Championships, with his second win earning him an appearance at the Grand Ole Opry. Despite his success as a musician, Clark decided to pursue an athletic career, rejecting baseball for boxing. At the age of 17, he won 15 fights in a row before deciding that he would rather be a musician than a fighter.

Clark found work at local clubs, radio stations, and television shows. By 1955, he was a regular on Jimmy Dean's D.C.-based television show, Country Style. Once Dean left Washington for New York, Clark took over the show, and over the next few years he earned a reputation as an excellent musician and entertainer. In 1960, he decided to leave the East Coast to pursue his fame and fortune out West. That year, he became the leader of Wanda Jackson's band, playing on her hit singles like "Let's Have a Party," as well as touring with the singer and playing concerts with her in Las Vegas. Once Jackson decided to break up her band, Clark continued to play regularly at the Frontier Hotel in Vegas and through his new manager, Jackson's ex-manager Jim Halsey, he landed spots on The Tonight Show and the sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies, where he played both Cousin Roy and Big Mama Halsey.

In 1963, Clark signed to Capitol Records, and his first single for the label, "Tips of My Fingers," became a Top Ten hit. Over the next two years, he had a handful of minor hits for Capitol before he switched labels, signing with Dot in 1968. At Dot, his career took off again, through covers of pop songs like Charles Aznavour's "Yesterday, When I Was Young" (number nine, 1969). However, what really turned Clark's career around was not records, but rather a television show called Hee Haw. Conceived as a country version of Laugh-In, Hee Haw began its run in 1969 on CBS. Roy Clark and Bakersfield country pioneer Buck Owens were picked as co-hosts. Over the next two years, it was one of the most popular shows on television. In 1971, CBS dropped the show because its corny country humor didn't fit the network's new, urban image, but Hee Haw quickly moved into syndication, where it continued to thrive throughout the decade.

While Hee Haw was at the height of its popularity, Clark had a string of country hits that ranged from Top Ten singles like "I Never Picked Cotton" (1970), "Thank God and Greyhound" (1970), "The Lawrence Welk — Hee Haw Counter-Revolution Polka" (1972), "Come Live With Me" (1973), "Somewhere Between Love and Tomorrow" (1973), "Honeymoon Feelin'" (1974), and "If I Had It to Do All Over Again" (1976) to a multitude of minor hits. Though he didn't consistently top the country charts, Clark became one of the most recognizable faces in country music, appearing on television commercials, Hee Haw, and touring not only the United States but a number of other countries, including a groundbreaking sojourn to the Soviet Union in 1976. Frequently, he played concerts and recorded albums with a wide variety of musicians from other genres, including the Boston Pops Orchestra and Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown.

In 1979, the momentum of his career began to slow down, as he left his longtime label ABC/Dot for MCA. Over the next two years, he had a number of minor hits before leaving the label. He recorded one inspirational album for Songbird in 1981 before signing to Churchill in 1982. Hee Haw's audience was beginning to decline in the early '80s, but Clark diversified his interests by investing in property, minor-league baseball teams, cattle, publishing, and advertising. None of Clark's recordings for Churchill were big hits, and his brief stays at Silver Dollar in 1986 and Hallmark in 1989 also resulted in no hits. Nevertheless, Clark had become a country icon by the mid-'80s, so his lack of sales didn't matter — he continued to sell out concerts and win awards; he even made the comedy Western Uphill All the Way in 1986 with Mel Tillis. In 1987, he was belatedly made a member of the Grand Ole Opry. During the '90s, Clark concentrated on performing at his theater in Branson, MO, sporadically releasing re-recordings of his big hits on a variety of small labels, though 2000's Live at Billy Bob's Texas marked his first live release in nearly a decade. Christmas Memories followed that same year.

From Twangtown Messageboard
Check it out at: http://www.bananatech.com/twboard/

Cash: An American Man,” is a new biography and  covers the Johnny’s first record for Sam Phillips at Sun Records in 1955, and goes through his award-winning video of “Hurt.” The book is authorized by the Johnny Cash Estate, and was created in cooperation with his friend  Bill Miller. The book also includes hundreds of photographs, private letters and handwritten lyrics, as well as Cash's final interview, which was given just three weeks before he died. Cash: An American Man” should be available in May.

Eagle Country Radio
 - Broadcasting on the internet 24 hours a day,
Best Country Songs And Upcoming Hits Online Always!
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Billboard Top 20 TWICE EVERY DAY!
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2003 - Buck Owens has commissioned sculptor Bill Rains to create life-size statues
of Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Bob Wills and Garth Brooks. The new statues
will join those of Owens, Hank Williams and Johnny Cash as part of a new
sculpture garden honoring country music legends at Buck Owens' Crystal
Palace in Bakersfield, California
Johnny Cash has died
September 12, 2003,
Johnny Cash has died at age 71 in a Nashville, Tennessee hospital.
 Click here for info
Merle Kilgore, best-man to Johnny Cash at his wedding to June Carter Cash
and co-writer of "Ring of Fire", is deeply saddened with the news of Johnny
Cash's passing.
"It's a sad day in Tennessee, but a great day in Heaven. The 'Man in Black'
is now wearing white as he joins his wife June in the angel band," says

Ralph Stanley Museum
$1.2 million in funding has been approved for the Ralph Stanley Museum and
Traditional Mountain Music Center in Clintwood, Virginia. The town, which
has a population of 1,500, secured a building for the museum in 2002.
Funding recently approved for the project include a $500,000 grant from the
Appalachian Regional Commission, a $600,000 grant from the Virginia
Coalfield Economic Development Authority and $100,000 in federal
transportation enhancement funds. Officials plan for the museum to open in
May 2004 during Stanley's annual music festival. The museum is about 10
miles from the community of Stratton, Va., where Stanley and his older
brother, Carter, were born. The two performed and recorded as the Stanley
Brothers from 1946 until 1966, when Carter died.

Sun Recording Studios in Memphis Tennessee has been designated as a
National Historic Landmark. It's the first recording studio to receive such
an honour.

THE OPRY Trust Fund

THE OPRY Trust Fund in America has announced the commitment of $250,000 toward the building of a Country Music Retirement Center which will give music industry retirees a place to live out their golden years, regardless of income.

Opry member Martina McBride, a member of the Center's board of directors, accepted an initial $50,000 check during Saturday's performance of "Grand Ole Opry Live" on the CMT television channel.

"It is our duty to ensure that the people that came before us and helped establish the country music industry are provided with housing and medical care in their later years if they are in financial need," McBride said.

The Opry management formed the Opry Trust Fund in 1965 to help those in the country music industry who have fallen on hard times. The center project started in 1994 as an initiative of a Country Music Association task force.

Fan Fair 2003
Kenny Chesney

Kenny Chesney at Fan Fair

"In a surprise, last-minute schedule change, Kenny Chesney ended up
opening up Fan Fair 2003 on the Greased Lighting Riverfront Stages.
While he was originally due to appear in The Coliseum on Friday
night, a scheduling conflict with his current tour forced him to
cancel. But in not wanting to disappoint his fans, he took to the
smaller stage to at least perform a handful of his hits like, "No
Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems," "Big Star," "She Thinks My Tractor's
Sexy," and "Don't Happen Twice." His performance really filled up
Riverfront Park!"

Click here for more Photos of Fan Fair

The Hickman County Chamber of Commerce
Grinders Switch Depot Interpretive Center
P.O. Box 126
Centerville, TN  37033
That very familiar "How-Deeeeeee" will echo eternally as we remember Minnie Pearl, the Queen of Country Comedy.  The Hickman County Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to keeping her memory alive with the development of the "Grinders Switch Depot Interpretive Center - A Tribute to Minnie Pearl".
Grinders Switch is an honest-to-goodness real place made infamous by Hickman County's own Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon.  It's a rails switch that is still used by the South Central Tennessee Railroad.
The Center is in the development stage and will include a small theater showing tapes of Minnie Pearl as well an interviews with local people who knew her from childhood.  There will also be a museum area with memorabilia along with a gift shop. 
Visitors come from all over the country to see Grinders Switch.  As a fan, you can help be a part of keeping the spirit of Minnie Pearl and the place she called home alive.  You can send your contribution to:
"As I grow older the place is no longer a little, abandoned loading switch on a railroad in Hickman County.  Grinders Switch is a state of mind - a place where there is no illness, no war, no unhappiness - where all you worry about is what you're going to wear to the church social, and if your feller is going to kiss you in the moonlight on the way home.  I wish all of you a Grinders Switch"[1]
Elvis's Hair
That hunk-a Elvis hair up for auction?   The hair was collected by Elvis' former hairstylist, who gave it to someone else, who sold it throu MastroNet, an internet auction house.   According to AP, the baseball-sized collection of clippings brought a winning bid of  $ 115,120 
      Who has rights to the DNA in the hair?
Jerry Reid 
Boomtown Casino at Biloxi 
in Mississippi (early September)
Photos courtesy of Bob Dickie

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