January 31, 2009

Country's Dierks Bentley set to 'drop it like it's hot' Feb 3

For the past two years, country heartthrob Dierks Bentley has been recording and “road-testing” his new CD’s dozen-song lineup, and on Tuesday, Feb. 3, Capitol Nashville will unleash the disc for the public at large, with 10 days of jam-packed promotion behind it.

A multi-platinum country artist, Bentley says he put more time behind this record’s pre-production than ever before. He also served as the album's co-producer for the first time ever. Feel That Fire is the title of Bentley's latest and fourth studio offering, and already it's title track has scored with country fans and radio alike.

'Feel That Fire' ignites new passion within singer

Discussing the new CD, Bentley said, "I know everybody always says it, but I really mean it when I say that this is the best album I've ever made. … We came off the road for the first time in six years and took our time to make sure it was just right."

  • To read the full story, including to learn when Bentley will be on NBC's Today (two different days in the same week), Live with Regis and Kelly!, The Late Show with Jay Leno and more, please visit Red-hot country: Dierks Bentley releases 'Feel That Fire.' ... You can also spy the music video for the album's top-five single that's still climbing up the charts.

January 24, 2009

Connie Smith Delivers Show to Remember and Country's 'King of Honky-Tonk Rock' Remembers Lucille

Dolly Parton has listed her among one of only three “real” female country singers, and on Jan. 22, 2009, at Nashville’s Station Inn,
Connie Smith celebrated the 45th anniversary of her debut appearance in Music City by performing a full-scale show.

Per WSM-AM radio host
Eddie Stubbs, who also happens to serve as the announcer for RFD-TV's The Marty Stuart Show, it’ been at least 15 or more years since the cute ‘n’ country Ms. Smith delivered a full show.

Over the years, Smith—whom Stubbs refers to as “The Rolls-Royce of Country Music"—has performed on the coveted Opry stage, as indicated above, but never with her full band, the Sundowners.

Ricky Lynn Gregg Mourns Loss of His First & Favorite Fan

Prayers and condolences go out to country artist
Ricky Lynn Gregg, who recently lost his beloved mother, Lucille, 84. Funeral services were held Jan. 2, 2009, in Longview, Texas, the Gregg family's hometown.

Country fans may remember that Gregg made his foray onto the commercial country-music scene with his self-titled Liberty Records debut, which spawned the singles "If I Had a Cheatin' Heart," a former No. 36, as well as "Three Nickels and a Dime" and "Can You Feel It." The success of the album earned him the No. 4 spot on Billboard’s Top New Artist list of 1993.

He followed the hit-debut with his second album, 1994’s Can You Feel It. However, after label-chief Jimmy Bowen retired because of thyroid cancer, Ricky opted to take a "buyout" on his contract with Liberty upon Bowen's advice.

Photo: Ricky Lynn Gregg and Lucille Gregg. Courtesy of RLG Enterprises.

January 20, 2009

Finally, Music-TV Worth Watching: 'The Marty Stuart Show' Returns to RFD Network for 2nd Hit Season

Grand Ole Opry member Marty Stuart has begun taping the second season of The Marty Stuart Show, which pays homage to the finest musical traditions of the genre.

The program is broadcast at 8 p.m. (Central) each Saturday on cable’s
RFD-TV, a rural lifestyle network.

Each week, musician-historian Stuart, along with his country-star wife and fellow Grand Ole Opry member
Connie Smith, plays host to some serious, as in seriously good, country pickin' and singing, with a dash of humor thrown in, thanks to banjo player-comedian Leroy Troy.

To learn more about the program, with its focus on traditional country, bluegrass and gospel that beckons back to the days of The Porter Wagoner Show, access the full Country Music posting here.

  • Marty Stuart and Connie Smith Photo Credit: Lisa L. Rollins, 2009.

Country's Jo Dee Messina Becomes A First-Time Mommy & Trace Adkins Takes the Hall of Fame Spotlight

Country artist Jo Dee Messina has scored nine No. 1 country singles to date, but on Monday, Jan. 19, she achieved a first: motherhood.

Messina, 38, and her woodworker husband, Chris Deffenbaugh, 28, were married in October 2007. The couple welcomed their first child, who was a “happy surprise,” on Martin Luther King Day, according to a press report.

And in other news of the country-music persuasion, a spotlight exhibit on one of country music’s biggest contemporary superstars, Trace Adkins, will debut Jan. 27, 2009, at Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. (Plus, Jan. 24, 2009, is a day of free admission at the museum, thanks to Ford Community Day.)

  • To check out all the details, including what Jo Dee and hubby named the new arrival, please access my full Country Music posting.

January 17, 2009

Grammy-Bound: Living Music Legend Charlie Louvin Releases New CD for Tompkins Square label

Rare is the instance when I get the opportunity to call someone a "legend," because one of the many tried 'n' true writing rules I learned way back when in journalism school was that such an adjective is reserved for those who no longer walk this plane.

In other words, one must no longer breathe air for me to be able to apply this term to him or her, no matter how seemingly worthy one may be. (Yes, I know you probably see writers calling folks who are alive "legends" or "legendary" relatively frequently, but I assure you they were not trained by the hard-core, old-school journalists who beat me over the head with the journalist's Bible, the Associated Press manual.)

At any rate, it's with great joy that I'm able to make mention of low-tenor/guitarist Charlie Louvin, one-half the legendary gospel/bluegrass-meets-country duo known as the Louvin Brothers, who's having a mighty prolific recording surge at the ripe and ever-creative age of 81. His late brother, high tenor/mandolinist Ira Louvin, tragically died in summer 1965 in a car accident, but the duo's music goes on and on. (My story on the brothers is linked to here, above.)

Rainsville, Ala., native Charlie, who now calls Bell Buckle, Tenn., home, has accrued an incredibly impressive recording and music career over the decades, both with his late brother, whom he still misses dearly, and as a solo artist.

Charlie's record label, Tompkins Square in New York, released this living legend's latest album offering, Charlie Louvin Sings Murder Ballads & Disaster Songs, on Dec. 9, 2008. Life's hardships have etched their way into the prolific octenegarian's voice, but it makes this selection of tragedy-rooted songs all the more intriguing. It's a must-listen for fans of old-time country, bluegrass, Americana and gospel.

Grammy Alert: Charlie's Steps to Heaven CD, released earlier in 2008, is nominated in the 51st annual Grammy Awards' "Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album" category. This year's awards will be held Feb. 8, 2009, in Los Angeles.

  • Note: Check out the music video for "Ira," a poignant song Charlie wrote and recorded in honor of his beloved brother in life and song. It's worth waiting through the commercial for on the CMT site linked to herein.

January 15, 2009

'The Mark Twain of Traditional Music': Country Music Hall of Fame Honors Bluegrass Icon John Hartford with Exhibit

John Hartford was many things in life, from steamboat captain, fiddle and banjo player, to hit songwriter, Grammy-winning artist, author, folklorist and father.

Born John Cowan Harford on Dec. 30, 1937, in New York City, the Grammy-winning artist grew up in St. Louis, Mo., with a love for two things: the Mississippi River and music, especially old-time music and bluegrass. When it came to the latter, he brought new life to his genre of choice, influencing the likes of critically acclaimed musicians Bela Fleck, Emmylou Harris, Sam Bush of New Grass Revival and Tim O’Brien, among many.

Although many best know Hartford as the tunesmith behind Gentle on My Mind, a signature song that country artist Glen Campbell is usually associated with, his life is a storied and compelling portrait that will be reflected in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s upcoming Spotlight exhibit in his honor, John Hartford: Ever Smiling, Ever Gentle on My Mind, which will open Jan. 24, 2009, and continue through Jan. 2, 2010.

Bluegrass Player's Love for Old-Time Music Inspires 'New Grass' Sound

“In many ways, John Hartford is the Mark Twain of traditional music,” Mick Buck, the museum’s curator of collections, has said. “He was a beloved American figure whose influence went far beyond his commercial success. He brought literacy, humor and inventiveness to his music and an eclectic sense of adventure to his life. He was a true artist in every sense of the word.”

Jeremy Rush, a representative for the Nashville-based hall of fame and museum, reported that the exhibit in Hartford’s honor—which will feature moving images, photographs, costumes, handwritten lyrics and instruments from both the museum’s collection and from the Hartford family—will explore numerous aspects of his career, including his songwriting success and his experimental and influential approach to traditional music, as well as his pursuits “as an artist, performer, steamboat pilot, author and historian.”

Banjo Music of Earl Scruggs Shapes Hartford's Life

Hartford—who added the “t” to his given surname upon the request of the late producer-guitar legend Chet Atkins—credited the music of banjo player Earl Scruggs, a bluegrass legend, as changing his life forever. After hearing Scruggs’ music, a young Hartford was instantly attracted to traditional string music set about becoming proficient at not only banjo but also fiddle and guitar.

In his teen years, Hartford began performing professionally in bluegrass groups in central Missouri and Illinois, before moving to Nashville in 1965, where he served as an overnight disc jockey at country-radio station WSIX while striving to establish his music career.

January 13, 2009

Country music's Eric Durrance shares uncut songs on MCS site

Country newcomer
Eric Durrance, who made waves as of late on the country charts with Angels Fly Away, his debut country music CD for Wind-Up Records, has posted new music on his My Country Space artist site for those who’d like to be among the first to give it a listen.

The Florida native recently wrapped up a stint as the opening act for headliner Jason Aldean and Grammy-nominated Lady Antebellum on the CMT on Tour '08 show, and according to an e-mail, he’s spending the holiday season with family and friends (and apparently penning songs) before hitting the touring trail again in 2009.

In a recent phone interview, Durrance shared that losing his home to a fire in November, while he was on the CMT tour, inspired one of his newest songs, These Old Fences. To check out a fine selection of his brand-spankin’-new original, unreleased music, just access his page at MCS via www.mycountryspace.com/ericdurrance.

“As a songwriter, it is very hard to get your music out there,” shared Durrance. “The wheels turn slow on Music Row! So I have added some new songs (to MCS) that I have written in the last few weeks to give you all a look into my life as a writer.

“These are songs that I’ve written on my own” he continued, “and I hope that some artist or producer would like to record them someday. They are songs that I have lived and I hope it can relate to others as well. …”

As a huge fan of stripped-down, unplugged production, where the raw vocal talent can shine through and the song can take center stage, this sneak preview from Durrance is right up this writer’s alley. After all, if you can get an artist out of the studio, away from all the bells and whistles that can virtually promise a good sound, and said singer can still deliver—well then, you have something goin’ on. And the acoustic backdrop on these tracks, with just the purity of the singer’s voice, is a winner, from Tomorrow’s Rain (which could easily fit in with a Keith Urban set list) to These Old Fences, a thought-provoking offering about something those of us from the country grew up around.

Treat yourself by checking out Eric's newly penned tunes. For this writer, the new music he's written far outshines the tunes his label led him to record on his country debut.

P.S. Eric's Street Team asks all to PLEASE vote for Eric's current video and single, Turn it Off, in GAC's Top 20 Countdown each day. You can vote once daily, and they really need your help. To vote, please visit www.gactv.com.

January 12, 2009

Country music alerts on Lady Antebellum, newcomer Caitlin Nicole Eadie & the Artists and Fans Network

One-third of the Grammy-nominated Lady Antebellum lineup recently popped the question to his gal-pal of two years, and had a blingin’ rock ready just in case she was willing to take the engagment plunge. ...

Meanwhile, Florida-based
Caitlin Nicole Eadie is a name, and voice, country fans will likely want to know better. With influences from Joss Stone to Patsy Cline, the16-year-old with a tear-in-her-throat vocal delivery is an aspiring country artist who will likely be a regular in Music City once her high school diploma’s in hand. ...

And last but not least, country fans finally have a new network,
AFN, devoted to--gasp--24-hour country-music videos. Sound too good to be true? Well, believe it.