Cowboy Corner

Cowboy Corner
By Michael W. Stout

Come One, Come All to the Ky. State Fair

Once again, the Kentucky State Fair Board and our friends at Triangle Talent have outdone themselves when they scheduled the concerts for this year's state fair. As usual, the lineup is heavily weighted with some of the biggest and hottest names in country music today. Toby Keith, who just released his brand new album titled Unleashed (which includes his smash single "Courtesy of the Red, White And Blue (The Angry American)"), will kick the fair off on Thursday, August 15, in Freedom Hall along with hot newcomers Rascal Flatts. Brooks & Dunn took a year off from the fair last year, but they are coming back as their Neon Circus & Wild West Show will roll into town Saturday, August 17. Appearing with Kix and Ronnie will be two Kentucky boys: Pikeville-born Dwight Yoakam and Taylorsville's pride and joy, newcomer Shannon Lawson.

The legendary "Okie from Muskogee," Merle Haggard will croon atop the home plate of the old Cardinal Stadium on Friday, August 23. And wrapping up this year's fair is none other than Kenny Chesney, who is camping out at the top of the charts these days. His No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem CD has topped the country albums chart for at least 11 weeks. Chesney will perform along with Sara Evans in Freedom Hall on Sunday, August 25. Tickets for these shows can be purchased at the Kentucky Fair & Exposition Center ticket office, all Ticketmaster locations or by calling (502) 361-3100.

If you are worried that the Oak Ridge Boys will not be making their annual appearance at the fair, never fear, because the boys will play their usual free concert in Cardinal Stadium on Sunday, August 18. Also performing a free show will be Nicholasville's own John Michael Montgomery on Wednesday, August 21.

Pack up the babies, Grandma and the sunscreen, hit the ATM drive-thru and head on out to the Kentucky State Fair to be held at the Kentucky Fair & Exposition Center August 15 - August 25.

Country Auction Benefits MBF

Last month's online country music auction on www.cmtauctions.com, benefiting the Mary Byron Foundation, the national domestic violence charity headquartered here in Louisville, was a great success, raising nearly $5000. The biggest money-makers included a Dolly Parton-autographed acoustic Gibson guitar which sold for a whopping $1500; a Fender Squier electric guitar autographed by Hank Williams, Jr. ,which raised $760; an acoustic autographed George Jones guitar topping out at $540 and a Travis Tritt autographed Fender electric guitar, which earned $520.

Thanks to all the country artists who donated items for this auction, as well as each of you who bid on these items, raising money to help abolish the domestic violence epidemic.

Dixie Chicks' Comeback

Natalie, Martie and Emily, better known as the Dixie Chicks, have taken the majority of the last year off having babies, raising babies, squabbling with their record company and patching things up with their record company, but they've managed to squeeze recording into their schedules and have just recently put the final touches on their brand new, third album. Simply titled Home, this disc will hit store shelves on August 27. To help promote the release of their new album, the Chicks will make their second-ever appearance on the legendary Grand Ole Opry on August 10, when they will perform their current single, the Top 10 hit "Long Time Gone." They first performed on the classic Opry stage back in 1998.

A few weeks prior to their Opry performance, the girls went head-to-head with the legendary James Taylor. The four performed together on the same stage to film an episode of CMT Crossroads. Keep watching for this special to air on Country Music Television sometime in October And if it wasn't reward enough to perform with Taylor, the country-bluegrass trio recently received another Diamond Award from the Recording Industry Association of America. Their sophomore album, Fly, has sold over 10 million copies, just a mere million copies short of their debut album, Wide Open Spaces' record sales.

Congratulations to the Chicks! Keep up the good work!

Dolly Parton Makes a Huge Musical Splash

At 56, international superstar Dolly Parton is hotter than ever. She released her third country/bluegrass/mountain album, titled Halos & Horns, just last month and has garnered critical acclaim for this album, which debuted at #4 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. Some critics claim this album outshines all the other 70+ albums she has recorded during the last thirty years. And to promote the album, which includes twelve self-penned masterpieces and much talked-about and impressive covers of Bread's "If" and Led Zeppelin's classic "Stairway To Heaven" (translated into a gospel number and praised by songwriters Robert Plant and Jimmy Page), Dolly has put together a brand-new band called the Blue-niques and has hit the road for the first time in more than a decade. Just prior to her first concert last month in New York City, yours truly hopped on a UPS plane and headed to NY's Rockefeller Plaza to catch Dolly live on NBC's Today show. (Talk about a hillbilly in the big city!) In addition to her select dates in America throughout this month and early next month, she will head around the globe to the UK in October to perform in England, Ireland and Scotland.

Amidst Dolly's usual well-calculated media blitz surrounding any new venture she offers the world, she took time out to debut the video for the album's first single, "Dagger Through The Heart," on CMT's Most Wanted Live last month just prior to making a rare and long-overdue appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. During her Opry performance, host Mike Snider and Opry manager Pete Fisher surprised Dolly with a special trophy: the legendary Opry microphone especially hand-crafted for Opry members.

Montgomery Gentry Heading Back to Louisville

If you missed Kentucky's own Montgomery Gentry's 4th of July performance on the Waterfront, then you're still in luck, as Eddie and Troy are heading back to Louisville next month. The duo will reportedly perform at Jim Beam's "Rock The Rackhouse" party on September 20 along with Hank Williams III, Nickelback and Filter. Although I don't know many details at this point, check my next month for more details.

Colgate Country Showdown Local Finals

The local finals for the 21st Annual Colgate Country Showdown will be held August 10 at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. Past participants of this national country music competition touted as "America's largest talent showcase" include our own John Michael Montgomery, Sara Evans and Martina McBride. The 10 local finalists competing to move on to the next level of competition are: Tina Bradshaw, Terry Byrd, Dean Harris, High Noon, Amanda Hill, Hubert Lauden, Spanky Nyne, Molly Slone, Blake Stamper and Megan Stout (no relation to yours truly).

Congratulations to these finalists and best of luck!

Toby Keith Lends A Hand To NYPD

Toby Keith, who visited Ground Zero soon after the September 11 terrorist attacks, is lending a helping hand to the New York Police Department. The NYPD has asked to use Toby's recent hit "My List" in an upcoming training video to prepare officers for terrorist-related emergencies and urge the importance of spending quality time with their families. After all, we are not promised tomorrow. In addition to lending his song and/or video, Toby has agreed to tape an interview to be included in the video.

Like many other country artists, Toby has responded to our recent national tragedies in a huge way. Soon after the attacks, Toby wrote his current smash hit, "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)," but never intended to record it. He intended to perform it merely for American troops he visited around the globe, but our military's response to the song was so huge that Toby was convinced to record the controversial anthem.

Country Music DJ Hall of Fame

The Country Radio Broadcasters recently held their annual Country Music DJ Hall of Fame banquet in Nashville, not only honoring the personalities who breathe life into country radio, but also the legendary Sonny James. Lee Arnold, J.D. Cannon, Billy Cole, Joe Hoppel and Buck Wayne were inducted into the Country Music DJ Hall of Fame, Jack Cresse and Doug Mayes were inducted into the Country Radio Hall of Fame; Erica Farber of Radio & Records magazine was honored with the President's Award and Sonny was honored with the Career Achievement Award. The banquet contained performances of some of Sonny's biggest hits like "Young Love," "Bright Lights, Big City," "The Minute You're Gone," "It's Just A Matter Of Time," and "You're The Only World I Know."

Congratulations to Sonny and all our friends at country radio! Keep them records (OK, CDs) spinning!

Country Family Album

Our condolences go out to Arkansas native and newcomer Joe Nichols upon the recent death of his 46-year-old father. Joe, whose major label album debut, Man With A Memory hit stores just last month, performed on the Grand Ole Opry the Saturday evening following his father's death, performing and dedicating his father's favorite song, "The Footlights." In addition, Joe performed his smash hit "The Impossible," which recently ended LeAnn Rimes' 23-week reign at the top of Billboard's Country Singles Sales chart with "Can't Fight The Moonlight."

Singer/songwriter Radney Foster, who gained success over a decade ago as half of the duo Foster & Lloyd, is singing lullabies again these days. The father of two sons, Radney and his wife, Cyndi Hoelzle, welcomed daughter Maureen Joy into the world on July 8. Congratulations to Radney and Cyndi!

Well, that's it for this month. I hope to see you all at the country concerts at the state fair. Always remember: "Keep your boots shined up and your hat on straight, `cause country music is comin' your way."