A glance at the calendar proves that it's already August Unfortunately for school-aged children, that means that summer vacation is nearly over, but, on a more positive note, it also means that the 99th annual Kentucky State Fair is just around the corner. This year's fair will run August 14-24 and once again will offer country fans a buffet of hot country music. Fan favorite Alan Jackson will roll into town on Thursday, August 14 to offer fans a show promising to be overflowing with #1 hits. Jackson will bring along hot newcomer Joe Nichols of "The Impossible" and "Brokenheartsville" fame. Freedom Hall will be one rowdy party come Saturday, August 16 as Hank Williams, Jr. and Nicholasville's ultimate party boys, Montgomery Gentry, perform for fairgoers. Wrapping up the fair on Sunday, August 24 will be two of country's hottest hunks, Kenny Chesney and keith urban. Chesney's "Margaritas & Senoritas Tour" was the top-grossing country concert for the first half of the year and it promises to be one of the top-grossing tours of the entire year among all genres of music. At press time, plenty tickets were still available for the Jackson/Nichols and Williams/Montgomery Gentry shows, but the Chesney/urban show was 95% sold out, so fans better scoff up some tickets before it's too late.
As for the free fair concerts, at press time, no official announcement had been made of the acts scheduled to appear, but I have a sneaky suspicion that I know who will pop into Cardinal Stadium. The Oak Ridge Boys haven't missed a Ky. State Fair in over 20 years and they're not planning to skip this year either. The boys will perform Sunday, August 17. The stadium will be rocking with Heidi, Ira and Dean, better known as Trick Pony, on Tuesday, August 19. Cledus T. Judd will bring his brand of country music parody humor on Thursday, August 21 and the Charlie Daniels Band will roll into town to perform on Saturday, August 23.
Tickets for all paid concerts can be purchased by visiting the Freedom Hall box office or any Ticketmaster location, or by calling (502) 361-3100. All ticket prices include gate admission to the fair. All Cardinal Stadium concerts are free after paying fair gate admission.
Country fans have feared that Reba McEntire has abandoned country music for Hollywood following the success of her WB Network hit sitcom, Reba, but don't worry, country's favorite redhead has not retired from music. McEntire was back in Nashville June 26 to accept the Career Achievement Award from the Country Music DJ Hall of Fame. On hand to honor McEntire were professed Reba fans Trisha Yearwood and Sara Evans, who each performed a number of their idol's biggest hits.
Before accepting this career achievement award, McEntire assured a sea of reporters that she has no intention of leaving country music for acting. She is currently in the process of putting together a brand new album. She said, "We've got our 12 songs. It's going to be a very emotional album." Due to her acting schedule, she hasn't toured since 2001, but she hopes to hit the road next year to support her upcoming new album. No word yet on an expected release date, but I'll be sure to let you know as this story unfolds.
Just a month following her induction into Canada's Walk of Fame in Toronto, Shania Twain led the pack of nominees for the 2003 Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) Awards. Twain landed a whopping eight nods, followed by Aaron Lines with six and Terri Clark with five. Twain will compete for the Fans' Choice Award, Female Artist of the Year, Single of the Year, SOCAN Song of the Year and CMT Video of the Year for "Forever and For Always," Album of the Year and Top Selling Album for Up! and CMT Video of the Year for "I'm Gonna Getcha Good."
And the nominees are: Fans' Choice Award: Paul Brandt, Terri Clark, Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Aaron Lines and Shania Twain; Female Artist of the Year: Lisa Brokop, Terri Clark, Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Shania Twain and Michelle Wright; and Male Artist of the Year: Paul Brandt, Adam Gregory, Aaron Lines, Jason McCoy and Duane Steele.
Group or Duo of the Year: Doc Walker, Emerson Drive, Ennis Sisters, The Good Brothers and Poverty Plainsmen; Rising Star Award: Samantha King, Aaron Lines, Jake Matthews, Deric Ruttan and Dean Tuftin; and Roots Artist or Group of the Year: Kathleen Edwards, Great Big Sea, Sean Hogan, The Corb Lund Band and Jimmy Rankin.
Single of the Year: Gil Grand's "Cry A Little," Shania Twain's "Forever And For Always," Terri Clark's "I Just Wanna Be Mad," Doc Walker's "Rocket Girl," and Aaron Lines' "You Can't Hide Beautiful"; SOCAN Song of the Year: Gil Grand's "Cry A Little," Shania Twain's "Forever And For Always," Brad Johner's "Free," Doc Walker's "Rocket Girl," and Lisa Brokop's "Whiskey and Wine"; and CMT Video of the Year: Gil Grand's "Cry A Little," Shania Twain's "Forever And For Always," Terri Clark's "I Just Wanna Be Mad," Shania Twain's "I'm Gonna Getcha Good," and Aaron Lines' "You Can't Hide Beautiful."
Album of the Year: Brad Johner's Free, Aaron Lines' Living Out Loud, Terri Clark's Pain To Kill, Shania Twain's Up! and Adam Gregory's Workin' On It; and Top Selling Album: Dixie Chicks' Home, Alan Jackson's Drive, Toby Keith's Unleashed, Anne Murray's Country Croonin' and Shania Twain's Up!
The 2003 CCMA Awards will be handed out September 8 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Congratulations to all the nominees!
My good friend Jimmy "Roving Reporter" Russell had the great privilege of recently sitting down for an intimate interview with Louise Mandrell at the Louise Mandrell Theater in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. He reports the following from his afternoon spent with the middle-child of the famed Mandrell Sisters (including big sis Barbara and baby sister Irlene):
"Sitting down to chat with Louise Mandrell is like sitting down to a cup of coffee with your favorite neighbor. She has such a warmth and charm, she makes you feel as if you've been lifelong friends in a matter of seconds. I quickly discovered that Mandrell is very open and candid in answering any question thrown her way, often offering a reporter more than he bargained for.
Mandrell and her crew started with a clean slate when developing a new production for the 2003 season. `We left in a few of the same songs but changed them around a bit,' says Mandrell. This musical extravaganza consists of all new music, sets, costumes and a lot of surprises.
From the starry beginning to the roaring finale, Mandrell, an eleven-piece orchestra and nine singer/dancers take the audience on a musical journey from R&B to pop, swing, gospel and, naturally, country music. `This show has a little bit for everybody,' says Mandrell, who exhibits her impressive musicianship as she plays a variety of musical instruments during the diverse collection of musical styles.
Choreographer Pedro Tomas has helped create an action-packed, high-energy two hour spectacle full of powerhouse vocal and musical arrangements, entrancing dance moves, theatrical costumes and fabulously colorful sets. With so much versatility and talent being displayed on the stage of the Louise Mandrell Theater, there is no question why this is `the most attended show in the Smokies.' Even if you are a veteran Mandrell Theater goer, this season's captivating new production is truly worth checking out as it will have you wondering what will happen next. It's fun for the entire family."
Country demo singer Buddy Jewell appeared to have what it takes to be a country music star when he won USA-Network's recent Nashville Star country music talent contest. Jewell proved he has what it takes to be a Nashville Star when his debut Sony record, simply titled Buddy Jewell and produced by the award-winning Clint Black, hit the top spot on Billboard magazine's Top Country Albums chart its first week out of the gate. The album's debut single, the self-penned "Help Pour Out The Rain," continues to climb the country singles charts.
And while we're on the subject of Nashville Star, the show's second runner-up, the lovely and incredibly talented Miranda Lambert is also in the works of landing her very own record contract. She is in the process of signing with one of Sony's labels. No word yet on a projected date for the release of her debut album.
Congratulations, Buddy and Miranda!
There is a flood of highly anticipated new country CDs slated to hit store shelves this month. Ashland, Ky. native Wynonna has been leaning toward R&B sounds in recent years, but fans can expect what promises to be her most country album in years on August 5. What The World Needs, which includes the top 15 title track, is said to be more rootsy and reminiscent of early music when she performed with mother Naomi as The Judds in the 1980's. Also included on the album will be Judd's version of Elvis' "Burning Love" from Disney's Lilo & Stitch soundtrack.
Alan Jackson and "Margaritaville" pal Jimmy Buffett have a huge hit on their hands with their summer duet "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere," which has already hit the top 10 on the country music charts. This monster hit is one of two new songs (in addition to 16 hits) on Jackson's Greatest Hits, Volume II, which hits stores on August 12. This album will feature a special bonus CD including eight previously unreleased tunes from Jackson's previous albums, all hand-picked by the long-legged country boy himself. In the meantime, tune in to CMT to catch the Jackson and Buffett's video, which was partly filmed at Buffett's recent Indianapolis concert.
Following in Jackson's footsteps, Nicholasville, Ky.'s John Michael Montgomery is also releasing his second greatest hits package, titled The Very Best of John Michael Montgomery, on August 26. Montgomery fans will be pleased to know that this record will include 18 hits, as well as two brand new tunes.
Toby Keith fans will be in hog heaven come November 4 when the "big dog's" highly anticipated new album will be available for purchase. With the exception of one cut, this entire album, titled Shock `N Y'all, was written or co-written by Keith himself. The first single from the album, "I Love This Bar," is scheduled to hit radio airwaves on August 18. The drinkin' theme has obviously worked well for Keith lately ("Beer For My Horses" a case in point topping the charts for a whopping six weeks), so he's obviously sticking to a proven hit theme.
Well, that's it for this month. I hope to see you out 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."