Cowboy Corner

Cowboy Corner
By Michael W. Stout

"The Cowboy" George Strait Wows Again

I've said it time and time again and I'll continue to say it - George Strait is probably the most consistent artist in country music. Despite the fact he was battling a cold during his virtually sold-out concert at Freedom Hall on March 4, "The Cowboy" offered a near flawless performance of "Strait-on" country music. His ninety-minute-plus performance proved why he has had twenty-five #1 records, fifty-two chart-topping songs and has sold more than 67 million records. A typical Strait concert is very light on conversation and very heavy on music, no frills involved. Along with his tight Ace in the Hole Band, Strait offered up unforgettable performances from every aspect of his lengthy career, from "The Chair," "Amarillo," and "Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind," to "Check Yes or No" and "Heartland," to recent chart-toppers "I Just Want to Dance with You" and "She Let Herself Go." And there's just about no better concert-going experience than to hear the incredible George Strait cut loose on Bob Wills' Western swing "Take Me Back to Tulsa" and the rootsy "Milk Cow Blues." A genuine country showman!

Opener Tracy Lawrence's forty-five-minute set was a blast from the past to the early Nineties, with chart favorites like "Renegades, Rebels & Rogues," "Alibis," "Time Marches On," and "I See It Now." Not quite as energetic as he was a decade ago, Lawrence still offered a powerfully nostalgic set which also included a rousing rendition of Merle Haggard's "Working Man Blues," and his recent chart entry, "Paint Me a Birmingham." It was comforting to see that Lawrence has overcome a rocky past and is attempting to regain momentum from a lengthy sabbatical from country music. He might have been gone, but fortunately not forgotten - if he kicks things up a notch or two, he just might be back in the heat of the game.

Nashville Star alum Miranda Lambert's career has had a slow start, but it is about to sizzle thanks to her current smash, "Kerosene." Her 30-minute opening set had the crowd rocking on its feet to songs "Bring Me Down," "Cripple Creek," and "Hillbilly Highway." This little Texas spitfire has the passion of Loretta Lynn and the rockability of Tina Turner, but she is as country as grits, cornbread, country ham and redeye gravy. This gal might still be a little uneasy on stage, but boy, she knows how to have fun and the fun is absolutely contagious.

Paisley & Nettles Dominate ACM Nominations

When Rascal Flatts and Carrie Underwood announced the nominees for the 41st Annual Academy of Country Music Awards last month, the most common names were Brad Paisley and Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland. Paisley was nominated for six trophies, while Nettles' Sugarland landed five nods and she earned an additional nod for Vocal Event of the Year along with rockers Bon Jovi for "Who Says You Can't Go Home." Paisley will compete for Top Male Vocalist, Single of the Year for "Alcohol," and Album of the Year for Time Well Wasted. In addition Paisley and Dolly Parton's chart-topping duet "When I Get Where I'm Going" will vie for Vocal Event of the Year, Song of the Year and Video of the Year. Surprisingly enough, Paisley was not included in the list of nominees for Entertainer of the Year. The hot and recent duo Sugarland (down from a trio when co-founder Kristen Hall decided to leave the group) will compete for the following trophies: Top New Duo or Vocal Group, Top Vocal Group of the Year, Album of the Year for their debut album Twice the Speed of Life and Single of the Year and Song of the Year for their debut single, "Baby Girl."

Super-duo Brooks & Dunn followed closely behind Paisley and Sugarland with five nominations, followed by Rascal Flatts and 2005 American Idol winner Carrie Underwood with an amazing four nods each.

On a local note, Louisville country music nightclub Coyote's was nominated for Nightclub of the Year, competing against 8 Seconds in Indianapolis, Billy Bob's in Fort Worth, Cowboy's in Atlanta, Grizzly Rose in Denver and Joe's Bar in Chicago. In addition, Louisville's very own David Snowden of Triangle Talent, which books all the concerts for the Kentucky State Fair, was nominated for the Don Romeo Talent Buyer of the Year award.

And the nominees are: Entertainer of the Year: Brooks & Dunn, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban; Top Female Vocalist: Sara Evans, Martina McBride, Carrie Underwood, Gretchen Wilson and Lee Ann Womack; Top Male Vocalist: Dierks Bentley, Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, George Strait and Keith Urban; Top Vocal Group: Alabama, Little Big Town, Lonestar, Rascal Flatts and Sugarland; and Top Vocal Duo: Big & Rich, Brooks & Dunn, Montgomery Gentry, Van Zant and The Warren Brothers.

Top New Female Vocalist: Miranda Lambert, Julie Roberts and Carrie Underwood; Top New Male Vocalist: Jason Aldean, Billy Currington and Craig Morgan; Top New Duo or Vocal Group: Big & Rich, Little Big Town and Sugarland; and Album of the Year: Gary Allan's Tough All Over, Brad Paisley's Time Well Wasted, Rascal Flatts' Feels Like Today, Sugarland's Twice the Speed of Life and Lee Ann Womack's There's More Where That Came From.

Song of the Year: Brooks & Dunn's "Believe," Brad Paisley & Dolly Parton's "When I Get Where I'm Going," Rascal Flatts' "Skin (Sarabeth)," Sugarland's "Baby Girl," and Carrie Underwood's "Jesus, Take the Wheel"; Single Record of the Year: Gary Allan's "Best I Ever Had," Brooks & Dunn's "Believe," Brad Paisley's "Alcohol," Sugarland's "Baby Girl," and Carrie Underwood's "Jesus, Take the Wheel"; Vocal Event of the Year: Bon Jovi & Jennifer Nettles' "Who Says You Can't Go Home," Cowboy Troy and Big & Rich's "I Play Chicken with the Train," Faith Hill & Tim McGraw's "Like We Never Loved at All," and Brad Paisley & Dolly Parton's "When I Get Where I'm Going"; and Video of the Year: Brooks & Dunn's "Believe," Toby Keith's "As Good As I Once Was," Miranda Lambert's "Kerosene," Brad Paisley & Dolly Parton's "When I Get Where I'm Going," and Lee Ann Womack's "I May Hate Myself in the Morning."

The 41st Annual ACM Awards will be handed out live at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on May 23. The awards program will be broadcast live on CBS-Television.

Country Musicians Inducted into Kentucky Music Hall of Fame

In a ceremony in Lexington on February 23, Kentucky natives John Conlee (of "Rose Colored Glasses" fame), country music's most popular mother-daughter duo, The Judds and mandolinist extraordinaire Sam Bush were inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame. Although daughter Wynonna was not able to attend the gala due to scheduling conflicts, mother Naomi Judd was on hand to accept this honor. Fellow Kentucky natives John Michael Montgomery, 2004 inductee Loretta Lynn and comedienne Lily Tomlin were also on hand to take part in this special ceremony.

Other inductees included Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary, gospel singer-songwriter Dottie Rambo and the late opera singer Robert Todd Duncan, jazz musician and bandleader Lionel Hampton and folk balladeer John Jacob Niles.

The Kentucky Music Hall of Fame & Museum, which is housed in Renfro Valley, Kentucky, was established in 2004 with nineteen premiere inductees, including 97.5-FM WAMZ's Coyote Calhoun, and inducts a new round of Kentucky natives every two years. For more information regarding the Hall of Fame, call 1-877-356-3263 or log onto www.kentuckymusicmuseum.com.

Congratulations to all of the 2006 inductees!

Tim McGraw's New CD & TV Special

Tim McGraw fans are in musical heaven these days. McGraw just released his second greatest hits CD, titled Tim McGraw Reflected: Hits Vol. 2. In addition to including chart-toppers like "Live Like You Were Dying," "The Cowboy in Me," and "Real Good Man," the disc includes four new songs ("Beautiful People," "I've Got Friends That Do," "My Little Girl," and "When the Stars Go Blue") and two previously released duets: "Like We Never Loved At All" with wife Faith Hill and "Over and Over" with rapper Nelly.

In connection with the CD's release, McGraw's third network television special, appropriately titled Tim McGraw: Reflected, will air on NBC-Television on April 5. The special will include concert footage from New York, duets with wife Hill at their Tenn. farm and a jam session with pal Hank Williams, Jr.

Faith Hill Tops 2006 CMT Music Awards Nominees

When Country Music Television released its final nominees for the 2006 CMT Music Awards recently, Faith Hill topped the list with four nods, three shared with husband Tim McGraw. Her "Mississippi Girl" will vie for Female Video of the Year, while her and McGraw's "Like We Never Loved at All" will vie for Video of the Year, Collaborative Video of the Year and Video Director of the Year. McGraw's fellow three-nomination artists include Trace Adkins, Brooks & Dunn, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, Miranda Lambert, Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban.

Country fans narrowed down the finalist in each of the award categories by voting on www.cmt.com. Fans can continue to vote for their favorite videos through April 7 in eight of the nine categories. The ninth category, Video of the Year, will be voted on during the live awards program on April 10 when the final four nominees will be revealed at the beginning of the broadcast.

And the nominees are: Video of the Year: Trace Adkins' "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk," Brooks & Dunn's "Believe," Kenny Chesney's "Who You'd Be Today," Faith Hill & Tim McGraw's "Like We Never Loved at All," Toby Keith's "As Good As I Once Was," Brad Paisley's "Alcohol," Keith Urban's "Better Life," and Gretchen Wilson's "All Jacked Up"; Female Video of the Year: Sara Evans' "A Real Fine Place to Start," Faith Hill's "Mississippi Girl," Miranda Lambert's "Kerosene," and Carrie Underwood's "Jesus, Take the Wheel"; Male Video of the Year: Trace Adkins' "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk," Kenny Chesney's "Who You'd Be Today," Toby Keith's "As Good As I Once Was," and Keith Urban's "Better Life"; and Group/Duo Video of the Year: Brooks & Dunn's "Believe," Little Big Town's "Boondocks," Rascal Flatts' "Skin (Sarabeth)," and Sugarland's "Just Might (Make Me Believe)."

Collaborative Video of the Year: Bon Jovi & Jennifer Nettles' "Who Says You Can't Go Home," Faith Hill & Tim McGraw's "Like We Never Loved at All," Brad Paisley & Dolly Parton's "When I Get Where I'm Going," and Joaquin Phoenix & Reese Witherspoon's "Jackson"; Breakthrough Video of the Year: Jason Aldean's "Hicktown," Miranda Lambert's "Kerosene," Sugarland's "Something More," and Carrie Underwood's "Jesus, Take the Wheel"; Hottest Video of the Year: Trace Adkins' "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk," Dierks Bentley's "Come a Little Closer," Billy Currington's "Must Be Doin' Something Right," and Keith Urban's "Making Memories of Us"; Most Inspiring Video of the Year: Brooks & Dunn's "Believe," Reba McEntire's "You're Gonna Be," Brad Paisley & Dolly Parton's "When I Get Where I'm Going," and Carrie Underwood's "Jesus, Take the Wheel"; and Video Director of the Year: Trey Fanjoy for Miranda Lambert's "Kerosene," Sophie Miller for Faith Hill & Tim McGraw's "Like We Never Loved at All," Michael Salomon for Toby Keith's "As Good As I Once Was," and Shaun Silva for Kenny Chesney's "Who You'd Be Today."

Fans can catch the 2006 CMT Music Awards live on Country Music Television at 8 p.m. EDT on April 10. Hosted by country's favorite redneck, Jeff Foxworthy, the awards program will be held at The Curb Event Center at Nashville's Belmont University.

Good luck to all the nominees!

Condolences to Cyrus Family

Our condolences go out to singer/actor Billy Ray Cyrus upon the recent passing of his 70-year-old father, Ron Cyrus. Mr. Cyrus, who was a Flatwoods Representative in the Kentucky General Assembly for twenty years, passed away on February 28 after a battle with cancer. Besides his famous son, his wife Joanie Cyrus, three daughters, one other son and numerous grandchildren survive Mr. Cyrus.

On a personal note, I met Mr. Cyrus prior to a Billy Ray Cyrus concert at the Palace Theatre years ago and was thoroughly impressed with his devotion to helping his fellow-Kentuckians and the pride he had for his famous son and the great work he helped Billy Ray with through his charity headquartered back in their hometown of Flatwoods.

In closing, kudos go out to Nashville native Reese Witherspoon for landing the big enchilada last month, the Oscar for Best Actress for her portrayal of the late June Carter Cash in Walk the Line. Witherspoon did the Cash family and the country music community proud. Always remember: "Keep your boots shined up and your hat on straight, `cause country music is comin' your way."