Well, it's that time of year again - the temperatures are soaring, last-minute vacations are being taken before school starts back and the excitement is in the air. That's right, the 2006 Kentucky State Fair is upon us and, as usual, country music fans will be in "hog heaven." The fair will be jam-packed with country concerts, beginning with Nicholasville, Ky.'s own Montgomery Gentry kicking the fair off on Thurs., August 17 in Freedom Hall. Eddie and T-roy will be bringing Joe Nichols and Jeff Bates along for the ride. Tickets are $43 (which includes gate admission to the fair) if purchased by August 7, otherwise they will cost $38 and gate admission will be required separately.
Friday night's concert might be a little fluffier than cotton candy for the typical country fan as Kellogg's Pop-Tarts present the American Idols Live! Tour 2006, featuring countrified finalists Kellie Pickler and Bucky Covington, as well as the other Top 10 finalists on this year's insanely popular "American Idol" television program. Tickets for this show are $46 (includes gate admission) if purchased by August 8, otherwise they'll be $41. And while we're on the subject of Kellie Pickler, the Albemarle, NC native recently signed a record deal with 19 Recordings/BNA Records and will release her first country album on November 14. Her first single should hit country radio sometime next month.
Probably the most-anticipated show of this year's fair will roll into Freedom Hall on Saturday, August 18 - Brad Paisley's "Time Well Wasted 2006" Tour. Brad will bring along the 2005 "American Idol" winner Carrie Underwood along with Eric Church. Tickets are $43 (includes gate admission) if purchased by August 8, otherwise they are $38.
Sunday night, August 20, The Oak Ridge Boys will make their annual fair appearance in Cardinal Stadium and the price is right - FREE!!! On Tuesday, August 22, Kentucky natives Dwight Yoakam and Exile will take the stage in the stadium for a free show. The momentum continues as "Boondocks and Raindrops" will take the stage in Cardinal Stadium on Wednesday, August 23, featuring BJ Thomas, Billy Joe Royal and Gary Puckett, once again free. Fan favorites Lorrie Morgan and Mark Chesnutt will heat up the stadium with yet another free show on Thursday evening, August 24. And the last free show of this year's fair will be none other than Blake Shelton and Josh Turner on Saturday, August 26.
And closing out this year's state fair is probably the hottest group in country music right now, Rascal Flatts. Their "Me and My Gang Tour 2006" will roll into Freedom Hall on Sunday, August 27 and the boys will bring along special guest Gary Allan. Tickets for this show are $48 (includes gate admission) if purchased by August 17, otherwise $43 after August 17.
Well, count `em up guys and gals - that's eight major country concerts the fair board has booked for this year's festivities, besides the "American Idol" concert. The 2006 Kentucky State Fair will run August 17-27 at the Kentucky Fair & Exposition Center.
And while we're on the topic of Rascal Flatts, the trio has managed to capture the title of the top-selling country act on the album sales charts so far this year. Their recently released Me and My Gang CD is the second best-selling album so far this year, having sold nearly 2 million copies. They are only beat by the soundtrack to Disney's High School Musical, which has sold 2.2 million copies for the first half of this year. Carrie Underwood's debut album, Some Hearts, has been the next most successful selling country album landing at #5 for sales of nearly 1.5 million copies since January 2 (it has amazingly sold over 3 million copies overall since its release in November 2005). The only other country (or country-related) album on the Top 10 list was The Dixie Chicks' much-talked-about new album, Taking the Long Way, coming in at #8 with sales of more than 1.2 million copies. These three albums have helped country music get off to a stellar start this year. Country music sales have jumped by 17.7 percent over the same time period (January - July) last year, making it the fastest growing genre of music.
Congratulations to Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood and The Dixie Chicks!
Country music's most soulful sister, Wynonna Judd, was recently honored in her hometown of Ashland, Kentucky While in town for a concert at the Paramount Arts Center as part of the Kentucky Music Trail concert series on June 23, the mayor presented Wynonna with a proclamation declaring it Wynonna Day. In addition to this great honor, Wynonna left her handprints in clay and concrete to mark the occasion.
Wynonna spent the first five years of her life in Ashland, but returned each summer until she and her momma Naomi Judd hit the road and took country music by storm as The Judds in 1984. Wynonna has racked up a total of 20 chart-topping hits (both as The Judds and as a solo artist), has won numerous major music awards and still wows audiences with her powerful voice. Fans can look for her first-ever solo Christmas album to hit stores later this year.
Although I didn't make it to Kenny Chesney's "The Road & the Radio Tour" stop at Freedom Hall on July 6, I hear the Luttrell, Tennessee native put on an incredible show lasting nearly two hours. Along with a surprise appearance by Uncle Kracker, I understand the near sell-out crowd agreed with his recent title of Academy of Country Music Entertainer of the Year. If you weren't able to make it to this show like me, never fear as Mr. Chesney is planning to release a live concert album next month. Live Those Songs Again will include 14 songs recorded during concerts over the past five years ("No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem Tour," "Margaritas, Senoritas & A Whole Lotta Love Tour," "When the Sun Goes Down Tour," and "The Road & the Radio Tour"), including "Back Where I Come From" and "Anything But Mine."
Chesney's career is on fire these days. His recent stadium concert at Gillette Stadium near Boston on July 16 broke records with ticket sales of more than $4 million. Performing along with Chesney were Dierks Bentley, Big & Rich, Carrie Underwood and Gretchen Wilson, making this the highest-grossing one-day country concert in history.
Seventy-eight-year-old Grand Ole Opry star and Country Music Hall of Famer Porter Wagoner continues to recover from emergency surgery he underwent last month. On July 14, Wagoner was rushed to a Nashville hospital with complaints of stomach and back pain. Soon after being admitted to the hospital, he had surgery to repair an abdominal aortic aneurysm. According to his daughter, Deborah Loy, Wagoner remained in the Intensive Care Unit for a week following the surgery, before being moved to a regular room. Although he is expected to make a full-recovery, at press-time, Wagoner remained in the hospital. Many country stars sent greetings to the ailing star, including phone calls from pal Little Jimmy Dickens and Wagoner's former duet partner, Dolly Parton.
Best wishes to Porter for a speedy recovery.
"Guys Do It All the Time" singer Mindy McCready's legal problems got a little lighter last month as her May 2005 drunk driving charge was dropped. After deliberating for more than five hours, McCready was acquitted of the DUI charge, but was found guilty of driving with a suspended driver's license. She continues to be on supervised probation for the next three years since pleading guilty in 2004 for trying to obtain the highly addictive painkiller OxyContin with a fraudulent prescription at a Nashville area pharmacy.
If you'll remember, McCready has had quite a turmoil the last few years. It was just last year that she was found beaten by her former boyfriend and suffering from a failed suicide attempt in a Florida hotel. Earlier this year she gave birth to a son fathered by this abusive boyfriend.
Stop the presses, the SHeBABIES have arrived! Kelsi Osborn, who along with sisters Kassidy and Kristyn Osborn make up the "Little Goodbyes" trio SHeDAISY, has welcomed not only her first child, but her first TWO children into the world. Kelsi and husband Steve Hooper welcomed twin daughters Savannah Marie and Adyson Amilia into the world July 12 at a Nashville-area hospital. While she was on bed-rest leading up to the SHeBABIES' arrivals and throughout the remainder of the year, the Osborn sisters' younger sister Karli, a 21-year-old college student, has been filling in for Kelsi. Karli can even be seen in the trio's new music video, "In Terms of Love."
Congratulations, Kelsi and Steve on your new little bundles of joy!
Country music's hottest new quartet, Little Big Town, of "Boondocks" fame, has been keeping a secret as of late. Well, at least half of the group has been tight-lipped with a secret. Karen Fairchild and Jimi Westbrook have really pulled one over on the public as they have been secretly dating and were married during a small ceremony in Nashville on May 31. Fellow group members Phillip Sweet and Kimberly Roads took part in the wedding ceremony. The happy couple has stated that they kept their relationship under wraps to keep the focus on their budding musical career, not their personal lives.
Little Big Town formed back in 1998 and struck out with two failed recording contracts before signing with Equity Music Group last year. Their debut album, The Road to Here, has already been certified gold for having sold more than half a million copies.
Congratulations, Karen and Jimi!
Well, that's it for this month. I'll see ya 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."