Cowboy Corner

Cowboy Corner
By Michael W. Stout

Sugarland Becomes a Duo

Last year's hottest new country trio, Sugarland, has now become a duo. Founding member Kristen Hall, who plays guitar and provides harmony vocals, decided last month to retire from the trio - effective immediately - to stay home and concentrate on her songwriting. As for the remaining members of the group, lead singer Jennifer Nettles and guitarist Kristian Bush, their plan is to continue doing business as usual as a duo. They are scheduled to perform at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo on February 11. They are also set to open for Kenny Chesney's 2006 tour, which kicks off March 23 in Dayton, Ohio.

Nettles and Bush completely understand and support the decision of their fellow member and songwriting partner. They released a joint statement saying: "Kristen has decided that she wants to stay home and write songs and we support her in that decision." The three plan to continue to write together to maintain the sound which earned them the Favorite New Artist award at last year's American Music Awards and has helped them sell more than a million copies of their debut CD, Twice the Speed of Life. The group's writing formula is a huge success, as the three co-wrote their first two singles, "Baby Girl" and "Something More." Hall is the sole writer of their current smash single, "Just Might (Make Me Believe)."

Country Wins at People's Choice Awards

The New Year kicked off with a bang for Mr. and Mrs. Tim McGraw during the first awards show of the year. McGraw was named Male Performer of the Year at the People's Choice Awards, which were handed out last month in Los Angeles. He beat out Toby Keith and R&B singer Usher. While Mr. McGraw received a nod from the fans, they couldn't leave out his lovely bride: Faith Hill received the Nice `N Easy Fans Favorite Hair Award.

In addition to the McGraws' awards, actress Reese Whitherspoon landed the Actress of the Year: Drama trophy for her portrayal of the late June Carter Cash in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line.

Congratulations, Tim, Faith and Reese!

Walk the Line Shines at Golden Globes

When the 63rd Annual Golden Globe Awards were handed out in Hollywood last month, country music was well represented thanks to Walk the Line. The movie's first of three wins of the night went to Nashville native Reese Whitherspoon, who captured the award for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy Film as her portrayal of the beloved June Carter Cash, just a week following the same win at the People's Choice Awards. Joaquin Phoenix followed Whitherspoon's win with his own award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy Film for his portrayal of the legendary "Man in Black." Tim McGraw introduced a clip of the critically acclaimed film just before it was awarded the Best Picture: Musical or Comedy trophy.

In other country-related Golden Globe news, Emmylou Harris' "A Love That Will Never Grow Old" (written by Gustavo Santaolalla and Bernie Taupin) from the controversial film Brokeback Mountain was named Best Original Song. Harris beat out pal and fellow Trio member Dolly Parton who was competing in the same category with her self-penned "Travelin' Thru" from Transamerica, the movie for which Felicity Huffman received the Best Actress in a Drama Film trophy at the Globes.

Country Grammy Nominations

Country stars will be heading out west to Los Angeles for the 48th Annual Grammy Awards on February 8. Brad Paisley and Gretchen Wilson top the list of country nominees, each being nominated in four categories. Paisley will vie for Best Male Country Vocal Performance and Best Country Song for "Alcohol," Best Country Album for Time Well Wasted and Best Country Instrumental Performance for "Time Warp." Wilson will compete for Best Country Female Vocal Performance and Best Country Song for "All Jacked Up," Best Country Album for All Jacked Up and Best Country Collaboration with Vocals for "Politically Uncorrect" with Merle Haggard.

In addition to the strictly country nominations, Rascal Flatts are in the running for Song of the Year for all genres of music for "Bless the Broken Road." Sugarland will compete against Ciara, Fall Out Boy, Keane and John Legend in the Overall Best New Artist category. Martina McBride will compete against Missy Elliot, Gorillaz, Jamiroquai and Sarah McLachlan in the Best Short Form Music Video category for her video for "God's Will." The Legend box set by Johnny Cash and You Ain't Talkin' to Me-Charlie Poole and the Roots of Country Music will both compete in the Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package category.

The night before the Grammys, the legendary "Okie from Muskogee," Merle Haggard, will be presented a Lifetime Achievement award from the Recording Academy. Haggard will be recognized for this honor during the awards ceremony the following night, while it will also be announced that the late recording pioneer Owen Bradley will receive a trustees award from the Recording Academy.

And the country nominees are: Best Female Country Vocal Performance: Emmylou Harris' "The Connection," Faith Hill's "Mississippi Girl," Gretchen Wilson's "All Jacked Up," Lee Ann Womack's "I May Hate Myself in the Morning," and Trisha Yearwood's "Georgia Rain"; Best Male Country Vocal Performance: George Jones' "Funny How Time Slips Away," Toby Keith's "As Good As I Once Was," Delbert McClinton's "Midnight Communion," Willie Nelson's "Good Ol' Boys," Brad Paisley's "Alcohol," and Keith Urban's "You'll Think of Me"; and Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal: Big and Rich's "Comin' to Your City," Brooks and Dunn's "Play Something Country," Dixie Chicks' "I Hope," Alison Krauss and Union Station's "Restless," and Rascal Flatts' "Bless the Broken Road."

Best Country Song: Brad Paisley's "Alcohol," Gretchen Wilson's "All Jacked Up," Rascal Flatts' "Bless the Broken Road," Dixie Chick's "I Hope," and Lee Ann Womack's "I May Hate Myself in the Morning"; Best Country Collaboration with Vocals: Brooks and Dunn, Sheryl Crow and Vince Gill's "Building Bridges," Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris' "Shelter from the Storm," Faith Hill and Tim McGraw's "Like We Never Loved at All," Willie Nelson and Norah Jones' "Dreams Come True," and Gretchen Wilson and Merle Haggard's "Politically Uncorrect"; Best Country Album: Faith Hill's Fireflies, Alison Krauss and Union Station's Lonely Runs Both Ways, Brad Paisley's Time Well Wasted, Gretchen Wilson's All Jacked Up and Trisha Yearwood's Jasper County; and Best Country Instrumental Performance: Charlie Daniels' "I'll Fly Away," Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush and Bela Fleck's "Who's Your Uncle?," Alison Krauss and Union Station's "Unionhouse Branch," Nickel Creek's "Scotch and Chocolate," and Brad Paisley's "Time Warp."

Music fans of all genres can catch the 48th Annual Grammy Awards live on CBS-Television at 8 p.m. EST on February 8.

Alan Jackson Serves Up Gospel

Have you ever wondered what millionaire country music singer/songwriters give their family members for Christmas? Well, if you're Alan Jackson, you give the gift of music, what else? That's exactly what Jackson gave his beloved mother this past Christmas, but not just any ole music. Mama Jackson has been encouraging her superstar son to record a gospel album for some time and he did just that as a surprise for her and his mother-in-law.

Jackson went into the studio last year and recorded an intimate collection of 15 hymns and gospel standards he grew up singing in church. He says, "We just went in [the studio] with a piano and acoustic guitar and just laid it down, just real loose...making an album for my mama. And we got a little company to press a few covers and stuff. I gave some to my family for Christmas and a few other people and now they're wanting to put it out." And put it out is exactly what Jackson's record label is going to do on February 28.

When record executives caught wind of this special, private CD, they were curious to hear it and fell in love with it immediately. RCA Label Group Chairman Joe Galante said, "When I heard it, I said, `We want to release this.' It sounds like Alan recorded it in a church; it's so intimate and emotional. It's a great representation as an artist, but not a change in his career. It's a chance to show a different side-it's a labor of love."

Titled Precious Memories, the album includes classics like "I'll Fly Away," "The Old Rugged Cross," and "Softly and Tenderly." And to make the album even more special for his mother and wife Denise's mother, Denise and two of the couple's daughters join Jackson on "'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus."

Although Jackson has no intention to abandon his hugely successful country music career to pursue a career in gospel, he claims that the sound of the organ and the melodies of those old gospel songs from his childhood have stuck with him and "affected how I hear songs now and write songs."

Country Heavy Metal

The country "wonder from Down Under," Keith Urban is hotter than ever these days. Not only is Urban managing to win his fair share of major awards as of late, but his records are flying off the shelves. His current album, Be Here, was recently certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America for shipments of an amazing 3 million copies. Not too shabby to a country picker and singer who may or may not be married to actress Nicole Kidman (there was speculation that the couple were to tie the knot on New Year's Eve, but mum's the word on whether it happened or not).

Checotah, Oklahoma's sweetheart and America's "country" Idol, Carrie Underwood, is breaking records right and left with her newly found country music career since being named the 2005 American Idol. Her debut album, Some Hearts, was released in November and has already sold a whopping 2 million copies, earning it double-platinum certification by the RIAA. It is the fastest-selling debut country album in history and has been the biggest-selling country album for several weeks now. And if that's not enough, the album's first release, "Jesus, Take the Wheel," has already landed at the top of the Billboard country singles chart.

The Cowboy Riding into Town

It's been over three years since George Strait performed in Louisville, but "The Cowboy" is riding into town next month. Strait will wrap his 2006 concert tour right here in our very own Derby city on Saturday, March 4 at Freedom Hall. Fans will get the chance to see first-hand how Strait has tied the late Conway Twitty for the most #1 country hits with his latest chart-topper, "She Let Herself Go." Straight will bring along "Time Marches On" and "Paint Me a Birmingham" singer Tracy Lawrence and the hot new "Kerosene" songstress Miranda Lambert.

Tickets for this must-see show are already on sale and can be purchased at the Freedom Hall box office and at all Ticketmaster locations, or by calling (502) 361-3100. Tickets are $59.50 and $49.50.

It's REALLY Over for Kenny and Renee

Despite reported sightings of Kenny Chesney and Oscar-winning actress Renee Zellweger in recent months, their virtually non-existent marriage is OFFICIALLY over. The couple married on the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands last May and Zellweger filed for an annulment in September, citing fraud in the annulment papers. Well, the annulment became official recently thanks to a Los Angeles Superior Court.

Chesney and his ex-wife were spotted together as recent as last month in a Franklin, Tennessee-area sandwich shop. Chesney's publicist assures us that the marriage is over (or did it ever really exist since it was annulled) and the two remain friends - extremely private friends.

Gals, good news for ya'll as I guess that means that Kenny's officially back on the market!

Well, that's it for another month. Always remember: "Keep your boots shined up and your hat on straight, `cause country music is comin' your way."