Cowboy Corner

Cowboy Corner
By Michael W. Stout

Country Stars Celebrate 4th of July

No genre of music is more patriotic than country music. Take Lee Greenwood's anthem "God Bless the U.S.A" for instance - what American doesn't know all the words to this tune? When it comes to celebrating the independence of our great nation, nobody celebrates more than country fans and country stars themselves. "I Don't Have to Be Me ('Til Monday)" crooner Steve Azar will head to our nation's capitol this Independence Day to headline a free concert along with the U.S. Army-Navy Band near the Washington Monument.

Martina McBride will be celebrating the holiday this year in New York City. A guest of the wildly popular American Idol this season, she will join AI top three finalists Melinda Doolittle, Blake Lewis and winner Jordin Sparks for "Macy's Fourth of July Spectacular." McBride will perform "Anyway" during the concert, which will air live on NBC-Television.

And if you're not up to traveling to Washington, D.C. or New York to show your American spirit along with your taste for country music, then don't fret because country music's gonna bring the party right here to the Derby City. "Must Be Doin' Something Right" singer Billy Currington and "Long Black Train" crooner Josh Turner will both perform a free concert on the Ohio River Tues evening, July 3 as part of the "Fifth Third Bank Waterfront Independence Festival at Waterfront Park." Currington will hit the stage at 7:30 p.m., followed by headliner Turner at 9:15. And the grand finale: fireworks over the Ohio River at 10:30 p.m.

Sammy Kershaw Throws Hat into Political Ring

"Queen of My Double-Wide Trailer" singer, the "working man of country music," Sammy Kershaw, is not one to shy away from a challenge. The Kaplan, Louisiana native and husband of country songstress Lorrie Morgan announced last month that he would vie for the Republican primary candidate for Louisiana lieutenant governor on October 20 (with the general election to follow on November 17). In announcing his candidacy, Kershaw stated, "I am not afraid to make difficult decisions. I know that with leadership comes responsibility. For the past 20 years, I have taken care of my employees and their families and have learned that leadership means personal sacrifice. It means putting the needs of others before your own."

Kershaw further stated that if he were elected, one of his priorities in the office of lieutenant governor would be "making the entertainment industry a viable source of economic development in Louisiana" and "creating education programs that will train a sustainable labor force for this industry."

Best wishes to Sammy in his campaign! Keep reading in upcoming months, as I'll keep you posted on the results of Sammy's attempted foray into politics.

Moving Tim McGraw Tune Officially Released

If you caught the live telecast of the Academy of Country Music Awards a couple months ago, you'll not soon be able to forget Tim McGraw's moving performance of a brand-new song titled "If You're Reading This." McGraw performed the song with minimal lighting until the climactic conclusion when the lights rose, exposing numerous families who have lost loved ones in such tragedies as 9/11 and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Numerous country radio stations began playing the live version of the song from the program the morning after the awards show after receiving numerous requests. After such demand from the public, McGraw and producer Byron Gallimore went into the studio to record the song so that it could officially be released to country radio. Although Curb Records is totally behind the releasing of this song, the company is also still promoting McGraw's latest release, his smash hit duet with his lovely wife Faith Hill. Mr. and Mrs. McGraw are currently wowing the crowds on their recording-breaking "Soul2Soul 2007 Tour" with "I Need You." In the first week of the tour, the happy duo broke box office records by setting a new record gross for a two-day stop in Omaha, Nebraska and a single-day stop in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Carrie Underwood in the Studio

Carrie Underwood's life has been a fairy tale since auditioning and winning the title of American Idol just two short years ago. She released her debut album, Some Hearts, in November 2005; more than 6 million copies have been sold. Plus, she has won just about every music industry award you could imagine. With the demands of American Idol, Underwood was forced to record and release her debut album in a very short period of time, but she's stopping to smell the roses when it comes to recording her sophomore album. She has even taken the time and opportunity to co-write with some of Nashville's greatest songwriters and she expects to have three to five songs she has co-written on the new record.

No release date or title for the album has been announced, but fans can expect the first single from the record to hit radio airwaves later this summer. The album will likely hit store shelves this fall, just in time for the holiday shopping season. Underwood will do a whirlwind media tour to promote the disc before hitting the road on tour next year. To tide fans over until the new single is released, they should crank the radio up in anticipation of Underwood's brand new duet with Brad Paisley, "Oh Love," which can be found on Paisley's new album 5th Gear.

Kenny Chesney: Poet or Pirate?

Reigning ACM Entertainer of the Year Kenny Chesney is heating up the radio airwaves with the highly anticipated first release from his upcoming album. "Never Wanted Nothing More" was scheduled to be released to radio on June 4, but many country stations received it and started playing it the week before, much to the delight of fans. Although no release date has been set for the new album, Chesney, one of People magazine's recently crowned "Hottest Bachelors of the Year," just announced that he has chosen Just Who I Am: Poets and Pirates as the disc's title. He said, "At the end of the day, you strip it all off and that's what it comes down to: great songs that are about the smallest things and people who are living just beyond the rules."

Although the title has been decided, Chesney is still working on selecting songs to be included on the album in addition to playing to fans around the country on his "Flip Flop Summer Tour." Keep reading in the months to come for further details.

Farm Aid Taking a Chunk Out of the Big Apple

Country's "Redheaded Stranger," Willie Nelson, along with John Mellencamp and Neil Young, organized the first Farm Aid concert back in 1985 "to raise awareness about the loss of family farms and to raise funds to keep farm families on their land." In the last 22 years, Farm Aid has raised more than $30 million to aid our nation's family farmers. This year's benefit concert, touted as "Farm Aid 2007: A Homegrown Festival," will be held September 9 on New York City's Randall's Island, a 480-acre island located in the East River between East Harlem, the South Bronx and Astoria, Queens.

At the present, the only acts confirmed to perform during this year's event include co-founders Nelson, Mellencamp and Young, as well as fellow board member Dave Matthews. More acts should be announced soon. Tickets are currently on sale and can be purchased at all Ticketmaster locations or by logging on to www.ticketmaster.com. For all the details about this concert and Farm Aid's mission, log on to www.farmaid.org.

Martina McBride Raises Money for YWCA

Although country songbird Martina McBride is in the middle of her headlining tour across the country, which was sold out at its recent stop at New York City's Radio City Music Hall and is close to selling out its July 19 stop at Louisville's Freedom Hall, she still takes time out to give back. McBride once again hosted the 24th Annual YWCA Celebrity Auction last month at the Country Music Hall of Fame Park in downtown Nashville. In addition to autographed posters, CDs and stage clothes from her fellow country entertainers, McBride brought several personal items of her own to be auctioned off to benefit the YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee. This year's auction raised $103,603, along with the help of fellow artists Jason Michael Carroll, Kevin Sharp and 2006 Nashville Star Chris Young.

Toby Keith a Busy Man These Days

The "Big Dog" himself, Toby Keith, just released his brand new album, Big Dog Daddy, on his own music label, Show Dog Records. And although it seems mighty early, he is already planning on releasing a two-disc Christmas album later this year as well. If you'll recall, in 1995 he released a holiday album titled Christmas to Christmas. The new collection will include 10 religious Christmas songs on one disc, while the other disc will include 10 non-religious favorites like "Frosty the Snowman" and "White Christmas."

Not only is Keith busy recording new music and touring the country these days, he's also quite the entrepreneur in the restaurant business. He will open his fourth I Love This Bar and Grill restaurant at the Cherokee Casino Resort in Catoosa, Oklahoma late next year. This new addition to the chain, which currently has locations in Kansas City, Las Vegas and Oklahoma City, will be a whopping 10,000 square feet.

And to top it all off, Keith, who was born in Clinton, Oklahoma and now resides near Norman, Oklahoma, will be inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame later this year. This great honor will be bestowed upon Keith during a banquet in Oklahoma City on November 8.

Congratulations, Toby on all your success!

Well, that's it for another month. Happy 4th of July to you and your family. Always remember: "Keep your boots shined up and your hat on straight, 'cause country music is comin' your way."