Cowboy Corner

Cowboy Corner
By Michael W. Stout

Rascal Flatts Kick-Start Kentucky State Fair

When it came to kicking off the 2007 Kentucky State Fair, the fair board and the fine folks of Triangle Talent knew exactly what they were doing when they booked Rascal Flatts as the fair opener. Cousins Gary LeVox and Jay DeMarcus, along with pal Joe Don Rooney, proved that they have successfully blurred the far-too-often fine line between country and pop music with slick numbers like "Melt" and "Feels Like Today," the syrupy "God Bless the Broken Road" and the frolicking remake of "Life Is a Highway" from Disney/Pixar's Cars. Dressed like a boy band from recent musical history - rhinestone-studded leather and denim - the trio had the near sell-out crowd in Freedom Hall eating out of the palms of their hands with their tight harmonies, jovial banter between numbers and perfectly coiffed and highlighted manes.

One thing the rest of the country music industry can learn from Rascal Flatts is how to produce a major concert tour. Although the fans would have had their hungers satisfied without the gimmicks, the trio bowled everyone over with the fireworks, the over-the-top video production and the state-of-the-art stage which included pits for overzealous fans to soak up their sweat and a bridge descending from the rafters allowing the performers to entertain the patrons in the rear of the arena on a rotating circular mini-stage. All in all, this show was an impressively slick production with even slicker performances, which just might earn the boys of Rascal Flatts the title of "Entertainers of the Year." And if I had only heard one song of the entire evening, I would have walked away with a smile on my face with the campy, kitschy, tongue-in-check "Backwards" describing everything you get back when you play a country song backwards.

Although muffled by a less-than-stellar sound system, Jason Aldean gave a solid, down-home countrified performance, which included crowd-pleasers "Hicktown" and "Amarillo Sky." Aldean's got true grit and talent and we've not heard the last of him on radio airwaves!

Faith Hill Helping the Colts Kick Off the 2007 NFL Season

Country songbird Faith Hill will more-or-less be in our neck of the woods early this month to help the reigning Super Bowl Champs, the Indianapolis Colts, kick off the new season of the National Football League. Hill and the original "American Idol," Kelly Clarkson, will perform a free concert at Indianapolis' Monument Park on September 6 while native Hoosier John Mellencamp will sing at the RCA Dome for NBC-Television's NFL Opening Kickoff 2007 pregame show. This show will air before the first NFL game of the season in which the Colts will take on the New Orleans Saints. Set your TiVO for this must-see special!

Crystal Gayle Offers Greatest Hits

Paintsville, Kentucky-born and Wabash, Indiana-raised country/pop songstress Crystal Gayle has enjoyed an illustrious three-decade career in the music business. To help celebrate the 30th anniversary of her signature tune, "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue," the long-locks singer released a 25-song Greatest Hits collection late last month, which includes 13 chart-topping singles.

And to add another feather to her cap, Gayle, the youngest sibling of famed Country Music Hall of Famer Loretta Lynn, will be inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame next year. The induction ceremony will be held in the Lexington Center Bluegrass Ballroom on February 21, 2008. For more information on this great honor or general information regarding the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame & Museum, call 1-877-356-3263 or log on to www.KYMusicHallofFame.com.

Congratulations on such a wonderfully successful career, Crystal! On a personal note, I must say that there is no one more deserving than the most humble, most sincere and kindest celebrity I've ever had the privilege of interviewing. Here's to another 30 years in the business!

Country Music Hits the Bookstores

The bookstore shelves will be full of some must-read country music related offerings just in time for the holiday season this year. The first to be released in this bevy of country books is Mrs. Alan Jackson, Denise Jackson's It's All About Him: Finding the Love of My Life, in which she chronicles her life and marriage to her long-legged Newnan, Georgia native country music superstar husband. Blending the story of her marriage with her spiritual life, Denise says, "This is a perfect example of God's extravagant grace and how He longs to draw others to Himself through my story." Upon its recent release, the book debuted at the top of the New York Times' non-fiction best-seller list.

On September 4, the late Vivian Liberto Cash's story of her life as the first Mrs. Johnny Cash will hit bookstores. I Walked the Line: My Life with Johnny was written from her story about Cash's early career through their 1966 divorce as told to television producer Ann Sharpsteen. Vivian, who died in 2005, was the mother of Cash's four daughters: Kathy, Rosanne, Cindy and Tara. Kathy describes the book as "the greatest part of my mother's legacy as a wife, a grandmother, a matriarch, a mother and most importantly, a woman in love."

Who knew "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk" singer Trace Adkins had a book in him? The long-legged, pony-tailed baritone will officially be labeled an author when his first book, A Personal Stand: Observations and Opinions of a Freethinking Redneck, hits stores on October 23. Adkins simply speaks his mind on several topics in this book, including everything from the war on terror to immigration to the environment. He says, "It's not exactly a memoir, but more of a look at the state of the country as I've seen it through the lens of my admittedly colorful life."

And those are three ideas for the country bookworms on your Christmas list this year!

Garth Brooks Back on the Radio Airwaves

Although mega-superstar Garth Brooks maintains that he will remain in a state of retirement for the next decade while his daughters grow to legal age, he hit radio airwaves with a brand new song late last month. Brooks co-wrote "More Than a Memory" with Lee Brice, Kyle Jacobs and Billy Montana. This long-awaited single comes from The Ultimate Hits, which is scheduled to hit all retail stores (not just Wal-Mart who has exclusively sold Brooks' music in recent years) on November 6. The package will consist of two CDs containing 30 of Brooks' greatest hits and four new songs (including "Memory," "Midnight Sun," Leave the Light On," and a duet with rocker Huey Lewis on his hit "Workin' for a Livin'"), as well as a DVD of 33 music videos. Selling at a phenomenally low price of $11-$14, Brooks maintains his stance on not releasing his music digitally. "If you want to go online - if you want to pay $.99 [per track] for all of them - at 33 bucks, the math's pretty easy. So I feel really good about this."

Fans can expect to see Brooks splattered all over the television, radio and newspapers and magazines in recent months promoting The Ultimate Hits, but the "G-man" says he is definitely not planning a concert tour or any concert events.

Country Legal Woes

Nicholasville, Kentucky's own "Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident)" singer John Michael Montgomery can't seem to avoid legal troubles these days. If you'll remember, Montgomery was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in Lexington in February 2006. He ended up entering an Alford plea on the charge because he realized there was enough evidence for him to be convicted, resulting in a fine and an order to attend an alcohol-education class. Montgomery's arresting officer, Joshua Cromer, was fired from the police force after his MySpace page featured an image of his face pasted onto a photo of a fan standing next to Montgomery. Cromer has now filed a slander lawsuit against the singer, accusing him of lying to the police department's internal affairs unit claiming that the officer stole his cowboy hat and that Montgomery was arrested because he is a celebrity. Cromer has appealed his termination from the police force.

"Guys Do It All the Time" crooner Mindy McCready must be so hard up for publicity that she has turned to jail booking photographers as her personal paparazzi. The 31-year-old was arrested once again in late July on misdemeanor charges of domestic battery and resisting arrest after assaulting her mother, Melody Inge, at Inge's North Fort Myers, Florida home. Inge allegedly called 911 claiming McCready was drunk, causing a disturbance and scratched her on the face. After resisting arrest and being put into the slammer, McCready was released on a $1,000 bond. McCready claims an argument erupted between her and her mother while playing a simple game of Scrabble. Following this incident in the "Sunshine State," upon her return to Nashville, McCready was arrested at the Nashville International Airport on charges of probation violation. She is serving a three-year probation after pleading guilty in 2004 for forging a prescription for OxyContin at a Nashville suburb pharmacy. If convicted of this probation charge, McCready could be receiving fan mail in prison for three years.

Singer/songwriter Mark Collie, who reached the Top 5 on the country charts a mere fifteen years ago with "Even the Man in the Moon Is Cryin'," hasn't done much lately to make headlines. That is until July 19, when he was arrested near downtown Nashville's famed Music Row and charged with a DUI. Although he was not driving his car at the time, Collie was discovered slumped over the steering wheel with the engine still running. He was released on a $1,500 bond after spending four hours in jail.

Country Lullabies

Little Big Town got a little bigger recently upon the birth of a brand new baby girl. LBT member Kimberly Roads and husband Stephen Schlapman became the proud parents of Daisy Pearl on July 27 in Phoenix, Ariz. while the band was touring the country. Six pound, 10 ounce little Daisy wasn't due to be born for three more weeks, allowing Momma to finish her band's tour, which wrapped in Boise, Idaho on August 5. Fellow band members Karen Fairchild, Phillip Sweet and Jimi Westbrook went to the hospital with the expectant parents before heading to Las Vegas to perform their first-ever concert as a trio. As the saying goes, "The show MUST go on!"

Jason Albert, the lead singer of new country band Heartland of "I Loved Her First" fame, is singing lullabies these days. He and wife Kelly welcomed daughter Kelson Noel into the world on August 14 in Huntsville, Alabama. Kelson tipped the scales at 7 lb, 6 oz. In about 25 years from now, "I Loved Her First" will have a whole new meaning for Albert when his precious daughter is about to walk down the aisle!

Congratulations to the Schlapmans and the Alberts!

Well, that's it for another month and another summer for that matter. I've gotta give a shout out to my buddy Coyote Calhoun for the Rascal Flatts tix (thanks, man!). And always remember: "Keep your boots shined up and your hat on straight, 'cause country music is comin' your way."