Cowboy Corner

Cowboy Corner
By Michael W. Stout

Are the GRAMMY Awards a Go?

With the Hollywood Writers Guild of America strike continuing, award shows are being canceled right and left. At press time, it was still up in the air at whether the 50th Annual GRAMMY Awards would be handed out during a live television broadcast or not, but it was not looking very hopeful. Regardless of whether an actual ceremony will take place or not, the awards will definitely be handed out one way or another.

And to refresh your memory of the country nominees for this year's GRAMMY Awards, Dierks Bentley and Tim McGraw topped the list of nominees with four nods each. Bentley will vie for Best Male Country Vocal Performance and Best Country Song for "Long Trip Alone," Best Country Album for the album of the same name and Best Long Form Video for his live concert DVD "Live and Loud at the Fillmore." Tim McGraw will compete for Best Male Country Vocal Performance and songwriting credit for Best Country Song for "If You're Reading This," Best Country Collaboration with Vocals along with wife Faith Hill for "I Need You," and Best Country Album for Let It Go.

In addition to the traditional country award categories, Vince Gill will compete for overall Album of the Year for These Days, competing against Foo Fighters, Herbie Hancock, Kanye West and Amy Winehouse. "Before He Cheats," which was written by Josh Kear & Chris Tompkins and performed by Carrie Underwood, will vie for Song of the Year (a songwriter award for all genres of music). Taylor Swift will compete against Feist, Ledisi, Parmore and Amy Winehouse for Best New Artist and Alison Krauss & Robert Plant's "Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)" will vie for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.

If the GRAMMY Awards show will go on as scheduled, the ceremony will be broadcast live on CBS Television from the Staples Center in Los Angeles on February 10.

Rascal Flatts People's Choice

The 34th Annual People's Choice Awards was one of the first awards show casualties of the writers' strike. CBS Television broadcast an awards show as planned last month, but the ceremony was taped with host Queen Latifah with no studio audience and no actors and singers on-hand. All award presentations and acceptance speeches were taped video spots. Among this year's winners was country's very own Rascal Flatts, who took home two trophies. Gary, Jay and Joe Don were named the People's Favorite Group and their "Stand" was named the People's Favorite Country Song. The trio accepted their awards in pre-taped spots filmed at downtown Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum.

Congratulation, Gary, Jay and Joe Don!

Reba McEntire & Kelly Clarkson

The very first American Idol, Kelly Clarkson, first met her idol, Reba McEntire, when she had the privilege to perform "Does He Love You" with the red-headed country superstar on the AI finale back in 2002. The two became friends and reunited for a taping of CMT Crossroads last year, performing one another's music. Later last year, McEntire decided to record a Duets album, the first release being the hugely popular duet with Ms. Clarkson on her hit single "Because of You," earning the pair a GRAMMY nomination this year for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals. McEntire's manager/husband, Narvel Blackstock, took notice and began managing Clarkson and the idea for a joint tour was born.

The "2 Worlds 2 Voices Tour" stopped in Louisville on January 18 for an unforgettable evening. Magic ensued as Oklahoma native McEntire blended her country roots with Texas native Clarkson's pop/rock roots. Unsure of what to expect from this show, the near sell-out crowd went home totally surprised, begging for more. McEntire and Clarkson's voices harmonized beautifully as the pair teamed up on some of their biggest hits and even alternated the spotlight throughout the evening. What a heartwarming and humbling experience it was to even witness an entertainer of McEntire's stature to step into the backup singer role for a relative newcomer. What a splendidly crafted near two-hour show!

The opening hinted at the magic of the evening as McEntire belted out a portion of Patsy Cline's "Sweet Dreams," morphing into a duet with Clarkson on The Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)." Country and pop/rock were going to meld into one - and that they did! Highlights of the evening included duets of McEntire's "How Blue," "The Greatest Man I Never Knew," and "Does He Love You" and Clarkson's "Beautiful Disaster." Clarkson brilliantly moved her tour-mate to tears on her spirited rendition of Patty Griffin's "Up to the Mountain." The magic really exploded during the encore as the pair really gave the fans what they wanted with "Since U Been Gone," "Because of You," and possibly the most powerfully energetic rendition of "Fancy" ever! It was a win-win situation when these two worlds and two voices collided.

Sweet Country Music of Baby Rattles & Wedding Bell

There is a bumper crop of sweet country music adorned with the sounds of wedding bells and baby rattles these days. First off, Rascal Flatts guitarist Joe Don Rooney and his wife, Tiffany Fallon (2005 Playboy Playmate of the Year), recently announced that they are expecting their first child in May. The couple will celebrate their first wedding anniversary on April 23 and say they "are so excited to be adding a new life to our home." Fallon was able to keep her pregnancy top secret during her short run as a contestant on NBC Television's Celebrity Apprentice - Fallon was the very first celebrity to hear Donald Trump's dreaded phrase, "You're fired!" (As a side note, as of press time, long-legged country crooner Trace Adkins was still in the Celebrity Apprentice competition - check him out on Thursday nights on NBC.)

Darryl Worley not only heard wedding bells recently, but he'll also be shaking battle rattles later this year. Worley stayed under the radar when he married a young lady by the name of Kimberly in Columbia, Tennessee on December 2 last year. During a recent performance on the Grand Ole Opry, Worley let the cat out of the bag of the impending baby Worley. In a personal letter to his fans, Worley recently said, "I accidentally let the news slip on my recent Opry performance because I was overcome with emotion. We are so excited and ask that you keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we begin this new and exciting chapter of our lives."

There is obviously something in the water on the Little Big Town tour bus. Band member Kimberly Roads and husband Stephen Schlapman welcomed their first child, daughter Daisy Pearl, back in July. Now, fellow band member Phillip Sweet and his wife, Rebecca, welcomed their first child into the world on December 27, a belated Christmas gift. Daughter Penelopi Jane was born at 5:47 p.m. at Nashville's Baptist Hospital and weighed 6 lbs, 4 oz, measuring 19 inches long. Speaking of their brand new bundle of joy, Sweet recently stated, "We never knew we could love someone so much. We are truly blessed."

Eric Church started the New Year with a bang by walking down the aisle. Church married Katherine Blasingame, a Music Row publishing company vice president, at the Westglow Resort & Spa in Blowing Rock, North Carolina on January 8. During the private ceremony, Church surprised his bride with a self-penned tune by the name of "You Make It Look Easy." He recently told Nashville's The Tennessean, "With what I do, I'm pretty hard to love, as far as being on the road all the time. It takes a special woman to be able to deal with that and make that happy and beneficial to both parties. When I looked at her one day, I thought, 'There's nobody on earth who could put up with me like you do.'"

Rumors have been swirling around the globe that Mrs. Keith Urban, actress Nicole Kidman, is expecting. Well, the happy couple put the rumors to rest last month when they confirmed that they are indeed expecting their first child later this year. Both natives of Australia, the couple spends much of their time at their home outside of Nashville, near Franklin, Tennessee. Urban and Kidman were married in Australia in June 2006. This is Urban's first marriage and his first child. Kidman and her ex-husband, actor Tom Cruise, have two adopted children, 14-year-old Isabella and 12-year-old Connor. Kidman has lived out the classic Tammy Wynette tune "Stand By Your Man" as she completely stood by and supported her man during Urban's stint in rehab last year. Things sure do seem to be looking up for the happy couple of 40-year-olds!

Our congratulations to the Rooneys, Worleys, Sweets, Churchs and Urbans!

Where's Nashville Star?

Television ratings champion American Idol has returned to the airwaves and continues to dominate the ratings and it looks like this season is trying to produce a clone of country sweetheart and AI winner Carrie Underwood. In the initial audition episodes that have aired so far, it seems like there are several blonde country girls with potential. Keep watching to see if an Underwood rival is discovered.

In the meantime, you might be wondering where country music's answer to American Idol, the appropriately titled Nashville Star, is. Fans will remember that the country music contest typically debuts on the USA Network in January, but it has yet to appear. Come to find out, USA has dropped the show after five seasons. It seems that the show just doesn't get the exposure and talent that it so deserves, paling in comparison to AI. If you'll remember, the original Nashville Star, Buddy Jewell, enjoyed mediocre success, but he has lost his recording contract due to low sales figures. Last year's winner, Angela Hacker, had potential, but received no radio airplay, thus killing her debut album. The most successful product of the show was a first season finalist by the name of Miranda Lambert, the "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend."

Fortunately for NS fans, the show is being resurrected and revamped by NBC. Hopefully this primetime exposure on a big television network will bring the justice that is due to the country music competition. The show will be part of NBC's "All-American Summer" this summer, leading into coverage of the Olympics in Beijing. Auditions for the sixth season will reportedly begin later this month and will not be limited to solo artists - duets and groups will also be eligible for the competition.

Country Recoveries

No one would have thought that being a country music singer was a dangerous gig, but it seems that several artists are showing up on the ailing list lately. Megastar Kenny Chesney showed up at the #1 party for "Never Wanted Nothing More" back in December, sporting a sling on his left arm. A spokesperson for Chesney has merely stated that the singer had "minor corrective surgery" on his left shoulder to treat pain resulting from an "active lifestyle" and that he is recovering nicely. Let's hope that Chesney is back in fighting shape soon, as he is about to hit the road with LeAnn Rimes and has scheduled a stadium tour this summer, concluding in Indianapolis in September

Waco, Texas native and "Wave on Wave" singer Pat Green was forced to cancel a New Year's Eve concert in Waco due to an emergency appendectomy the day after Christmas. Green currently resides in Fort Worth and underwent surgery in a Dallas-area hospital. Due to the surgery, Green was also forced to cancel several recording sessions in Nashville for an upcoming album.

Big Kenny Alphin, who, along with John Rich, makes up the insanely popular duo Big & Rich, will cut back on his touring schedule this year for health reasons. Last month, B&R toured Canada with Terri Clark and Emerson Drive, but now Alphin is undergoing neck rehabilitation for an injury he suffered in an automobile accident involving a drunk driver several years ago. He never fully recovered from surgery that removed a vertebra from his spinal cord following the accident.

Faith Hill has taken the opportunity for a little needed maintenance during the winter months off the road. She recently underwent surgery to realign her knee cap and adjust the joint itself (technically, a lateral release, chondroplasty and a medical femoral chondyle). The songbird injured her knee while playing softball in high school and wear and tear since then urged the surgery. She recently said, "I intend to be back better and stronger" as she is following a rigid rehab program. Don't expect this little bump in the road to keep Hill out of commission for long though. She still plans to appear at an Aretha Franklin tribute in Los Angeles this month and she is finishing up recording a Christmas album to be released later this year.

Here's wishing a speedy recovery to Kenny, Pat, Big Kenny and Faith!

Country Legal News

There's plenty news in the country legal department these days. "Brand New Girlfriend" singer Steve Holy and a friend were held at gunpoint at Holy's Dallas home on December 27. He and a friend had begun talking to an off-duty policeman he knew and was introduced to two fellow off-duty policemen at a bar and the five guys went to Holy's home to play foosball after the bar closed. Once the officer Holy knew left his house, the other two officers began questioning whether he was really a country singer and reportedly held a gun to the back of Holy's head while he was face down on the kitchen floor. The two officers are currently on administrative leave as the investigation continues.

"Guys Do It All the Time" singer Mindy McCready was released from a Franklin, Tennessee jail on December 30. She had been serving a one-year sentence since September 2007 for violating her probation from a 2004 drug-related arrest. Upon release, McCready is required to serve an additional two years of probation. In the meantime, McCready says she plans to focus on her music career. Let's hope she can get her act together and get on the right track.

If you'll remember, early last year, Grand Old Opry member Stonewall Jackson filed a lawsuit against Gaylord Entertainment and the Opry manager, claiming age discrimination, breach of contract and retaliation. A federal judge recently stated that he is allowing the 75-year-old singer to pursue his lawsuit seeking $10 million in punitive damages and $10 million in compensatory damages.

In the case of the March 24, 2001 death of his father, H.K. Covel, Toby Keith and his family have been awarded $2.8 million in a wrongful death lawsuit. Covel's pickup truck was sideswiped by another vehicle, causing his truck to cross the median of I-35 in McClain County, Oklahoma, into the path of a bus. A jury determined that the fatal accident could have been prevented if the owners of the bus had replaced their brakes after inspectors told them they "urgently" needed to be fixed. Keith honored his father, a veteran, in his anthem, "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)."

Well, that's all I've got for this month. Always remember: "Keep your boots shined up and your hat on straight, 'cause country music is comin' your way."