Cowboy Corner

Cowboy Corner
By Michael W. Stout

Brooks & Dunn Kick Off State Fair in Style

Eternal Country Duo of the Year Brooks & Dunn kicked the 104th Kentucky State Fair off in style when they brought their "Cowboy Town" tour to Freedom Hall on August 14 along with opening act Rodney Atkins and rock legends ZZ Top. Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn wowed the crowd with more enthusiasm than ever, fresh off the unveiling of their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame along Hollywood Blvd. and Vine St. in Hollywood, California ten days earlier. The duo has been in the country music industry for many years now but they haven't let time take its toll on their performance and their love for country music and its fans.

With a show technically as slick as ever, B&D had the fans riled up more than a kid hyped up on the Midway with a cotton candy sugar high with oldies such as "Neon Moon," "Boot Scootin' Boogie," "Brand New Man," and "My Maria," as well as more recent hits "Red Dirt Road" and "Hillbilly Deluxe" and their current single, "Put a Girl In It." Swapping lead vocals and sharing the spotlight the entire evening, the most poignant and heart-felt moments of the nearly 70-minute show were a stripped-down rendition of their anthem "Believe" and their sharing of the stage with four of our several thousand beloved service men and women during their rousing patriotic number "Only in America." Despite the fact that Ronnie Dunn can truly out-sing most anyone in the music industry today, fans even ate up Brooks\' less-than-perfect gravelly vocals on "She Likes to Get Out of Town" and "Mama Don\'t Get Dressed Up for Nothing."

Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn are the real deal and that's what country music is all about!

Josh Turner Keeps the Hits "Rollin' Down the Tracks

Country crooner Josh Turner drew a stellar crowd to the old Cardinal Stadium for his free show at the State Fair on Tuesday evening, August 19. Kicking the evening off with his recent hot smash hit "Firecracker," Turner set the crowd's expectations high for the evening and never once failed to deliver. His distinctively deep voice kept the crowd in a near-frenzy throughout numbers like "One Woman Man," "Your Man," and the spiritual "Me and God," reaching an unforgettable climax with his debut single, "Long Black Train." The presence of Turner's wife Jennifer on keyboards and background vocals made his delivery of tender tunes like "Soulmate," "Another Try" (his recent duet with Trisha Yearwood), and "Will You Go With Me" even more special and heartfelt. Turner let his playful side shine through with frolicking numbers like "Loretta Lynn's Lincoln," "Way Down South," and "Backwoods Boy," on which he even picked the mandolin. In a day and time when country singers are a dime a dozen, Josh Turner, who recently became a member of the legendary Grand Ole Opry, has the vocal talent, charm, charisma, and likeability to be a fan favorite for decades to come. Although much of his material is new and fresh, his voice his achingly traditional and he'll likely one day be a mainstay on the Opry stage like the late Roy Acuff and Porter Wagoner.

Country Concerts

Heading to Town

Now that the State Fair is over, don't be afraid that live country music will come to a screeching halt here in the Derby city. Phil Vassar is heading to town to play a free show at 4th Street Live! on September 17. On the following night, three musicians by the names of Gary LeVox, Joe Don Rooney, and Jay DeMarcus, better known as Rascal Flatts, will bring their "Bob That Head Tour" to Freedom Hall. Along for the ride with the boys will be just about the hottest female in country music right now — Taylor Swift. Tickets for this show cost $67 and $49.75 and can be purchased online at www.livenation.com or www.ticketmaster.com, at the Freedom Hall box office, or by calling (502) 361-3100.

Fans of Lonestar will be happy to learn that the group will be back in town on October 24 for a free concert at 4th Street Live!, their first Louisville show without long-time lead singer Richie McDonald, who left the band to pursue a solo career. Opening for Lonestar will be newcomer Candy Coburn, who has opened up for the likes of Gretchen Wilson and Josh Turner recently here in the area.

Louisville Country Radio

As I reported last month, New Country radio station 103.9-FM moved down the radio dial to the former home of WRKA, 103.1-FM, leaving the future of 103.9 up in the air. Many fans of golden oldies hoped the format abandoned by WRKA would find a new home at 103.9 but were soon disappointed. On the other side of the coin, true country music fans could not be happier as Country Legends 103.9 hit the airwaves, playing classic country music from the 1960's, 70's, and 80's. Fans can enjoy hits by artists such as Hank Williams, Dolly Parton, George Jones, Patsy Cline, Ronnie Milsap, Barbara Mandrell, Marty Robbins, etc.

With these recent changes in Louisville radio, there are now three major players in the country music market. Country powerhouse 97.5 FM WAMZ continues to rule the roost but has had to make significant changes to compete with New Country Q103.1. New Country has admittedly been targeting WAMZ's huge audience by claiming to air fewer commercials, thus more music. Well, WAMZ has put its boxing gloves on and now offers three commercial-free hours of music during the work day. For us country fans, it's a win-win situation as both stations are competing to play the most music. And if you're a sucker for the country classics as I am, then I know you're in hog heaven too with the new Country Legends.

Thanks to WAMZ, New Country, and Country Legends for filling Louisville radio airwaves with GREAT country music!

Country Helps Kick Cancer

The horrible disease of cancer seems to be more rampant and more cruel now than ever but a couple of country music's finest gals are going to lend a hand to help raise funds and awareness of the disease. Carrie Underwood and LeAnn Rimes will be two of 15 female singers to take part in a television special titled Stand Up to Cancer. The one-hour special will air simultaneously on ABC, CBS, and NBC on September 5 and will feature a "We Are the World" type song appropriately titled "Just Stand Up," which will be released on September 2. The other artists joining Underwood and Rimes are: Ashanti, Natasha Bedingfield, Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Ciara, Keyshia Cole, Miley Cyrus, Melissa Etheridge, Fergie, Leona Lewis, Rihanna, and Sheryl Crow. All money raised from this television special and the single will benefit Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C), a charity focused on accelerating ground-breaking cancer research.

With the help of several of his celebrity friends, Keith Urban is also doing his part to raise money for cancer research. Urban has collected shirts from the entertainment industry and auctioning them off as part of the Keith Urban "You Look Good in My Old Shirt" online auction, a play on his current single, "You Look Good in My Shirt."

Urban says, "For more than 20 years, the country music community has worked together to raise much needed funds for the kids at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital through the Country Cares program and we're doing it again! My friends in the community have joined me in digging out some of our old t-shirts that we may have worn on stage, or just around town and we're putting them up for auction!"

Fans can view and bid on shirts previously owned by the likes of Urban, Faith Hill, Brooks & Dunn, Dolly Parton, Brad Paisley, Sara Evans, Carrie Underwood, and Charlie Daniels at www.keithurbanauction.com. All proceeds go to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

On behalf of the numerous folks of all ages and all walks of life struggling with cancer, I would like to take this opportunity to urge each and every one of us to band together and help make a difference!

Melissa Lawson Named Nashville Star

Nashville Star, the country music equivalent to pop music's American Idol reality competition, has enjoyed mediocre success since its inception on the cable television channel USA Network five seasons ago. This summer's edition of the competition got a major shot in the arm as it jumped to broadcast television on NBC and was hosted by none other than Flatwoods, Kentucky's own Billy Ray Cyrus. Celebrity judges this season included singer/songwriter and producer/television host John Rich (who makes up country duo Big & Rich along with Big Kenny), pop-turned-country songstress Jewel, and country songwriter extraordinaire Jeffrey Steele.

The sixth Nashville Star was crowned early last month when a 32-year-old wife and mother of five children, Melissa Lawson, beat out thousands of hopeful country singers. The Arlington, Texas native wowed the fans who voted her the winner of a recording contract with Warner Bros. Nashville record company. Lawson also had the unforgettable opportunity to travel to Beijing, China last month to perform her debut single, "What If It All Goes Right" on national television at the Olympics. Lawson will kick off the Nashville Star tour along with runners-up Gabe Garcia and Shawn Mayer in St. Louis on September 12.

Congratulations, Melissa!

Country Family Album

Newly turned country singer and Nashville Star judge Jewel married her longtime boyfriend, retired professional rodeo champion Ty Murray on August 7. The couple, who have been together for a decade, eloped to the Bahamas, having never even announced their engagement. Jewel's husband can be seen in the video for her current single, "I Do."

Two-thirds of the Dixie Chicks have had their share of ups and downs lately. Fiddler Martie Maguire and her actor husband Gareth Maguire welcomed their third daughter, Harper Rosie, into the world on July 25 in Austin, Texas. In addition to their new little bundle of joy, the couple has 4-year-old twin daughters Eva Ruth and Kathleen Emilie.

Maguire's sister and fellow Dixie Chick Emily Robison, who plays banjo in the trio, has been on the total end of the spectrum from her sister as of late. Robison's divorce from singer/songwriter Charlie Robison was finalized in San Antonio, Texas on August 6. The couple was married in 1999 and has three children. Charlie Robison filed for divorce back in January, claiming that the marriage had "become insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities."

Country Codas

Eighty-one-year-old steel guitarist Don Helms passed away in Nashville on August 11. Helms played steel guitar in Hank Williams' Drifting Cowboys band and recorded over 100 songs with Williams, including "Cold, Cold Heart" and "Your Cheatin' Heart." In addition to playing steel guitar, Helms also gained acclaim for writing Brenda Lee's "Fool No. 1" and Hank Williams, Jr.'s "The Ballad of Hank Williams." He also played steel on the recordings of Patsy Cline's "Walkin' After Midnight" and Stonewall Jackson's "Waterloo."

Ninety-one-year-old music executive and record producer Jerry Wexler died of congenital heart failure at his home in Sarasota, Florida on August 15. He first signed the future "Redheaded Stranger," Willie Nelson, to Atlantic Records in the 1970's and opened a Nashville office for Atlantic's country music division in 1974.

Seventy-nine-year-old Buddy Harmon, who is touted as one of the most-recorded drummers in the world due to his extensive work as a Nashville studio musician, died August 21 after struggling with congestive heart failure. Harmon can be heard playing drums on classic recordings such as Loretta Lynn's "Coal Miner's Daughter," Roger Miller's "King of the Road," Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire," Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man," and Patsy Cline's "Crazy."

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