Cowboy Corner

Cowboy Corner
By Michael W. Stout

Kentucky State Fair Goin' Country Once Again

Our friends at the Kentucky State Fair Board and Triangle Talent are treating fans to another countrified Kentucky State Fair come August. It was recently announced that smokin' country duo Sugarland - Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush - will kick the Fair off with their "Incredible Machine Tour" on Thursday, August 19. Red hot country trio Rascal Flatts, comprised of Gary LeVox, Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney, will close out the 2010 State Fair on Sunday, August 29. Both of these highly anticipated shows will be paid concerts in Freedom Hall, but no ticket information has been released yet. Keep reading in the upcoming months as ticket information will be reported as it becomes available.

As always, the Fair will also include a bevy of free country concerts. Although no official announcement has been made concerning the free concerts, I have a sneaky suspicion that The Oak Ridge Boys will make their annual appearance in Cardinal Stadium on Sunday, August 22, The Kentucky Headhunters and The Charlie Daniels Band on Tuesday, August 24 and the 2009 record-breaking headliner Billy Currington on Saturday, August 28.

Other Upcoming Live Country

If you can't wait until the Fair for some live country music, there are plenty shows coming to the area in the near future. Hank Williams, Jr. will bring his "Rowdy Friends Tour 2010" to Freedom Hall on April 3, bringing along opening acts Jamey Johnson, Eric Church, and the Grascals. Tickets are currently on sale at all Ticketmaster locations and online at www.ticketmaster.com, prices ranging from $25-$125.

Hot off the release of his brand-new album, Haywire, Josh Turner will be crooning his baritone voice at the Kentucky Center for the Arts on April 15. He'll be sure to perform crowd favorites like "Long Black Train," "Firecracker" and his latest, "Why Don't We Just Dance." Tickets for this show were not on sale as of press time.

On April 30, "Watchin' You" crooner Rodney Atkins will perform a free-with-a-Derby-Pegasus-pin concert as part of the Kentucky Derby Festival at the Fest-A-Ville on The Waterfront. If you're up for a road trip, Carrie Underwood will bring her "Play On Tour" to Lexington's Rupp Arena on June 13. This show will feature opening acts Craig Morgan and Sons of Sylvia. Tickets are $35-$55, available through Ticketmaster.

Although no official announcement had been made as of press time, keep your eyes and ears open as Toby Keith will likely be rolling through Kentucky and stopping off for a show sometime this spring. More details will follow as they are announced.

And don't forget the first to-be-annual HullabaLOU Festival to be held at Churchill Downs July 23-25. Dierks Bentley, Gloriana, Exile, and J.D. Shelburne will be performing on July 23. Kenny Chesney, Jason Aldean and Sara Evans will be performing on July 24. And rounding out the list of country artists performing on July 25 are the Zac Brown Band, Dwight Yoakam, Loretta Lynn and Justin Moore. Go to www.hullabaloufest.com for all the details.

Swift Tops Country Grammy Awards

When the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards were handed out on January 31, 20-year-old Taylor Swift topped the list of country winners, and even captured the all-genre Album of the Year Gramophone trophy for her sophomore disc, Fearless, beating out Beyonce, the Black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga and the Dave Matthews Band. During the awards ceremony, Swift gave a less-than-stellar, arguably off-key performance of her "You Belong With Me" and Fleetwood Mac's "Rhiannon" along with Stevie Nicks, in addition to winning Best Female Country Vocal Performance and Best Country Song for "White Horse" and Best Country Album for Fearless.

Another highly notable country win was the Zac Brown Band's receipt of the all-genre Best New Artist trophy, beating out Keri Hilson, MGMT, Silversun Pickups, and The Ting Tings. The three members of the hot trio Lady Antebellum proved they are true professionals as Hilary Scott was struck in the head by a falling curtain during their live performance, never missing a note, and they went on to win the Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for "I Run to You." Carrie Underwood and Randy Travis' magical duet of Travis's classic "I Told You So" was named Best Country Collaboration with Vocals. Keith Urban's "Sweet Thing" earned Mr. Nicole Kidman the Gramophone for Best Male Country Vocal. It was also announced during the live telecast that Butcher Holler's favorite "Coal Miner's Daughter," Loretta Lynn, was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award and country musician extraordinaire and music executive Harold Bradley was honored with the Trustees Award from the Recording Academy.

And the country winners are: Best Country Female Vocal Performance: Taylor Swift's "White Horse"; Best Country Male Vocal Performance: Keith Urban's "Sweet Thing"; Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals: Lady Antebellum's "I Run to You"; and Best Country Collaboration with Vocals: Carrie Underwood & Randy Travis's "I Told You So."

Best Country Song (songwriter award): "White Horse," written by Taylor Swift and Liz Rose; Best Country Album: Taylor Swift's Fearless; and Best Country Instrumental Performance: Steve Wariner's "Producer's Medley."

Congratulations to all the country winners! You made country music proud!

WAMZ Cares for St. Jude Kids

Memphis, Tennessee's St. Jude Children's Research Hospital founder Danny Thomas, who set a goal to help find a cure for childhood cancer, chose Alabama lead singer Randy Owen as the country music ambassador to his state-of-the-art facility. Owen reached out to country radio and the country music industry to create the fundraiser Country Cares for St. Jude Kids 21 years ago to offer medical attention to cancer patients, regardless of their financial status. Louisville's very own country powerhouse radio station 97.5-FM WAMZ joined the fundraiser by holding an annual two-day radiothon back in 1989.

WAMZ Program Director and on-air personality Coyote Calhoun and the gang hosted their annual radiothon last month on February 11 and 12 and raised an amazing $105,000. Over the last two decades, WAMZ has raised nearly $5 million for the children at St. Jude. If you were unable to donate to WAMZ's radiothon and would still like to help out the children, you can log onto www.stjude.org or www.countrycares.org for details.

On a personal note, I'd like to thank all the country fans who donated to St. Jude as part of this radiothon as my dear friend Kelsey Wynne Harris was a patient at St. Jude and lost her battle with cancer at the young age of 16 last year. Thanks also to Coyote and all the staff at WAMZ! Keep up the good work!

Country Stars Sing for Haiti

Following the catastrophic magnitude 7 earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, several country artists, as well as artists from all genres of music, stepped up to the plate to help aid the victims and the recovery efforts. Actor and Kentucky native George Clooney was the mastermind behind Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief which featured some of the biggest-name singers and heavy-hitters in the entertainment industry, airing live on all broadcast networks and numerous cable channels. During the telecast, Taylor Swift performed "Breathless" and Keith Urban, Sheryl Crow, and Kid Rock performed a moving rendition of "Lean on Me," helping to raise a record amount of more than $57 million in a matter of 24 hours. All musical performances from this telethon can be downloaded on iTunes, with all proceeds also aiding Haiti. If you'd still like to donate to this effort, log onto www.hopeforhaitinow.org, text "GIVE" to 50555, or mail your donation to: Hope for Haiti Now Fund, Entertainment Industry Foundation, 1201 West 5th Street, Suite T-700, Los Angeles, CA 90017.

Country superstar Toby Keith also helped out the earthquake victims in a huge way. He donated the use of seven semi-trailers to be used as a drop site in Nashville to benefit Project Haiti, sponsored by non-profit organizations Livin' the Music and Can-Do. Nonperishable food, medical supplies, first aid kits, water purification products, hydration containers, baby formula, soap, bandages, alcohol wipes, tarps, work gloves, and headlamps were all collected at the drop site for one week, then shipped to Port-Au-Prince airport in Haiti on February 2.

Back in 1985, singer/songwriters Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson joined with famed producer Quincy Jones and numerous members of the music industry to record "We Are the World" to help battle the famine in Africa. Once the devastating earthquake hit Haiti, Richie and Jones decided it was time to re-record the anthem to help raise funds for Haiti, a quarter century following the original recording. Revamped with lyrics to fit the disaster at hand, "We Are the World — 25 for Haiti" was recorded in Los Angeles on February 1. Among the 81 artists from all genres of music participating in this landmark event were country's very own Sugarland, Julianne Hough, the Zac Brown Band, and Billy Ray Cyrus's famous daughter, Miley. "We Are the World—25 for Haiti" can be downloaded on iTunes and all proceeds will benefit earthquake relief efforts in Haiti.

Hats off to all the country artists and all the country fans who have lent a helping hand to Haiti by donating to any of the relief efforts!

Trace Adkins' Tour Bus Involved in Fatal Crash

While traveling to Bossier City, Louisiana on Saturday morning, February 13, one of Trace Adkins' tour buses - carrying nine members of Adkins' band and crew (but not the singer himself) - was struck head-on by a pickup truck which had been traveling northbound on U.S. 71 north of Shreveport. The pickup crossed the center line into the path of the southbound bus, instantly killing the 21-year-old driver, Justin R. Maxey, of Fouke, Arkansas, and his passenger, 36-year-old Jeffrey R. Ferguson, Jr. of Texarkana, Arkansas. Five of the passengers on the bus were taken to a nearby hospital in Vivian, Louisiana for observation and treatment of minor injuries.

At the time of this horrible accident, Adkins was already at the CenturyTel Center in Bossier City, preparing for that evening's concert with Martina McBride and Sarah Buxton. Upon hearing the news, Adkins took a van to the scene of the accident, picked up the uninjured band members and went to the hospital to check on the injured crew. Following the accident, he performed an abbreviated acoustic set that evening in Bossier City, but he canceled his performance the following evening in Pensacola, Florida.

Speaking shortly after the accident, Adkins said, "This is a real tragedy. Two people have been killed and I don't even know their names. So, out of respect for their families, I prefer not to comment too much at this time."

Charlie Daniels Health Scare

"The Devil Went Down to Georgia" singer and fiddler extraordinaire Charlie Daniels suffered a mild stroke caused by high blood pressure on January 15 while snowmobiling in Colorado. He was treated at a medical center in Durango, Colorado and then airlifted to Swedish Medical Center in Denver. Two days following the event, Daniels returned to his Colorado vacation home. The legend is doing well and as of press time still intended to resume touring in Ft. Pierce, Florida on February 27 and Brooksville, Florida on February 28. As stated earlier, it looks like Louisville fans will have an opportunity to pass along their own well-wishes to Daniels during the Kentucky State Fair in August.

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."