Cowboy Corner

Cowboy Corner
By Michael W. Stout

Country Stars Heading to Town for Derby

The first Saturday in May is just around the corner, meaning Derby fever is in full swing. Not only are the thoroughbreds anxiously preparing to run the 137th Kentucky Derby in hopes of earning the famed garland of roses, but several country stars are preparing to participate in Derby festivities as well. Two nights prior to the "Run for the Roses," "A Little More Country Than That" singer Easton Corbin will celebrate the 4th Street Live! Derby Week with a free concert on Thursday evening, May 5. The following night, Kroger's Fest-a-Ville on the Waterfront, part of the highly anticipated Derby Festival Chow Wagon, will host the Derby Eve Jam, featuring "Small Town USA" singer Justin Moore and special guest country baritone Dustin Lynch. This show begins at 8 p.m. and is free with a 2011 Pegasus Pin.

As usual, the 23rd Annual Barnstable Brown Derby Eve Gala, hosted by former Doublemint Twins Patricia Barnstable Brown and Priscilla Barnstable, will be swarming with country stars. Ashland, Kentucky native Wynonna Judd is heading back to her "Old Kentucky Home" for the party, as well as Nicholasville natives Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry, better known as Montgomery Gentry. Country sweetheart Miranda Lambert is bringing several of her girlfriends to the charity benefit to celebrate her bachelorette party as she prepares to wed crooner Blake Shelton the following weekend. Lee Ann Womack just opened for Reba and George Strait at the KFC Yum! Center last month and she's heading back to town to help raise money for the Barnstable Brown Diabetes & Obesity Center at the University of Kentucky, along with country pals Kix Brooks and Travis Tritt.

Upcoming Live Country Music

In addition to Easton Corbin performing at 4th Street Live!'s Derby celebration on May 5 and Justin Moore performing at the Derby Festival Chow Wagon's Kroger Fest-a-Ville on the Waterfront on May 6, plenty other country stars are heading to town to perform in the coming months. The Zac Brown Band is scheduled to perform a must-see show at Louisville's Waterfront Park on Friday evening, May 27. Country/bluegrass sensations Alison Krauss + Union Station, along with Jerry Douglas, will open their tour in support of their new album, Paper Airplanes, right here in the Derby City with two shows at the Louisville Palace Theatre on Saturday and Sunday, June 4 and 5. Taylor Swift will bring her "Speak Now Tour" to the KFC Yum! Center on Saturday, July 2, bringing along NeedToBreathe and James Wesley. The following night, on 4th of July Eve, country classics Aaron Tippin, Joe Diffie, and Sammy Kershaw will perform at the Riverfront Amphitheater in New Albany. The energetic and highly talented Gary Allan will begin a two-night stint at Horseshoe Southern Indiana Casino on Friday, July 15, the same night Justin Moore will once again be in town for a show at 4th Street Live!

On Saturday, July 30, country newcomer Josh Kelley will perform selections from his debut CD Georgia Clay at the Jeffersonville Goes Country at the RiverStage celebration. "Way Out Here" and "Beer On The Table" singer Josh Thompson will perform a free concert at 4th Street Live! Friday, August 12. Josh Kelley's brother Charles, Hillary Scott, and Dave Haywood, better known as Lady Antebellum, will kick off the Kentucky State Fair with style on Thursday, August 18, along with Lee Brice. The following night, "Trashy Women" singers Confederate Railroad will be in the area performing at New Albany's Riverfront Amphitheater. On Saturday, August 20, Jason Aldean will heat up the Kentucky State Fair along with Chris Young and Thompson Square. And before you know it, fall will be here and The Charlie Daniels Band will perform at 4th Street Live! on Friday, October 28.

Shania Twain Joins Hall of Fame and Oprah's TV Network

"Any Man of Mine" Canadian country crooner Shania Twain has been out of the spotlight for some time now, ever since her 14-year marriage to producer Robert "Mutt" Lange ended a few years ago, but she's on the path to reclaim the spotlight. During the March 27 Juno Awards in her native Toronto, Twain was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. Upon receiving the honor, she humbly stated, "I guess I have more pride in what the country has created musically than I am of my own success. Honestly, I'm just more proud to be from Canada. I feel like I should be wearing the Canadian flag tonight." To further aid her comeback, on the heels of The Judds' docu-series, Twain's brand new show, titled Why Not? With Shania Twain, will premiere on Oprah Winfrey's OWN network on May 8. The series will shed a personal light on Twain as she deals with her parents' tragic death, rebuilds her life following her painful divorce, and consults with vocal doctors and a grief counselor to regain her voice.

Swift & Lady A Top Country Nominees for 2011 Billboard Music Awards

When the nominees for the 2011 Billboard Music Awards were announced recently, Taylor Swift was the top nominated country artist (thanks in part to her stellar record sales of more than 20 million albums worldwide), followed by trio Lady Antebellum. Swift will vie for Top Artist encompassing all genres of music, all-genre Top Female Artist, Top Billboard 200 Artist, Top Country Artist, Top Country Song for "Mine," and Top Country Album for Speak Now. Lady A will vie for all-genre Top Duo or Group, Top Billboard 200 Artist, Top Billboard 200 Album for Need You Now, Top Streaming Song for "Need You Now" (the #1 downloaded country song of all time), Top Country Artist, Top Country Song for "Need You Now," and Top Country Album for Need You Now.

And the nominees are: Top Country Artist: Jason Aldean, Kenny Chesney, Lady Antebellum, Taylor Swift, and Zac Brown Band; Top Country Song: The Band Perry's "If I Die Young," Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now," Miranda Lambert's "The House That Built Me," Sugarland's "Stuck Like Glue," and Taylor Swift's "Mine"; Top Country Album: Jason Aldean's My Kinda Party, Lady Antebellum's Need You Now, Sugarland's The Incredible Machine, Taylor Swift's Speak Now, and Zac Brown Band's The Foundation; Top Artist: Justin Bieber, Eminem, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and Taylor Swift; Top Female Artist: Ke$ha, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Taylor Swift; Top Duo or Group: The Black Eyed Peas, Bon Jovi, Lady Antebellum, Linkin Park, and U2; Top Billboard 200 Artist: Justin Bieber, Susan Boyle, Eminem, Lady Gaga, and Taylor Swift; Top Billboard 200 Album: Justin Bieber's My World 2.0, Susan Boyle's The Gift, Eminem's Recovery, Lady Antebellum's Need You Now, and Taylor Swift's Speak Now; and Top Streaming Song: Taio Cruz's "Dynamite," Eminem & Rihanna's "Love The Way You Lie," Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now," Bruno Mars's "Just the Way You Are," and Nelly's "Just a Dream."

The 2011 Billboard Music Awards will be handed out May 22 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas and will air live on ABC-Television. Lady A and Keith Urban are scheduled to perform during the ceremony.

ACM Awards Ruled by Country's Ladies

When the 46th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards were handed out in Las Vegas last month, the ladies ruled the evening, namely Taylor Swift and Miranda Lambert. Swift snagged the coveted Entertainer of the Year trophy while Lambert was named Top Female Vocalist and her tender "The House That Built Me" was named Single of the Year, Song of the Year, and Video of the Year. In addition, Brad Paisley maintained his title as Top Male Vocalist, Sugarland was crowned Top Vocal Duo of the Year, Lady Antebellum was named Top Group of the Year, and The Band Perry was named Top New Artist.

And the winners are: Entertainer of the Year: Taylor Swift; Top Female Vocalist: Miranda Lambert; Top Male Vocalist: Brad Paisley; Top Vocal Duo: Sugarland; Top Vocal Group: Lady Antebellum; and Vocal Event of the Year: Zac Brown Band & Alan Jackson's "As She's Walking Away"; Top New Solo Vocalist: Eric Church; Top New Duo or Group: The Band Perry; Top New Artist: The Band Perry; Single Record of the Year: Miranda Lambert's "The House That Built Me"; Song of the Year: Miranda Lambert's "The House That Built Me"; Album of the Year: Lady Antebellum's Need You Now; and Video of the Year: Miranda Lambert's "The House That Built Me."

Congratulations to all the winners!

Country Coda: Mel McDaniel

Sixty-eight-year-old Grand Ole Opry member Mel McDaniel lost his battle with lung cancer at his Hendersonville, Tennessee home on March 31. Born September 6, 1942 in Checotah, Oklahoma, he began performing in his teens throughout Oklahoma, Kansas, and Arkansas, before unsuccessfully trying his hand in Nashville's country music industry in the late 1960's. He moved to Alaska and performed in clubs for a few years, then returned to Nashville in 1973, writing songs and singing demos. Three years later, The Wilburn Brothers helped McDaniel secure a recording contract, thus jump-starting his professional recording career, which led to hits like "Louisiana Saturday Night," "Let It Roll (Let It Rock)," "Real Good Feel Good Song," and his signature tune, "Baby's Got Her Blue Jeans On."

McDaniel last appeared on the Grand Ole Opry on September 28 along with the remainder of the Opry cast when the Opry House reopened following the May 2010 flood. In recent months, he had been recording what he called his last studio album, The Last Ride. No word yet on if and when this album will be released.

Well, that's it for the month of May. Here's wishing each of you a safe and happy Kentucky Derby. Always remember: "Keep your boots shined up and your hat on straight, ‘cause country music is comin' your way."