Cowboy Corner

Cowboy Corner
By Michael W. Stout

The Kentucky State Fair Hotter Than Ever

The 107th Kentucky State Fair was hotter than ever, and I'm not talking about the temperatures, but rather the FANTASTIC country concert lineup. Hats off to our friends at Triangle Talent, who knocked it out of the park with all of the country shows they booked this year. Despite Hillary Scott's less-than-stellar live vocals on opening night, Charles Kelley's vocal brilliance carried Lady Antebellum which kicked the fair off in style along with the entertaining Lee Brice. Jason Aldean performed a tight, solid, rockin' show to a sold out crowd in Freedom Hall, bringing along the extremely talented Chris Young and hot newcomer duo Thompson Square. Aldean proved that he quite possibly has an Entertainer of the Year trophy looming in his future.

The Oak Ridge Boys, fresh off their recent Grand Ole Opry induction, made their highly anticipated annual appearance in the old Cardinal Stadium along with the award-winning bluegrass band The Grascals. Baritone traditionalist Joe Nichols was a crowd favorite as he urged fans to "Take It Off" (the title of his new single) when he performed a free show along with Phil Vassar, who stole the show with his high-energy opening set. Nicholasville, Kentucky's own John Michael Montgomery made the home-state crowd proud as he delivered his classic country hits, all while recording the show for an upcoming live CD. As always, Lorrie Morgan pleased the impressive crowd and even brought along her son, Jessie Keith Whitley, proving that she and the late Keith Whitley passed along their music genes to their youngest child. And I'm not sure if Triangle Talent could have predicted such a phenomenal state fair closer, or if they just struck gold, but Luke Bryan hit an absolute home run when he broke attendance records as the crowd was literally overflowing out of the old Cardinal Stadium. Murray, Kentucky native Candy Coburn did a fine job warming up the crowd for possibly the most electric performance ever given at the Kentucky State Fair!

Aldean, Paisley, Shelton & Swift Top List of CMA Nominees

When the nominations for the 45th Annual Country Music Association Awards were announced last month, Jason Aldean, Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton, and Taylor Swift dominated the list of nominees with five nods each. All four will compete for the coveted Entertainer of the Year award, along with Keith Urban, and they'll all compete against Zac Brown Band for Album of the Year. This trio of fellas will compete for Male Vocalist of the Year along with Kenny Chesney and Urban, while Swift will compete against Sara Evans, Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride, and Carrie Underwood for Female Vocalist. In addition, Aldean's "Don't You Wanna Stay," along with Kelly Clarkson, will vie for Single and Musical Event of the Year. Paisley's "Old Alabama," featuring country supergroup Alabama, is in the running for Musical Event and Music Video of the Year. Shelton's "Honey Bee" will compete for Single and Music Video of the Year, and Swift's "Mean" will vie for Song and Music Video of the Year.

And the nominees are: Entertainer of the Year: Jason Aldean, Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton, Taylor Swift, and Keith Urban; Female Vocalist of the Year: Sara Evans, Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride, Taylor Swift, and Carrie Underwood; Male Vocalist of the Year: Jason Aldean, Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton, and Keith Urban; Vocal Duo of the Year: The Civil Wars, Montgomery Gentry, Steel Magnolia, Sugarland, and Thompson Square; and Vocal Group of the Year: The Band Perry, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Rascal Flatts, and Zac Brown Band.

New Artist of the Year: The Band Perry, Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Thompson Square, and Chris Young; Album of the Year: Jason Aldean's My Kinda Party, Brad Paisley's This Is Country Music, Blake Shelton's All About Tonight, Taylor Swift's Speak Now, and Zac Brown Band's You Get What You Give; Single of the Year: Jason Aldean & Kelly Clarkson's "Don't You Wanna Stay," The Band Perry's "If I Die Young," Sara Evans' "A Little Bit Stronger," Blake Shelton's "Honey Bee," and Zac Brown Band's "Colder Weather"; and Music Video of the Year: The Band Perry's "If I Die Young," Kenny Chesney & Grace Potter's "You and Tequila," Brad Paisley & Alabama's "Old Alabama," Blake Shelton's "Honey Bee," and Taylor Swift's "Mean."

Song of the Year (songwriter award): "Colder Weather," "Dirt Road Anthem," "If I Die Young," "Mean," and "You and Tequila"; Musical Event of the Year: Jason Aldean & Kelly Clarkson's "Don't You Wanna Stay," Kenny Chesney & Grace Potter's "You and Tequila," Loretta Lynn, Miranda Lambert & Sheryl Crow's "Coal Miner's Daughter," Brad Paisley & Alabama's "Old Alabama," and Zac Brown Band & Alan Jackson's "As She's Walking Away"; and Musician of the Year: Sam Bush—mandolin, Jerry Douglas—dobro, Paul Franklin—steel guitar, Dann Huff—guitar, and Mac McAnally—guitar.

The 45th CMA Awards will be handed out at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena on November 9 and the ceremony will be broadcast live on ABC-Television. Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood will return as hosts for the third consecutive year.

Congratulations to all the nominees!

Martina McBride & Grand Ole Opry To Support Breast Cancer

Grand Ole Opry member Martina McBride will be on hand to help the famed Opry raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month on Saturday, October 22. McBride will team up with Women Rock for the Cure and flip the ceremonial switch which will turn the Opry's barn backdrop pink during the 3rd Annual Opry Goes Pink benefit show. To mark the occasion, McBride will perform her current single, "I'm Gonna Love You Through It," a tune promising to offer love and comfort for cancer victims. The tune comes from her new album, Eleven, which is scheduled to be released October 11.

American Idol runner-up Lauren Alaina, Edens Edge, AI finalist Kellie Pickler, and legendary Ronnie Milsap will also be on hand to perform and participate in various activities planned to recognize breast cancer survivors. Country fans and breast cancer supporters alike can purchase tickets for the 7:00 PM show by calling 615-871-OPRY or logging onto Five dollars from every ticket will be donated to Women Rock for the Cure.

Hats off to Martina, Lauren, Edens Edge, Kellie, and Ronnie for their support of this worthy cause!

Highly Anticipated New Country Releases

Leading up to the November 9 CMA Awards, there are plenty new CDs from some of country's biggest names hitting stores and iTunes. On October 4, Nicholasville, Kentucky natives Montgomery Gentry will be back with their first release on their new record label, Rebels on the Run. Rodney Atkins once again made a splash with his new single, the title track to his new CD, Take a Back Road. This year's American Idol winner, 17-year-old Scotty McCreery, will also release his debut album, Clear as Day, on October 4—the disc features his debut single "I Love You This Big" and his follow-up, "The Trouble With Girls." The "Okie from Muskogee," Merle Haggard is back with "Working in Tennessee," which features a duet with Willie Nelson and an updated version of "Workin' Man Blues."

Martina McBride leads the pack of new CDs set for release on October 11 with her eleventh album, appropriately titled Eleven, which features 11 songs, including "I'm Gonna Love You Through It." Teenage phenom Hunter Hayes will also release his self-titled debut album on which he co-wrote all the songs, played all the instruments, and co-produced with Dann Huff. American Idol runner-up Lauren Alaina will also release her debut album, Wildflower, on October 11—the disc includes her debut single, "Like My Mother Does," as well as "Eighteen Inches," which was co-written by AI winner Carrie Underwood. Husband and wife country traditionalists Joey + Rory will be celebrating the holidays a little early upon the release of their A Farmhouse Christmas CD, which includes brand new tunes, untraditional holiday tunes, and a trio with Merle Haggard on his "If We Make It Through December."

Toby Keith will be back with a vengeance on October 25 when he releases Clancy's Tavern, named after his grandmother's tavern. The disc includes the smash hit "Made in America." Vince Gill will drop his first disc in four years on the 25th, appropriately titled Guitar Slinger, which features an appearance by his lovely wife, Amy Grant.

Miranda Lambert rounds out the list of hot upcoming CDs when her fourth release, Four the Record, hits store shelves on November 1. The disc includes the lead single "Baggage Claim" and even features a duet called "Better In the Long Run" with her famous husband, Blake Shelton.

Country Family Album

"Boots On" singer Randy Houser strapped on his matrimonial boots last month when he wed singer-songwriter Jessa Lee Yantz on September 2. The happy couple was joined by twenty family members and close friends for the exchange of vows in the Dominican Republic. After exchanging custom vows they wrote themselves, the Housers sang "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You" a cappella.

"Takin' Off This Pain," "Look It Up," and "Where Country Grows" singer Ashton Shepherd and her husband, Roland Cunningham, welcomed their second child into the world on September 9. Five-year-old James became a big brother when sister Raden Delilah Cunningham was born in Demopolis, Alabama. Raden weighed in at 7 lbs, 7 ozs.

Congratulations, Randy & Jessa and Ashton, Roland & James!

Country Codas

Ninety-year-old Grand Ole Opry member Wilma Lee Cooper, who performed with her husband Stoney Cooper as Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper & the Clinch Mountain Clan until his death in March 1977, died of natural causes at her Sweetwater, Tennessee home on September 13. Cooper suffered a stroke while performing on the Opry in 2001 and she never fully recovered from the health setback. The Coopers enjoyed chart success with "There's a Big Wheel," "Come Walk With Me," "Wreck on the Highway," and "Big Midnight Special." Cooper is survived by her daughter, Opry background singer Carol Lee Cooper, as well as two granddaughters.

Wade Mainer, a frontrunner in the musical world of the banjo, died at the ripe ole age of 104 on September 12 in Flint, Michigan. He played with his brothers' Mainer's Mountaineers band in the early 1930's and formed his own Sons of the Mountaineers band in 1936. Mainer is best known for his two-finger banjo style and was one of the first musicians to use the banjo as a lead instrument.

Seventy-eight-year-old songwriter Don Wayne, best known for penning "Saginaw, Michigan" and "Country Bumpkin," lost his battle with cancer on September 12. Wayne was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters International Association's Hall of Fame back in 1978 for his prolific writing which produced hit songs for Lefty Frizzell, Cal Smith, Eddy Arnold, Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams, Jr., George Morgan, Hank Snow, and Jean Shepard, among others.

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