Cowboy Corner

Cowboy Corner
By Michael W. Stout

When the 48th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards are handed out in Las Vegas on April 7, Blake Shelton will return as host for the third time, but his previous co-host, Reba McEntire, will not be by her pal's side, as she is busy with the production of her television sitcom, "Malibu Country." Joining Shelton this year for his first live hosting gig will be none other than Luke Bryan. Although the ACMs are two months away, the first batch of nominees has already been announced. Fans can log onto www.VoteACM.com through 3 p.m. on February 4 and vote for their favorite new female and male vocalists, as well as favorite new vocal duo or group. The top three vote-getters will then vie for New Artist of the Year. Jana Kramer, Kacey Musgraves, and Sunny Sweeney will vie for New Female Vocalist; Lee Brice, Brantley Gilbert, and Hunter Hayes will vie for New Male Vocalist; and the New Vocal Duo or Group nominees are Florida Georgia Line, Love and Theft, and Thompson Square.

When the 39th Annual People's Choice Awards were handed out in Los Angeles on January 9, Taylor Swift did country music proud, as she was named Favorite Country Artist. Unfortunately for country fans, Katy Perry beat out Swift and Carrie Underwood in the Favorite Female Artist category, and Jason Mraz bested Blake Shelton to be named Favorite Male Artist, but Jason Aldean kept the country pride running strong as he performed "My Kinda Party" during the awards ceremony.

Don't forget to tune into the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards which will air live on CBS-Television on February 10 as youngsters Hunter Hayes and Taylor Swift will each vie for three awards. Hayes will compete in the Best New Artist, Best Country Album (Hunter Hayes), and Country Solo Performance ("Wanted") categories, while Swift will compete for Record of the Year ("We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together"), and Best Country Duo/Group Performance and Best Song Written for Visual Media along with The Civil Wars for "Safe & Sound" from The Hunger Games movie. During the awards ceremony, Swift and Carrie Underwood will both perform.

2012: The Year in Review

Now that 2012 is in the history books, year-end "best of" lists are aplenty. Billboard magazine has ranked the top 50 country artists of last year using sales, streaming, and radio airplay figures. Taylor Swift was named Billboard's Top Country Artist of the Year for the second consecutive year. Jason Aldean was the second top country artist, followed by Luke Bryan at #3, Lady Antebellum at #4, Carrie Underwood at #5, Eric Church at #6, Zac Brown Band at #7, Blake Shelton #8, Toby Keith #9, and rounding out the top 10 is Kenny Chesney.

In addition to the Top Country Artist certification, Swift's Red album topped Billboard's Top 50 Country Albums of 2012 list. Luke Bryan's Tailgates & Tanlines followed at #2, followed by Lionel Richie's Tuskegee, Lady Antebellum's Own the Night, Carrie Underwood's Blown Away, Jason Aldean's My Kinda Party, Eric Church's Chief, Scotty McCreery's Clear As Day, Jason Aldean's Night Train, and Zac Brown Band's Uncaged at #10. Swift's Speak Now ranked at #18, and her Speak Now: World Tour Live was #21, making Swift the artist with the most albums on the top 50 list.

When it comes to the top country songs of last year, Josh Turner's "Time Is Love" was named Billboard's Top Country Song of 2012. Brantley Gilbert had the second most popular song last year with "You Don't Know Her Like I Do," followed by Jana Kramer's "Why Ya Wanna" at #3, Dustin Lynch's "Cowboys and Angels" at #4, and Gloriana's "(Kissed You) Good Night" at #5. Tim McGraw landed at #6 with "Better Than I Used to Be," followed by Eli Young Band's "Even If It Breaks Your Heart," Easton Corbin's "Lovin' You Is Fun," Eric Church's "Springsteen," and rounding out the top 10 is Luke Bryan's "Drunk On You." Luke Bryan had the most songs on the Top 50 list, with two additional hits: "I Don't Want This Night to End" at #17 and "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye" at #48.

When it comes to the top concert tours of 2012, Eric Church had a banner year with his "Blood, Sweat and Beers Tour." The tour was #11 on Pollstar's Worldwide Ticket Sales 2012 chart, #43 on Pollstar's Top 50 Worldwide Tour chart, and was the only country tour on The New York Times' "The Best Concerts of 2012, as Seen by Times Critics" list. Joining Church on the Top 50 Worldwide Tour chart is Kenny Chesney & Tim McGraw's "Brothers of the Sun Tour" at #7, Jason Aldean at #24, Brad Paisley at #28, Lady Antebellum at #32, Zac Brown Band at #42, Carrie Underwood at #47, and Rascal Flatts at #48.

Overall last year, country music was the highest-growing genre among all genres of music, with 44.6 million country CDs were purchased last year, a 4.2% increase over 2011's sales. Country digital album sales leapt 37.8 percent to 11.2 million downloads. Country digital single sales rose 12.8 percent to 162.1 million singles. Overall country sales rose 3.1 percent to 1.661 billion albums, singles, digital singles, and music videos. Among the overall best-selling albums across all genres of music last year, Taylor Swift's Red was #2 with 3.1 million copies sold, Carrie Underwood's Blown Away at #7 with 1.2 million sales, Luke Bryan's Tailgates & Tanlines at #8 with 1.1 million sales, Lionel Richie's Tuskegee at #9 with 1.07 million sales, and Jason Aldean's Night Train at #10 with 1.02 million sales. Adele was the only artist who outsold Taylor Swift last year, who sold 4 million albums overall last year. And finally, Swift was the fourth most-played artist last year, and Kenny Chesney had the ninth-most airplay last year.

Downtown Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum had its best year ever in 2012. It broke its all-time attendance record with a whopping 564,777 visitors. The 15 percent rise in revenue is attributed to three new exhibits last year: Patsy Cline: Crazy for Loving You, Taylor Swift: Speak Now—Treasures from the World Tour, and The Bakersfield Sound: Buck Owens, Merle Haggard & California Country. This was the second consecutive year the 45-year-old tourist attraction broke attendance records.

Hot Country Tours of 2013

There is a boatload of hot country tours traveling across our great nation this year and Louisville is going to enjoy its fair share of these hot shows. Luke Bryan will bring his headlining "Dirt Road Diaries Tour" to the KFC Yum! Center on February 22. Bryan will perform along with Thompson Square and the hot new duo Florida Georgia Line. Taylor Swift will bring her highly-anticipated "Red Tour" to the Yum! Center on May 7, along with Ed Sheeran. Jason Aldean plans to bring his "Night Train Tour" to Louisville sometime this year, although the exact date has not yet been announced.

Tim McGraw is hitting the road this summer for his "Two Lanes of Freedom Tour" to help his upcoming album of the same name, which will be released on February 5. Although he will not be stopping in Louisville, fans can catch this show in Cincinnati on May 25 and Indianapolis on May 30. The legendary George Strait will stop in Lexington on March 2 for his "The Cowboy Rides Away Tour," his farewell tour, with special guest Martina McBride. This tour will span two years, so let's keep our fingers crossed that he hits Louisville on the final leg of this tour next year. Kenny Chesney's "No Shoes Nation Tour" will stop in Indianapolis on June 13 and Cincinnati on June 28 with Eli Young Band and Kacey Musgraves. Blake Shelton just announced his "Ten Times Crazier Tour" featuring Easton Corbin and Jana Kramer, and his closest stops to Louisville will be Noblesville, Indiana on July 27, Cincinnati on July 28, and Lexington on September 21.

Country Family Album

In the recent past, the country music community has been overflowing with baby news, wedding news, and a great number of deaths. First of all, the Eli Young Band family increased on New Year's Eve when EYB's Jon Jones and his wife Sarah welcomed their first child into the world. Son Hudson Lennon was born at 1:30 p.m., weighed in at 7 lbs, 8 oz., and measured 21 inches long. In a statement, the proud parents doted, "We are ecstatic about this beautiful baby boy that came into our world. Words cannot describe our excitement and joy." The proud father went on to say, "The rest of the band went on stage without me [for a New Year's Eve show in Oklahoma] for the second time in our careers. They are truly great friends for letting Sarah and I share this wonderful experience together. We were home within four hours of the birth to celebrate New Year's Eve as a family — mostly holding Hudson in amazement."

Reba McEntire's family is about to grow as a musical superstar is preparing to join the family. Pop and sometimes country songstress Kelly Clarkson is now engaged to be married to McEntire's stepson, Brandon Blackstock, who has followed in the footsteps of his music managing father, Narvel Blackstock. Upon the engagement, Clarkson tweeted, "I'M ENGAGED!!!!! I wanted y'all to know!! Happiest night of my life last night! I am so lucky and am with the greatest man ever :)"

"The Tennessee Waltz" songstress, Patti Page, passed away on New Year's Day at the age of 85. This classic tune, composed by Louisville's Pee Wee King with lyrics by Redd Stewart, topped the pop charts for a whopping 13 weeks and remained at #2 on the country charts for three weeks. Throughout her career, Page landed 11 singles on country's Top 40 chart. In 1978, the Academy of Country Music presented her with the Pioneer Award and she was expected to be on hand this month to receive the Grammys' Lifetime Achievement Award.

Singer-songwriter Sammy Johns, best known for writing and singing the 1975 #5 pop hit "Chevy Van," which has been recorded by the likes of Eric Church, Waylon Jennings, and Sammy Kershaw, passed away January 4 at the age of 66. He also wrote John Conlee's "Common Man," Jennings' "America," and Conway Twitty's "Desperado Love."

"Ten Thousand Angels" singer Mindy McCreedy has had a very troubled life in recent years, but has seemed to have gotten her life straightened out in the last couple of years. Unfortunately, she received quite a blow when her boyfriend and the father of her 9-month-old son, songwriter/producer David Wilson, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on January 13. The 34-year-old was also a father figure to McCreedy's oldest son from a previous relationship. Although no motive for the suicide has been discovered, McCreedy released the following statement: "Today, we mourn the loss of my life partner and my children's father, David Wilson. David was my soulmate; he was a caregiver and guiding hand to our sons, Zander and Zayne. He was a precious gift from God to all of us and, yesterday, he returned home and is now with his mother and father. David loved and he was loved. Those who knew and loved him will miss him; those who did not know David, missed the opportunity to know a truly loving and gifted man."

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."