Long-legged country crooner Alan Jackson first hit the radio airwaves 24 years ago, but from his warm reception as he opened the Kentucky State Fair on Thursday, August 15, fans love his more traditional brand of country music as much today as they did back in 1989. The Georgia native hit the stage with "Gone Country" and kept the crowd's keen attention throughout a bevy of chart-topping hits which veered from the rockin' side ("Gone Country," "Good Time," "Chattahoochee," and "Don't Rock the Jukebox") to the sentimental side ("Remember When," "Here in the Real World," "Drive (For Daddy Gene)," and "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)"). With the exception of a couple tunes released in recent years, "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere," his smash duet with Jimmy Buffett," and "As She's Walking Away," a big hit with the Zac Brown Band," the brunt of Jackson's solid show looked and sounded like the fans had been transported back in time by a decade or more. No one complained though, because Jackson's music is timeless and feels as comfortable as a well-worn pair of cowboy boots.
California country crooner Gary Allan's raspy voice and songwriting skills have helped him become one of the most dynamic entertainers in country music over the last two decades. Whether he's performing "Man to Man," "Smoke Rings in the Dark," "Watching Airplanes," or "Bones," his honest delivery makes you believe he's lived every word that rolls off the tip of his tongue. His State Fair performance rivaled that of headliner Jackson, especially with crowd favorites "Nothing On But the Radio" and his recent chart-topper "Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain)." Allan is a solid entertainer still rooted in the honky tonks while enjoying the success of playing at the country's largest venues.
The "Big Dog Daddy" himself, Toby Keith, landed the coveted opening Saturday night concert slot at this year's Kentucky State Fair and country fans couldn't have been happier. Wherever Keith performs, he strikes up a party as he cranks out raucous hits like "Red Solo Cup," "American Ride," "A Little Less Talk and a Lot More Action," "I Love This Bar," and "How Do You Like Me Now?" His current single, "Drinks After Work," appropriately settles right into the party setlist. Although Keith is rightfully categorized as one of country music's "party acts," even your sweet little ole 90-year-old grandmother can't help but admire his dedication to our American service men and women, as he has performed over 200 shows for our troops abroad. Despite pyrotechnics and bursts of fire onstage, Keith truly saved the best for last when he brought a Lexington, Kentucky veteran who lost both legs and his eyesight fighting for our freedom onstage as he proudly honored our great nation and our beloved veterans with "American Soldier" (rightfully altered to "American Warrior") and "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue." Keith truly is an all-American country singer who appeals to the red-blooded, flag-waving masses.
Singer-songwriter Kip Moore took country music by storm when his second single, "Somethin' 'Bout a Truck" was released just two years ago this month. The smash topped the country charts and he quickly became an in-demand live act. Moore truly kicked off Toby Keith's party in style last month in Freedom Hall with an impressive 45-minute set, including crowd favorites "Beer Money," "What I Do," "Say Goodbye," and his sentimental "Hey Pretty Girl." Moore writes and performs like he cut his teeth on country music in his homestate of Georgia and he's an artist that proves that he's serious about honing his craft and sticking around for the party for many years to come.
Butcher Holler, Kentucky's favorite "Coal Miner's Daughter," Loretta Lynn, has been on an emotional roller coaster as of late. On July 29, Lynn lost her second child when her 64-year-old daughter Betty Sue Lynn lost her battle with emphysema, leaving behind two daughters and five grandchildren. The country legend lost her first child, son Jack Benny Lynn, in a drowning accident back in 1984. On a more uplifting note, a week following her daughter's death, it was announced that Lynn is one of 16 recipients to be honored this year with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. President Barack Obama will present this great honor to the music legend at the White House later this year, this honor being "the nation's highest civilian honor presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the U.S., to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors." Lynn is among very prestigious company as other recipients this year include former President Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, late astronaut Sally Ride, women's rights activist Gloria Steinem, and Chicago Cub Ernie Banks.
When the 2013 Teen Choice Awards were handed out last month in Los Angeles, country music was well represented. Taylor Swift took home two awards: Female Country Artist of the Year and Country Song of the Year for "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together." Hunter Hayes was crowned the Male Country Artist of the Year, while Lady Antebellum was named Country Group of the Year.
The next batch of inductees into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame will officially be welcomed into the hall next month. Alabama frontman Randy Owen will be inducted in the songwriter/artist category, having written chart-topping hits like "Feels So Right" and "Mountain Music" for the band. Jeffrey Steele, the songwriter extraordinaire and former Boy Howdy member, will be inducted in the songwriter category for writing hits like Rascal Flatts' "What Hurts the Most," "These Days," "Me and My Gang," and "My Wish," Tim McGraw's "The Cowboy in Me," and Montgomery Gentry's "My Town," "Something To Be Proud Of," and "Gone." Will Jennings, who has written tunes such as Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On," Tim McGraw's "Please Remember Me," Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven," and Faith Hill's "Where Are You Christmas?," will also be inducted in the songwriter category. And being inducted into the veteran songwriter category will be Layng Martine, Jr., who has written hits such as Billy "Crash" Craddock's "Rub It In," Elvis Presley's "Way Down," and Reba McEntire's "The Greatest Man I Never Knew."
Last month, "Wagon Wheel" singer Darius Rucker received a special honor when a road was named after him in his native Charleston, South Carolina. Announcing the honor on his Facebook page, Rucker stated, "Want to take a stroll down Darius Rucker Boulevard? Charleston, what an honor. Thank you." The road leads up to the North Charleston Coliseum.
When fans of NBC's "America's Got Talent" first tuned into the popular summer talent contest back in July, they might have recognized a familiar voice from years gone by. Traditional country singer-songwriter Marty Brown, who enjoyed humble success as a recording artist on MCA Records in the early 1990's, wowed judges comedian Howie Mandel, Spice Girl Mel B, supermodel Heidi Klum, and radio shock jock Howard Stern, as well as the audience around our great nation, when he performed a stunning rendition of Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love." The rousing performance earned the carpenter-by-day and country crooner-by-night a spot in the Las Vegas round of the competition, where he continued to enchant the masses with his cover of fellow Kentuckian Keith Whitley's "When You Say Nothing At All." Louisville Music News caught up with Brown during a recent private fan-appreciation show here in Louisville.
The Franklin, Kentucky resident's story begins in Maceo, Kentucky, where he was born to country musicians and country fans Vincent and Barbara Brown, who gravitate toward the traditional sounds of Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, and George Jones. The elder Brown made a lasting impression upon his young son, who revered his father as a country music superstar when he played country music on the weekends. Being constantly surrounded by the sweet sounds of country music, Marty Brown began to hone his songwriting craft at a young age. His mother enjoyed her talented son's early songwriting ventures but taught him a realistic life-lesson that radio would not be interested in 20-minute songs he had recorded while sitting on the edge of the tub in the family's only bathroom. Once the family bought the loving mother her very first microwave oven, she'd set the aspiring country artist down in the kitchen, put a coffee cup of water in the microwave, and set the timer for three minutes, teaching him that once the microwave timer had sounded, his song should be over. Brown continued to write from the heart and his talents caught the attention of Nashville in 1991, which led to three MCA albums. Record executives eventually decided that the then-current flavor of country music and Brown's ultra-traditional sound were not compatible, and his record contract was not extended past the original three-album agreement.
Despite Nashville's changing sound, Brown never turned his back on his beloved style of music. He continued to write tunes (including Tracy Byrd's "I'm from the Country") and play any gig he could get, while picking up carpentry jobs to feed his growing family. Nine years ago, Brown's life was forever changed when he married the love of his life, Shellie, whom he met in Nashville. The high school English teacher has supported her husband's country music dream for the last decade and she knew it was time to share her husband's passion with America when she took a vacation day last December for the couple to drive to downtown Nashville for a romantic lunch. Following the meal, Brown decided he would attempt to knock on some music executive doors to further pursue his dream, but Shellie broke the news to him that he couldn't on that particular winter day because she had snuck his guitar into the trunk and he was going to the AGT auditions at the convention center that afternoon. Brown was reluctant, but eventually convinced to audition, and several hours later, the initial audition had wrapped and the couple drove back home to Kentucky. Months passed before Brown received a call from NBC producers and the couple was flown to San Antonio, Texas for the televised audition of "Make You Feel My Love"—it was during that audition that Brown's talent and the genuine love between he and his sweet wife melted the hearts of America.
Although Brown was choked up from emotion after hearing his beloved father speak for one of the first times following throat surgery last year during a taped interview aired as an introduction to Brown's most recent performance of Shania Twain's "Still the One" on the famed stage of New York City's Radio City Music Hall, his dream is still alive as he remains in the competition. Country fans have diligently been voting and have secured the singer a spot in the show's semi-finals round of competition. His next performance will be on Tuesday, September 3, and fans are encouraged to vote to help this Kentucky boy bring home the $1 million top prize, to land him a headlining show in Las Vegas, and to allow him to perform live for the fans during the America's Got Talent Tour. Although he wasn't at liberty to divulge to Louisville Music News what song he'll perform in the next round of competition, he promises to make the fans proud, especially all his Kentucky fans back home. Whether it's this next round or a future round (if fans successfully vote him through), Brown hopes to have the chance to perform one of his original tunes for America.
Following Brown's September 3 performance on AGT (airing on NBC from 9 – 11p.m. EDT), fans can vote via phone, email, or Twitter. Brown will be assigned a toll-free phone number and immediately following the show, fans can call the number and vote 10 times per phone, so be sure to vote 10 times on your landline and 10 times from each cell phone in your household. Fans can also vote 10 times per email address, so be sure to vote using all email addresses in your household – online voting can be done via NBC.com, Facebook, Zeebox and the NBC app available on smartphones and tablets. Fans with Twitter accounts will be allowed one vote by tweeting "#voteAGT Marty Brown" following the show. Online voting will be open from 10:55p.m. Tuesday, September 3 – 6 a.m. EDT Wednesday, September 4. Telephone voting will be open from 10:55 p.m. that Tuesday – 1am Wednesday.
Congratulations and best wishes, Marty! Bring home the big win for Kentucky!
Lady Antebellum's Hillary Scott and husband Chris Tyrrell are singing lullabies these days as they welcomed their first child into the world on July 22. Daughter Eisele Kaye Tyrrell was born in Nashville and weighed in at 7 lbs, 13 ozs. Scott announced the happy occasion on Twitter by saying: "She's here, and we are in HEAVEN!!! Eisele Kaye, our beautiful angel, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!" The proud papa described her by saying, "She is incredibly gorgeous." The baby's name is a combination of Tyrrell's mother's maiden name, and Scott's mother, Reba McEntire duet partner Linda Davis, whose middle name is Kaye. Lady A plans to resume touring on November 8 in Southaven, Mississippi.
Megastar Garth Brooks has earned numerous accolades and titles throughout his career, but he recently added a brand new title to his resume: "grandpa." Brooks became a first-time grandfather in July when his 19-year-old daughter August Anna Brooks gave birth to daughter Karalynn. Brooks released a statement saying, "Our family would first like to thank everyone for their warm wishes and sweet celebration of Baby K's arrival."
"You Don't Know Her Like I Do" crooner Brantley Gilbert and "Why Ya Wanna" singer Jana Kramer have announced that they have broken off their engagement to be married. Gilbert asked Kramer to be his bride on his 28th birthday this past January on the stage of the legendary Ryman Auditorium. The couple was reportedly so busy touring that their relationship has suffered as a result of being apart while on the road. Not exactly the ideal situation for a young couple in love, especially a couple trying to plan a wedding. They reportedly realized that this relationship was not going to work with their busy schedules, therefore breaking off their engagement was the best solution.
On July 31, it was announced on country traditionalist Randy Travis's website that he had finally been released from the hospital after suffering a stroke on July 10, which required surgery to relieve pressure on his brain. The statement said: "Randy Travis has been discharged from Baylor Heart [Hospital] in Plano, Texas. Mr. Travis has been relocated to a physical therapy facility. 'Thanks to all the fans and friends for your continued prayers and support as Randy continues on the road to recovery,' says Travis' fiancée Mary Davis." Travis will reportedly spend a few months in this facility as he recovers from this stroke.
"Cowboy" Jack Clement, who will posthumously be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame on October 27, died at his Nashville home at the age of 82 on August 8. He produced albums for the likes of Charley Pride, Emmylou Harris, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Eddy Arnold, Bobby Bare, and Charley Rich. Clement was also responsible for writing hits such as Cash's "Ballad of a Teenage Queen" and "Guess Things Happen That Way" and producing his Grammy-winning "Ring of Fire." He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1973.
Tompall Glaser, one of the original outlaws of country music, passed away on August 13 at the age of 79. After moving to Nashville from Nebraska with brothers Jim and Chuck, the Glaser Brothers sang background vocals on Marty Robbins' "El Paso" and went on to win the CMA Vocal Group of the Year Award in 1970. Their most successful song was "Lovin' Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again)," which rose to #2 on the country charts in 1981. The trio opened a publishing company and recording studio on Music Row, which became the headquarters of country music's Outlaw movement. In 1976, Glaser joined Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Jennings' wife Jessi Colter to record the million-selling Wanted: The Outlaws album.
Jody Payne, who played guitar for Willie Nelson for 35 years, died of cardiac problems at the age of 77 on August 10. He was born in Garrard County, Kentucky in 1936. He began singing with his older sister Imogene when he was five and in the early 1950's, he toured with bluegrass pioneer Charlie Monroe. He joined Nelson's band in 1973 and retired from the road in 2008. Although he predominantly played guitar, he did enjoy one single as a singer, "There's a Crazy Man," which was released in 1981.
Well, that's it for this month. Here's wishing each and every one of you a safe and happy Labor Day Weekend. Always remember: "Keep your boots shined up and your hat on straight, 'cause country music is comin' your way."