Stadium Entertainment - My Country Smash Hits

The artist line up for this release reads like the nominee list at the Country Music Awards or Grammys; Big & Rich, Blake Shelton, Brad Paisley, Darius Rucker, Dierks Bentley, Jypsi, Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Montgomery Gentry, Randy Houser, Rascal Flatts, Reba McEntire, Rodney Atkins and Trace Adkins offer their fans a killer country playlist contatining some of their most popular songs and a "built in" way to help an extraordinary charity, the Fisher House Foundation. This incredible charity does the righteous work of building and maintaining home-like facilities on military bases and hospital grounds, where both active and retired military personnel can live with their families, while undergoing medical treatment or rehabilitation.

Sunday, 10 February 2013 03:22

Blake Shelton

Label: STADIUM ENTERTAINMENT -  Digital Release: My Country Smash Hits (Bundled - U.S. Only)

Blake Shelton - Biography

There is probably no one better equipped to launch the hillbilly worldview into the age of cyberspace than Blake Shelton.An outspoken champion of the land, the honky-tonk and the off-road vehicle, he has found a way to bring those passions into the realm of downloads and instant messaging.

It started as he hit Twitter, a move as invigorating to Blake and his fans as it was unexpected.

"A year ago," he says, "Twitter sounded like something that couldn't be any more opposite of me, but I love being able to say something and get an instant reaction from people, because at heart that's why I got into this business. Twitter is in a small way like being on stage all day long. It's tons of fun for me."

It comes to full expression in Hillbilly Bone, a six-song album that is pure hillbilly energy. In a world where people are looking increasingly for real-time interaction with their musical idols, it is a project that lets Blake plug his traditionalist leanings into the 21st century.

"I talk to my fans every day," he says, "and the first question they ask me is, 'When are you going to release a new record?' I want to give my fans new music more often at a lower price. This SIX PAK is a way to take our relationship to the next level."

The project's first single is the wildly successful "Hillbilly Bone," a shot of pure adrenaline featuring Blake's long-time friend Trace Adkins.

"I wouldn't have wanted to try this project with any other leadoff single than 'Hillbilly Bone'," he says, "and that song would not have been the force that it is without Trace on it. He brings it. If I deliver the song pretty well, Trace is the reason it's over the top."

A rollicking joyride full of backwoods attitude celebrating the universal attraction of the honky-tonk life, it has proven to be the perfect representation of the country-boy-meets-cyberspace model.

"'Hillbilly Bone' is by a mile the biggest digital single and the fastest rising single I've had in my career," says Blake. "I've never been able to compete with artists like Taylor or Miranda, and this single is competing with those artists now."

It is the perfect leadoff to a project that is as much a representation of Blake's personality—both on and off stage—as it's possible for a CD to be.

Drawing on top-shelf songwriters like Craig Wiseman and Rhett Akins, Blake has put together a CD that ranges from the rowdy "Kiss My Country Ass," an unabashed anthem to redneck pride, the hilarious "Can't Afford To Love You," and the smart-ass "Almost Alright," to the tender "You'll Always Be Beautiful" and the wistful, self-penned "Delilah."

"It's an energy-packed little album," he says with a laugh. "It's also about being this guy people are finding out about, which is who I've always been," he says. "It's really going to help define a different mood for me."

The SIX PAK is a model Blake wants to continue to pursue.

"This way," he says, "I'm constantly able to get new music out to country music fans and I can constantly be reinventing what I do. What's exciting for me is you never have to stop to refuel. I'll always be looking for and releasing good music."

His ability to do just that is the latest manifestation of musical promise that has shown itself since Blake was a boy in Ada, Oklahoma.

"I walked on stage one time when I was a kid and sang," he says. "I saw an instant reaction from people and I never got over that feeling." His family recognized both his talent and his love for the music, and his mother sent a tape to a local live country music show in his hometown of Ada, Oklahoma, when he was 12. 

By 16, he was singing at weddings and parties, and before long he had beaten 3,500 contestants in a statewide talent contest.

He was performing at an awards ceremony when he met legendary songwriter Mae Axton ("Heartbreak Hotel"), who encouraged him to move to Nashville. He was just 17 and two weeks out of high school when he took her advice.

After three years of odd jobs and struggling, he was discouraged enough to consider leaving town when he met another legendary writer—Bobby Braddock ("He Stopped Loving Her Today"). Before long, Blake was signed to Giant Records, although success was still elusive. It took four years until his first single came out, and a week later, the label folded.

He was quickly picked up by Warner Bros., though, and the single "Austin" became a five-week #1 single. Each of his first three albums went gold, and each produced a chart-topping single—"The Baby" from The Dreamer and "Some Beach" from Blake Shelton's Barn & Grill.

As he became more comfortable in the spotlight, Blake began allowing more of his relaxed and irreverent personality into his stage show. The result is a live show renowned as one of music's most enjoyable. At the same time, he became increasingly recognized as one of the genre's finest singers.

His fourth album, Pure BS, also went gold and produced a back-to-back #1 single, "Home," at a time when Blake's presence on television was increasing.

"More and more," he says, "people identify me with my personality as much as they do with my music. At a show, I guarantee I'll meet 20 guys and girls who say, 'I love what you said to Kathie Lee Gifford' or 'I saw you on that hunting show.' I think I've got the best of both worlds."

Starting Fires produced "She Wouldn't Be Gone," yet another multiple week #1 single, and solidified Blake's reputation as a vocalist.

"The last album or two I pushed myself as a singer," he says, "and I think I proved what I'm capable of. I'll always push myself, but with Hillbilly Bone it was more about finding songs with that attitude I want to convey and then just delivering them the best way I can. More than anything I'd like people to hear me sing and think, 'That's good music.'"

Blake's personal life has been one of his greatest sources of strength. A few years back, he sold his Nashville farm and relocated to a farm outside his hometown.

"I wouldn't change a thing right now," he says simply. He is satisfied with a life that he recognizes as a work in progress.

"Musically I'm still finding things out about me, and I'm still learning about who I am as a person. Every time I think I'm settling in, I find something new. I think I'll probably always be that way."

Along the way, the music he makes continues to be some of country's finest. With Hillbilly Bone, it is also, in this computerized age, some of its most rooted, its most honest, and without a doubt its most fun.






Sunday, 10 February 2013 08:22

Big & Rich

Label: STADIUM ENTERTAINMENT -  Digital Release: My Country Smash Hits (Bundled - U.S. Only)

Big & Rich - Biography

When it comes to Big & Rich, there’s no need for a typical bio. You can get a telling of their early career—separate and together--from folks at Warner Bros. Nashville, or by Googling the dynamic duo. Their back story hasn’t changed, so why retell it?

I’m more interested in the biography of the choices they’ve made as Big & Rich. In their mixing of traditional country sounds with hip-hop, rock, and the occasional Native American yell. Their employment, in their Muzik Mafia troupe, of a painter who works on a canvas during B&R shows, and of a former Foot Locker salesman, called Cowboy Troy, who’s become the most prominent black country performer since Charley Pride—with one major difference. Troy raps. In Spanish, sometimes. As does Big Kenny, doing a little “hick-hop.” And then there’re their social messages, including “Love Everybody,” flashing on big screens behind them, and emblazoned on the back of Big Kenny’s guitar.

I’m curious, too, about the whole Muzik Mafia thing. That was the informal jam session they set up in Nashville, a town notoriously not interested in looseness—at least not when it comes to the music industry. Kenny Alphin and John Rich grew it into a scene and, ultimately, into a stable of talent, with several of the participants joining them in the leap onto the radio, the charts, and concert stages. Gretchen Wilson, anybody?

And so, one recent morning in Beverly Hills, in a hotel suite that could only be described as big and rich, and with two video cameras rolling, I asked the guys about their place in life and music. That place just happens to be the title of their third CD: Between Raising Hell and Amazing Grace.

John looked natty in black and blue—black hat and sport jacket; blue shirt and jeans. Kenny was all over the place, with patchy, fashionably tattered jacket and pants, along with his trademark top hat. This one was smaller than the usual, however. “It’s medium,” he said, “but it should be extra large, because my cranium is constantly pulsing with imagination and creativity welling up in it. It’s about to explode.”

As John moved, ever so slightly, away from Kenny, I asked why the call sheet for the session requested: “Please Not Sloppy.” Rich cast an eye at the publicist from Warner Bros. Nashville. “She might’ve meant ‘sloppy drunk,’” he said. “I think the beauty of the real us shines through,” said Kenny, “no matter what our bodies are clothed in.”

Lest you think that Big & Rich live only to jest, the new album will set you straight. Sure, there’s some of the “I throw Benjis out the window all day” bravado of their first two disks, but there’s far more grace—in words and music—than hell-raising.

The album’s theme, Kenny said, came from a conversation he had with a friend, “and the realization that between raising hell and ‘Amazing Grace’ is that fine line that we’re walking on all the time, trying to live life to its fullest and at the same time knowing that every day of our lives is a blessing. And I feel like, to those given much, much is expected. We’ve gotta reach out there and help those that need our help right now.”

Spoken like the son of a preacher man. Well, actually, it was John, who comes out of Texas and Tennessee, whose father was a preacher—a guitar-playing preacher, at that. But Kenny’s mother was the pianist at their church in Virginia. Both Big & Rich had spiritual grounding; both did a lot of Sunday singing.

And both credit their fathers for their love-everybody, help-thy-fellow-artist values.

“Everything that’s happened in my life has guided me to be the person I try to be now,” says Kenny. “My father’s one of the most incredible people I’ve ever met. He’s a saint by all means, always trying to help his neighbor, anybody that he could.” As a musician, Kenny struggled, to the tune of huge credit card debts. But, he says, he continued to believe, “no matter what, that you’re gonna come out the other end and climb a top of a mountain. I’ve definitely felt that heartache enough times that it makes me truly compassionate.”

As a kid in Amarillo, John experienced poverty. He and three sibling lived with their parents in a trailer, and they went to the food bank for help. Still, he recalls, “I watched my dad take guys in off the street. He didn’t have anything to help anybody with, but he’d do whatever he could do to help people out.”

Kenny and John must’ve had heart transfer operations somewhere along the way. Although they began their Muzik Mafia jams before they broke through, they now use their power to help fellow artists. “When you see somebody who’s got the goods, you want for them not have to go through the same mistakes we had to go through,” says Kenny. John adds: “We all share our momentum and our contacts. That’s why we’re being rewarded so greatly, is because we’ve been so selfless with it.”

Flash back to Nashville, circa 1998. Suffice to say, both John and Kenny are struggling. Join the club. John’s been fired from the soft-country band, Lonestar, and is pitching songs left and right. Kenny, who’s anything but soft, is playing clubs all over town, drawing female admirers. One of them was dating John Rich.

“She wanted to go see him; her girlfriends were all going to see him, they were all in love with this guy Big Kenny, and I went OK, I’ll go check him out. He’s up there in all his bigness, doing country, rock and roll, and…Queen. It was very odd music, but it was good stuff.” After the show, a mutual friend introduced them. “She said the two of you should get together and write a song. There’s no telling what you all will end up writin’ because you’re so different.” Rich agreed to give it a shot. “It might be a complete fiasco,” he thought, “but I hadn’t seen anybody else do the kind of music he was doing; it interested me enough on a writing level to go, ‘OK, let’s see.’”

Rich didn’t know it then, but His Bigness was relatively new to professional music. He was building homes in Virginia when, one beer-soaked night, he agreed to go on stage at a pub and sing a song—the only song whose lyrics he knew: “Peaceful Easy Feeling” by the Eagles. Soon after, he bought a guitar, taught himself to play, and moved to Nashville. “I was listening to a lot of country music; it was the dominant music on construction sites and in farm shops. But a lot of those same people love rock and roll. I grew up as a real appreciator of all shapes and forms.”

So there you go. Kenny’s “bigness” referred to his range of musical interests. John Rich appreciated that range, and, after they began writing, and in 2001, while they were going nowhere slow with their respective careers, hit on the idea of an informal jam session on Tuesday nights, dubbed, for no good reason, “Muzik Mafia.”

“We realized that there was this whole bunch of us that were making all different kinds of music in different joints in town,” said Kenny. “We were all writing songs together, no matter what kind of music we were predominantly making, and we wanted to play them more often. So we decided, why don’t we get together one night a week and find us some little place where we can make music and not have to clean up afterwards?”

They got a club—The Pub o’ Love, capacity maybe 75—and never promoted the jams to the general public. But they caught on quick. “Within a few months they had to bust out the back wall. Other artists would show up. It was acoustic driven; we’d have percussionists come and play boxes or shakers. It was like sitting in a living room, learning from each other.” Among the students was a bartender, Gretchen Wilson, who’d take a night off to be there for the party, and “Cowboy Troy,” who’d drive down as often as he could from his shoe sales job in Dallas.

The Muzik Mafia has grown into a mini-empire. “The thing is, we still do Mafia jams in Nashville on Tuesday nights when we’re there,” said Rich. “There’s still no cover; we still don’t advertise it, but we’ll pull the tour bus out in front. It gets a little wilder. We’ve had everyone from Bon Jovi, Jewel, and Stone Temple Pilots, to hard-core country acts drop by. We’re still together. When you’re selling millions of records, when you’ve got a Tuesday night off, why aren’t you home? We still like to jam.”

Big & Rich made a lot of noise by incorporating rock and rap on their first albums. This time around, there’s soul and reggae, by way of John Legend, who does a cameo on “Eternity,” and Wyclef Jean. Rich went to see Jean, strictly as a fan, at the House of Blues in Los Angeles and wound up being pulled onto the stage. The crowd had no idea who Big & Rich were, he says, but Jean told them, “There are no boundaries. They tell us there are boundaries just so we don’t run past them.” Then, John said, “He starts free-styling about Nashville and Charlie Daniels and us, and how it’s all the same.”

Wyclef then indicated to John: “Your turn.” Rich froze for a moment, and then, over the reggae beat, went into “Folsom Prison Blues,” followed by “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy.” Suddenly, the House of Blues audience was his.

“The audience is not segregated,” says Rich. “The only segregation is happening at the creative level and on the marketing level of music. The audience is listening to everything, so why can’t a John Legend audience buy a Big & Rich album, and why can’t a Big & Rich audience buy a John Legend album? Probably because they’re not even allowed to hear it.”

While Big & Rich appreciate any radio airplay they can get, they’re also proactive in other media, appearing on shows ranging from Nashville Star to Dancing With the Stars; issuing special-edition DVDs, and, now, publishing a book, alongside the new album.

Entitled Big & Rich: All Access, and including—see?—a DVD, the book offers “a real behind-the-scenes look at our lives since we met,” said Kenny. “How yin and yang came together and went ‘BANG!’” As in the line from “Comin’ to Your City,” the title tune of their last album: “If you want a little bang in your yin yang; if you want a little zing in your zang zang…come along!”

Not that Big & Rich are repeating themselves. Last time out, they had Kris Kristofferson introducing a song. This time, they have President Harry S Truman opening the album with a call for unity, from a speech he delivered to farmers in 1935. They do AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long,” with a pronounced twang. They’ve got John Legend and Wyclef Jean crooning and riffing. They’ve revved up their message, from “Prejudice should not exist in music” to “Prejudice should not exist anywhere on earth.”

And if, indeed, Between Raising Hell and Amazing Grace has Big & Rich leaning towards Grace, that’s the idea, to take you to a “zone,” as Kenny would say. “Here’s a feeling we’re going to stay in, and thoughts we’re gonna express in a certain style for awhile. And then we’re gonna switch gears and rock your balls off.”

Jeez, Kenny. You’re the loving son of a church pianist; the self-proclaimed “Universal Minister of Love.” And the video cameras are still running. Take two:

“We’ll do it like you’re listening to an album. Here’s the first side; it’s got this mood to it. Then you flip it over, and it’s got this mood to it. And we leave it on a happy note. We love our country, and we love it loud.”

And that’s a wrap.







Sunday, 10 February 2013 13:22

Montgomery Gentry

Label: STADIUM ENTERTAINMENT -  Digital Release: My Country Smash Hits (Bundled - U.S. Only)

Montgomery Gentry - Biography
Montgomery Gentry's journey into the front ranks of American music has been one of the most gratifying sagas of the past decade. Their road to gold and platinum albums, CMA and ACM awards, a Grammy nomination and highly successful tours has been paved both with musical integrity and with an abiding respect for the people and the genre they represent.

"We've never sold out to anybody," says Eddie Montgomery, whose soul-stirring baritone and 19th-century outlaw look have become iconic among country's rowdier fans. "What you see with us is what you get."

"We've always been consistent about choosing songs that deal with the working class, songs people can identify with," adds Troy Gentry, whose piercing tenor and classic good looks provide the perfect counterpoint. "We've stayed true to that."

Seldom have entertainers been identified so closely with their fans, and seldom has the respect and affection run so deep in both directions. They share blue-collar outlooks; sunup-to-sundown work ethics; rootedness in God, country and family; and the ability to celebrate life and endure hardship. It is a relationship few other artists in the often volatile world of show business can boast.

Now in their 10th year on the national stage, Montgomery Gentry can look back on one of country's most impressive legacies. They have released more than 20 charted singles, with anthems like "My Town" and "Hell Yeah" becoming indelible parts of the honky-tonk landscape. They have hit the top of the singles charts three times, with "If You Ever Stop Loving Me," "Something To Be Proud Of" and 2007's multi-week chart-topper "Lucky Man." And now, with the release of Back When I Knew It All, they have taken the next big step forward.

The CD shows them at the top of their game, something not lost on their loyal fans, who propelled the album's title cut and first single to the top of the charts more quickly than any single in the duo's history. The song serves as an introduction to a CD's worth of riches. "Roll With Me" shows Troy to be one of modern country's most stirring vocalists, the way "God Knows Who I Am" and "One In Every Crowd" showcase Eddie's vocal talents, his ability to move from the raucous to the sublime, and his world-class songwriting skills. "I Pick My Parties" keeps the rowdiness flowing as it teams the boys with sometime touring partner Toby Keith, and "One Trip" and "It Ain't About Easy" display Troy and Eddie's ability to impart serious philosophy in the guise of an entertaining country tune. 
The album, which both regard as the quintessential Montgomery Gentry CD, got a jump-start when the duo followed their hearts to one of the world's most storied recording studios.

"Eddie and I and [producer] Blake [Chancey] were talking about some of the history of the music we grew up on, the artists we covered in clubs and the places where some of our favorite records were cut," says Troy. "The name that rose above the rest was Ardent Studios down in Memphis. Steve Earle did Copperhead Road there, ZZ Top did Tres Hombres--there's all kinds of good stuff that's come out of there. Knowing some of the people we looked up to had recorded there gave us a real sense of comfort."

Troy, Eddie and the studio musicians went en masse to Memphis. They visited Graceland and Beale Street together, ate meals with each other and, away from the distractions of Nashville, put together Back When I Knew It All in a studio with more than 70 gold and platinum albums recorded by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Bob Dylan and Sam & Dave.

"The day before we started recording," says Troy, "we were going over the songs to decide on tempo and instrumentation. We were in a big circle with acoustic guitars and our drummer, Greg Morrow, just beating on a drum case or bongos, and I really dug getting in there doing that together as a team. It was probably one of the coolest parts of the process, watching the song get built right there in front of you by the musicians."

Working with Blake Chancey was a chance to team up again with the man whose work had helped define them.

"I tell you," says Eddie, "Blake's a hell of a song guy. He's just always gotten us. He came and saw us in the old days, he signed us, and he knows how we ought to be. He knows how to get the energy out of us, what kind of songs work for us, and how to capture our live performance in the studio."

The journey that Chancey has seen since the early days had its roots in central Kentucky. Eddie grew up in his family's band, where he and his brother John Michael spent their formative years in honky-tonks, falling in love with the music of Hank Jr., Charlie Daniels, Willie, Waylon, Haggard, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Influenced by his mother’s love of music, Troy favored George Jones, Haggard, Randy Travis and Hank Jr. and by high school, was in his first talent contest.

The Montgomery brothers and Troy joined forces in a band called Young Country until John Michael landed a record deal. His brother joined his band and Troy went solo, winning the national Jim Beam Talent Contest in 1994. When Eddie returned to Kentucky, he and Troy found themselves on stage together at various charity concerts and they decided to join forces again.

"It just seemed like the more we were playing together around town, the bigger our following got," says Troy. Nashville heard the buzz, and Columbia Records signed them.

1999's Tattoos and Scars announced them as a new force in country music, deeply rooted in the blue collar honky-tonk ethos that had sometimes been overlooked in the crossover success of the ‘90s. By their third album, 2002's My Town, they had become leaders of a movement that would come to breathe new fire into country music and help bring to the forefront artists like Gretchen Wilson and Big & Rich while drawing from established artists like Hank Jr. and rockers from Lynyrd Skynyrd to Kid Rock.

The hits came with regularity. Eddie and Troy were named the CMA's Duo of the Year in 2000, and received that year's American Music Award for Favorite New Artist--Country, the Academy of Country Music Award for Top New Vocal Group or Duo, and the 2000 and 2001 Radio & Records Readers' Poll award for Top Country Duo. The duo performed for well over a million fans, both as headliners and as part of Kenny Chesney's "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems" tours in 2002 and 2003, and the Brooks & Dunn "Neon Circus & Wild West Show" in 2001.

Their place as honky-tonk ambassadors has long since been established. They were part of the Rolling Stone 40th anniversary issue, they are integral parts of Farm Aid and Country in the Rockies, and they joined forces with Maya Angelou after the release of "Some People Change."

Their humanitarian efforts are another example of that place where life, art and community come together in a meaningful way.

"Our charitable work hit really close to home last year with the passing of my mom from cancer," says Troy of their work with the T. J. Martell Foundation, which funds cancer and AIDS research and on whose board both serve. Troy is also deeply involved in the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and Eddie works with Camp Horsin' Around, a camp for chronically and terminally ill children, which provides recreation and medical attention.

Their desire to help make the lives of others better is reflected in their desire to live their own lives fully.

"Life is very short," says Eddie, "and you'd better live every second of it, because you never know when your name's going to be called. That's the way I've always lived my life. My parents taught me to live that way. We were raised very poor but we always had a lot of fun, especially with music. And music is the most healing thing in the world. Everybody speaks different languages, but when you put a record on, people from everywhere can enjoy it, whether they understand the words or not.

Through it all, they remain one with their fans, people who live fully, love richly, and work and play for all they're worth. Their rootedness can be seen in the fact that they are still playing with the band they had in their honky-tonk days. It's part of what keeps them honest, and that honesty shines through every bit of their latest CD. Back When I Knew It All continues their tradition of connectedness as it restates their position as the honky-tonk poets of their generation.

"We keep to our roots," says Eddie. "We'll always talk about the good, the bad, the ugly and the party on the weekend. We'll always include the Man Upstairs and our American heroes."

"And when we sing a song," adds Troy, "it'll always tell a story. That's just who we are






Sunday, 10 February 2013 08:22

Rascall Flatts

Label: STADIUM ENTERTAINMENT -  Digital Release: My Country Smash Hits (Bundled - U.S. Only)

Rascall Flatts - BIOGRAPHY

If any act embodies the place to which country music has evolved in the new century, it is Rascal Flatts. Since their inception a decade ago in 1999, the trio has helped change the face of popular music.

Their trademark sound--Gary LeVox's powerfully emotive lead vocals coupled with the soaring harmonies of Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney, set amid world-class arrangements and production, have made the band the standard bearers for cutting-edge country.

Drawing on Nashville's best tunesmiths and their own enviable songwriting skills, they have released, in songs like "These Days," "Bless The Broken Road," "What Hurts The Most" and "Take Me There," some of the most important and successful music to come out of Nashville in recent years.

Along the way, they have placed 10 #1 singles and 20 Top Tens, seen every one of their studio albums go multi-platinum, with total sales approaching 19 million, been the ACM and CMA top vocal group every year since 2003, and won multiple American Music Awards and People's Choice Awards.

Now, with Unstoppable, Gary, Joe Don and Jay release their most powerful and accessible album to date, taking their career and country music another large step forward.

Produced by Dann Huff and Rascal Flatts, the record applies the group's formidable talents to a spectrum of songs that range from the pure drama of "Forever," which deals, as the group has so often in the past, with the pain of a broken relationship, to the pure fun of "Summer Nights," a romp through a world of coolers and bikinis guaranteed to be a concert favorite. The trio is as proud of the project as they've ever been.

"This is the best group of songs we've ever had," says Joe Don, and given the band's storied history, that is no small statement. Their deliberate approach is much of the reason.

"We started early on this record," says Jay, "so we could take the time to cut when we wanted to cut. We set out from the beginning to track when we got songs we believed in. That allowed us to take a deep breath now and then and take our time, and the great thing is every song means something very deeply to us."

That conviction is evident in every vocal.

"Songs like 'Why,' which deals with a very important and sensitive topic," says Gary, "put me in a place vocally where I've never been. Overall, these were songs I could pour all of myself into."

There is perhaps no male singer on the current country scene who can wring more from songs of loss and heartache than Gary, and Unstoppable gives him several opportunities to do just that. "Holdin' On" and "Close" both tell stories of people clinging to the remnants of lost love, while "Once" paints a portrait of loss that takes full advantage of his vocal prowess. All three agree, though, that Unstoppable's first single, "Here Comes Goodbye," covers the territory as well as it's been covered.

"It's one of the most powerful songs we've ever put out there," says Jay.

Along with first-rate song selection and the band's own contributions--Jay was co-writer on "Close" and the title track, which celebrates the sheer power of love, while Gary contributed "Summer Nights" and "Things That Matter," a look at moments with lasting importance--Unstoppable is notable for Rascal Flatts' continuing dedication to studio excellence.

"I think Dann and [engineer] Justin [Niebank] just get better and better with time," says Joe Don, "and they really pushed us to raise our game. This is the best sound we've ever had."

That excellence was reflected in Jay's bass playing and Joe Don's guitar work, as well as in their harmony vocals.

"Take a song like 'Summer Nights,'" says Gary. "Joe Don really stepped out and played some great guitar. Vocally, too, the track was good, but when Joe Don played that guitar riff and then he and Jay laid down their vocals, they really took the song to a better place. It upped the ante on it."

"Dann is such a great guitar player and producer," adds Joe Don. "He's totally got his thumb on country music right now, and he does inspire us to be better. We stretched a lot on this album, bringing in all our influences."

"Every song is special," says Jay. "It was a just a true joy to make. We've always tried to progress and grow as artists and I think this totally displays that."


They have made such growth their mission since their beginnings in 1999, following a conversation between Jay and Joe Don, who were band mates working with Chely Wright.

"Man," said Jay, "you've got to come hear my cousin Gary sing." Jay and Gary had begun attracting a following at the Fiddle and Steel Guitar Bar in Nashville's Printers Alley.

"Somewhere around the 13th of January in 1999," Joe Don says, "Jay called me and said, 'Dude, our guitar player can't make it. Any way you could come sit in with us?' I said, 'Hell, yeah,' grabbed my guitar and amp and made it to the club by 8."

All three were blown away by their collective sound, and they began playing as a trio, up to seven hours a night. Soon label executives had caught the buzz and were dropping by to see them.

They cut some demos and by late that year they had been signed to Lyric Street.

That began a string of hits that made the band one of country's most successful acts. Songs like "Prayin’ For Daylight,” “Mayberry," "Fast Cars and Freedom," "My Wish" and "Stand," and albums like Melt, Feels Like Today, Me And My Gang and Still Feels Good took them into the music world's stratosphere.

Along the way, their “Bless The Broken Road” was Grammy nominated for Country Song of the Year and Vocal Performance, became 2006's top-selling physical and digital artist in all genres, scored four #1 country albums and three #1 overall, and hit the Top 10 Billboard pop singles chart twice, among many other milestones.

"There's never been a method to our madness," says Joe Don. "We just cut the best songs we can, and through the years we get better at what we do."

They continue to carry the country banner into arenas and stadiums, humbled by how far their star has risen with a profound impact on the concert stage. In good economic times and bad, their tours have been marked by sellouts and venue attendance records, as their state-of-the-art production, high energy approach and hit-filled set list thrill audiences year in and year out.

The guys have performed for millions of fans in the last few years and recently wrapped their “Bob That Head Tour.” They will kick off a new summer tour in June 2009- “Rascal Flatts American Living Unstoppable Tour.” J. C. Penney Company, Inc. is an official sponsor of the tour and will promote American Living, the retailer’s affordable, all-American lifestyle brand developed exclusively for the JCPenney customer by Polo Ralph Lauren’s Global Brand Concepts.

The fully integrated two-year sponsorship will kick off June 5, with the tour hitting approximately 60 cities across the nation each year.

"As a kid, you stand in front of your mirror and only dream about being able to sell out arenas and stadiums," says Gary. "And to be able to play a place like Wrigley Field and sell it out, you can't even dream that big. The feeling is awesome."

"We know how difficult it can be for people to lay down money to go to a concert," says Jay, "and I thank them profusely from the stage every night. Our main focus will always be to give them every penny's worth of entertainment value we can."

Their approach grows out of their own histories as music fans.

"When I saw Garth Brooks years ago," says Joe Don, "it was like I had an epiphany.......I knew at that moment that I wanted to do the very same thing, be the same kind of entertainer he was and now I'm in that same position and I want the people who come to our shows to know that about me every night when I take the stage."

The three are committed family men who take seriously their role in the community. They are known for their charitable efforts, which have included raising millions of dollars for charities including the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt and for their work on the celebrity cabinet board of the American Red Cross.

At the core, though, is the three-way friendship and musical partnership dedicated to making records they would want to listen to and putting on shows they would want to attend. It is that approach that has brought so much pleasure to so many fans and given them such an enviable position in the musical world.

"It's just beyond measure," says Gary. "We get to touch people's lives through music. There's no greater gift in the world and we love it today more than when we got the record deal in '99. We're planning to be around for a long time."


Sunday, 10 February 2013 08:22

Rodney Adkins

Label: STADIUM ENTERTAINMENT -  Digital Release: My Country Smash Hits (Bundled - U.S. Only)

Rodney Atkins - BIOGRAPHY

There’s a very good reason that no less than four songs from Rodney Atkins’ platinum-selling 2006 album If You’re Going Through Hell became No. 1 hits—a feat that no one had accomplished since 2002. It’s the same reason that two of those songs became the most-played of 2006 (“If You’re Going Through Hell [Before the Devil Even Knows]”) and 2007 (“Watching You”), and why concert audiences all over the country are cheering him on and singing along.

It’s because Atkins has a rare gift for reflecting the lives of his listeners in his music—their hopes, their concerns, their spirit, their adversities, even their sense of humor. Simply put, as he sang in another chart-topping smash, “These Are My People.” A native of small-town East Tennessee, the adopted son of a loving family and the proud father to a family of his own, Atkins understands regular lives because he still leads one. “People always talk about image—‘You’re the guy in the ball cap, the All-American country boy,’” says Atkins, who does indeed still favor caps to cowboy hats. “But if the songs don’t connect with the folks listening, then none of that stuff matters.”

Atkins makes that connection again and again on his much-anticipated new album, It’s America. Just listen to the down-home philosophy of “Got It Good” and “Tell a Country Boy,” the heartfelt balladry of “The River Knows,” the fist pumping feel good “It’s America” and much more from across the musical and emotional spectrum. “I try to sing songs with an honest view of ourselves, of myself, of the struggle, of the laughter,” he says. “It’s about being human.”

Credit Atkins’ honest view to his upbringing. He was adopted as a frail, sickly infant from the Holston Methodist Home for Children in Greenville, Tenn. (for which he has passionately raised awareness and financial assistance since finding stardom), but two families returned him to the home because the burden of caring for him was too great. Then Allan and Margaret Atkins took him in. “From what I understand, I became more sick than I had ever been during that time,” he says. “But it just never crossed their mind to take me back.”

With their love and care that weak, ill child grew into a strong, healthy young man. He began singing in church as a boy, and learned to play guitar and write songs while in high school. Soon after he headed off to college, Atkins began making regular trips to Nashville in order to write, perform and learn the business. Word got around quickly about this talented and charismatic up-and-comer, and soon he was signed to Curb Records. Atkins’ 2003 debut album, Honesty, earned him a Top 5 hit with “Honesty (Write Me a List).”


Never one to stray far from his roots, Atkins, along with his wife of 10 years, Tammy Jo, continue to raise their family (7-year-old son Elijah and two teenage stepdaughters who affectionately call him “Big R”) and enjoy a simple life right here in Middle Tennessee. “My family is my priority,” he says. “I cherish them so much.” Atkins and longtime producer Ted Hewitt even recorded the vocals for If You’re Going Through Hell and It’s America at the singer’s modest home studio, little more than a closet really, amidst the hubbub of his happily full house.

his unique recording technique proved a winning one, and the chart-topping, platinum-selling If You’re Going Through Hell gave Atkins his true breakthrough. In addition to the overwhelming radio and video airplay, he earned the Academy of Country Music’s Top New Male Vocalist award, plus five other ACM nominations and two Country Music Association nominations. He has also had the opportunity to amass some amazing memories—from public moments like performing for a half-million people at the National Memorial Day concert in Washington, D.C., to private ones like getting to thank hero Garth Brooks for his inspiration. He’s performed for former President George W. Bush.

Twice. He’s toured with the superstar likes of Brad Paisley, Brooks & Dunn, Martina McBride and ZZ Top. Similarly, he’s had the pleasure of helping the causes that mean a lot to him, such as the National Council for Adoption. “A lot of my dreams have become reality – I’m living the American dream,” he acknowledges. “It’s amazing to me.” Even so, Atkins hasn’t changed a bit. He’s still the caring husband and father who wants to see his family thrive, still the hopeful dreamer who paid his dues in honky-tonks across America, still the small-town boy who inherited his parents’ warmth and work ethic. He still feels an unbreakable connection to the fans who buy his albums, request his songs and fill up his shows. These are his people, and he has no intention of letting them down.

“With this record, I knew I wanted to keep making songs that folks can sing along with and laugh at and pump their fists to,” he says. “Sometimes it is the simple things in this great country that really make me appreciate it. When we share this sense of pride through music, you become friends with everybody listening. It’s an honor to go out there and represent the everyday man, and to represent country music and what it’s all about.”

Sunday, 10 February 2013 08:22


Label: STADIUM ENTERTAINMENT -  Digital Release: My Country Smash Hits (Bundled - U.S. Only)

 Truly innovative country acts are a rarity, and those that emerge from the generally traditional ranks of Nashville's Lower Broadway are rarer still.

That, however, is part of what makes Jypsi such a phenomenal story. Lower Broad may be known for its seemingly endless supply of talented and innovative players, but it had never seen anything quite like them. Musically, both sparkling three-part harmonies and jaw-dropping four-way lead breaks mark this wellspring of talent and energy, and when it comes to image, it's safe to say country fashion will never be the same.

Though they are Nashville-based and country at their core, the members of Jypsi are versatile enough to draw on a broad spectrum of musical influences, from Bill Monroe to Django Reinhardt, and to be invited to the stone country Stagecoach Festival in the California desert and to the more broadly based Bonnaroo in rural Tennessee and South by Southwest in Austin.


Sunday, 10 February 2013 08:22

Reba McEntire

Label: STADIUM ENTERTAINMENT -  Digital Release: My Country Smash Hits (Bundled - U.S. Only)

Reba McEntire - BIOGRAPHY

Reba McEntire was the most successful female recording artist in country music in the 1980s and 1990s, during which time she scored 22 number one hits and released five gold albums, six platinum albums, two double-platinum albums, four triple-platinum albums, a quadruple-platinum album, and a quintuple-platinum album, for certified album sales of 33.5 million over the 20-year period. While she continued to sell records in healthy numbers into the 21st century, she expanded her activities as an actress in film and on the legitimate stage, and particularly on television, where she starred in a long-running situation comedy.

Such diversification made her the greatest crossover star to emerge from country music since Dolly Parton. Reba Nell McEntire was born March 28, 1955, in McAlester, OK, the second daughter and third of four children of Clark Vincent McEntire, a professional steer roper, and Jacqueline (Smith) McEntire, a former school teacher. Her older brother Del Stanley ("Pake") McEntire also became a country singer, while her younger sister Martha Susan ("Susie") McEntire Luchsinger became a gospel singer.

McEntire was raised on the 7,000-acre family ranch in Chockie, OK, traveling with her parents and siblings to the rodeos at which her father competed. Clark McEntire was named World Champion Steer Roper three times, in 1957, 1958, and 1961. (McEntire's grandfather, John McEntire, had won the same title in 1934.) McEntire's mother had aspired to a career in music but never pursued it. She encouraged her children to sing and taught them songs and harmony during the long car trips between rodeos. Alice McEntire, the oldest child, did not actively seek a musical career, but the other three were members of a country group, the Kiowa High School Cowboy Band, as early as 1969, when McEntire began attending Kiowa High School in Kiowa, OK. She also entered local talent contests on her own. In 1971, the Kiowa High School Cowboy Band recorded a single, "The Ballad of John McEntire," for the tiny Boss Records label, which pressed 1,000 copies.

As the early '70s went on, the band gave way to a trio, the Singing McEntires, consisting of the three siblings, which performed at rodeos. McEntire also followed in the family tradition of competing, becoming a barrel racer, the only rodeo event open to women. McEntire graduated from high school in June 1973 and enrolled at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. While attending the National Rodeo Finals in Oklahoma City on December 10, 1974, she sang the national anthem on network television. Also present at the rodeo was country star Red Steagall, who was impressed by her voice and asked her to go to Nashville to record some demos for his song publishing company.

After she did so in March 1975 during her spring break from college, he took the tapes around town trying to get her a record deal and succeeded with Mercury Records, which signed her to a contract on November 11, 1975, that called for her to record two singles for the label. On January 22, 1976, she entered a Nashville recording studio and cut the first of those singles, "I Don't Want to Be a One Night Stand," which, upon its release, climbed to number 88 in the Billboard country singles chart in May. On June 21, 1976, she married Charlie Battles, a champion steer wrestler she had met at a rodeo.

Battles later became her business manager. On September 16, 1976, McEntire did her second Mercury recording session, which produced her second single, "(There's Nothing Like the Love) Between a Woman and a Man." It peaked at number 86 in March 1977. In the meantime, on December 16, 1976, she graduated from college on an accelerated three-and-a-half-year program with a major in elementary education and a minor in music, freeing her to pursue her career full-time. Her record label, however, seemed in no particular hurry, although it picked up her option for further recordings. Her third single, "Glad I Waited Just for You," recorded on April 13, 1977, peaked at number 88 in August, the same month Mercury released her debut album, Reba McEntire, which did not chart.

On September 17, 1977, she made her debut at the Grand Ole Opry. Two and a half years into her recording career, with very little to show for it, McEntire was paired with labelmate Jacky Ward for the two-sided single "Three Sheets in the Wind"/"I'd Really Love to See You Tonight" (the B-side a cover of the pop hit by England Dan & John Ford Coley), which reached number 20 in July 1978. That and her touring as an opening act for Steagall, Ward, and others increased her exposure, and her next solo single, "Last Night, Ev'ry Night," reached number 28 in October, beginning a string of singles that made it at least into the country Top 40. She first got into the Top 20 with her cover of the Patsy Cline hit "Sweet Dreams," which peaked at number 19 in November 1979. She still wasn't selling any albums, however; her second LP, Out of a Dream, released in September 1979, did not chart. McEntire continued to make strides on the singles chart, reaching the Top Ten for the first time with "(You Lift Me) Up to Heaven," which peaked at number eight in August 1980.

Feel the Fire, her third album, released in October 1980, was another failure, but after a couple more Top 20 singles she reached the Top Five with "Today All Over Again" in October 1981. The song was featured on her fourth album, Heart to Heart, released in September, which helped it become her first to chart, reaching number 42 in the country LP list. She achieved a new high on the singles chart in August 1982 when "I'm Not That Lonely Yet" reached number three. It was included on her fifth album, Unlimited, released in June 1982, which hit number 22. But that was only the beginning. The LP also spawned "Can't Even Get the Blues" and "You're the First Time I've Thought About Leaving," which became back-to-back number one hits in January and April 1983. By then, she had moved up from playing nightclubs and honky tonks to being the regular opening act for the Statler Brothers. She went on to work in the same capacity with Conway Twitty, Ronnie Milsap, Mickey Gilley, and others.

It might be argued that Mercury Records had taken a 20-year-old neophyte singing the national anthem at a rodeo and, over a period of more than seven years, groomed her until she became a chart-topping country star. McEntire appears not to have viewed things that way, however. On the contrary, she seems to have been unhappy with the songs the label gave her to sing and the musical approach taken on her records, feeling that she was being pushed too much in a country-pop direction. She also has criticized Mercury's promotional efforts on her behalf. And, despite her recent success, the long years of development meant she was nowhere near repaying the investment Mercury had made in her, which, of course, was charged against her potential royalties on the company books. (Although she received yearly advances from the label, she later said that she did not see her first royalties from Mercury until 1988.)

So, she sought a release from her contract and, after cutting one more album for Mercury, her sixth LP, Behind the Scene, released in September 1983, she signed to MCA Records, her new contract taking effect on October 1, 1983. The first fruits of the switchover suggested that not much had changed. Her debut MCA single, "Just a Little Love," was a Top Five hit in June 1984, shortly after the release of an album of the same name, but that LP was actually less successful than Unlimited. McEntire took strong action. Set to have Harold Shedd (Alabama's producer, and thus a hot commercial property) produce her next album, she rejected his suggestions for songs and the sweetened arrangements he imposed on them and appealed to Jimmy Bowen, the newly installed president of MCA's country division. Bowen allowed her to pick her own material and to eliminate the strings and other pop touches used on Just a Little Love and her Mercury releases.

The result was the pointedly titled My Kind of Country, released in November 1984, which was dominated by covers of old country songs previously performed by Ray Price, Carl Smith, Connie Smith, and Faron Young. Even before the album's release, however, and before its advance single, "How Blue," hit number one, McEntire was named Female Vocalist of the Year by the Country Music Association (CMA) on October 8, 1984. It was a surprising win; Dolly Parton, Barbara Mandrell, and Charly McClain had all arguably been more successful during the previous 12 months. But it was a forward-looking recognition for a performer who was wisely aligning herself with such artists as Ricky Skaggs and George Strait as a "new traditionalist," moving country music back to its roots after the decline of the pop-country Urban Cowboy phenomenon of the early '80s. "How Blue" hit number one in January 1985, followed by the second single from My Kind of Country, "Somebody Should Leave," which topped the chart in May as the album reached number 13. (Eventually, it was certified gold.) With such success, McEntire was able to start headlining her own concerts.

For her next album, Have I Got a Deal for You, released in July 1985, she worked directly with Bowen, the two billed as co-producers. Another new traditionalist collection, it included her own composition "Only in My Mind," a Top Five hit, as well as a Top Ten hit in the title song; though the LP was not as successful as its predecessor, it too went gold over time, and it helped McEntire earn her second consecutive CMA award as Female Vocalist of the Year. Another important accolade came on January 14, 1986, when she became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Perhaps even more important than McEntire's decision to perform music in a more traditional country style was her search for material that she felt women would respond to.

Just as Loretta Lynn had spoken for pre-feminist women in the 1960s, McEntire had begun to address the emotional and empowering concerns of women in the 1980s. "Whoever's in New England," her next single, released in January 1986 just ahead of an album of the same name, was a case in point. Kendal Franceschi and Quentin Powers' song was written in the voice of a Southern woman who believes her husband is having an affair during his business trips up north, but pledges that she will remain available to him when "whoever's in New England's through with you." It was a career-making song for McEntire, not least because it was promoted by her first music video.

Reaching number one in May 1986, it marked a major breakthrough for her, beginning a string of chart-topping hits that didn't begin to slow down for the next three years. "Little Rock," the follow-up single, also hit number one, as did the Whoever's in New England album, her first LP to be certified gold. (It later went platinum.) Her career in high gear, McEntire released her next album, What Am I Gonna Do About You, in September 1986, prefaced by a single of the same name that hit number one, as did the gold-selling LP, which also featured the chart-topping single "One Promise Too Late." On October 13, 1986, McEntire not only won her third consecutive Female Vocalist of the Year Award from the CMA, but also was named Entertainer of the Year. On February 24, 1987, she won her first Grammy Award for Country Female Vocal for "Whoever's in New England."

She released Reba McEntire's Greatest Hits in April; it became her first platinum album and eventually sold over three million copies. (It also became her first album ever to cross over to the pop charts.) On June 25, 1987, she filed for divorce from Charlie Battles, her husband of 11 years. After her divorce was settled and Battles was awarded the couple's ranch in Oklahoma, she moved to Nashville. McEntire's string of hits continued with the release of The Last One to Know in September 1987, prefaced by a single of the same name that reached number one in December. The album, also featuring the number one hit "Love Will Find Its Way to You," reached number three and eventually went platinum.

McEntire won an unprecedented fourth straight CMA award as Female Vocalist of the Year in October. In November, she released a holiday album, Merry Christmas to You, which, over the years, sold more than two million copies. She engendered controversy with her next album release, Reba, which appeared in May 1988. Here, an artist who had jumped on the new traditionalist bandwagon in 1984 abruptly jumped off, returning to more of a pop-oriented style, without a fiddle or a steel guitar anywhere. The album's leadoff single was "Sunday Kind of Love," a cover of the 1947 Jo Stafford pop hit.

It peaked at number five in July, actually the worst showing for a McEntire single in nearly three years. But the album had already begun a run of eight weeks at number one by then, and it was supported by the subsequent chart-topping singles "I Know How He Feels" and "New Fool at an Old Game." It eventually went platinum. Also in 1988, McEntire founded Starstruck Entertainment, a company that handled management, booking, publishing, and other aspects of her career and, eventually, represented other artists as well. Sweet Sixteen, released in May 1989, was actually McEntire's 14th regular studio album, but her 16th counting her authorized MCA hits compilation and Christmas album. The leadoff single was a cover of the Everly Brothers' "Cathy's Clown" that hit number one in July, and it was followed by three Top Ten hits, "'Til Love Comes Again," "Little Girl," and "Walk On," as the LP spent 13 weeks at the top of the charts, with sales eventually crossing the million mark 

It also reached the pop Top 100. McEntire had already recorded her next album, Live, the previous April for release in September and, though it took more than a decade, another platinum certification. That gave her some breathing space. On June 3, 1989, she married Narvel Blackstock, her manager, who had been part of her organization since joining her band as its steel guitar player in 1980. On February 23, 1990, she bore him a son, Shelby Steven McEntire Blackstock. A month earlier, she had made her feature film acting debut in the comic horror film Tremors, which had been shot the previous spring. McEntire was back on tour by May 1990, and she returned to record making in September with her 15th regular studio album, Rumor Has It, which was prefaced by the single "You Lie," a number one hit. Three other songs from the LP placed in the country Top Ten: the title song, a revival of Bobbie Gentry's 1969 hit "Fancy," and "Fallin' Out of Love." The album eventually sold three million copies. McEntire was on tour promoting it when, on March 16, 1991, seven members of her band and her road manager were killed in a plane crash after a show in San Diego. She dedicated her next album, For My Broken Heart, to them when it was released in October. The disc was another massive hit, going gold and platinum simultaneously shortly after its release and eventually selling four million copies, its singles including the chart-topping title song and another number one,

"Is There Life Out There." Also in 1991, McEntire co-starred in the TV mini-series The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw. Her 17th album, It's Your Call, was released in December 1992, and, like Rumor Has It, it was an immediate million seller, eventually going triple platinum. (It was also her first Top Ten pop album.) Its biggest single was "The Heart Won't Lie," a duet with Vince Gill that hit number one in April 1993. McEntire's next chart-topper was also a duet, "Does He Love You," sung with Linda Davis; it hit number one in November 1993 and was included on her September release Greatest Hits, Vol. 2, an album that sold two million copies practically out of the box and another three million over the next five years. "Does He Love You" won McEntire her second Grammy, for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals, and a CMA award for Vocal Event. She also appeared in the TV movie The Man from Left Field in 1993. By 1994, while continuing to reign as country's most successful female singer, McEntire was increasingly turning her attention to other concerns.

Her 18th regular studio album, Read My Mind, appeared in April. Another instant million-seller that went on to go triple platinum, it threw off five country chart singles, among them the chart-topping "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter" and, controversially, "She Thinks His Name Was John," a song about a woman who contracts AIDS from a one-night stand. Even McEntire's star power could propel such an atypical country subject only as high as number 15 in the charts. Meanwhile, she had parts in two feature films released during the summer, a speaking role in the drama North and a cameo in the children's comedy The Little Rascals. (She also made an uncredited appearance in the Western film Maverick and was heard on the soundtrack album.) She executive produced and starred in a TV movie based on her song, Is There Life Out There?

And she published her autobiography, Reba: My Story, which became a best-seller. McEntire's 19th album was called Starting Over, released in October 1995. Intended to mark the 20th anniversary of her recording career, it was a collection of covers of well-known songs. It not only topped the country charts but hit number five in the pop charts, selling a million copies out of the box. But, boasting only one Top Ten hit, a revival of Lee Greenwood's "Ring on Her Finger, Time on Her Hands," among three chart singles, and not achieving a multi-platinum certification, it suggested that McEntire finally had peaked commercially as far as country music was concerned. (In a considerable departure for a country singer, MCA released a dance remix of McEntire's revival of the Supremes' "You Keep Me Hangin' On" from the album that reached number two on Billboard's dance chart.)

That didn't keep her from starring in another TV mini-series, Buffalo Gals, playing famed Western sharpshooter Annie Oakley, a part her rodeo background suited her to perfectly. She bounced back on the country charts somewhat with her 20th album, What If It's You, released in November 1996. The album spawned four Top 20 hits, with "How Was I to Know" reaching number one and "The Fear of Being Alone" and "I'd Rather Ride Around with You" each getting to number two. Simultaneously certified gold and platinum, the album eventually topped two million copies. The singles drawn from What If It's You kept McEntire's name in the country charts throughout 1997, as did the holiday benefit record "What If," the proceeds from which were donated to the Salvation Army. But for the first time since 1978, she did not release a new album, even a compilation, during the calendar year. Aiming for a splash, she teamed up with the popular country duo Brooks & Dunn in the spring of 1998 for a single called "If You See Him/If You See Her." It hit number one in June, helping to set up the release of her 21st album, If You See Him, which also brought her three additional Top Ten hits on its way to selling a million copies. She appeared in the TV movie Forever Love (the title of one of those Top Ten hits) during the year and made several guest-star appearances on TV series.

After publishing her second book of memoirs, Comfort from a Country Quilt, in May 1999, McEntire had two new albums ready for the fall. Secret of Giving: A Christmas Collection, a September release, was her second holiday CD, which she accompanied with a TV movie, Secret of Giving. The disc eventually went gold. So Good Together, issued in November, was her 22nd regular studio album, prefaced by the Top Five single "What Do You Say." Although none of the songs from the album topped the country charts, it did feature a second Top Five hit, "I'll Be," and a Top 20 hit in "We're So Good Together," and it went platinum before the end of 2000. As in 1997, McEntire went without an album release in 2000, and in this case, it turned out that she definitely was positioning herself for a career beyond country music, as events in 2001 showed. In February of that year, she stepped in as a replacement star in the Broadway revival of Irving Berlin's musical Annie Get Your Gun that had begun performances in 1999 with Bernadette Peters in the title role of Annie Oakley.

Barry and Fran Weissler, the producers of the revival, were known on Broadway for making money by keeping production costs down and by the extensive use of what was derisively called "stunt casting": bringing in a well-known personality, often one without much of a theater background, as a replacement to extend the run of a show, as a means of exciting the tourist crowd who would recognize the name of a prominent TV star, for example. McEntire had been preceded as a replacement in Annie Get Your Gun by soap opera star Susan Lucci and TV actress Cheryl Ladd, both of whom kept the show going while being largely ignored or derided by theater insiders. McEntire turned out to be an entirely different proposition. First, although she lacked legitimate theater experience, she had by now done plenty of acting on television and even a little in film. Second, she had long since brought unusually high production values to her concerts that included choreography and costume changes, good preparation for similar demands in the theater. Third, she could, of course, sing. And fourth, with her rodeo background and Oklahoma accent, she was an ideal Annie Oakley, just as she had been in her previous TV portrayal. (Never mind that the real Annie Oakley was from Ohio; in everybody's mind, this female sharpshooter and star of Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, the precursor to the modern rodeo, was a Westerner.) The result was a triumph for McEntire. Reviews were ecstatic, and tickets sold out.

The Tony Awards did not have a category for replacements (one has since been added), but she was given special awards for her performance by the Drama Desk, the Outer Critics Circle, and Theatre World. She stayed in the show until June 22, 2001. Unfortunately, there was no new cast album recorded to immortalize her appearance. During the run of Annie Get Your Gun, McEntire was seen in a small part in the film One Night a McCool's, released in April 2001. Her most extensive filmed acting role began on October 5, 2001, however, when the half-hour situation comedy Reba premiered on the WB TV network (later renamed the CW network). The show became the primary focus of McEntire's activities, and she moved to Los Angeles to accommodate it. She had not, however, given up country music entirely. In the summer of 2001, she released a single, "I'm a Survivor," that peaked in the country Top Five and prefaced a new compilation, Greatest Hits, Vol. 3:

I'm a Survivor, released in October. It topped the country charts and went gold. McEntire was occupied primarily with her TV series during 2002 and 2003. She finally returned to record making after two years in the summer of 2003 with a new single, "I'm Gonna Take That Mountain," which peaked in the country Top 20. Room to Breathe, her 23rd regular studio album and first in three years, followed in November and went platinum over the next nine months. The disc's second single, "Somebody," hit number one, and it was followed by another Top Ten hit, "He Gets That from Me," and the Top 20 "My Sister." Reba continued on into 2004 and 2005. McEntire found time in the spring of 2005 to return to the musical theater, if only for one night. In another piece of inspired casting, she portrayed the "cock-eyed optimist" from Arkansas, Ensign Nellie Forbush, in a special concert version of Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific performed at Carnegie Hall. The all-star production, also featuring Broadway star Brian Stokes Mitchell and actor Alec Baldwin, was filmed for a PBS special on the network's Great Performances series and recorded for an album, both of which appeared in 2006.

By 2005, the catalogs of Mercury and MCA had been combined in the major label Universal, and in November MCA released McEntire's first combined hits collection, the double-CD set Reba: 1's, with two newly recorded tracks. It went gold and platinum simultaneously. In 2006, as she began the sixth season of Reba, McEntire also voiced a character in the holiday film release Charlotte's Web. The sixth season of Reba proved to be the last, as the show signed off the air on February 18, 2007. Not one to sit idle, McEntire toured the U.S. from May 25 through August. On September 18, 2007, she released a new album, Reba Duets, featuring such guests as Justin Timberlake, Don Henley, Kelly Clarkson, Kenny Chesney, Carole King, Faith Hill, Ronnie Dunn of Brooks & Dunn, Vince Gill, Rascal Flatts, LeAnn Rimes, and Trisha Yearwood. It was prefaced by the single "Because of You," a duet with Clarkson. For the week ending October 6, 2007, Reba Duets became McEntire's first album ever to enter the pop charts at number one. 

The October 28, 2008, release of the three-disc set 50 Greatest Hits marked the conclusion of her contract with MCA Nashville, and McEntire signed to Valory Music. Through the singer’s Starstruck imprint, Valory released her next album, Keep on Loving You, on August 18, 2009. For the week ending September 5, 2009, it became her second album to enter the Billboard pop chart at number one.




Sunday, 10 February 2013 08:22

Lady Antebellum

Label: STADIUM ENTERTAINMENT -  Digital Release: My Country Smash Hits (Bundled - U.S. Only)

lady antebellum logo

Lady Antebellum - BIOGRAPHY

Formed in 2006 by Charles Kelley (brother of singer/songwriter Josh Kelley), Hillary Scott (daughter of Grammy-winning country artist Linda Davis), and Dave Haywood, Lady Antebellum blends contemporary country with soulful '60s R&B into an infectious modern brew that relies on the trio's rich harmonies and impeccable instrumental skills. Since its inception, the trio has gone from dive bars to the Grand Ole Opry, opening for Phil Vassar, Rodney Atkins, and Carrie Underwood along the way. The group signed with Capitol Nashville in 2007 and released its first single, "Love Don't Live Here," which peaked at number three on the country charts. A self-titled debut album followed in April 2008, featuring production from Victoria Shaw and Paul Worley and stocked with more country hits (including the chart-topping single "I Run To You," which also enjoyed crossover success as a Top 40 pop hit). 

Within a year and a half, Lady Antebellum's debut had gone platinum and earned a Grammy nomination, and the band enjoyed its newfound success while putting the finishing touches on a second album. Need You Now appeared in early 2010, and its leadoff single -- "Need You Now" -- became the group's highest-charting song to date, topping the country charts while peaking at number five on the Billboard Hot 100.





Sunday, 10 February 2013 08:22

Darius Rucker

Label: STADIUM ENTERTAINMENT -  Digital Release: My Country Smash Hits (Bundled - U.S. Only)

Darius Rucker - BIOGRAPHY
As the frontman of Hootie & the Blowfish, Darius Rucker changed the face of mainstream pop/rock in the mid-'90s. Songs like "Hold My Hand" and "Only Wanna Be with You" peppered Hootie & the Blowfish's popular debut, which eventually sold over 16 million copies and became one of the most successful albums of all time.
Hootie & the Blowfish never revisited that meteoric success again, however, and the band took a break from recording after the release of Musical Chairs in 1998. Rucker used his free time wisely and launched a solo career, which allowed the singer to explore his R&B and country influences.
Born and raised in Charleston, SC, Rucker was exposed to the sounds of Otis Redding, Al Green, and Gladys Knight at an early age. Those R&B icons helped influence Hootie & the Blowfish's recordings, all of which emphasized Rucker's soulful baritone, but it wasn't until the singer's solo career that he truly paid homage to the sounds of his youth.
Rucker planned to jump-start his solo career with The Return of Mongo Slade, which was slated for a summer 2001 release by Atlantic Records, but contractual changes prevented the album's release. A few months later, Rucker jumped ship for Hidden Beach Recordings, which then acquired the master recordings of his debut from Atlantic.
After making a cameo in the Farrelly brothers' movie Shallow Hal, Rucker introduced his mellow, R&B-influenced style with 2002's Back to Then, which featured collaborations with Jill Scott and Snoop Dogg.
Rucker then returned his focus to Hootie & the Blowfish, releasing two albums with the group during the early 2000s, before revisiting his solo career. This time, he opted for a country approach, and the twangy Learn to Live found an appropriate home among country music fans (who sent both the album and its flagship single, "Don't Think I Don't Think About It," to the top of the Billboard country charts). ~ Andrew Leahey & MacKenzie Wilson, All Music Guide





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