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Lady Antebellum Release “Downtown” Lyric Video

We do not cover country music nearly enough, and the following song is reason enough for us to cover the genre more in the months to come.

Lady Antebellum have been one of the highlights of country music in the pop world over the last few years, and with the release of their lyric video for “Downtown” today it seems likely they’ll stay atop the chart for the foreseeable future. The song has a relatively simple verse/chorus/verse pop structure, but there is a sincerity in the music that is near impossible to deny. Everything about your being will want to like this song, so stop waiting around and click below to enjoy “Downtown.”

“Downtown” will be available for purchase on all digital retailers beginning next Tuesday, February 5.

If you enjoy Lady Antebellum, check out OS act Bronze Radio Return!

Exclusive Q and A: Darius Rucker Talks Prince, His Next Album and “Hootie”

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsThese are exciting times for Darius Rucker. Not only is he out on the “Own the Night” tour with Lady Antebellum but he’s ready to release his third album. The hotly-anticipated record will follow the much-loved 2010 release Charleston SC 1966 that debuted at the top of the country charts and his now-platinum debut album Learn to Live, which was released in 2008. And that’s just the beginning.

He’s musically partnered with a host of other artists, including Lionel Richie for a duet of “Stuck on You” which is on Richie’s album Tuskegee. He also remains very involved in several high-profile charity events, including this month’s Third Annual  ”Darius and Friends” benefit show in Nashville which raised money for St. Jude Children Research Hospital.

Rucker took time out from his busy schedule to talk to OurStage about his new album, his current tour, and just what inspired him to become a musician, anyway.

OS: So what can audiences expect at your upcoming shows?

DR: We will probably be playing the new single soon. When I play, audiences can expect a lot of music from both records [Learn to Live released in 2008 and Charleston SC 1066] and some cool cover songs. I’m just trying to have fun.

OS: On the fan boards, some folks say you always play Prince’s “Purple Rain.” Why do you play it so often?

DR: I always wanted to play it! The funny thing was, I was rehearsing with the band and my drummer (the band leader) said “Have you ever wanted to play ‘Purple Rain?’” I had never played it because I didn’t know if it would work in a country set. Now we always play it. If I don’t play it, I get nasty emails. So we are always playing it now.

Continue reading ‘Exclusive Q and A: Darius Rucker Talks Prince, His Next Album and “Hootie”’

Sound and Vision: Why Recording Artists Should Look on the Bright Side of Piracy

“I’m a music fan that didn’t have a lot of pocket money as a kid. I bought what I could afford and taped the rest off radio or made a tape from my friend’s copy of the album.”

That’s what John Taylor of Duran Duran recently told Time Out Melbourne on the subject of illegal downloading. When I read Taylor’s comments, I applauded as if his band had just completed a rousing encore of “Skin Trade.” Finally, a pop star who understands what it’s like to be low on cash but high on music.

Back in the old pre-Internet days, before iTunes, Amazon and having access to the latest hits 24/7 on YouTube, if you couldn’t afford to pay to listen to the music you loved anytime you wanted to, you had to improvise. For me, and, apparently, for Taylor, that meant pushing a tape recorder up the speakers of the radio, waiting for your favorite song to come on, pressing play when it did, and praying for no outside noise to interfere with the sweet music coming from the speakers.

Continue reading ‘Sound and Vision: Why Recording Artists Should Look on the Bright Side of Piracy’

Is Scott McCreery’s Success The Proof Of Youth?

Looks like Scott McCreery is the next pop-country super star.

The American Idol alum seems to fit the bill pretty well. A clean cut crooner with faith to spare, a couple of singles under his belt and a charming “golly, gee shucks” attitude. No surprise that his debut record moved a ton of units in the first week and made chart history. The 200,000 copies of Clear As Day sold in the first week was good enough to net McCreery the second best debut of the year. Now the question is what makes this young kid so unique, aside from his success?

It’s exactly that. In a field that doesn’t have that many youthful stars, McCreery is young—he really was a kid, for all intensive purposes, until his eighteenth birthday on October 7th. Sure, there’s the likes of Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum but can you think of any other established country music stars that aren’t old enough to drink? There’s a reason why his newest video takes place in chem class (and it’s just an honors course too, it won’t even count for college credit).

Continue reading ‘Is Scott McCreery’s Success The Proof Of Youth?’

Vocal Points: When Two Voices Become One

Lady Antebellum has a spark. There’s something about the way that Hillary Scott’s clear voice meshes with fellow lead vocalist Charles Kelley’s rougher tones. The way that the two of them sing, weaving their voices back and forth to tell a story, combined with the way that these two powerful voices can give and take seamlessly is so special. The combination of their voices creates an effect which evokes double the emotion, showcases double the talent and makes for an all-around great listen.

There have been many country acts who use both male and female vocals to add variety to their sound, but few have been able to mesh the voices as successfully and as consistently as Lady Antebellum. Many artists choose to create a solo album and then feature duets with other singers, for example Jason Aldean, who collaborated with Kelly Clarkson for a track on his album My Kinda Party, or Brad Paisley‘s duet “Remind Me” with Carrie Underwood. But it is truly remarkable that every song by Antebellum utilizes both Kelley’s and Scott’s voices to their full potential.

Although less well-known than Lady Antebellum, The Civil Wars—an alternative country/folk duo—also blends the voices of two singers (Joy Williams and John Paul White) into every song. Both Lady Antebellum and The Civil Wars feature voices that could easily stand alone, but together create something much more magical. Because these singers are equally incredible at harmonizing and keeping a balance where neither is over-powering, they can create a sound which is phenomenal.

Continue reading ‘Vocal Points: When Two Voices Become One’

Your Country’s Right Here: Stealing Angels Will Swipe Your Heart

Before you ween yourself from listening to more up-and-coming country musicians—after all, there are only so many hours in a day—you owe it to yourself to check out the music of Stealing Angels.

Caroline Cutbirth, Jennifer Wayne and Tayla Lynn—who are currently on a tour ten-day tour of Iraq and Kuwait to entertain US troops—are set to release their first album Paper Heart in a few months. Early word is that the songs are musical magic. The trio, who are related to Daniel Boone, John Wayne and Loretta Lynn respectively, have been wowing audiences as they have toured in support of Lady Antebellum, Kid Rock and others.

“We were just three girls in Nashville trying to make it,” said Lynn of her chance meeting with Cutbirth and Wayne. “Our agents got us together for an audition for a reality show (that never materialized) and it just went from there.”

Although happenstance brought the three together, the music they crafted was anything but random. Famed producer Paul Worley was so captivated by the trio’s sound that he signed them to his Skyville Records label and produced their upcoming album. That, say the trio, made their music truly come alive.

“Paul is a genius and the way he produced it is magic,” said Cutbirth, who had met Wayne a few months before they made the acquaintance of Lynn. “The first couple times welistened to it, it sounded like poetry. It’s that beautiful.”

Yet the two singles Stealing Angels have released—the title track of the album and the song “He Better Be Dead” (check out the music video below)—are about the universal topics of romance and heartbreak to which everyone can relate. Although the three said they had plenty of fodder for songs, the real trick was to take their three solo songwriting artistry and make them one.

“Everyone talks about heart break and love in different ways,” said Cutbirth. “We started writing together and that really helped us gel as a trio even though we were each solo artists. I’m more more pop country, Jen is more Patsy Cline and Tayla is more Lucinda Williams. We bring that all together when we write songs.”

It’s almost too easy to say the three were born to continue the tradition of country music, yet listening to them you do begin to wonder if destiny has played a role in their careers.

“I remember when I was nineteen years old standing in the wings at concert when really realized who my grandmother was,” said Lynn. “The shows she puts on, the woman she is and what she’s done for country music. I just knew I had to perform…And now we’ve gotten so many fans of [my grandmother's] and John Wayne and Daniel Boone, it sure feels right.”

Find out more about Stealing Angels by going to their Web site.

Sound And Vision: Five Music Stars With Family Members You Didn’t Know Were (Almost) Famous

For many an aspiring singer, having the right last name can provide a considerable career boost. Though the pop flames of many celebrity offspring and siblings burn out after a handful of hits, if that many (poor Julian Lennon, Jakob Dylan, Lisa-Marie Presley, Wilson Phillips, Nelson, Lalah Hathaway, Louise Mandrell, Stella Parton and Ashlee Simpson), a precious few have managed to sustain significant music careers. (Natalie Cole and Liza Minnelli come immediately to mind, as do Rosanne Cash, Pam Tillis and Nancy Sinatra.) Meanwhile, Sean Ono Lennon has never troubled himself with the pursuit of mainstream success, and the jury is still out on Miley Cyrus and Will and Jada Pinkett Smith‘s brood.
Francis Bean Cobain, your move.
While we’re waiting for the daughter of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love to claim what would seem to be her birthright, we’ve got plenty of big names from musical families to entertain us—though many fans might not even realize their impressive lineages. Family value may have given these performers opportunities early on, but in the end, like Nancy Sinatra’s dad, they did it their way—not because of their surnames. Yes, nepotism is alive and well in pop—and it probably will continue to be—but these brothers and sisters (and sons and daughters) are doing it, for the most part, for better and worse, for themselves.

Ke$ha

The woman who is responsible for some of the trendiest pop hits this side of Katy Perry’s breasts is actually a little bit country. Seriously. Though I wouldn’t expect her to break out into yodeling mid-song, in-between swigs of Jack, I also never say never. Her mom Pebe Sebert cowrote “Old Flames Can’t Hold a Candle To You,” which was  No. 1 country hit for Dolly Parton in 1980. I once interviewed Parton, and when I told her that “Old Flames” was one of my favorite of her songs growing up, she feigned indignation and snapped, “Oh, and it just happens to be one I didn’t write!” So not only is Ke$ha responsible for throwing “Tik Tok” on an unsuspecting world, but thanks to her mom, I incited the ire of Dolly.
Albert Hammond Jr.
I didn’t think it was possible, but the dad and namesake of the Strokes guitarist might be even cooler than his little boy— if you happen to be a fan of ’70s and ’80s soft-rock. I saw an infomercial for his most recent album, Legend, on Australian TV recently, and I was shocked by all of the major hits the singer and producer has written (from his own “It Never Rains in Southern California” and the Hollies’ “The Air That I Breathe” to Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias’s “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before” and Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”). His most recent high-profile production: Endlessly, the sophomore album by Welsh singer Duffy, who, contrary to popular belief, is not the daughter of Shakin’ Stevens.
Chord Overstreet
Why don’t the Glee kids give more props to country music? After all, one of their very own, Overstreet, the blond-haired, pout-lipped actor who plays the blond-haired, pout-lipped Sam Evans, is directly descended from Paul Overstreet, one of the biggest country stars of the late ’80s and early ’90s, with nine straight Top 10 hits, including two No. 1s. Though the cast of Glee have yet to make it to Billboard’s country singles chart, Overstreet the elder must be proud that over on the Hot 100, his Nashville-born son is part of the act that’s now had more hits than Elvis.
Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum
Speaking of country, Lady Antebellum has two members who are part of the family business. Hillary Scott’s mom, Linda Davis, had a No. 1 GRAMMY-winning hit duet with Reba McEntire in 1993 called “Does He Love You.” Charles Kelly’s big brother Josh is a singer-songwriter who’s married to former Grey’s Anatomy star and current rom-com regular Katherine Heigl. Thanksgiving dinner at the Kelley’s house must be some star-studded affair. I wonder if there’s a red carpet leading to the turkey?

Your Country’s Right Here: The Randy Rogers Band Talk ACMs, Texas Music, And Willie Nelson

Randy Rogers, who fronts the band that bears his name, didn’t take it lightly when they received a nomination for Top Vocal Group from the Academy of Country Music.

Just before heading to Las Vegas for the April 3 event, hosted by Reba McEntire and Blake Shelton, Rogers said that the nomination was one of the highlights of his career. He didn’t even focus on the award. Other nominees in that category are Little Big Town, the Band Perry, the Zac Brown Band and the award winner Lady Antebellum.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say it means the world to us,” says Rogers of the nomination. “It’s a huge deal for all of us, the band and crew. My parents [came] to Vegas for it. It’s a huge, huge deal to us. We’ve taken a different path when it comes to the national spotlight.”

The band has truly carved its path the old-fashioned way during its 10-year career, playing 200-plus concerts a year, charity events and appearing on late night television. The nod for the award in one of the most prestigious nationally recognized categories makes Rogers and his team feel as if all the hard work has paid off.

The band is also set apart from some others because they make it a point to constantly interact with fans during meet-and-greets and through social media. Rogers and his team take pride in having solid relationships with the fan base.

“I’m proud to bear the flag and wave the flag of the hard working acts out there,” said Rogers. “A lot of them don’t have label support like we do. A lot of them are putting out indie records and earning their fan bases. That is what we’ve done. Time with our fans is time well spent.”

Although it’s a fairly open secret that Texas-based bands may have a harder time making it than those in Nashville, the Randy Rogers Band has had some high-level fans—including Willie Nelson and Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel—rooting for them.

Rogers even mentions that he’s discussed recording with Nelson and Benson but it’s too soon to tell if that will materialize when the band begins pre-production for their eighth studio album this summer. If they do it, though, they won’t be shooting for a high charting record although they’d love to have one.

“We have been talking about that in the front lounge of the bus,” said Rogers. “I don’t think we ever tried too hard and I don’t think we are trying too much this time. We never had a radio hit. This will be the eighth record we are going to make and we’re just going to be us.

“Every time I’m writing a song, I won’t be thinking about a possible radio hit or if it would make a catchy tune on the radio. I’m going to write a record for us, that we want to play every night and that represents our band and who we are.”

The Randy Rogers Band are on tour. For concert and other information, check their Web site.

Sound And Vision: Will Adele Beat the GRAMMYs Best New Artist Curse?

Adele should have been a contender, but who knew she’d end up being arguably the UK’s female act most likely to still be succeeding in 10 years?
When she arrived on the pop scene in 2008 with her debut album 19, she was sandwiched between— and overshadowed by—fellow Brit-soul divas Amy Winehouse and Duffy. Then something unexpected happened at the 2009 GRAMMY Awards, where Adele was nominated in four categories, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year for “Chasing Pavements,” her second single. Against all conceivable odds, she pushed Jonas Brothers, Lady Antebellum and Duffy aside to take Best New Artist, the prize Winehouse had claimed one year earlier.
Though the careers of GRAMMY’s Best New Artists have gone in many different directions (good luck, Esperanza Spalding), the high failure rate has spawned the urban legend known as the Best New Artist GRAMMY curse. Yes, some (Bette Midler, Sade and Mariah Carey, among them) have gone on to major careers and/or iconic status, but just as often (Starland Vocal Band, Debby Boone, Paula Cole, etc.), they haven’t. And at least one (Milli Vanilli) had the award rescinded for not bothering to sing a note on the album for which they won it.
Her freshman-year GRAMMY haul aside (she also took home Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for “Chasing Pavements”), Adele has had a slow build by contemporary pop-star standards. Her first album arrived under the radar in January of 2008 and stayed there for most of the year. But by autumn, Adele was in the right place at the right time: performing on an episode of Saturday Night Live, which—thanks to an appearance by then-US Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin—became the program’s highest-rated episode in fourteen years. (Does that mean she owes her US success to Sarah Palin?)
The chart action that ensued may have been a no-brainer, but there’s nothing predictable about Adele. It’s not just that she sounds far more seasoned than you might expect twenty-two-year-old to be. On her 19 version of Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love”— recently still hovering high on the UK singles chart more than two years after its release—she did what Billy Joel, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood and even Dylan himself had failed to do: She gave the song soul.
And that special brand of blue-eyed soulfulness is the foundation of her sophomore album, 21, its power and its glory. God knows where Winehouse is at the moment, what she’s doing and when/if she’ll ever resurface again. And Duffy inched farther into the pop realm on her second album, Endlessly, and the result has been poor sales in both the US and the UK. In contrast, the critical and commercial reception to 21, which was released on January 24th in the UK and will be out on February 22nd in the US, has been promising. A week into its life span, it was already platinum and No. 1 in Adele’s homeland.
Paul Epworth’s production on “Rolling in the Deep,” the opening track and first single, is as big as Adele’s voice (which I’d place closer to the husky domain of Alison Moyet or even Florence Welch than to Winehouse or Duffy), creating a huge wall of sound that’s like nothing else on the radio right now. It entered the UK singles chart at No. 2 a few weeks ago, immediately matching the peak of “Chasing Pavements,” and it’s cracked Billboard’s Hot 100. The album would have been more streamlined and focused with fewer producers (Epworth, Rick Rubin, Ryan Tedder and Adele herself are among the seven credited), but it’s more about Adele’s voice anyway, and at least she doesn’t sound like she’s moved on from chasing pavements to chasing hits.
It’s hard to imagine 21‘s best tracks— which include left-of-the-pop-mainstream songs like “Rumour Has It” and “He Won’t Go”— posing any major threat to the leading ladies on the Hot 100, but Adele’s against-the-grain musical mentality works in her favor. Despite those early comparisons to Winehouse and Duffy, Adele stands on her own musical ground. Because she’s not easily categorized, she’s not quickly forgotten.
As Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush and other iconoclastic legends have proven in the past, long, sturdy music careers need not be built on hit singles or pre-packaged sex appeal. When the dust settles and most of today’s pop starlets have fallen far out of flavor, Adele just might be the last woman standing.

Can’t Miss Country Christmas Albums For This Holiday Weekend

Months of pre-holiday music can make even the most ardent country music fan weary of the traditional tunes. Yet it’s easy enough to rock around the Christmas tree or ring in the New Year by downloading some of the plentiful, just-released holiday songs by your favorite country artists. Check out our picks for the Top 10 don’t-want-to-miss albums—old, new and re-issued.

1.”A Merry Little Christmas” by Lady Antebellum. Six GRAMMY nominations, and a sleigh full of CMA, AMA and Teen Choice awards indicate the trio’s time has arrived. Not bad when you consider that Hillary Scott—who joins Charles Kelley and David Haywood in the group—tried out for American Idol and never made it past the first stage. Despite all the hoopla surrounding the band and it’s Need You Now album and single, the trio has released a new six-song CD with such classics as “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow” and a country cover of “Silver Bells.” Want an original? “On This Winter’s Night,” co-written by Tom Douglas, is made even more haunting with the addition of a children’s choir.

2. “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” by Suzy Bogguss. You know Suzy from her platinum and gold songs and albums plus her CMA awards, but she has recently turned what many call the best country vocals in contemporary music to the holidays. Her new release includes classics such as “White Christmas” and “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” and her own spunky versions of songs including “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch.” All the songs were recorded with her band that just completed a holiday tour.

3. “Holly Happy Days” by the Indigo Girls. Combine Amy Ray’s rock sound, Emily Saliers folk tendencies, add a dose of bluegrass thanks to guests including renowned banjo player-guitarist Alison Brown and bassist Viktor Krauss (brother of Alison Krauss) and you have the makings of a classic. The duo recorded the album—which is a mix of nine classic holiday tunes and three originals—during two weeks in Nashville.

4. “The Taylor Swift Holiday Collection” by Taylor Swift.  In this celebrity news-heavy world, Swift must hold the title of most famous 21-year-old on the planet. The most commercially successful country (or country-pop) artist in music history, according to Nielsen SoundScan—who seems to win awards daily—released a holiday collection last year. With all the news that swirls around Taylor, it’s understandable if you missed it. Check it out though, and when you hear Swift crooning such classics as “Santa Baby” and “Silent Night” you’ll understand why Taylor’s gorgeous voice has placed her at the top of the country music world.

5. “Merry Christmas” by Shelby Lynne. Even if you missed the first tour between Lynne and her singer-songwriter sister Allison Moorer, you can still ring in the holidays with Lynne’s first holiday album. Besides the usual standards, Lynne included two new originals. One listen to her charming versions of “O Holy Night” and “Sleigh Ride/Winter Wonderland,” and you won’t be surprised that Lynne learned the songs as a child when her mom drove her and her sister to school.

6. “Merry Christmas” by Jessica Simpson. Before you scoff, remember that Simpson hails from Texas and has the twangy vocals and country sensibility to prove it. Her new release is a lot of fun because she only tackles a few classic holiday tunes such as “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” but concentrates more on lesser-known-but-still-loved songs including “Here Comes Santa Claus” and “Mary Did You Know?” You won’t want to miss her duet with Willie Nelson on “Merry Christmas Baby.”

7. “Christmas is the Time (to Say I Love You)” by Katherine McPhee. We know you think of McPhee—the American Idol alumni—as more pop than country, but let’s just agree that she’s a terrific all-around performer who’s scored both pop, holiday and country success. This new release debuted at No. 11 on the Billboard Top Holiday Albums charts. Plus her rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” hit No. 16 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart. And don’t forget her single “Love’s Never Leavin,’” a song McPhee co-wrote with country singer Chelsea Field. The Tammany Humane Society of Covington, La., will receive 100% of the proceeds. Check out the music and you’ll under McPheever.

8. “Christmas Comes Alive” by the Brian Setzer Orchestra. Setzer has come a long way since his days of singing “The Stray Cat Strut” as the frontman of the rockabilly band The Stray Cats. But don’t think that means he’s dulled down his sound. In this new holiday collection, which includes “Angels We Have Heard on High,” and “The Nutcracker Suite,” Setzer mixed rockabilly, big band and jazz sounds for a hot holiday sound.

9. “Christmas Music Live,” by Kenny Rogers. Looking at Kenny’s dozens and dozens awards from the CMT, AMA, CMA and GRAMMYs gives you only a piece of insight into the man who made songs such as “The Gambler” and “Lucille” beloved country anthems. Don’t forget that Rogers has made holiday songs and his annual “Christmas & Hits tour” a holiday tradition for many. Now he’s released his first live CD of holiday tunes Christmas Live, so you can join Kenny in singing “Joy to the World,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” other holiday classics as you sit in front of the fireplace.

10. “Christmas with Glen Campbell” by Glen Campbell. Baby boomer alert! Remember when Campbell’s weekly variety show was must-see TV in your house? Now the 1995 holiday album by the Rhinestone Cowboy has been re-released so you can hear him belt out “Jingle Bell Rock,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman,” and other holiday faves that Campbell recorded in Branson.

By Nancy Dunham

Nancy Dunham writes about music for Country Weekly, AOL Music’s site The Boot, The Washington Post, Relix and other publications.

 


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