Brad Paisely, Taylor Swift to compete for top honor as Country Music awards noms announced

NASHVILLE, Tennessee - Brad Paisley led the list of nominees for this year's Country Music Association awards, to be handed out November 11 in Nashville, the CMA said on Wednesday.Paisley will compete for the top honor of Entertainer of the Year with Taylor Swift, the first solo female artist nominated in that category since 2000. Other nominees in the category were Kenny Chesney, George Strait and Keith Urban.Chesney has won the Entertainer award in four out of the past five years, tying him with Garth Brooks for the most wins in the category. Strait, in his career, has a total of 79 nominations and is the all-time leader with 22 awards.Paisley, who is set to host with Carrie Underwood, garnered six nominations and was followed by Urban, Strait, Swift, and relative newcomers Jamey Johnson and Zac Brown with four each.The 43rd annual CMA Awards Show will be broadcast live by ABC beginning at 8 p.m. eastern, from the Sommet Center in Nashville. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

You in there, Nicole Kidman? Star goes Morticia Addams at Academy of Country Music Awards

Make way for Morticia! Nicole Kidman modeled the latest in "Addams Family" chic Sunday night in a L'Wren Scott dress that revealed ... absolutely nothing.The "Australia" star was covered from neck to toe at the Academy of Country Music Awards in black sequins, save for a low-cut back. Toes? Covered. Bare arms? Just try to find 'em. Kidman is a big fan of Scott, wearing the majority of the designer's Spring 2009 collection to various press events in recent months. But Scott may have gotten inspiration from fashionista Victoria Beckham, who donned a similar overly modest dress from her own collection on Oscar night. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Inner Tube: Trace Adkins giving it his best ‘Shot’ on Country Music Awards

Trace Adkins suggests viewers of Sunday's 44th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards watch closely when he performs his new song "'Til The Last Shot's Fired.' " "I've never performed the song live," Adkins says. "I'm doing it with the West Point Glee Club on television - and I may never do it again." The song, a look at the military, is being used to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project. The awards air at 8 p.m., and will feature performances by Lady Antebellum, Heidi Newfield, Jamey Johnson and others. "Somebody from the ACM asked if I'd perform that \[song\]," he says. "They'd heard the performance on the new record and they were looking for a way to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project and they called and asked if I'd do it."He said yes, of course, and recently spent a few hours one afternoon at West Point practicing with the glee club. "It was a thrill," Adkins said of visiting the military academy. Adkins' first album debuted in 1996, and he has ridden a steady string of hits since. His career leapt to a higher level of visibility after he appeared on the first season of NBC's "The Celebrity Apprentice.""I just get recognized more," Adkins said of the show's impact. "They always come up and say, 'I don't know nothing about your music ... but I saw you on 'The Apprentice.' "They always start off with an insult," he said, laughing.Being on the "Apprentice" also generated attention for the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, a group that helps families deal with allergies. Adkins daughter suffers from severe food allergies.Giving back, with that group, and with others, as he will on the ACM awards, comes with the job, he said."I already feel guilty," he said. "I come from a blue-collar background. I've worked in oil fields and construction all my adult life, until I got lucky and got a record deal. I know how fortunate and blessed I am. I do other things to make myself feel like I'm making a difference." Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

C’mon, y’all! Jessica Simpson booed at first country music show

Jessica Simpson's Daisy Dukes persona did little to endear her to the crowd at her first country music concert this weekend.The singer, who wore shorter-than-short shorts similar the ones she donned for 2005's "Dukes of Hazzard," was greeted by a mixture of boos and claps as she opened for Sara Evans on Saturday at the Country Thunder USA festival in Randall, Wisconsin. "I don't know what your perception is of Jessica Simpson or what tabloid you buy, but I just want you to know that I'm just a girl from Texas," Simpson said during her show. "I'm just like you. I'm doing what I love and dating a boy."Simpson, whose country album hits stores in September, dedicated the song "You're My Sunday" to her boyfriend, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who was in the audience to cheer for his girlfriend.But while there were some Simpson fans in the crowd, not everyone was smitten with the singer's foray into country music. "Just because she's dating Tony Romo it doesn't make her country," one concertgoer told the Kenosha News, a local paper. Another called the 28-year-old "an embarrassment to country music."Simpson told Billboard earlier this year that she decided to record a country album because, "I am a country girl. I grew up in Texas, and country music was what I listened to." The singer promised the crowd at Country Thunder that she has no plans to do another pop music album. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Julianne Hough of ‘Dancing with the Stars’ steps into country music

"Dancing with the Stars'" Julianne Hough and her partner Adam Carolla were the fourth pair to be eliminated from the competition this season, so Hough says she has been watching the show from home like any other fan. And even she has been shocked by some of the big eliminations. "I didn't expect my brother [Derek Hough, who also appears on 'DWTS' as a professional dancer] and Shannon [Elizabeth] to go that early," Hough told the Daily News. "I understand why they did, as far as their comments about the judges, but everybody has moments like that. I don't think their dancing should have eliminated them." Hough, 19, has appeared on ABC's "Dancing" for the past three seasons. She is the youngest professional on the show, and has already won the title twice, with partners Apolo Anton Ohno and Helio Castroneves. After her and Carolla's early ousting, Hough turned her attention to other pursuits, including acting as a spokesperson for MasterCard's new travel Web site and a country music career, with her debut album, "That Song in My Head," hitting stores today. "A lot of people know me as a dancer, but this album shows a different side of me," said Hough. "I've experienced a lot for someone my age that a lot of people will be able to relate to." Hough will be going on tour with Brad Paisley this summer and promises that fans who come out to see her sing will also get to see her moves on stage. "Obviously I'm not going to be breaking out into a samba, but I'm a natural performer and I can't sit still when the music comes on," Hough said. "No matter what, I'm going to be moving." Though Hough says singing is her passion, she does hope to return to the "Dancing" floor, if producers will have her. "It's just such a great show," she said. "It's not nasty, there's no backbiting and no drama. It has its dramatic moments, but not in a negative sense and people enjoy watching that. Plus, you get to see your favorite celebrities make Continue Reading

CMAs: Country music’s big night

Even as Dwight Yoakam paid tribute to the recently departed Porter Wagoner, a rhinestone-studded symbol of classic 1960s-1970s country, the performers on "Country's Biggest Night" confirmed again that they listened to as many rock guitars as down-home fiddles in their formative years.The big winners were country enough by the present definition - including the safe choice of Kenny Chesney for the night's most prestigious award, Entertainer of the Year.But the show itself was studded with the likes of Big and Rich, who filled the arena with crashing guitars they drily called "honking."Rascal Flatts' much-anticipated duet with Jamie Foxx, who sounded quite good, seemed to be stitched together from every corner of iTunes.Brad Paisley's "Online" featured everything but a high school marching band. No, wait, it did feature a high school marching band.Miranda Lambert could almost have been opening for Ozzy Osbourne when she sang "Gunpowder and Lead," which even sounds like an Ozzy number.Carrie Underwood, who gives country a contemporary glow just by walking on-stage because of her roots in "American Idol," clearly has listened to a few rock tunes in her day.It surprised no one when she was named Female Vocalist of the Year, or that she and Paisley were the only double winners.The Eagles performed "How Long," a new tune that sounds a lot like their old ones. They fit nicely into the current country sound, though they themselves look more than a little, well, weathered.The fact that Paisley sang a song about Internet dating, and this isn't the first country song about the Internet, suggests how far the music has traveled lyrically since even Hank Williams Jr., never mind Senior.The show did feature some traditional elements, like Allison Krauss singing "Simple Love" and big old hats for most of the guys. But when Yoakam peeked out from under his hat to deliver his short eulogy to Wagoner, it sounded and felt like Porter lived a hundred years ago.There was hardly a hint of Continue Reading

City welcomes 50 hours of country music radio

Country fans get their music back on New York radio for at least one weekend a year, with the annual Country Music Festival that kicks off tomorrow on WKCR (89.9 FM). It's a little shorter than some past festivals, but 50 hours is better than none, and the festival features vintage country as well as live tunes from city bands. The schedule: FRIDAY Noon-3 p.m.: Great country songwriters, like Billy Joe Shaver 3-6 p.m.: Modern country storytellers, like Robert Earl Keen and Guy Clark 6-7:30 p.m.: Live music, with New York bands in the studio 7:30-10:30 p.m.: Gram Parsons 10:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m.: 40 Years in Folsom Prison. The anniversary of Johnny Cash's famous live album SATURDAY 1:30 -4:30 a.m.: Uncle Tupelo and its family tree 4:30-7 a.m.: Murder ballads and disaster songs, 1913-1938. Based on recent box set of the same name 7-10 a.m: Zydeco 10 a.m.-1 p.m.: Norman Blake and Tony Rice 1-7 p.m.: Tribute to the late Porter Wagoner 7 p.m.-midnight: Tribute to the late Hank Thompson SUNDAY Midnight-3 a.m.: Johnny Cash and June Carter. Their duets 3-8 a.m.: Country rock 8-10 a.m.: Country gospel 10 a.m.-noon: Black string bands Noon-2 p.m.: Hank Williams MORNING SOUND: WNYE (91.5 FM) rolled out its new "Wake Up New York" show this week, with Kevin Cole from KEXP in Seattle providing smooth and fairly spare commentary on a wide selection of new music. Cole's three hours, 6-9, are music-intensive, the more so because WNYE is noncommercial. Some of the artists were fairly well-known, like Moby, others, less so. Cole keeps his voice modulated, that is, he isn't going to blast anybody out of bed. He stresses New York connections when he plays a band like They Might Be Giants. "Wake Up New York," which is followed by a similar show by John Richards from KEXP, 9 a.m.-noon, shows "independent" music does not sound as if it came from another galaxy. Much of it has been melodic and catchy, with influences Continue Reading

Remembering country music legend Porter Wagoner

With the possible exception of Hank Williams Sr., who set the standard in almost every area of country music, no one looked better in rhinestones than Porter Wagoner.But that wasn't the only reason that Wagoner's death Sunday, at the age of 80, left a hole in the country world.He wasn't one of those country stars who scored an unbroken trail of No. 1 hits. In fact, he only had three in a career that lasted more than a half century: "A Satisfied Mind," his 1955 breakthrough; "Misery Loves Company," seven years later; and a 1974 duet with Dolly Parton, "Please Don't Stop Loving Me" — which came out, ironically, just as the duo were going through a tense professional breakup. Wagoner was less a hitmaker, though he placed 81 songs on the charts, than one of country music's anchors — a fixture for two decades on television and much longer than that on radio's Grand Ole Opry. While country's style changed over the decades from the steel guitar and fiddles of Hank Sr. to the cheatin', drinkin' and heartbreak age of Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn and George Jones, through the polyester countrypolitan years to the rock-tinged sound of today, Wagoner remained a steady, solid presence who never strayed far from his own basics.He changed his hair, from a pompadour to the slick look to curls. But he never dropped the rhinestone Nudie Cohen suits that became his stage signature, and right through his final album last year, "Wagonmaster," he was still singing songs that would set any country fan's toes a-tapping.Still, on occasion he shook up the country music world.One time he invited James Brown to join him on stage at the Opry, an invitation Brown was delighted to accept. When it caused a stir among the Opry crowd, Wagoner acknowledged the criticism indirectly while neatly deflecting it: "I hope none of the opposition by some members was racial, but people have a problem accepting anything that's new."He often talked about what he saw as the common roots of country and Continue Reading

Country music publicist Kirt Webster leaves firm, ex-employees detail sexual harassment

Prominent Nashville publicist Kirt Webster, whose clients have included Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers and Kid Rock, abruptly stepped away from his firm Wednesday amid swirling accusations of sexual assault and harassment. Days after former Webster client and onetime aspiring country singer Austin C. Rick accused the Music City executive of drugging and assaulting him, 10 former employees of Webster PR described to the USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee a culture of consistent workplace abuse and harassment.The ex-employees requested anonymity for fear of personal and professional repercussions. Metro Nashville police are looking into the allegations pertaining to Rick, said spokeswoman Kris Mumford. "Our sex crimes detectives are reaching out to the alleged victim to see if he’d like to talk about what happened," Mumford said Wednesday afternoon.Webster's alleged behavior includes trading explicit photographs for passes to meet-and-greet sessions with Parton, unwanted touching and unleashing vulgar nicknames during company meetings.“There was so much verbal and emotional abuse,” one female former employee said. “I witnessed some of the worst behavior you can imagine."In a statement, Webster, who has spent more than two decades representing some of Nashville's biggest stars, described his contact with Rick as consensual.Webster is stepping away from his company to fight the "egregious and untrue allegations" from Rick, according to a different statement. A spokeswoman did not immediately respond to questions about allegations of workplace sexual harassment. Webster's behavior was described as unsolicited and persistent by the former employees. The former employees said Webster created a culture of fear and intimidation among his young staff that deterred workers from speaking out until now.One week ago, Webster was ushering Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton down the red carpet before Rogers' Continue Reading

Exclusive: Go inside the Country Music Association Awards nominations party

Nominees for the 51st CMA Awards celebrated their big night a little more than a week early Monday when more than 30 CMA hopefuls gathered at the Parthenon in Nashville’s Centennial Park for a celebratory dinner ahead of the Nov. 8 awards show.Artists including entertainer of the year nominee Garth Brooks, female vocalist of the year nominee Miranda Lambert, male vocalist of the year nominee Dierks Bentley, group of the year nominee Little Big Town, single of the year nominee Jon Pardi and duo of the year nominee LoCash joined a host of songwriters and music industry executives in cocktail attire for a four-course dinner prepared by James Beard Award-winning chef Tandy Wilson of City House.“This is the very first time we’ve ever been nominated for a CMA, so we’re celebrating every step of the way,” said LoCash member Preston Brust.“The CMA has been great to us over the years,” added fellow LoCash singer Chris Lucas. “We used to play the after-party for the CMA and now we’re nominated for a CMA. It’s really, really emotional.”The evening began with a cocktail hour in a front room at the Parthenon. Songwriters including Rhett Akins, Josh Osborne and Luke Dick were among the first to arrive, quickly followed by Lambert and Pardi. Guests were met at the door with glasses of wine, and the room bustled with lively conversation for more than an hour before the group of nominees — distinguished by a medallion around their necks — was ushered upstairs for a quick class photo.The Country Music Association’s CEO Sarah Trahern opened the dinner with remarks to remind the nominees the night’s event was all about them. She said that because of them and other artists who had played CMA Music Festival this year, $2.5 million had been donated to music education in the last week. From the feet of the Parthenon’s 42-foot statue of Athena, Brooks followed with a Continue Reading