» Let's Fall To Pieces Together: For George Strait fans, it's the beginning of the end, so it's understandable if they get a bit nostalgic during the Cowboy Rides AwayTour. What attendees at the first show in Lubbock, TX Friday (1/18) might not have expected was a bit of the same from Strait himself. "He talked more and told a lot of stories from early on," our insider tells us. "He did songs I'd never heard him do, too. 'Blame It On Mexico,' for example."
Beyond the historic atmosphere, some lucky fans were able to experience "The King's Tavern," a pre-show reception showcasing Strait memorabilia. And George himself brought Marine Lance Corporal Christopher Allen onstage to award him with keys to a new home through the Military Warriors Support Foundation's Homes 4 Wounded Heroes program. Twenty homes will be given away at upcoming shows. Joy eventually turned to melancholy, however, when the show ended with, appropriately, "The Cowboy Rides Away." Many in the sold-out crowd were in tears. "People seemed heartbroken," we're told. "It was just a very emotional night."
» Every Merch Booth (Runs Out Of Shirts): Very rarely do people hang out with their boss after getting fired. This week, Gary Allan released Set You Free featuring the single "Every Storm (Runs Out Of Rain)," which came from a former employee. Matt Warren used to sell merch at Allan's shows. He was terrible at it, but Allan noticed he would spend a lot of time sitting in the back of the bus writing songs. Before his last day of work, Allan told Warren, "Man, we're gonna go broke with you selling shirts, but I'll write with you if you wanna write someday." Warren went on to work a series of odd jobs and eventually took Allan up on the offer. "He was weed-eating and he hit a rock and it flew up and hit him in the face and he was like, 'I don't wanna do this anymore," explains Allan. So Warren along with songwriter Hilary Lindsey ("Jesus Take The Wheel") brought the idea for "Every Storm" to Allan and they wrote it together. "Matt always has great stories," says Allan. "And that's why he's fun to write with."
» Dolly Parton-esque: With help from Keith Urban, more country hopefuls made it through to Hollywood after the American Idol Chicago auditions (1/17). "What I loved about your voice is you've got this great blend of strength and vulnerability," Urban said of 17-year-old Mackenzie Wasnerfrom Leiper's Fork, TN. "I could hear Lee Ann Womack's first record in your runs, which is very Dolly Parton-esque, as well." Wasner performed Vince Gill's "Whenever You Come Around" which was co-written by her father, Pete Wasner, who plays keys in Gill's band.
Isabelle Parell out of Centerton, IN didn't show much country-ness, but decided to borrow Urban's vocals for help on "Baby It's Cold Outside." The duet did the trick for the 15-year-old,and made skipping school totally worth it.Finally, 17-year-old Brandy Neelly from Louisville, KY tried out in season 11 and came back this time with a rendition of Hank Williams' classic "Your Cheatin' Heart" that won over all four judges. Watch the recap here.
» New York Minutes: Jason Aldean sold out Madison Square Garden last week (1/18) in less than 10 minutes. "I think people underestimate country music's popularity in New York City," said Aldean. "The Garden is one of those places every artist dreams of playing. I am blown away that my show sold out that quickly." Jake Owen and Thomas Rhett will open the show when the Night Train Tour stops in the Big Apple March 2.
» Two Leg Luke: In the animal kingdom, four legs is the norm. In the world of country music touring, two legs is extraordinary. And Luke Bryan has two after selling out his Dirt Road Diaries Tour. The trek's second leg begins May 17 in Virginia Beach, VA and will continue with support from Florida Georgia Line and Thompson Square. Details here.
» "Why Ya Wanna" Marry Me: After months of watching their relationship blossom on Twitter, fans learned today (1/22) that Brantley Gilbert and Jana Kramer are engaged. According to People, Gilbert rented out the Ryman for the Jan. 20 proposal, which just happens to be his birthday. There is no Jumbotron in the Ryman, so the manner in which Gilbert popped the question will remain a private thing between the two of them. More here.
» Gimme Shelters:Miranda Lambert has joined the Pedigree Feeding Project to help supply 100% of the dog food needs for select shelters. The project runs now through Feb. 28 and asks people to nominate their local shelter via Facebook. Watch a video message from Lambert and get more info here.
» In Case You Missed It: Slow dancing on a reality show isn't easy, but Eli Young Band helped make it happen with "Even If It Breaks Your Heart" and "Say Goodnight" on last night's (1/21) episode of The Bachelor. Sean took AshLee on a charitable, amusement park, one-on-one date before asking Kacie B to hit the road for acting like a crazy person. Watch here.
Kelly Clarkson and Brad Paisley were in Washington D.C. yesterday (1/21) to perform during the Inauguration Day 2013 events. Clarkson sang "My Country, Tis Of Thee" at the morning ceremony while Paisley took the stage that night at the Inaugural Ball. Watch Clarkson's performance here.
The Academy of Country Music will hold a two-night outdoor music festival April 5-6 at The Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The Band Perry, Florida Georgia Line, Brantley Gilbert and Justin Moore have been confirmed for April 5. Dierks Bentley, Kix Brooks, Eli Young Band and Hunter Hayes are on board for April 6. The festival is part of the ACM Experience, a weekend full of events leading up to the 48th ACM Awards, hosted by Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan, April 7 on CBS-TV.
Luke Bryan, Lady Antebellum, Little BigTown and Carrie Underwood are among the first performers announced to play during the 2013 CMA Music Festival. The four-day event takes place June 6-9 in downtown Nashville; other artists are forthcoming. Get tickets here.
B.J. Thomas celebrate half a century in music with the release of a new acoustic album. 12 of Thomas’ best-known songs will include collaborations with Vince Gill, Lyle Lovett, Keb’ Mo’, Isaac Slade of The Fray, Richard Marx and more to be released this spring.
Congrats to Danny Gokey and wife Leyicet Peralta on the Jan. 20 birth of their son Daniel Emanuel. More here.
Due to illness, Rascal Flatts canceled last weekend's Changed Tour dates; Friday (1/18) in Tulsa, OK and Saturday (1/19) in Wichita, KS. The shows have been rescheduled for Aug. 9-10, respectively.
The 5th Annual Stars Go Blue benefit featuring Alan Jackson March 5 in Nashville has a limited number of VIP Experience Packages available. Proceeds benefit the Colon Cancer Alliance’s Blue Note Fund; more here.
Ray Stevens (1/24)
Keech Rainwater of Lonestar (1/24)
Wednesday (1/23): Keith Urban, American Idol (FOX); Chris Young and Brantley Gilbert, Nashville (ABC); Gary Allan, The Tonight Show With Jay Leno (NBC).
Thursday (1/24): Kenny Loggins and Blue Sky Riders, The Tonight Show With Jay Leno (NBC).
This Week's Album Releases
Gary AllanSet You Free
"I think it was the most creative team I've been with," Allan says of penning first single "Every Storm (Runs Out Of Rain)" with Matt Warren and Hilary Lindsay ("Jesus, Take The Wheel"). Working again with producers Mark Wright and Jay Joyce, Allan helped produce and handled lead guitar responsibilities on some of the album's 12 tracks.
Tim McGrawTim McGraw & Friends
The compilation of collaborations will be released through McGraw's former record label Curb just a few weeks before his Big Machine debut, Two Lanes Of Freedom hits stores. Highlights include the single "Twisted" with Colt Ford, "Sail On" with Lionel Richie and "Me And Tennessee" with Gwyneth Paltrow. Available exclusively at Walmart.
Randy HouserHow Country Feels
The 15-track album is the first release from Houser's new label deal at Stoney Creek Records. Produced by fellow Mississippian Derek George, the album features the title track single and "Wherever Love Goes," a duet with former American Idol contestant Kristy Lee Cook.
» Glory Glory Gloriana: Michael Gossin, Rachel Reinert and Tom Gossin (l-r) of Gloriana opt to wear winter coats instead of the Belichick 3/4-sleeve hoodie to keep warm while prepping for their performance of the National Anthem at the AFC Championship game Sunday (1/20) at Gillette Stadium.