Category Archives: Country Music Association

Martina McBride Rides Her Soul Train

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Photo credit: Glynis Carpenter

Country Music headliner Martina McBride’s catalog overflows with powerfully communicative performances. The playful “I Love You,” the heartbroken ballad “Wrong Again,” and the empowering anthems “Independence Day,” “This One’s for the Girls” and “Wrong Baby Wrong” unfold along clear lines of melody, which the five-time CMA Award winner animated with her own distinctive phrasing and interpretive sense.

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NEW ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Dallas Smith

Dallas Smith got into Country Music by Default. Default, of course, was the superstar band whose neo-grunge anthems shot them to the top of Canada’s indie-rock pile in the early ’00s. Their No. 2 smash in the U.S., “Wasting My Time,” exemplified their sound, particularly in Smith’s vocals: hurt, angry and ecstatic, all at the same time.

So here is Smith again, this time singing about moonshine, the Fourth of July, tan lines, Mountain Dew, Daisy Dukes and even “panties in your purse.” His angst has yielded to a more ebullient and exuberant approach. Somehow a little down-home drawl has softened his delivery, and even his song titles have started dropping their “g’s.”

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Photo credit: Kristin Barlowe

And guess what? With the release of his EP Tippin’ Point, produced by Joey Moi, we may be meeting the real Dallas Smith for the first time. Raised in rural British Columbia, he grew up to the tune of his mother’s Country albums, with plenty of Garth Brooks, Brooks & Dunn and Alan Jackson on the playlist. To these influences, he added Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban and other Country connoisseurs of strong melodies and expressive vocals. From Default, he learned to project with deep emotion; from Country, he stirred in some humor and accessibility. And on the title track and first single, written by Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley, with Jaren Johnston, he ties it together with a lip-tripping hook, like he was born to sing this way. By Bob Doerschuk

For more on Dallas Smith, visit www.CMACloseUp.com.

IN HIS OWN WORDS

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Country Artists Invest in Custom Guitar Straps

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Pistol Annies guitar straps, created by Terry Misner of Action Custom Straps.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Action Guitar Straps

A guitar strap is more than a means to support a piece of musical equipment. It’s also a canvas for personal expression and for helping audiences see exactly who you are.

Take Marty Roe. When the Diamond Rio guitarist wanted a strap with a prisoner-of-war theme for the video of “In God We Still Trust,” he called on Jeri Hart, founder of the St. Louis-based jeri designs. She fashioned a one-of-a-kind strap: thick but supple belt leather, painted blue, airbrushed with the words “You are not forgotten” and adorned on the front with a hand-cut kidskin POW logo.

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NEW ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Jon Pardi

Saloon pianos clink, guitars crunch and fiddles, well, they fiddle throughout Write You a Song, Jon Pardi’s debut album on Capitol Records Nashville. And it fits together into a package that practically dares you not to get up and dance.

A lot of Pardi’s energy stems from days on the road and long nights on stages throughout his home state of California. He was already absorbing the spirit of real-world Country when he performed “Friends in Low Places” at age 7 for his father’s 30th birthday party. His first songs came at 12, his first band debuted two years later. The move to Nashville followed two restless years at Butte Junior College.

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Justin Moore Straddles the Standard/Deluxe Line

Justin Moore

Photo Credit: Kristin Barlowe

Justin Moore is a man who listens to his gut … and his gut was telling him that Off the Beaten Path, his third studio album on The Valory Music Co. label, was complete. In fact, he was sure that these 16 tracks would tell the story he wanted to tell, as an artist and a person, more clearly than anything he had recorded previously.

There was just one problem.

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Bucky Covington Blazes a Path toward Fire Safety

Bucky Covington and members of the Nashville Fire Department film the “Be a Hero/ Save a Hero” PSA. Photo credit: Tim Miller Spectacular entrances are traditional at the CMA Awards along the Macy’s Walk of Stars, but it’s safe to say no one will soon top the 2012 arrival of Bucky Covington, who showed up aboard a vintage Nashville Fire Department truck as red flashers whirled.

Aside from fulfilling every kid’s fantasy, Covington chose this vehicle to inspire support for firefighters who lost their lives or suffered debilitating injuries while on the job.

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NEW ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Lucky Ned Pepper

Josh Graham and Rick Russell of Lucky Ned Pepper. Photo credit: Made U Look PhotographyIf Westerns are your type of film, then the name Lucky Ned Pepper might ring a bell: It’s the bad guy in True Grit, a nasty, cantankerous character typical of those that prowled the plains and prairies. It’s also the name Josh Graham and Rick Russell chose for their new duo.

While there’s nothing particularly villainous about these two Bakersfield-based singers, they do infuse their music with some wide-open, big-sky flavor. The songs on their debut album, Get Lucky, are contemporary, each written by some of the best songwriters along Music Row. But they look at home in scuffed boots, jeans and farmland fashion. Their singing complements these images by evoking the courtliness, swagger and easy-going humor of cowboy life.

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Miranda Lambert Rides the Milk Wagon

Miranda Lambert joins the MilkPEP National Milk Mustache’s “got milk?” campaign. Photo: courtesy of MilkPEP

Miranda Lambert joins the MilkPEP National Milk Mustache’s “got milk?” campaign. Photo: courtesy of MilkPEP

Country artists are hardly strangers to the National Milk Mustache “got milk?” campaign. Still, when Miranda Lambert chose the day before the 2012 CMA Awards to unveil her portrait as the latest in this long line of celebrities, athletes and even cartoon characters, media filled the CMA atrium to witness the occasion.

The image captures the CMA Female Vocalist of the Year on a weathered wood porch, a grassy field stretching toward trees and hills, with a glass of milk in her hand, a bowl of cereal on the ground and the inevitable white frost above her upper lip. Lambert looks as though she was at home on her Oklahoma farm, although the wall was a backdrop and the photo was taken in New Jersey, at a site scouted by photographer Annie Leibovitz and her staff.

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Jason Aldean Rides His Night Train

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Jason Aldean performs at the 2012 CMA Awards. Photo credit: Donn Jones/CMA

Jason Aldean’s My Kinda Party won CMA’s Album of the Year Award in 2011, amassing more sales than any other Country album in that calendar year. And if anyone still harbored doubts about his stature, the 2012 nominations list pretty much put them to rest. Aldean nabbed three nominations, including his second straight for Entertainer of the Year. But he also had a hand in the successes of some other acts that populated the finalists list.

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“CMA Country Christmas” Celebrates the Holiday Season on ABC-TV

John Legend. Photo credit: John Russell/CMAFor Robert Deaton, Executive Producer of “The CMA Awards” and “CMA Country Christmas,” there’s a world of difference between the two ABC-TV specials. It ultimately comes down to one word.

“Tension,” he specified. “There’s a lot of tension in the room for the Awards show because there’s so much riding on who’s going to win and it’s a live broadcast. The Christmas show is very different. It’s warm and open. People are there to have a good time. “

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