About the artist
Johnny Loftus, Rovi
|It Ain't The Whiskey||Set You Free|| |
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|Every Storm (Runs Out Of Rain)||Every Storm (Runs Out Of Rain)|| |
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|Watching Airplanes||Living Hard|| |
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|Pieces||Set You Free|| |
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|Best I Ever Had||Tough All Over|| |
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|Get Off On The Pain||Get Off On The Pain|| |
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|Right Where I Need To Be||Smoke Rings In The Dark|| |
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|Songs About Rain||See If I Care|| |
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|Smoke Rings In The Dark||Smoke Rings In The Dark|| |
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|Her Man||Used Heart For Sale|| |
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And while no one track touches that one, "She's So California" is a country tune by Allan with Jon Randall and Jaime Hanna, and a hook in the middle of the verses right out of Tom Petty's fakebook. Pedal steel fills dominate it so it won't be mistaken for what it actually is, but the guitar sounds are even drenched in a Rickenbacker 12-string ethos. Allan loves to rock -- check the big bad riff on "Like It's a Bad Thing" that could have come right out of early-'80s MTV. The steel and fiddles are the only things that keep it from being hard rock; there's a B-3 choogling along in between the lines on both verse and refrain, pushing the groove into the dual lead -- metallic guitars are a nice twist, too. One can hear everything from Eddie Money to Bon Jovi in this mix, except for one vital element that apparently makes this a truly contemporary country album: these guys play loud guitars, but they're afraid of them. They compress these big riffs and the bassline so much that they actually end up sounding thin. When these cats can learn how to embrace a big bottom end they will be unstoppable, and if they let the rounded edges create space for that huge drum kit along with a bassline that immediately brings the listener into the tune, they will be unstoppable. Sure there are the equivalent of power ballads here too, like the truly wonderful "Learning How to Bend." With the echo effects on the vocal and the big strings at the same volume as those ringing, jangling guitars, they can't miss.
Allan writes great lyrics for a pop lyricist, and here is more evidence that it's his own tunes that really connect. Some might be put off by those slapback digital delay chorus line vocals in tunes like this one and "As Long as You're Looking Back," but it's new ground. It serves these songs well and Allan is enough of a vocalist: powerful, strong, and in the tradition that it pushes the music forward to the next level. "Yesterday's Rain," written by Allan, Matt Warren, and James LeBlanc is the first true ballad on the set and it's the eighth cut on the record; it comes as welcome diversion after the over the top and nearly ridiculous Big & Rich/Montgomery Gentry style cross that is "Wrecking Ball" (the tune is so bad not even those acts could have pulled it off). Allan's "Trying to Matter," cops a .38 Special riff (think "Hang On Loosely") for another of his mid-tempo rockers, with a sprightly B-3 riding above the melody it works like a charm. That's the sun for this set: charm. Allan's personality on record, as nearly schizophrenic as it has been these past 11 years, has finally settled into its own kind of recognizable charm that wears its influences on its sleeve and makes no apologies. He uses it inside songs that are memorable for their hooks, their grand choruses, and heartfelt emotion, even if they aren't memorable for the long haul. The title track closes the record, and it's so over into the red you gotta hear it to believe it. You'll think your stereo is defective for a couple of minutes with all its distortion and wah wah pedal. It smokes. Period. Living Hard is a moment, hopefully not a singular one, for an artist who has worked diligently, put in the time, and found his way with the most consistent and striking album of his career thus far.
Another single from Man with a Memory, "Brokenheartsville," became his first number one country hit in early 2003, and it helped send the album into the country Top Ten. The accolades were suddenly flying fast and furious. The Academy of Country Music named Nichols its Top New Male Vocalist, he garnered three Grammy nominations, and Billboard declared "The Impossible the tenth most-played song in 2003. Nichols and his band toured with Alan Jackson through August of that year, and saw the single "She Only Smokes When She Drinks" enjoy similar success at country radio. In September, the buzz around Nichols continued with a Horizon new artist award nomination from the Country Music Association. His second disc for Universal South, Revelation, and a holiday album, Traditional Christmas, were released in 2004, followed by the Top Ten hit III in 2005. His next record, Real Things, hit the shelves in 2007 and focused primarily on tender country ballads with a smattering of uptempo jams. Old Things New followed two years later in 2009. Old Things New was another solid hit for Nichols thanks to the singles "Believers" and "Gimmie That Girl," and Nichols followed it up in 2011 with It's All Good.
With Shelton's songs still enjoying airtime on country radio, he returned to the studio to work on a second album. The Dreamer appeared in February 2003, hot on the heels of another number one single titled "The Baby." A third album, Blake Shelton's Barn & Grill, was released in 2004, along with an accompanying DVD featuring several of his music videos. Three years later, Shelton scored his fourth consecutive gold album with Pure BS, which featured a guest appearance by girlfriend (and fellow country singer) Miranda Lambert.
Lambert and Shelton attracted more and more media attention as their relationship progressed. Lambert made another appearance on his next album, 2008's Startin' Fires, and sang about their relationship on her own release, Revolution. Shelton eventually proposed in 2010, issuing a pair of well-received EPs -- Hillbilly Bone and All About Tonight -- that same year. The EPs yielded three number one hits, followed in 2011 by another chart-topper, "Honey Bee," which doubled as the lead single from his sixth album, Red River Blue. Shelton married Lambert that spring, several weeks after joining the judging panel of NBC's prime-time singing competition "The Voice".
"The Voice" was a smash hit, elevating Shelton's profile and assisting the sales of Red River Blue. Two seasons of the competition arrived in 2012 and that year, Shelton also released Cheers It's Christmas, a seasonal album containing duets with Reba McEntire, Michael Bublé, Kelly Clarkson, and Lambert, as well as her band Pistol Annies.
Shelton delivered Based on a True Story... -- his first full-fledged album recorded since the success of "The Voice" -- in March of 2013, preceded by the single "Sure Be Cool If You Did" which topped the "Billboard" country charts.
After playing around Lexington for a time, Montgomery Gentry landed a deal with Columbia thanks to a showcase performance. Their debut album, Tattoos & Scars, was released in 1999 and made the country Top Ten on the strength of the Top 20 singles "Hillbilly Shoes" and "Daddy Won't Sell the Farm," plus the Top Five smash "Lonely and Gone" and the Charlie Daniels collaboration "All Night Long." They were named the CMA's Duo of the Year in 2000, breaking a run of eight consecutive years by Brooks & Dunn. In 2001, the follow-up album, Carrying On, was released; it also made the country Top Ten and produced the number two smash "She Couldn't Change Me." A third album, My Town, was completed quickly and released in 2002, bringing the duo their third Top Five hit in the title track.
The hard-driving You Do Your Thing arrived in 2004, followed by the greatest-hits collection Something to Be Proud Of: The Best of 1999-2005 in November of 2005. Some People Change appeared from Columbia Records in 2006, followed by Back When I Knew It All in early 2008. It all amounted to a pretty successful track record, with a dozen or more of their singles since 1999, plus all of their studio albums, entering the Top Ten charts (as did the greatest-hits collection). The duo's eighth studio album, Gravel Road, appeared in 2010. The Michael Knox-produced Rebels on the Run, the duo's first album for new label Average Joe's Entertainment, appeared in 2011.
Keith was born Toby Keith Covel in Clinton, Oklahoma, in 1961 and grew up mostly on a farm in Moore, near the outskirts of Oklahoma City. He took up guitar at age eight, inspired by the country musicians who played at the supper club his grandmother ran. He listened to his father's Bob Wills records and fell in love with Haggard's music. He worked as a rodeo hand while in high school, and after graduation, he found work in the nearby oil fields. In the meantime, he formed the Easy Money Band and played Alabama-style country-rock in area honky tonks. After about three years, the oil industry hit a major downturn, and Keith turned to playing semipro football for a USFL farm team, even trying out (unsuccessfully) for the short-lived league's Oklahoma City franchise. Following two years as a football player, Keith decided to focus on music and adopted a much more rigorous touring schedule. He cut a few records for local indie labels, and his demo tape eventually found its way to onetime Alabama producer Harold Shedd, who helped Keith land a deal with Mercury.
Keith's self-titled debut album was released in 1993 and made him an out-of-the-box success with its chart-topping single "Should've Been a Cowboy." Three more songs from the record -- "Wish I Didn't Know Now," "A Little Less Talk and a Lot More Action," and "He Ain't Worth Missing" -- made the Top Five, and the album sold over two million copies. "Who's That Man," the lead single from his second album, Boomtown, was released in late 1994 and became his second number one; Boomtown hit stores in early 1995 and went gold on the strength of further Top Ten hits "Upstairs Downtown" and "You Ain't Much Fun." Keith followed it later that year with the holiday record Christmas to Christmas and returned with the proper album Blue Moon in 1996. Its first two singles, "A Woman's Touch" and "Does That Blue Moon Ever Shine on You," went Top Ten, and the third, "Me Too," gave Keith his third number one, also helping the album go platinum. Released in 1997, Dream Walkin' marked his first collaboration with prolific producer James Stroud, with whom he would work regularly from then on. "We Were in Love" and the title track were both Top Five hits, as was "I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying," a duet with Sting. However, Keith longed for an even bigger breakthrough, and he was growing dissatisfied with Mercury's promotional efforts. In 1999, he left the label and followed Stroud over to the Nashville division of DreamWorks.
Keith's label debut, How Do You Like Me Now?!, appeared in late 1999 and started to bring him the wider recognition he felt poised for. The title cut went to number one on the country charts and brought him his first Top 40 pop hit; its follow-up, "Country Comes to Town," went Top Five, and "You Shouldn't Kiss Me Like This" also hit number one. Overall, the album had a rough, brash attitude that helped give Keith a stronger identity as a performer. It was also the first to bring him those long-desired major industry awards, when in 2001 the Academy of Country Music named him Male Vocalist of the Year and named How Do You Like Me Now?! its Album of the Year. In the meantime, Keith became more visible in the mainstream media, making cameos on "Touched by an Angel" and in a "Dukes of Hazzard" TV reunion movie as well as co-starring in a series of telephone commercials. Later in 2001, his follow-up album, Pull My Chain, became his first to top the country charts and also his first Top Ten pop album. It spun off three number one singles: "I'm Just Talkin' About Tonight," "I Wanna Talk About Me," and "My List."
Keith was already a burgeoning superstar when he recorded "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)" in the summer of 2002. A raging response to the September 11 terrorist attacks, the song struck a fierce chord with aggressively patriotic listeners, while others condemned it as knee-jerk jingoism. The whole controversy came to a head when ABC News anchor Peter Jennings objected to Keith's scheduled performance on a network Fourth of July schedule. Keith was axed from the guest list, and the ensuing media flap proved to be a publicity coup. Meanwhile, the song went to number one on the country charts and crossed over into the pop Top 25. All of this set the stage for Unleashed, which sold like hotcakes upon its release later in 2002, debuting at number one on both the country and pop charts. "Who's Your Daddy?" was a number one country hit, and the Willie Nelson duet "Beer for My Horses" also made the country Top Ten.
In 2003 Keith released Shock'n Y'All, which, despite its title, was chock-full of enough rough-and-rowdy hits to once again connect hugely with heartland America. Honkytonk University followed in May 2005, the same year that Mercury released Chronicles, a collection of three of his biggest albums: Toby Keith, Boomtown, and Blue Moon. After departing from Universal and longtime producer Stroud, Keith established his own company, Show Dog Nashville, and in 2006 released the label's first record, the number two hit White Trash with Money. A year later he released Big Dog Daddy, the first album he produced himself, and also a holiday album, A Classic Christmas. Keith continued his steady pace over the next few years, releasing That Don't Make Me a Bad Guy in 2008, American Ride in 2009, and Bullets in the Gun in 2010. Clancy's Tavern, which appeared in 2011, was inspired by his grandmother's club that he visited frequently as a child. Keith was also selected as Artist of the Decade at the American Country Awards in December of 2011. Clancy's Tavern gave Keith a pair of hits in "Made in America" and "Red Solo Cup" -- the former topped Billboard's country charts; the latter reached the Billboard Top 40 -- and in the fall of 2012 he returned with another new album, Hope on the Rocks, which was preceded by the single "I Like Girls That Drink Beer."
Country singer/songwriter Billy Currington was raised in Rincon, GA. Following high school, he made a couple attempts at relocating to Nashville in the hopes of getting a career in music off the ground, finally landing a job there at a concrete company, while still finding time to play at clubs on the side and work on song demos. When singer Mark Wills put a hold on one of his songs, Currington met and began writing with Wills' producer, Carson Chamberlain, which eventually led to a recording contract with Mercury Records. His first single, "Walk a Little Straighter," was released in 2003, and drew heavily on Currington's experiences with an alcoholic father (the chorus for the song was actually written when Currington was only 12 years old). A debut album, Billy Currington, was released on Mercury Records in 2003. A second album, Doin' Somethin' Right, followed in 2005 on Mercury Nashville. Three years later, Currington delivered the eclectic, R&B-inflected Little Bit of Everything, also on Mercury Nashville. In 2010 Currington returned with his tenth studio effort, Enjoy Yourself, featuring the Troy Jones co-written single "Pretty Good at Drinkin' Beer." ~ Steve Leggett, Rovi
The fourth record from Mercury Nashville singer/songwriter BILLY CURRINGTON is entitled ENJOY YOURSELF, and includes the crooner’s #1 smash hit “Pretty Good At Drinkin’ Beer” written by Troy Jones. Enjoy Yourself, featuring the Georgia native’s trademark mix of country, R&B and beach music, is produced by Currington and Carson Chamberlain.
“It’s a great mix. It reflects who I am,” Currington says about the collection of 10 songs. “I’m definitely not just one thing. I’m the beach guy, I’m the country guy, I love my dirt roads and fishin’, but I love… Read more
Samuel Timothy McGraw was born in Delhi, Louisiana on May 1, 1967. Though he didn't know it until years later, his father was baseball player Tug McGraw, a star relief pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets who'd had a brief affair with McGraw's mother. He was raised mostly in the small town of Start, Louisiana, near Monroe, and grew up listening to a variety of music: country, pop, rock, and R&B. He attended Northeast Louisiana University on a baseball scholarship, studying sports medicine, and it was only then that he started playing guitar to accompany his singing. He played the local club circuit and dropped out of school in 1989, heading to Nashville on the same day his hero Keith Whitley passed away. He sang in Nashville clubs for a couple of years and landed a deal with Curb in 1992. His debut single, the minor hit "Welcome to the Club," was released later that year, and his self-titled debut album appeared in 1993 but failed to make the charts.
McGraw's fortunes changed with the lead single from his 1994 sophomore effort, Not a Moment Too Soon. "Indian Outlaw" was embraced as a light-hearted, old-fashioned novelty song by fans but was heavily criticized for what some regarded as patronizing caricatures of Native Americans. Despite some radio stations' refusal to air the song, it reached the country Top Ten and even crossed over to the pop Top 20. All the publicity helped send McGraw's next single, the ballad "Don't Take the Girl," all the way to the top of the country charts; it too made the pop Top 20. The album kept spinning off hits: "Down on the Farm" hit number two, the title track went to number one in 1995, and the novelty tune "Refried Dreams" also reached the Top Five. Not a Moment Too Soon was a genuine blockbuster hit, eventually selling over five million copies and topping both the country and pop album charts; it was also the best-selling country album of the year.
McGraw's follow-up, 1995's All I Want, immediately consolidated his stardom with the number one smash "I Like It, I Love It." The album topped the country charts, reached the pop Top Five, and sold over two million copies. Once again, it functioned as a hit factory thanks to the number two "Can't Be Really Gone," the number one "She Never Lets It Go to Her Heart," and the Top Five "All I Want Is a Life" and "Maybe We Should Just Sleep on It." Over 1996, McGraw supported the album with an extensive tour, accompanied by opening act Faith Hill. In October, after the tour was over, McGraw and Hill married, in a union of country star power that drew plenty of attention from mainstream media. It doubtlessly helped McGraw's next album, 1997's Everywhere, become another crossover smash; it topped the country charts, fell one spot short of doing the same on the pop side, and sold four million copies. The lead single was a McGraw-Hill duet called "It's Your Love," which not only hit number one country, but made the pop Top Ten. Three more singles from the album -- "Everywhere," "Where the Green Grass Grows," and "Just to See You Smile" -- hit number one, and two others -- "One of These Days" and "For a Little While" -- reached number two. Meanwhile, "Just to Hear You Say That You Love Me," another husband-and-wife duet from Hill's 1998 album Faith, climbed into the Top Five.
With the multi-platinum success of Everywhere, McGraw was poised to take over Brooks' throne as the king of contemporary country, a transition that only accelerated when Brooks confounded his fans with the Chris Gaines project. McGraw, meanwhile, just kept topping the charts. His next album, 1999's triple-platinum A Place in the Sun, hit number one country and pop, and four of its singles also hit number one: "Please Remember Me" (which featured Patty Loveless), "Something Like That," "My Best Friend," and "My Next Thirty Years." 2000 brought McGraw's first Greatest Hits compilation, a best-selling smash, and another Top Ten duet from Hill's Breathe album, "Let's Make Love." The song later won McGraw his first Grammy, for Best Country Vocal Collaboration. Also in 2000, McGraw had a brush with the law when he and tourmate Kenny Chesney got involved in a scuffle with police officers, after Chesney attempted to ride one of the officers' horses; McGraw was later cleared of assault charges and spent the rest of 2000 on a second tour with Hill.
Released in 2001, Set This Circus Down (number one country, number two pop) kept McGraw's hit streak going into the new millennium, giving him four more number ones -- "Grown Men Don't Cry," "Angry All the Time," "The Cowboy in Me," and "Unbroken" -- just like that. In 2002, his duet with protégée Jo Dee Messina, "Bring on the Rain," also went to number one. For the follow-up album, McGraw defied country convention by entering the studio not with session musicians, but with his road band, the Dancehall Doctors, a unit that had been together since 1996 (with some members around even before that). Tim McGraw was released in late 2002 and produced Top Ten hits in "Red Rag Top" and "She's My Kind of Rain"; it also featured a startlingly faithful cover of Elton John's "Tiny Dancer." McGraw kept the formula the same on 2004's chart-topping Live Like You Were Dying, utilizing his road band, as well as co-mixing/producing the record himself. Let It Go followed in 2007, with Southern Voice arriving in 2009. McGraw resumed recording in early 2010 with longtime co-producer Byron Gallimore. He finished the album Emotional Traffic and even toured in anticipation of its imminent release, but his longtime label Curb refused to release it, feeling it followed Southern Voice too quickly. The dispute landed both artist and label in court, resulting in a separation agreement. McGraw landed a major role in the film "Country Strong", which was released in 2011. He followed it with the single "Felt Good on My Lips," which reached the top spot on Billboard's Hot Country songs chart, and was followed by "Better Than I Used to Be"; both were pre-release singles for Emotional Traffic, which was finally issued in January of 2012, two years after it was completed and delivered to Curb. He signed to Big Machine for Two Lanes to Freedom, which was released in early 2013. Its second single, "One of Those Nights Tonight," hit the Top Ten on Billboard's Country Songs chart.
Adkins issued his debut album, Dreamin' Out Loud, in 1996, and it established him as a rising star. The lead single, "Every Light in the House," went to number three; "I Left Something Turned on at Home" hit number two; and "(This Ain't) No Thinkin' Thing" went all the way to number one. His 1997 follow-up album, Big Time, spawned another Top Five hit in "The Rest of Mine," and "Lonely Won't Leave Me Alone" just missed the Top Ten. However, it wasn't quite the commercial powerhouse of Dreamin' Out Loud; neither was its follow-up, 1999's More, which featured just one Top Ten single in the title track. Nonetheless, all three albums made the country Top Ten.
Released in 2001, Chrome brought Adkins into the Top Five of the country album charts for the first time, as the Top Ten lead single "I'm Tryin'" proved to be his biggest hit since "The Rest of Mine." In July of that year, Adkins was arrested for drunk driving and later pled guilty. The title track of Chrome belatedly climbed into the Top Ten in early 2003. Capitol released Greatest Hits Collection, Vol. 1 in July of 2003 and its companion DVD, Video Hits, in February 2004 with Adkins' fifth studio album, the December 2003 release Comin' on Strong, sandwiched in between. In 2005, Adkins had a major hit with "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk" from his album Songs About Me. The album Dangerous Man was released a year later. Live in Concert appeared in 2007 as part of the Big Band Concert CD series. X (Ten) was issued in 2008. After the album was released, Adkins left Capitol and signed with Toby Keith's Show Dog imprint distributed by Universal. In May of 2010 he debuted his first single for the label, "This Ain't No Love Song." The album Cowboy's Back in Town was released in August of that year. Adkins saw some chart action from both the album and single; he supported them with an extended tour. While flying to a concert in Alaska on June 4, 2011, Adkins' home in Brentwood, Tennessee caught fire and burned to the ground. Though his wife, daughters, and a babysitter were at home during the catastrophe, no one was hurt. The title track of his 2011 album, Proud to Be Here, was written by Chris Wallin, Aaron Barker, and Ira Dean with Adkins in mind. The album was preceeded by the single "Gone Fishin'," which peaked at six on the "Billboard" country charts. Proud to Be Here wound up debuting at three on the "Billboard" 2003 but only generated one other charting single, "Million Dollar View," which scraped the country charts at 38. Two years later, Adkins returned with Love Will..., an album that refashioned the singer as a romantic crooner. It was released in May of 2013.
Unfortunately for Chesney, Capricorn wasn't much of a country label; not only was the album underpromoted, but the label's country division shut down completely not long after its release. Still, it sold 100,000 copies and caught the attention of several big-time major labels. Chesney ended up signing with RCA subsidiary BNA, which released All I Need to Know in 1995. The album gave him his first two Top Ten hits in the title track and "Fall in Love." His follow-up, 1996's Me and You, became his first album to go gold, thanks to two number two singles in the title track and "When I Close My Eyes." Released in 1997, I Will Stand was another gold-selling effort that gave Chesney his first-ever number one hit in "She's Got It All," plus another number two with "That's Why I'm Here." His big-time breakthrough, however, came with 1999's Everywhere We Go, which sold over two million copies and spawned two number one hits with "You Had Me from Hello" and "How Forever Feels"; it also featured another Top Ten single in "What I Need to Do," and another, "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy," that just missed. In 2000, Chesney issued his first Greatest Hits compilation, and two newly recorded songs -- "I Lost It" and "Don't Happen Twice" -- went to number three and number one, respectively.
Greatest Hits became Chesney's second straight double-platinum release and topped the country LP charts. He followed it with the all-new No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem in early 2002, which gave him his strongest commercial performance yet. It, too, hit number one on the country album charts and spun off four Top Ten singles in "Young," the number one "The Good Stuff," the Bill Anderson co-write "A Lot of Things Different," and "Big Star." A Christmas album plugged the gap for 2003, and he returned strongly with 2004's When the Sun Goes Down, which won in the Album of the Year category at the Country Music Awards. He repeated the win, this time as Entertainer of the Year, with Be as You Are (Songs from an Old Blue Chair). Chesney found himself the subject of much tabloid fodder in 2005 with his surprise marriage to actress Renée Zellweger (he had composed 1999's "You Had Me from Hello" after watching Zellweger in the 1996 film "Jerry Maguire"). The pair split that same year, citing irreconcilable differences, and Chesney released the chart-topping The Road and the Radio in November. In the years that followed, Chesney kept busy, releasing Live: Live Those Songs Again in 2006 and Just Who I Am: Poets & Pirates in 2007. In April 2010, Chesney and director Joe Thomas released the 3-D concert film "Kenny Chesney: Summer in 3-D". Taken from his 2009 Sun City Carnival Tour, the film included 23 songs from six stadium shows, shot in 3D, interspersed with interviews and home movies. A completely new studio album, Hemingway's Whiskey, named after a Guy Clark song, also appeared in 2010. His 13th studio album, Welcome to the Fishbowl, arrived in 2012.
Welcome to the Fishbowl performed respectably, debuting at number two on the "Billboard" 200 and generating the number one country single "Come Over," along with the Top 20 hits "Feel Like a Rock Star" and "El Cerrito Place." Following its release, Chesney's label BNA shuttered and he jumped over to Columbia Nashville, who released Life on a Rock in April 2013.
Leon Eric "Kix" Brooks (born in Shreveport, LA) and Ronnie Gene Dunn (born in Coleman, TX) arrived in Nashville from very different backgrounds. Brooks was a neighbor of Johnny Horton and first began singing with the country legend's daughter at age 12; after a time working on the Alaskan oil pipeline, he moved to Maine and performed in ski resorts and other local venues. He went to Nashville in the early '80s and found success as a songwriter, penning hits for John Conlee, Highway 101, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, among others; however, his solo recordings -- a few small-label singles in 1983 and a self-titled album in 1989 -- failed to make any impact. Dunn, meanwhile, had been playing with traditional string bands since he was a teenager, but originally aspired to become a Baptist minister. He attended the highly conservative Abilene Christian University, but was kicked out for continuing to play music on the side in area bars. He decided to pursue music full-time and moved to Tulsa, where he led a house band and recorded for a local label from 1983-1984. In 1988, he won a songwriting contest whose prize included a recording session in Nashville; the producer, Scott Hendricks, was impressed enough to pass some of Dunn's material on to Arista executive Tim DuBois. DuBois had a hunch that Dunn and Brooks would complement each other well, and he introduced the two and encouraged them to try writing and recording some demo songs together. When he heard the results, DuBois signed the newly minted Brooks & Dunn duo to a contract.
Brooks & Dunn issued their debut album, Brand New Man, in 1991, and it was an out-of-the-box smash. The title track, "My Next Broken Heart," "Neon Moon," and "Boot Scootin' Boogie" all hit number one on the country charts, and the latter song in particular was an inescapable smash that helped kick-start the line-dancing fad that swept country bars across the nation. Brand New Man eventually went on to sell over five million copies, and made the duo into country superstars; their supporting tour established their penchant for theatrical live shows as well. Their follow-up, Hard Workin' Man, consolidated their success with a string of five Top Five country hits: the title track, the number ones "She Used to Be Mine" and "That Ain't No Way to Go," and the number twos "We'll Burn That Bridge" and "Rock My World (Little Country Girl)." Hard Workin' Man sold over four million copies, and by the time its run of singles was exhausted, the duo had already completed a follow-up in 1994's Waitin' on Sundown. Five more Top Ten hits followed, including the number ones "She's Not the Cheatin' Kind," "Little Miss Honky Tonk," and "You're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone" (the others were "I'll Never Forgive My Heart" and "Whiskey Under the Bridge"). Waitin' on Sundown went double platinum, confirming Brooks & Dunn's status as a blockbuster success.
Brooks & Dunn's commercial dominance continued apace with 1996's Borderline, another double-platinum success which produced two more chart-toppers in "My Maria" (a cover of the B.W. Stevenson pop hit from 1972) and "A Man This Lonely," and a number two hit in "I Am That Man." In 1997, the duo issued The Greatest Hits Compilation, whose new tracks, "Honky Tonk Truth" and "He's Got You," both reached the Top Five. And they weren't done as hitmakers by any means; despite failing to go platinum, 1998's If You See Her contained two number ones in "Husbands and Wives" (a Roger Miller cover) and "How Long Gone," and another Top Fiver in "I Can't Get Over You." With such a consistent track record, Brooks & Dunn were perhaps due for the inevitable slip, and 1999's Tight Rope was the closest thing to a commercial misstep they'd ever recorded. Despite some chance-taking in the production and the cover of rocker John Waite's ballad "Missing You," other parts of the album found their formula wearing thin. The record produced only one Top Ten hit in "You'll Always Be Loved by Me," and failed to even go gold.
Faced with a downturn in their sales, Brooks & Dunn spent more time crafting their next album, 2001's Steers and Stripes. It helped restore their commercial fortunes with a trio of chart-topping singles: "Ain't Nothing 'Bout You," "Only in America," and "The Long Goodbye." The following year, the duo issued their first holiday album, It Won't Be Christmas Without You. The duo pushed the envelope even further with 2003's Red Dirt Road, a song cycle that served as both a biography and a tribute to their roots and upbringing. The rowdy Hillbilly Deluxe, a Top Ten hit, followed in 2005, with 2007 bringing Cowboy Town, released on Arista Records.
Signing to Arista, he issued his debut solo album, Who Needs Pictures, in 1999. The record produced two chart-topping singles in "He Didn't Have to Be," an ode to loving stepfathers, and "We Danced," and also earned generally positive reviews for its diversity of country styles. In the meantime, Paisley recorded a duet with Chely Wright, "Hard to Be a Husband, Hard to Be a Wife," for the Backstage at the Grand Ole Opry compilation; the two later collaborated on several songs for Wright's Never Love You Enough album. The sequel to Paisley's debut, Part II, was released in 2001 and promptly returned him to the Top Five with "Two People Fell in Love." "I'm Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin' Song)" gave Paisley his third chart-topper, and "Wrapped Around" fell one spot short of becoming his fourth. "I Wish You'd Stay" became the fourth Top Ten hit from the record in early 2003.
At the beginning of August 2005, Paisley put together a short "director's commentary" preview of his next album for his fan base to download. The full album, Time Well Wasted, appeared two weeks later and narrowly missed the top of the album charts, though it did hit number one on the country charts. In 2006 Brad Paisley Christmas, a collection of both originals and covers, came out, followed by 5th Gear in 2007, which included the ubiquitous "Ticks," a sure future novelty classic. An album of mostly guitar instrumentals (Paisley's excellent guitar playing is a big part of his appeal), Play, followed in 2008, with the big country vocal hit "Waitin' on a Woman" added in as a "bonus" track. By now poised at the very top of the commercial country world, Paisley released American Saturday Night in 2009. American Saturday Night was greeted by his strongest reviews yet and generated the hit singles "Then," "Welcome to the Future," and "Water." Paisley bought some time with the 2010 release Hits Alive -- a double-disc package divided into one live set and one collection of hits -- and then returned with his seventh collection of new songs, This Is Country Music, in May 2011.
"Old Alabama," the second single pulled from This Is Country Music, became Paisley's 19th number one single, followed quickly by his 20th number one, the Carrie Underwood duet "Remind Me." As he toured the album, Paisley also busied himself in a variety of show biz cameos, including popping up on the Cars 2 soundtrack and guesting on "South Park". After the tour came to a conclusion, he set out to work on his ninth album, Wheelhouse. An ambitious, genre-hopping album, the record was preceded by the "Southern Comfort Zone" single in the fall of 2012 and "Beat This Summer," which appeared a month prior to Wheelhouse's April 2013 release.
A second release, Your Man, followed in 2006 and peaked at number two on the Billboard 200. The title track topped the country charts (and experienced an unexpected revival in 2011, when "American Idol" champion Scotty McCreery performed it during his audition), as did the follow-up single "Would You Go with Me." The impressive Everything Is Fine appeared in 2007, again from MCA Nashville. Turner issued the 2010 release of his fourth album, Haywire, with its first two singles as its opening cuts: "Why Don't We Just Dance" and "I Wouldn't Be a Man."
Strait was born and raised in Texas, the son of a junior high school teacher who also owned and operated a ranch that had been in the Strait family for nearly 100 years. When George was a child, his mother left the family, taking her daughter but leaving her sons behind with their father. During his childhood, he would spend his weekdays in town and his weekends on the ranch. Strait began playing music as a teenager, joining a rock & roll garage band. After his high school graduation in the late '60s, he enrolled in college but soon dropped out and eloped with his high school sweetheart, Norma. In 1971, Strait enlisted in the Army; two years later, he was stationed in Hawaii. While there, he began playing country music, initially with an Army-sponsored country band called Rambling Country. They played several dates off the base under the name "Santee". Strait left the Army in 1975, returning to Texas with the intent of completing his education. He enrolled in Southwest Texas State University at San Marcos, where he studied agriculture. While he was studying, he formed his own country band, Ace in the Hole.
Ace in the Hole made a few records for the independent Dallas-based label D in the late '70s, but they never went anywhere. Toward the end of the decade, Strait attempted to carve out a niche in Nashville, but he failed since he lacked any strong connections. In 1979, he became friends with Erv Woolsey, a Texas club owner who had formerly worked for MCA Records. Woolsey had several MCA executives come down to Texas to hear Strait. His performance convinced the company to sign him in 1980. "Unwound," Strait's first single, was released in the spring of 1981 and climbed into the Top Ten. The follow-up, "Down and Out," stalled at 16, but "If You're Thinking You Want a Stranger (There's One Coming Home)" reached number three in early 1982. The song sparked a remarkable string of Top Ten hits that ran well into the '90s. During that time he had an astonishing 31 number one singles, beginning with 1982's "Fool Hearted Memory."
Throughout the '80s, he dominated the country singles charts, and his albums consistently went platinum or gold. Strait rarely abandoned hardcore honky tonk and Western swing -- toward the beginning of the '90s, his sound became a little slicker, but it was only a relative change. Strait was also one of the few '80s superstars to survive the generational shift of the early '90s that began with the phenomenal success of Garth Brooks. In 1992, he made his first movie, Pure Country, which featured him in the lead role. Strait released a four-disc box set career retrospective, Strait Out of the Box, in 1995. By the spring of 1996, it had become one of the five biggest-selling box sets in popular music history. Blue Clear Sky, his 1996 album, debuted on the country charts at number one and the pop charts at number seven. In 1997, he released Carrying Your Love with Me, following it with One Step at a Time in 1998. Always Never the Same appeared a year later, as did the seasonal effort Merry Christmas Wherever You Are. The simply titled George Strait, featuring the hit single "Go On," hit the shelves in late 2000.
Did Strait slow down? Nah. The following year saw the release of The Road Less Traveled, which qualified as an experimental album of sorts for the veteran performer. While it didn't stray very far from his new traditionalist country sound, Road did include a foray into vocal processing that was about as country as a pair of stiletto-healed cowboy boots. But the experimentation was welcome, for it revealed that Strait was still hungry, even after millions upon millions of records sold. Strait issued two projects in 2003. For the Last Time: Live from the Astrodome chronicled his headlining set at the last Houston Livestock and Rodeo ever held in the big Texas dome, while Honkytonkville was a fiery set of hard country, lauded by critics for its mixture of the old Strait with his modern, superstar self. Somewhere Down in Texas arrived in 2005, followed by It Just Comes Natural in 2006, and Troubadour and the holiday album Classic Christmas in 2008. Twang, co-produced by Strait and Tony Brown, appeared in 2009. Strait co-wrote seven of the eleven songs (sharing credits with Dean Dillon, Bobby Boyd, and his son, Bubba Strait) on 2011's Here for a Good Time, his 39th studio album, which was co-produced by Strait and Brown and recorded at Jimmy Buffett's Shrimpboat Sound Studio in Key West, Florida.
Here for a Good Time gave Strait two more Top 10 singles -- "Here for a Good Time" and "Love's Gonna Make It Alright" both missed the top of the charts, peaking at two and three, respectively -- and about a year after its release, Strait announced that he was retiring from touring. He planned one last tour, called The Cowboy Rides Away Tour, beginning in 2013 and ending in 2014. Just before this farewell journey kicked off, Strait released a new album, Love Is Everything, in May of 2013; it was preceded by the single "Give It All We Got Tonight."
Jackson was born in the small town of Newnan, Georgia, on October 17, 1958. He grew up singing gospel music, both in church and at home with his family, and as a teenager, he performed locally as part of a country duo. He left school to work and married his high school sweetheart, Denise, who worked as an airline stewardess. During the early '80s, Jackson held down a series of odd jobs -- car salesman, construction worker, forklift operator at K-Mart -- while playing the local club circuit with his band, Dixie Steel, and working on his songwriting. He caught his big break when Denise found country-pop star Glen Campbell waiting for a flight and gave him a copy of her husband's demo tape; Campbell in turn gave her contact information for his music publishing company, and the Jacksons picked up and moved to Nashville shortly thereafter. Campbell's company suggested that Alan take a year and hone his songwriting even further, and so he worked more odd jobs -- including the mail room at The Nashville Network, plus some session singing -- before finally signing on as a staff writer. By night, he performed in Nashville clubs and recorded an updated demo with songwriter/producer Keith Stegall. In 1989, Jackson became the first artist signed to Arista's new country division.
Jackson's debut album, Here in the Real World, was issued in 1990 and became a platinum-selling hit on the strength of four Top Five hits: the title cut, "Chasin' That Neon Rainbow," "Wanted," and the first of many chart-toppers, "I'd Love You All Over Again." He shot to full-fledged superstardom with the follow-up, 1991's Don't Rock the Jukebox, whose title track was an inescapable number one smash that year. The record produced three more number ones ("Someday," "Dallas," "Love's Got a Hold on You") and also contained one of Jackson's signature songs, the Top Five "Midnight in Montgomery," which told the story of a visit to Hank Williams' grave. Also in 1991, Jackson co-wrote several songs with Randy Travis for Travis' High Lonesome album. With 1992's A Lot About Livin' (And a Little 'Bout Love), Jackson took his place as not only one of the most popular stars of his time, but also one of the best. The number one smash "Chattahoochee" became another signature tune, and Jackson also topped the charts with "She's Got the Rhythm (And I Got the Blues)," while scoring three more Top Five hits from the album -- which became his first to top the country LP charts.
In late 1993, Jackson released the stopgap holiday album Honky Tonk Christmas, which actually avoided standards in favor of lesser-known material. He returned in 1994 with Who I Am, his second straight number one country album, which gave him a staggering four number one singles: a cover of Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues," the music-biz satire "Gone Country" (a dig at executives hopping on the commercial country bandwagon), "Livin' on Love," and "I Don't Even Know Your Name." In only his fifth year on the scene, Jackson was able to issue The Greatest Hits Collection in 1995 and scored hits with three newly minted songs: a cover of George Jones' "Tall Tall Trees," "I'll Try" (both number ones), and "Home." It took The Greatest Hits Collection only a year to sell over three million copies. And, of course, Jackson was far from done. 1996's Everything I Love became his fourth straight release to top the country album charts, and it gave him five Top Ten hits, including the number ones "Little Bitty" (a Tom T. Hall cover) and "There Goes." The 1998 follow-up, High Mileage, also hit number one and became Jackson's highest-charting album on the pop side, reaching number four; it contained four more Top Tens, including the chart-topping "Right on the Money."
Jackson paid tribute to his favorite country singers of the past on the easygoing 1999 covers album Under the Influence, which featured material by Jones, Merle Haggard, Charley Pride, Jimmy Buffett, Hank Williams, Jr., Don Williams (the chart-topping "It Must Be Love"), and Jim Ed Brown (the Top Ten "Pop a Top"), among others. Although Under the Influence just missed hitting number one, 2000's When Somebody Loves You returned Jackson to the top of the album charts and gave him another number one in "Where I Come From." That year, he also teamed up with George Strait for the duet "Murder on Music Row," a strident defense of traditional country in the face of a new wave of crossover stars.
The year 2001 brought an enormous hit in "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)," a poignant attempt to make sense of the aftermath of September 11; rush-released after an awards show premiere, the song rocketed to the top of the country charts and also became his first single to crack the pop Top 30. It was followed by the full-length Drive in 2002, which spawned another number one in "Drive (For Daddy Gene)," a tribute to Jackson's late father. The album was Jackson's seventh to top the country charts, and it also became his first to top the pop charts. His second greatest-hits collection appeared in 2003 and featured the crossover hit "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere," a duet with Jimmy Buffett. A year later the well-received What I Do became the purest country album from Jackson in years. Precious Memories, released in 2006, was a collection of 15 hymns originally recorded as a Christmas gift for his mother. Later that same year, Jackson released Like Red on a Rose, a mellow Alison Krauss production. Live at Texas Stadium, a concert set with George Strait and Jimmy Buffett, followed in 2007. A new studio effort, Good Time, appeared in 2008, followed by another studio outing, Freight Train, in 2010. Jackson left Arista Records Nashville after two decades to sign a distribution deal with EMI Records for his new label, Alan's Country Records (ACR). Jackson's 17th studio album, Thirty Miles West, appeared on ACR under the new deal in 2012. Although the album generated no major hit singles -- "Long Way to Go" topped out at 24, "So You Don't Have to Love Me Anymore" at 25 -- the album debuted at number one on the "Billboard" country charts and number two on the "Billboard" 200. Early in 2013, Jackson released his second album for ACR: a sequel to his spiritual album from 2006 called Precious Memories, Vol. 2.