Kellie Pickler knows exactly who she is as a woman and an artist. She’s never really had a doubt and never withheld her truth from any of us during her time in the public eye. Her latest album, The Woman I Am, proves it in the most beautiful way.
The singer is more confident, more mature, more grounded and seemingly more at peace than ever before on this new project. Her mellifluous vocals, the familiar twang in her delivery, the humor and the heartache you hear on The Woman I Am is quintessential Pickler. At least, it’s what I’ve come to identify with the singer after she forever solidified her mark in country with her last album, the critically-acclaimed 100 Proof.
For Pickler, it was important to let this new project speak for itself — building on the foundation of 100 Proof but certainly not riding on its glorious coattails.
“You know, 100 Proof … it was very hard to not go in and want to do that all over again,” she told me during a recent interview. “But I can’t go in and make the same record I’ve made, you know? But I can still sprinkle and keep some of that traditional sound and feel and that element in my current record.”
And she did keep it well-rounded with songs like “Selma Drye” (a firecracker of a tune inspired by her strong great-grandmother), “Someone Somewhere Tonight” (a beautiful ballad that brought her back to country radio) and “Little Bit Gypsy” (her current single co-written by her husband Kyle Jacobs).
“I’m happy with the songs,” she said. “I’m happy with the production and with how everything turned out, and I think each song tells a special story.”
The Woman I Am is her first album since winning ABC’s Dancing With the Stars in May.
Earlier this month, Bryan’s Jan. 25 concert at the legendary venue sold out in five minutes. Responding to the demand for an additional show, he added another date — Sept. 12 — again sold all tickets within a matter of minutes when they went on sale Saturday (Nov. 16).
Bryan launches the first leg of his That’s My Kind of Night tour with Lee Brice and Cole Swindell on Jan. 16 in Columbus, Ohio. His first Madison Square Garden appearance follows a two-night stand on Jan. 23-24 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. Madison Square Garden was already booked on Jan. 26 for an NBA game between the L.A. Lakers and the New York Knicks.
Bryan realizes two sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden is a major achievement for any musical act.
“I can’t thank my fans enough for being so eager to see us play in New York City,” Bryan said. “They have made my first time playing Madison Square Garden a two-time experience. I’m trying to let it all sink in, but I cannot wait to get there and share my live show with them.”
Bryan completed his Dirt Road Diaries tour in October. His upcoming TV schedule includes appearances on the American Music Awards on Sunday (Nov. 24), The Tonight Show With Jay Leno on Nov. 26, The Ellen DeGeneres Show on Nov. 27 and the CMA Country Christmas on Dec. 2.
Bryan, Jason Aldean, Florida Georgia Line, Hunter Hayes and Tim McGraw will be honored during the 2013 CMT Artists of the Year special airing live Dec. 3.
- 2006, Buddy Jewell breaks his wrist when he falls off a ladder while stringing Christmas lights on his Nashville home. The accident forces him to cancel his scheduled participation in a holiday concert tour
- 2002, Mercury releases Shania Twain’s album “Up!”
- 1996, American Recordings releases Johnny Cash’s “Unchained”
- 1973, Billy Currington is born in Savannah, Georgia. Debuting with “Walk A Little Straighter” in 2003, he applies an easy-going vocal style to a string of hits, including “Don’t,” “That’s How Country Boys Roll” and “People Are Crazy”
Garth Brooks will release Blame It All on My Roots, an eight-disc set including six CDs and two DVDs, on Nov. 28. Featuring four new studio albums, the collection features his versions of music that influenced him, including Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire,” Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and other songs popularized by James Taylor, Gladys Knight and others.
Brooks has emphasized cover songs during his one-man show at the Wynn Resort in Las Vegas. The limited engagement began in December 2009.
The four new CDs in the boxed set include studio versions of 44 songs from the country, classic rock and blue-eyed soul genres. The package will also include two CDs containing 33 songs from The Ultimate Hits collection, plus a bonus track, “Leave a Light On.” Additionally, Blame It All on My Roots will contain a DVD featuring music videos for all 33 songs and a two-hour DVD of Brooks’ performances in Las Vegas.
The boxed set is priced at $24.96 and will be available exclusively at Walmart, Sam’s Club and Walmart.com. The project is part of the retailer’s Black Friday promotion.
The release coincides with Garth Brooks: Live in Las Vegas, a TV special filmed during his final performances at the Wynn. It airs Nov. 29 on CBS.
The crowd of fans chants, “We love Blake!” So you’d think that as popular as Blake Shelton is right now, this video might’ve been shot yesterday. Then you notice his hair. His thick, wavy, chestnut ringlets that frame his face and dip way down past his shoulders. That’s when you realize that this is Shelton from 12 years ago.
But it must’ve been a slow news day at CNN when they dug up this old segment from an Oklahoma City TV station, but you’ll be so glad they did. It’s so refreshing to see that Shelton has barely changed at all. His vocals sounded amazing already. His wit was already in full force. His demeanor was just as honest. And his dimples? They were just as charming then as they are right now.
He gives the camera crew a tour of his $300,000 tour bus, saying, “I live on a piece of crap. Crap is breaking all the time and it drives me crazy.”
He shows off his favorite part of his tour rider — the Bud Lights on ice. He gets in his bus bunk to demonstrate how tall he is, pointing out that his head is touching one wall while his feet are touching the other. He introduces his dad/manager. And he talks about getting his start in the music world by sitting on his truck’s tailgate, playing and singing with his high school buddy Buck for anyone in Ada, Okla., who cared to listen.
“As the crowds become bigger and bigger, I become happier and happier,” Shelton says.
At this point in his career, he has released seven studio albums, not counting holiday projects, EPs and compilations. He’s won numerous awards, headlined major tours and is a judge/mentor on The Voice.
Twelve years ago, I’ll bet he had no idea how happy he’d be in 2013.
- 2011, Taylor Swift meets Bruce Springsteen when he attends her show at the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina. Also in attendance: Scotty McCreery
- 2005, The Johnny Cash biopic “Walk The Line” opens, with Joaquin Phoenix in the starring role. Reese Witherspoon portrays June Carter, Shelby Lynne takes the role of Cash’s mother, and Shooter Jennings plays his late father, Waylon Jennings
- 1980, “Barbara Mandrell And The Mandrell Sisters” debuts on NBC-TV, with guests Dolly Parton and John Schneider. Parton sings “9 To 5″ and duets with Mandrell on The Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love”
- 1969, Conway Twitty records “Hello Darlin’” in an afternoon session at Bradley’s Barn in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee
- 2007, A “CMT Giants” installment celebrating Hank Williams Jr. debuts. Paying homage are Brad Paisley, Gretchen Wilson, Tim McGraw, Alan Jackson, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kid Rock, Steven Tyler, Toby Keith, Terry Bradshaw and Buddy Guy
- 1997, “The Woman In Me” makes Shania Twain the first female country artist to have an album certified for shipments of 10 million copies
- 1988, Bass player Reid Perry is born in Jackson, Mississippi. He becomes one-third of The Band Perry, which earns a triple-platinum single with “If I Die Young” and wins the Country Music Association’s New Artist of the Year in 2011
- 1938, Gordon Lightfoot born in Orillia, Ontario. The pop singer-songwriter crosses into the country charts with his million-selling 1974 single “Sundown,” and writes Marty Robbins’ “Ribbon Of Darkness” and George Hamilton IV’s “Early Morning Rain”
- 2005, CBS airs “I Walk The Line: A Night For Johnny Cash” with Brad Paisley, Martina McBride, Dwight Yoakam, Jerry Lee Lewis, Norah Jones, Kris Kristofferson, Sheryl Crow, Kid Rock, Reese Witherspoon, Joaquin Phoenix and Alison Krauss
- 1994, Garth Brooks’ “Ropin’ The Wind” album is certified for shipments of 10 million copies, making him the first country artist to reach that plateau with two different releases
- 1970, Anne Murray clutches a gold single with “Snowbird,” making her the first Canadian artist to reach gold with a country hit
- 1960, Patsy Cline records “I Fall To Pieces” during an afternoon session at the Bradley Film & Recording Studio in Nashville
- 2005, Lee Ann Womack wins three trophies in the Country Music Association awards at New York’s Madison Square Garden: Single of the Year (“I May Hate Myself In The Morning”), Album (“There’s More Where That Came From”) and Vocal Event, shared with George Strait
- 2003, Toby Keith bellies up to #1 in Billboard with “I Love This Bar”
- 1980, Anne Murray waltzes to #1 on the Billboard country chart with “Could I Have This Dance”
- 1975, Waylon Jennings picks up a #1 country single in Billboard with “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way”
Alan Jackson is no stranger to the top of the charts. Since making his debut in 1989 with “Blue Blooded Woman,” the Newnan, Ga., native has placed 81 titles on Billboard‘s country singles chart, among them 51 Top 10 songs and 26 No. 1 hits. He’s charted 29 titles on Billboard‘s country albums list, including 13 No. 1 titles.
Needless to say, Jackson is one of country music’s most successful artists. His numerous awards include three Grammys and 16 CMA trophies, including three entertainer of the year awards.
However, his achievements aren’t limited to the country genre. Jackson has also recorded two chart-topping gospel albums — separate volumes of Precious Memories. The Gospel Music Association recently honored Jackson with the 2013 Mainstream Contribution to Gospel Music Award.
On his latest project, Jackson pays homage to one of his favorite art forms with The Bluegrass Record, which has spent six weeks on Billboard‘s bluegrass albums chart.
“It’s been probably 15 years I’ve been trying to do this thing,” says Jackson, who wrote eight new songs for the album. “I’ve always been a fan of real music. It’s always been about the songs, singing, the harmonies and real playing, and that’s what bluegrass has always been. It’s real players, songwriters, real singers singing harmonies, and it’s just real music.”
Whether singing country, gospel or bluegrass, Jackson has always been about real music. Here’s a look at some of his finest moments.
“Here in the Real World”
Jackson’s first single, “Blue Blooded Woman,” was released in 1989 and only climbed to No. 45 on Billboard‘s country singles chart. However, his second release, “Here in the Real World,” proved to be a bona fide hit, peaking at No. 3 and establishing him as one of the format’s hottest new singer-songwriters. In this pensive song about a failed relationship, Jackson compared the way love is portrayed in movies to the harsh reality of a breakup in real life. The song struck a chord with listeners as Jackson gently crooned “Darlin’, it’s sad but true/But the one thing I’ve learned from you/Is how the boy don’t always get the girl/Here in the real world.”
“I’d Love You All Over Again”
This was the fourth single from Jackson’s debut album, Here in the Real World, and it became his very first No. 1 hit in March 1991, remaining at the summit for two weeks. Jackson wrote the song for his wife Denise, and the lyric begins with him musing that he can’t believe that it had been 10 years since they said, “I do.” In the chorus, Jackson declares, “And if I had it to do all over/I’d do it all over again/If tomorrow I found one more chance to begin/I’d love you all over again.” It’s a gorgeous country love song that remains one of the most potent hits in Jackson’s arsenal.
“Don’t Rock the Jukebox”
This up-tempo celebration of traditional country music became Jackson’s second No. 1 song when it hit the top of the country charts in July 1991, remaining at the summit for three weeks. The song was the title track of Jackson’s sophomore album and the first of five hit singles from what would become a landmark album in Jackson’s career. “Someday,” “Dallas” and “Love’s Got a Hold on You” all hit No. 1, and the Hank Williams tribute “Midnight in Montgomery” peaked at No. 3. “Don’t Rock the Jukebox” finds Jackson singing about a broken heart and how there’s no substitute for good country music. In the chorus, he sings: “Don’t rock the jukebox/I wanna hear some Jones/My heart ain’t ready/For the Rolling Stones/I don’t feel like rockin’ Since my baby’s gone/So don’t rock the jukebox Play me a country song.” The legendary George Jones makes a special guest appearance on the tune.
Released in May 1993, “Chattahoochee” was the third single from Jackson’s A Lot About Livin’ (And a Little ‘Bout Love) album. Written by Jackson and Jim McBride, the song starts off with an absolutely infectious guitar riff, and then Jackson launches into a well-crafted lyric about the joys of growing up where guys would build “a pyramid of cans in the pale moonlight/Talking ’bout cars and dreaming ’bout women/Never had a plan just a livin’ for the minute.” Jackson describes it as “a song about having fun, growing up and coming of age in a small town, which really applies to anyone across the country, not just by the Chattahoochee. We never thought it would be as big as it’s become.” Buoyed by a fun video where Jackson impressively did his own waterskiing, the single spent four weeks at No. 1 and was named the CMA single of the year in 1993 and song of the year in 1994.
“Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)”
Decades from now, if there is one song that people associate with Jackson, it will likely be this poignant response to the events of Sept. 11. A few weeks after the terrorist attacks, Jackson woke up at 4 a.m. and chronicled not only his feelings but the sentiments of the nation when he wrote this emotional ballad. Jackson debuted the song on the CMA Awards in 2001 and received an immediate standing ovation. Radio stations jumped on the song, and it climbed to No. 1 the country chart in just six weeks and remained at the summit for five weeks. The powerful lyric examines how people felt in the wake of tragedy, yet the chorus is a beacon of hope as Jackson sings, “I know Jesus and I talk to God/And I remember this from when I was young/Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us/And the greatest is love.”
“Drive (For Daddy Gene)”
This tune was the title track and second single from Jackson’s 10th studio album. Jackson wrote the song for his father Eugene Jackson, who passed away in January 2000. In the song, Jackson shares memories of his father letting him drive their old truck and their wood boat and how special those experiences made a young boy feel. The third verse describes him letting his three daughters drive a Jeep around the pasture at their home. The single was accompanied by a unique video presented as animated pictures coming to life out of a storybook. The song topped the chart for four weeks in 2002.
“It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere”
This party anthem featuring Jimmy Buffett was the lead single from Jackson’s Greatest Hits Volume II, released in 2003. Written by Jim “Moose” Brown and Don Rollins, the song spent eight weeks at No. 1 on the country singles chart and peaked at No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it Jackson’s highest entry on the pop chart. It was also the No. 3 song of the decade on Billboard‘s country chart. The lyrics deal with the frustrations of a man who hasn’t had a day off in over a year and is ready to leave for lunch and drink away the rest of the day. It’s easy to justify his actions because it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere. This hit earned Jackson and Buffett the CMA vocal event award in 2003.
OK, so this song didn’t top the chart, but it’s impossible to recap Jackson’s distinguished career without mentioning his gospel albums. Released in 2006, Precious Memories was recorded as a Christmas gift to his mother. It was never intended to be sold commercially, but when a record executive coaxed him to share it with the world, it became one of Jackson’s most successful albums, selling more than 2 million copies and spending 22 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard‘s Christian albums chart and two weeks at No. 1 on the country albums list. It won the Gospel Music Association’s Dove Award in 2007 for country album of the year. Ironically, the song “Precious Memories” wasn’t included on the first gospel album, but when Jackson released a second volume in March 2013, the song was included alongside other gospel classics such as “Just as I Am,” “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder” and “Amazing Grace.”
Released in October 2003, this beautiful ballad is among Jackson’s most compelling hits. Inspired by Jackson’s wife Denise, the lyrics look back at the milestones in a long marriage from young love to having children to growing old together as Jackson sings, “Remember when 30 seemed so old/Now lookin’ back it’s just a steppin’ stone/To where we are/Where we’ve been/Said we’d do it all again/Remember when.” The video features a tender scene of the couple slow dancing. “Remember When” topped the charts for two weeks in 2004.
With the release of The Bluegrass Album, Jackson has moved into new territory and has topped charts he’s never scaled before. In addition to the album camping out at No. 1 on Billboard‘s bluegrass albums chart for multiple weeks, the upbeat tune “Blacktop” debuted at No. 1 on the weekly chart of Bluegrass Today, a website devoted to the genre. This marks only the third time a song has entered the Bluegrass Today weekly chart at No. 1. Though today’s country charts are riddled with tunes about backwoods and dirt roads, Jackson penned a clever salute to the benefits of blacktop, which begins with the lines: “This ain’t no song ’bout the good old days/Simpler times or easy ways/Oh, how I long for an old dirt road/Greener grass or a lighter load/I was glad to see the blacktop/When they laid it down in ’65/Yeah I was glad to see the blacktop/No more dust in my eyes.” Jackson recently took bluegrass to the Big Apple when he performed at New York’s Carnegie Hall on Oct. 28 and appeared on Late Show With David Letterman the following night to perform “Blacktop.”