The day I wrote a blog about how God says no to your prayers sometimes was the last time I talked to my parish’s pastor about country music. It was actually the last time I talked to him, period. He died suddenly yesterday (Aug. 11). And I am struggling with the fact that our last conversation was about country music. I mean, shouldn’t we have been talking about something more reverent? Shouldn’t I have been asking him why bad things happen to good people? Or some other religious question that holier Christians ponder?
On the one hand, I feel like my only bond with Father Bob was a shared love of country music. On the other hand, is that so wrong? Just like me, he loved the music so much. He’d even gone to a few big arena shows over the years, even one of those mega Kenny Chesney shows at Chicago’s Soldier Field. And I have to assume that he wasn’t there for the electric guitar jams and the blazing fiddle solos. His love of the music seemed to revolve around the lyrics. I know, I know. Country has its share of sinful themes. Drinkin’, cheatin’, killin’, temptation, greed and other mortal and venial sins. Outlaw music just wouldn’t be the same without ugliness like that.
But then there’s the other side of country. The songs about repentance, counting blessings, sharing sacraments, seeing the Lord in little things, having faith in Jesus and getting called on home. When you think about songs like that, no other genre could ever come close. If you’re gonna make a priest’s playlist, you need to have songs that really mean something. That is why I know that St. Peter was there to welcome Father Bob, and tell him, “Good ride, cowboy. Good ride.”
Getting 116 radio stations to put your song on right when it’s released is quite an achievement. Because she’s just as gifted as a businesswoman as she is a songwriter, Taylor Swift was smart enough to send out a quick thank you to all those stations who added “Mine” to their playlists. (It kind of makes me wonder why some stations didn’t add it, you know?) In an impromptu video greeting, Swift offers a heartfelt “Konnichiwa!” then goes on to say hi to her friends at country radio and gives her effusive thanks. She does it from the side of a stage in Toyko where she was part of the Summer Sonic Festival. Right before she heads out to sing, she says, “I’m about to play for 45,000 people in Japan! Wish me luck! Thank you for the first week. I love you.”
All they had to do was make Carrie Underwood look even more stunning on her wedding day. Hardly an impossible task considering what a lovely palette Melissa Schleicher and Stephen Moleski had to start with. But it was hot, hot, hot on her wedding day, so they did have to keep her looking cool. They did so with a simple updo with curls and pieces and bobby pins. Then Schleicher, her make-up artist, gave People.com the scoop on her fabulous look from the day. The super secret weapon seems to have been the very lush, soft and full false eyelashes she wore. They were created just for Underwood by Moleski, from Smoke and Mirrors Beauty. Joe Don Rooney’s wife, Tiffany Fallon, loves the line of faux lashes, as does E! star Kim Kardashian. You can get lashes almost like Underwood’son Moleski’s site for about $22. No brand of mascara — or prescription of Latisse — will ever make your eyes look like this.
Photo credit: People.com
I predict that professional football will have a whole bunch of new fans next month. Young ones. And girl ones. I’m sure all kinds of rookies will be tuning in to theNFL’s annual kick-off concert on Sept. 8 on NBC to see Taylor Swift performing in New Orleans’ Jackson Square along with theDave Matthews Band. They may even stay tuned for the actual game afterward when the Minnesota Vikings play the New Orleans Saints. This is certainly not Swift’s first time singing at a sporting event. She started that around 11 years old, when she realized that singing the National Anthem was a surefire way to get potential fans’ attention at Philadelphia 76ers’ games. She’s gone on to sing at the U.S. Open tennis tournament and even at game three of the 2008 World Series when her home-state team, the Philadelphia Phillies, was in it.
The cover story from this week’s Billboard magazine is about Eric Church, Laura Bell Bundy and Joe Nichols. But it’s not just a look at their music or a litany of their chart stats. It’s all about how the three of them took such different routes to get to where they are today. With this kind of angle, there are always going to be the extreme extremes, like this guy lived out of a van and played for tip jars in honkytonks but then this other girl took the reality TV skyrocket to stardom. But these three articles about Church, Bundy and Nichols show you a few of the other paths.
Church opted out of his opening slot in arena tours and started playing what he calls “little sweatbox clubs” where he built a very enthusiastic fan base of young males. Then Bundy came at her new Nashville success the Broadway way. That influence is apparent in her debut video for “Giddy On Up.” But she’s not all booty-shakin’. Half the tracks on her debut album are what she calls “country you can make out to.” As for Nichols, he has more of a start-stop-start-stop-start-again story. Or if you look at numbers, his first album sold 896,000 copies, his second 294,000, his third 737,000 and his fourth 120,000. If the back-and-forth pattern holds, his fifth album, Old Things New, should do well. He told Billboard that’s his plan. “I want to attract new fans and maybe re-attract fans that bought my early albums but haven’t bought the last couple,” he said.
If there’s a moral to this story, I think it’s that if you’ve got something special, Nashville doesn’t care how you got here. It’s just glad you came.
Because Brad Paisley’s doing two sold-out shows in London next week, he did this great interview with the Guardian. And by great, I mean long and interesting and full of things I didn’t know about him. Like, that he loves The Office (and he wants the UK show’s original creator and star Ricky Gervais to come to his London gig.) And that he thinks the people making country music today are pretty progressive, and it is NOT coming from “country hicks sitting behind a desk with a big cigar giving out record deals and driving round in Cadillacs with cattle horns on the front grille.” And that he’s quite pleased with the democracy in America. “Regardless of what I think about politics, I’m proud of our country for being that open-minded, and showing the world, which had sort of written us all off as all being closed-minded,” he says of our country’s willingness to elect a black man as President.
So I just learned that at Blake Shelton is almost ready to show off his second Six Pak, on Aug. 10. (Ever since the CMT Music Awards last week, when Laura Bell Bundy referred to Blake Shelton as “At Blake Shelton” because they are both such avid Twitterers, I’ve decided that I, too, will refer to him in conversation as “at Blake Shelton.”) The upcoming six-song album follows up his first, Hillbilly Bone. And this one will have his newest single, “All About Tonight,” plus the songs whose titles alone sound like hits: “Who Are You When I’m Not Lookin'” and “Suffocating” (co-written by Miranda Lambert and Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott). Of this two-small-albums-instead-of-one-big-one concept, Shelton says, “It does make me feel more creative. It’s ongoing recording, which is a lot of fun for me. I feel like I’m making a mini Greatest Hits every time I put out one of these, ’cause I feel strongly about each and every one of those songs. It’s more of a dynamite in a small package kind of thing.”
There was a foodie story about country starson the Tennessean‘s website last week that I printed out, so that I could try the recipes when I got back home after my Nashville business-plus-pleasure trip. I prepared them all yesterday, and have to say I have never had a better meal. Maybe it’s because I knew I had two great country singers by my virtual side. But you should try at least one of these recipes. Trisha Yearwood’s Pork Loin was a no-brainer. Zac Brown’s Black Eyed Pea Fritters were not pretty, but everyone loved them and I was glad to teach my kids that black eyed peas were an actual food, not just a band. But Yearwood’s Key Lime Cake was hands-down the favorite of the night. I know she joked on the CMT Music Awards blue carpet that she was not going to give up singing for cooking, but she absolutely has a gift for both. If she cooks like this every night, Garth Brooks is a lucky man.