Country Music Covers Uncover New Discoveries

If it was not for Jerrod Niemann’s swift rise to fame, and his very infectious “Lover, Lover,” I might never have heard of Sonia Dada. Neimann remade the group’s 1992 hit, “You Don’t Treat Me No Good,” into “Lover, Lover.” And if it was not for Kenny Chesney’s “Down the Road,” I might not have taken it upon myself to fall in love with Mac McAnally’s music, as he sings the thoughts of a hesitant father on that tune. And really, I might not have paid enough attention to Kelly Clarkson until she andReba McEntire came together for that unforgettable collaboration on Clarkson’s “Because of You.”

When two like-minded artists get together on a song (like, say, Kellie Pickler andTaylor Swift on “The Best Days of Your Life,” or Trace Adkins and Blake Shelton on”Hillbilly Bone”), it makes perfect sense. But when they branch out a little (Taylor Swift and John Mayer on “Half of My Heart,” for example), it always takes me by surprise. And I usually love the results. It’s often the same with remakes of songs I’d never heard of. When Miranda Lambert put Gillian Welch’s “Dry Town” on her Crazy Ex-Girlfriend album, I immediately looked into more of the Americana singer-songwriter’s music.

There are days, though, when I like the cover song and the cover song only, like when Dierks Bentley put the 26-year-old “Pride (In the Name of Love)” on his new album, Up on the Ridge. I already knew the U2 song. Who doesn’t? But I never really paid much attention to it. Never even liked it. Now that Bentley’s singing it, with Del McCoury on vocals, I dig what they’ve done with it.

Some days I am exhausted just looking at the tall, tall stack of CDs on my desk. There is just so much music. But then on other days, like today when I have time to sit and think, I’m so glad that I can stop putting music into neat little boxes. It’s better to have an open mind and let the music come to you.

Luke Bryan’s Family Adds Another Little Fisherman

Luke Bryan and his wife, Caroline, just welcomed another baby boy to their growing family. Baby Tatum “Tate” Christopher Bryan was born yesterday morning (Aug. 11) and was 6 pounds, 8 ounces and 21 inches long. And Luke already knows just what his future holds now that he has two boys. “All the fishing holes in Nashville better look out when I get out there in the next few years with Tate and big brother Bo,” he told “Bo” is Thomas Boyer Bryan, the couple’s 2-year-old son. The singer added that there was nothing like coming home after eight shows out on the road and having baby Tate surprise them. “Such an amazing day for me and my family. We are so blessed to have another healthy baby boy,” he said in a statement. When I met Bo at a concert when he was just a tiny little thing, he had an adorable all-access lanyard on that was about 1″ X 2″. I hope they saved that. That will make a nice hand-me-down for baby Tate.

Photo credit: Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Remembering a Final Conversation About Country

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.”

Taylor Swift Says “Konnichiwa!” to Country Radio

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.”

Carrie Underwood Unveils Lush Lashes at Wedding

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 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.

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Taylor Swift Kicking Off NFL Season With a Concert

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.

Toby Keith Invites People to Oklahoma Ranch

Finally. The invitation into Toby Keith’s Oklahoma house I’ve been waiting for. Actually, now that I’ve seen the pictures in People Country, the word “house” doesn’t really do this place justice. Maybe something more like “estate” works. Because you know anytime you give your house a name (his is Dream Walkin’ Farms), it kind of ceases to become just a house. But it is spectacular, from the big ol’ gates out front to the nearly 9,000 square feet of living space he and his family call home on the 160 acres. There is a theater room, a lake full of bass, perch and catfish, an eight-car garage and a racquetball court. And even though all that space doesn’t make it your typically cozy country house , Keith tells, “When you’re born and raised in a place like Oklahoma, no place else feels like home.”