Music Spotlight: Due West

Due West is a trio of country musicians who met at a house party in 2004. Tim Gates, Matt Lopez, and Brad Hull are from the western U.S., but like many aspiring artists, they found themselves in Music City.

The three of them were all invited to the same party. As happens in Nashville, when everyone gets together, they usually sing. When Gates started singing, Hull and Lopez chimed in, playing and singing harmony.

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Clint Black Announces 2024 World Tour Celebrating 35 Years of ‘Killin’ Time’

Clint Black

Following three sold-out shows at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, Clint Black is going on tour to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the award-winning album Killin’ Time. He and his electrifying band will play the album top to bottom, along with many other number-one hits.

Black moved to Nashville over 35 years ago with his bandleader and longtime songwriter colleague, Hayden Nicholas, where he readily signed a deal with RCA Records.

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T.G. Sheppard and Kelly Lang Release Song Called ‘You’re Still The One’

Sheppard Lang

One of my favorite country music couples is T.G. Sheppard and Kelly Lang.

I learned last year that the pair were planning a new duets album for 2024. They decided the first song they would release off the upcoming album would be a cover of Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One.”

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Music Spotlight: Scotty Hasting

I often encounter veterans while writing about country music. And while only a few veterans also become performing musicians, something about having served makes their music ring true, especially in the patriotic realm of country music.

Scotty Hasting is from the Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati area. Although he was in several school choirs, being a musician was never a life goal. He joined the army in October 2010, and by April 2011, he was shot and was lucky to be alive.

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Music Spotlight: Josh Abbott Band

Josh Abbott Band

One of the bands I have been wanting to feature for a while is the Josh Abbott Band. With multiple hit songs having multi-million streams, they are hugely popular in their home state of Texas and across the globe. You may be familiar with the perennial favorites, “Settle Me Down” and “She’s Like Texas.”

They have also teamed up with megastars like Kacey Musgraves in “Oh Tonight,” Carly Pearce in “Wasn’t That Drunk” and Pat Green in “My Texas” to bring their music to an even wider audience.

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Artimus Pyle Releases ‘Anthems – Honoring The Music of Lynyrd Skynyrd’

Artimus Pyle, a distinguished Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member and former drummer for Lynyrd Skynyrd, unveils his tribute album, Anthems – Honoring The Music of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Nearly 47 years after the horrific plane crash that killed Lynyrd Skynyrd leader Ronnie Van Zant, a new album honoring him and the original Lynyrd Skynyrd band is being released.

I first heard the Artimus Pyle Band in 2020 when he, Dolly Parton, and others raised money to benefit the W.O. Smith Music School and the Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation. I met Pyle in May of 2022 when the former Marine was at an event honoring my ancestor, Lt. Presley O’Bannon.

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Becca Bowen Releases New EP, County Line

Becca Bowen

An artist that I have featured a few times in the past is Becca Bowen. I love her energy, passion, and big, beautiful voice. The South Carolina native mixes her authentic country charm with her background in gospel music and musical theater to bring us a traditional country sound with a soulful approach.

While Bowen has been releasing singles since 2020 and her debut album in 2022, it wasn’t until recently that she became brave enough to release an entire EP, County Line, where she co-wrote every song.

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Music Spotlight: Jake and Shelby

Jake and Shelby

A duo that kept showing up in my Instagram feed was a couple of kids, known as Jake & Shelby. Jake Lawson and Shelby Haim are teenagers from Hendersonville, Tennessee. Known for their smooth vocals and intricate guitar arrangements, their magical mix of melody and lyrics is enticing. The pop duo has nearly 900,000 followers on Instagram. Their TikTok videos have had over 70 mllion views.

At just 18 and 19 years of age, I knew if I had any chance of featuring them, I had better contact them as soon as possible.

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Music Spotlight: Krystal King

Krystal King has had country music in her soul practically since birth. Her parents told her that when she was a toddler, they were scanning the radio stations and when it got to an Alan Jackson song, she squealed, “Oh stop, stop.” And she has been listening to country music ever since.

As she got older, the North Carolina native was visiting friends on the coast. A man was DJing at a restaurant. Her parents dared to get up there and sing a song. So, she walked up to him and asked him if I could sing “You’re Still the One” by Shania Twain.

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America Salutes You Presents ‘A Concert for Gratitude’

Hosted by legendary country singer Clint Black, America Salutes You Presents ‘A Concert For Gratitude’ that will air on five distribution platforms from January 20th – February 20th.

This televised event mobilizes support for our troops and first responders through music with its eighth event and telecast. The TV special features performances by Clint Black (with Lisa Hartman Black and Lily Pearl Black) Chrissy Metz, Dustin Lynch, Jo Dee Messina, Alana Springsteen, Megan Moroney, Walker Hayes, Charles Esten, Lecrae, War Hippies and Lee Greenwood (celebrating the 40th anniversary of “God Bless the USA.”) Craig Morgan, Jelly Roll and Trace Adkins will have special performances and Gary Sinise was honored with the America Salutes You Lifetime Achievement Award.

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Music Spotlight: Ashley Anne

Occasionally, you meet an artist, and you know they were born with a gift. At age 17, Ashley Anne wrote/released her first single, “Dear Dolly,” a song that she penned entirely on her own.

And while Dolly Parton is arguably the most popular country star on the planet, most people of Anne’s peer group only know “Jolene” and probably don’t realize that Parton wrote “I Will Always Love You” and may not have ever heard Whitney Houston’s version of it.

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American Idol’s Taylor Hicks to Perform ‘Night Moves’ at the Franklin Theatre

As I learned last year in my original interview, Season 5 American Idol winner, Taylor Hicks is a diverse entertainer. Besides being a soulful singer and songwriter, the artist is an actor and restaurateur. A few weeks after our last interview, Taylor Hicks was asked to make his Grand Ole Opry debut, a milestone desired by many Southern singers.

He made his debut on June 18, 2023. Hicks said, “As long as I’ve been doing this, being able to grace the Opry Stage was something that I will never forget. It’s a big deal. I’ve had a lot of great invitations, and this was definitely up there for sure.”

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Music Spotlight: The Frontmen

The Frontmen

While listening to my pal, Storme Warren on The Big 615, I heard him interviewing a group of men called The Frontmen on his show. And while their voices sounded familiar, I was unsure of who they were.

It turns out that The Frontmen are a new country music trio, and I can honestly say that their harmony is next level. They consist of Richie McDonald, formerly of Lonestar (Amazed, “I’m Already There,” “Mr. Mom,” and “My Front Porch Looking In”); Tim Rushlow, formerly of Little Texas (“God Blessed Texas,” “What Might Have Been,” and “My Love”); and Larry Stewart of Restless Heart, (“Why Does It Have to Be Wrong or Right,” “When She Cries,” “The Bluest Eyes in Texas,” and “I’ll Still Be Loving You.”)

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Music Spotlight: Amanda Stewart

Growing up in the mountains of Montana, Amanda Stewart spent much of her time on her grandparents’ ranch, being exposed to the acoustic instrumentation and simple yet honest songwriting of Americana, folk, and country music styles.

She said, “My mom did a little bit of singing in school and was always singing in the car. And I sang with her. We actually did little karaoke contests and things like that. And my dad loved music, too. And my grandparents had a piano in their living room at their ranch. Whenever I would go, I would just be in there plugging away and singing. Nobody was professionally inclined, but it’s just always been a big part of the family life.”

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Music Spotlight Follow-Up: Shaylen

When Music Spotlight Artist, Shaylen, relocated from LA to Nashville, she had high hopes but wasn’t fully sure what to expect.

She said, “The first month I was out here, I was scared to death. I cried every day. I was like, ‘What did I do?’ And then it took about a month. I adjusted. And then I’ve made such great friends. The community’s been so welcoming.”

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Music Spotlight: Meghan Patrick

A name that kept popping up in my feed and on socials was Meghan Patrick. She is a Canadian Country music singer who moved to Nashville a few years back to make a fresh start. When I interviewed Mitchell Tenpenny in April, I learned he and Patrick had recently wed.

But it wasn’t until I saw her interview on the I Am Second platform, that I found out what all she has conquered to get to where she is today. I knew then that I wanted to tell her story.

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Spotlight Artist Grace Leer Costars in Hallmark Movie

Music Spotlight artist Grace Leer made her acting debut in a Blake Shelton-produced new Hallmark Movie, Time For Her To Come Home For Christmas. Leer costars alongside Shenae Grimes-Beech and Chris Carmack in a holiday romance mystery that is airing during Hallmark’s annual “Miracles of Christmas” programming event.

To many, the words “Hallmark Movie” and “Blake Shelton” don’t appear to belong together, but this movie is the sixth installment of the popular movie franchise based upon the book Time for Me to Come Home by Dorothy Shackleford and Travis Thrasher and Shelton’s song of the same name. Leer performs Shelton’s hit “Time for Me to Come Home” in the movie as well.

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Music Spotlight: David Morris

One thing that I have learned by writing my column is that even though I prefer traditional country music, hip-hop, and rap are tremendously popular with the younger set. There have been a few country artists who have dipped their toes into the hip-hop music scene, but the most successful one I have encountered is David Morris.

Hailing from Charleston, West Virginia, country, hip-hop artist Morris is trailblazing a path by mixing trap-style beats with slide guitars, banjos with catchy hooks, and lyrical mastery with relatable lyrics. Morris has over 120 million global streams and has supported Kidd G and Jelly Roll on tour. The song, “Dutton Ranch Free Style,” recently received its RIAA Gold Certification.

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Jamie O’Neal And Ty Herndon Bring Us ‘Merry Christmas Baby’

Two of the biggest voices from the early 2000s, Jamie O’Neal and Ty Herndon, have joined together to bring us the original Christmas song, “Merry Christmas Baby.” Last year, O’Neal put out a memorable Christmas record, Spirit & Joy, which I have added to my collection of favorite Christmas CDs.

This year, O’Neal released a deluxe edition of her holiday album, which includes the original song “Merry Christmas Baby” and a cover of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Both songs follow the same theme of missing someone you love at Christmastime.

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Music Spotlight: Drew Haley

Drew Haley

The first time I heard of Drew Haley was when I interviewed a remarkable group of country vocalists in 2020 called The Highway Women. I was impressed at how good each artist was and how they easily blended their unique voices.

But like so many who got their start during a pandemic, they just couldn’t keep the momentum going without being able to get out and tour.

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Brei Carter Releases ‘Twinkling Tales of Christmas’

Crossover country and southern pop recording artist, and U.S. Army veteran and Music Spotlight artist, Brei Carter just can’t wait to usher in the holiday season with her new seven-song debut Christmas EP, Twinkling Tales of Christmas. Known for having a festive and vivacious personality year-round, Carter’s new EP is a multi-faceted genre-hopping collection of originals that draws upon her established country, southern pop, soul, and R&B musical influences.

And while many cling to the cherished Christmas carols on which we were raised, at one time, each of those familiar favorites had their debut.

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Music Spotlight: Storme Warren

I often ask artists who influenced their careers. Well for me, not being a musician, the person who has most influenced me is the television and radio broadcaster, Storme Warren. Although I have little desire to become a television personality, I have learned so much about interviewing artists by listening to Storme nearly every day for 16 years on Sirius XM’s The Highway.

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Music Spotlight: Adam Hood

When I was sent the artist Adam Hood to consider, I listened to one of his songs, “22 Days Too Long.” I wondered, “How in the world has he not crossed my radar until now?”

Hood has labeled his music as “southern soul” and has collaborated with artists like Brent Cobb, Josh Abbott, Jason Eady, and Miranda Lambert (to name a few). He is known to the music world as a songwriter’s songwriter as he effortlessly tells stories of everyday life in a meaningful way.

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Music Spotlight: William Michael Morgan

William Michael Morgan has been in Nashville since he was 19. Many country music fans will remember his gold-certified hit “I Met a Girl” from 2016, which continues to be a favorite at engagement parties and weddings.

Morgan hails from Vicksburg, Mississippi, which is the heart of the Delta Blues and a seven-minute drive from the Louisiana state line. His dad introduced him to country music by covering Marty Robbins and George Jones tunes on his guitar. Then, when he was 12, he got his own guitar, locked himself inside, and learned to play by watching YouTube videos.

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Music Spotlight: Orlando Mendez

 I’ll admit that I don’t watch music competition shows like I did when I was younger. When I watch TV, it’s usually a mind-numbing procedural or mystery.

But thankfully, a lot of the people I interview got their start on a show and if they are country, they often find their way into my email inbox. Because the competition is so fierce, most of the artists pitched to me are outstanding performers. Orlando Mendez is one such artist and I feel privileged to tell his story.

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Music Spotlight: Stoned Cold Country

Several years ago, when we were listening to the Rolling Stones on the radio, my husband remarked, “Listen to that. That’s country music.”

Evidently, others agree.

Long fascinated by the Rolling Stones, and specifically their country roots, CMA producer, Robert Deaton spent the past several years on a specific mission: namely, to shine a light on the Stones’ influence not only on country music at large but more specifically on some of its most convention-busting contemporary artists.

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Music Spotlight: Annie Bosko

A California farmer’s daughter, Annie Bosko’s soulful, honey-soaked vocals and neo-traditional country sound has been perfected throughout her 10,000 + hours in the music industry. And while she doesn’t quite have that southern twang, her voice is exquisite. Even more importantly, she was raised on traditional country music.

She recalled, “My dad was a farmer. We would drive around in his truck and go look at the crops and he would play me country music. The first person I remember hearing is Patsy Cline. I remember this voice jumping at me through the speakers of his truck and I was like, ‘Oh, my God, what is this?’”

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Circle TV Announces New Season of ‘Talking in Circles With Clint Black’

Circle Network, the official TV and media home of the Grand Ole Opry, announced Tuesday the return of one of the network’s hit programs, “Talking in Circles with Clint Black,” for a highly-anticipated fifth season, premiering on Saturday at 10/9c. Hosted by Country Music icon Clint Black, the sit-down interview-style talk show brings intimate, exclusive conversations to Circle’s viewers, bringing fans closer to their favorite entertainers. This season’s roster of guests includes legendary singers/songwriters, TV personalities, and athletes, including Bret Michaels, Elle King, Jimmie Vaughan, John Oates, Marcus King, Paula Abdul, and more.

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‘Playin’ Possum’: Nancy Jones Remembers George Jones

FRANKLIN, Tennessee-Many have been fascinated by George Jones’ storied life. He is possibly the greatest male vocalist in county music history with 79 top ten hits and 10 number ones including “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” a song often considered as the greatest country song of all time. But his addiction to drugs and alcohol nearly destroyed his career.

This addiction affected his relationships with women, including his volatile marriage to Tammy Wynette. However, when he met Nancy Sepulvado in 1981, his entire world changed.

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Music Spotlight: Whey Jennings

Whey Jennings is as great a performer as you would expect him to be, but his path to stardom has not been an easy one.

When the singer was around six years old, he picked up a microphone that Jessi Colter left on a chair backstage at his grandpa’s show. Young Whey Jennings pranced out onto the stage and began singing “Mamma’s Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys.” Jennings’s grandpa Waylon Jennings shouted out, “Hey hold up there Hoss…wait for me!” Waylon went to pickin’ and when the song was finished, the crowd went nuts.

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Music Spotlight: Erin Kirby

Erin Kirby is a country music singer from the small town of Jasper, Georgia, just north of Atlanta. She got her start in music by being in pageants, the kinds that have talent as part of the criterion. She did community service-based, natural pageants that don’t allow makeup for ages nine and under. Erin completed in pageants singing pop tunes until she was about 12 years old. Pageants gave her a place to sing and showcase her talent.

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Travis Tritt Releases Country Chapel

Travis Tritt released his first-ever gospel project, Country Chapel, on Friday, a record that was more than three decades in the making. Comprised of original songs informed by his childhood roots along with several favorite gospel covers, Tritt brings new life to these touching tunes which are sure to please the country and gospel fans alike.

The album was produced by Dave Cobb and released by the Gaither Music Group. Tritt filmed a segment at the Lovelace Barn with the talented Gaither band, where he shared the sentiments behind several of the songs.

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Music Spotlight: Tyler Reese Tritt

When I received information about Tyler Reese Tritt, I knew she belonged to someone famous (Travis Tritt is her dad). But what mattered to me was whether she could sing.

The answer is a resounding “yes.” Tyler Reese Tritt sings as naturally as many of us breathe. She said that her dad got her the Disney Princess videos when she was a tot, and her mother added that she would run around the house in her diaper singing “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid.

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Music Spotlight: NEEDTOBREATHE

When I saw the rock band NEEDTOBREATHE had new music coming, a bell went off. Weren’t they a band that my kids used to listen to? Indeed, they are.

NEEDTOBREATHE is an American rock band from Seneca, South Carolina. The band is composed of Bear Rinehart (lead vocals, guitar, piano), Seth Bolt (backing vocals, bass), Josh Lovelace (backing vocals, keys), Randall Harris (drums, percussion), and Tyler Burkum (guitar). I interviewed Lovelace to get more information on their band and their upcoming 9th album, CAVES.

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Music Spotlight: William Beckmann

When I was sent William Beckmann’s song, “She Can’t Be Found,” I was mesmerized. It sounded like something from Johnny or Waylon with a little bit of Elvis thrown in. Surely that young man who I saw on Instagram wouldn’t be singing a song that sounded like it was straight out of 1970s country. I was impressed.

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Music Spotlight: Johnny Dailey

Johnny Dailey discovered his love for country music as a kid riding around in his cousin’s truck listening to songs in the rural town of Argo, Alabama, just north of Birmingham.

“I had two sisters, so my cousin became more like a brother. He would always have the latest and greatest country albums to come out like Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Montgomery Gentry, Dierks Bentley, and even some Texas songwriters like Jack Clark and Jerry Jeff Walker,” he said.

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Music Spotlight: Radney Foster

Not being raised in the world of country music, I missed out on knowing about a lot of key players who are part of the foundation of what Nashville has become. Radney Foster is one such person.

While writing my column for the past six years, Foster’s kept coming up, but I was unfamiliar with his work. Then I saw an interview where Darius Rucker credits Foster for the reason he is in country music.

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Music Spotlight: The Dryes

The Dryes are a married, musical couple from North Carolina. I first heard of Katelyn and Derek Drye when they were featured in the Duke Spirits Masters Music Series. However, their biggest claim to fame was when they shared their extraordinary chemistry while performing on NBC’s The Voice. Their cover of Kenny and Dolly’s “Islands in the Stream” garnered them a spot on Blake’s team in 2022.

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Music Spotlight: Century Drive Band

I get invited to see many bands and events in Nashville. One invite was to see the country-rock band, Century Drive at the NashHouse Southern Spoon and Saloon, the week of CMA Fest. By now, I should no longer be surprised at the caliber of talent on any given day in Nashville, but once again I was blown away. Though hailing from Bend, Oregon, this band was as tight and rocking as any southern rock band I have heard.

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