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Looking Back at Country Music in 2005

A retrospective by Cheryl Harvey Hill, Sr. Staff Journalist 

Ironically, despite some frenzied prodding from Big and Rich, not much has changed in country music over the past twelve months. I picked Joe Nichols and Gretchen Wilson as two of my favorite new artists of 2004 and they didn't disappoint me. Both of them came out with great albums in 2005 and both of these artists are amazingly talented with incredible charisma and great voices. I'm confidently predicting they will be around for a long time. They are the Merle and Patsy of this generation.

There were several albums that stood out for me this past year but none of them for the same reason. Listening to Tough All Over by Gary Allan was akin to witnessing a traumatic accident; his audible pain made for a gripping album and a cathartic musical journey for both singer and listener. Tracy Lawrence, on the other hand, treated us to Then and Now - The Hits Collection; a delightful nostalgia trip of his unique brand of classic country and George Jones just keeps getting better with age. Hits I Missed ... and one I didn't is indisputable proof of that fact.

Martina McBride has shown, once again, that she is a class act and her kind of country is Timeless. If you missed her tribute to traditional country music, you are really missing something special while Lee Ann Womack made it perfectly clear that, thankfully, There's More Where that Came From.

Among my all-time favorites are Kenny Chesney and LeAnn Rimes; despite any controversies past or present, they are a permanent part of country music... thank God.

When it comes to new artists to watch, well, we are STILL waiting for Curb Records to release the debut album of one of the most talented and most beautiful bands to ever grace a stage in Nashville or anywhere else for that matter. The vivacious, rockin', all-female band, Cowboy Crush (AKA Debbie Johnson, Darla Perlozzi, Renae Truex, Becky Priest and Trenna Barnes) is still right at the very top of my list. I had the opportunity to see them in concert in Arizona when I interviewed them a few months ago; these gals are gifted musicians and their vocal harmonies are incomparable. But don't take my word for it; visit their websites at www.CowboyCrush.com and www.trenna.com and see for yourselves.

Other new artists you definitely want to keep an eye on are Shawn King and Ray Scott; I also still have Chris Young and Kelly Lang on my list. A bout with breast cancer this past year only made Lang more determined to pursue a career in music and art. She is also a gifted songwriter and I predict you will be hearing more of her songs in the future. As for Young, well, it's just a matter of time before his name is a household word. This mega talented young artist has been amassing a following across the country for quite some time.

The artists I miss hearing on radio are the Dixie Chicks, Wade Hayes, Rick Trevino and all of the wonderful, traditional artists who put the class in classic country and I will never tire of hearing Merle, Willie, Waylon and the rest. I am also deeply saddened that David Kersh has made the decision to get out of the music business. David holds a special place in my heart and I, for one, will miss him.

Until next year.
Keepin' it country!

Cheryl Harvey Hill



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