Jenny & Ashley

Tall Tree/Lofton Creek
Sister duo Jenny & Ashley is releasing its debut single, the effervescent “Indescribable.” The song, co-written by Ashley, was originally part of a demo collection that caught the eye of Lofton Creek Records chief Mike Borchetta. The new version was recorded by Tim McGraw co-producer Darran Smith.
The teenage sisters spent part of their childhood in Pleasanton, California, and got an early start on their entertainment careers by modeling for catalogs and acting in local commercials. The two followed their dreams to Los Angeles, where Ashley had commercial spots with Nintendo Wii and Jenny secured work with Disney, Nickelodeon, and Fox.
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BMI Promotes Cheryl O’Quinn

Cheryl O’Quinn has been promoted to the position of Sr. Director, Per Program Services  in BMI’s Media Licensing department. O’Quinn is based in the company’s Nashville office and previously serviced as Director of Per Program Services. She will report directly to VP Business Affairs, Media Licensing Mike Steinberg.

“Handling the task of administrating our licensing agreements is a critical business function for BMI, and Cheryl has brought a fresh and invigorated approach to this group,” said Steinberg. “Her work ethic is laudable, and she continues to innovate and improve business processes and communication across departmental lines. Her passion for working on the business of music for our songwriters shows in her results, which have led to this promotion.”

O’Quinn joined the company’s New York office in 1997 and relocated to Nashville. She is a graduate of Middle Tennessee’s Recording Industry Management program and has her MBA from Bethel University.

American Country Awards Air Tonight

The inaugural fan-voted American Country Awards will air live 8-10 pm ET on Fox tonight from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, with Trace Adkins serving as the evening’s host. Show performers include Jason Aldean, Adkins, Luke Bryan, The Band Perry, Easton Corbin, Toby Keith, Rascal Flatts, Reba, Blake Shelton, Steel Magnolia, Josh Turner, and Uncle Kracker. To see the full nominees in Artist, Album, Single, Touring and Video categories, click here. For winners updated in real time, check back to tonight.

Many of our friends from Nashville have been in Vegas since the weekend to participate in events surrounding the awards. The 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Awards Ceremony was held Friday 12/3 at the Wynn, with performances from Rascal Flatts and Colbie Caillat. Drivers present included five-time champion Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon.

Joe Don Rooney, Jay DeMarcus and Gary LeVox of Rascal Flatts at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series awards banquet on Dec. 3. Photo: David Becker/Getty Images

Nettles Helps VH1 Divas Salute The Troops

(L-R): Keri Hilson, Katy Perry, and Jennifer Nettles during the opening number of VH1 Divas Salute The Troops. Photo: Getty Images/

Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles helped VH1 Divas Salute The Troops in last night’s (12/5) television special. She joined pop, rock and hip-hop stars Katy Perry, Keri Hilson, Nicki Minaj, Paramore and Grace Potter & The Nocturnals for the show taped primarily last week at San Diego’s Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.

The stars donned military-inspired wardrobe for much of the evening, including Nettles, Hilson and Perry in World War II-era uniforms for a cover of the 1940s classic “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” More here.

MC Lyte unexpectedly joined Jennifer Nettles for a duet of "Stuck Like Glue." Photo: Getty Images/

Katy Perry parachuting to the stage for "California Gurls." Photo: Getty Images/

The Grascals & Friends Cracker Barrel Exclusive

The Grascals are the latest band to release music through Cracker Barrel Old Country Store’s exclusive program. The Grascals & Friends – Country Classics With A Bluegrass Spin will be available Jan. 10, 2011, offering 13 tracks featuring guests Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley, Charlie Daniels and Dolly Parton.

The bonus track “I Am Strong” was inspired by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and accordingly a portion of the album proceeds will be donated to the hospital.

So far in 2010, Cracker Barrel has released exclusive projects by Smokey Robinson, Rodney Atkins, Mandy Barnett, Craig Morgan, Wynonna, and Dailey & Vincent.

Track listing

1. Tiger By The Tail (with Brad Paisley)
2. Folsom Prison Blues (with Dierks Bentley)
3. Pain of Lovin’ You (with Dolly Parton)
4. I Am Strong (with Dolly Parton)
5. Louisiana Saturday Night
6. The Year That Clayton Delaney Died (with Tom T. Hall)
7. White Lightning (with Darryl Worley)
8. The Devil Went Down To Georgia (with Charlie Daniels)
9. Leavin’ Louisiana In Broad Daylight (with The Oak Ridge Boys)
10. Mr. Bojangles (with Joe Nichols)
11. Hank Williams Jr. Medley – Born To Boogie / All My Rowdy Friends Are Comin’ Over Tonight
12. Cracker Barrel Swing (Instrumental)
13. I Am Strong (Bonus Track) Featuring guest appearances by Dolly Parton, The Oak Ridge Boys, Darryl Worley, Charlie Daniels, Terri Clark, Randy Owen, Steven Seagal, Tom T. Hall, Joe Nichols and Ansley McLaurin

Bill Anderson Planning Box Set

Country Music Hall of Fame member Bill Anderson will release his first box set next year. It will be a 5-CD compilation encompassing Anderson’s recording career from 1958 through 1966. The set will also offer demos of songs that he wrote, which became hits for other artists.

It is expected from Bear Family Records in late 2011, the same year Anderson will celebrate his 50th Anniversary as a Grand Ole Opry member.

Vince Hatfield

“The new Vince is great! Really like it as good as I did the original. Vince brings a new dimension to the song!
Mickey Alexander, WQNZ/Natchez, MS

“One of the best rock anthems in music history has been re-recorded. Who would have believed a country artist could take it 30 plus years later and make it a multi-format hit?”
Randy Adams, KKRB/KFLS-FM (Klamath Falls, Oregon)

“This one is testing through the roof. It needs to be on your radar today. Like Sunny Sweeney, this one is going to have some legs, so hop on it today!”
Ted Cramer, Program Director, WIFE/Connersville, IN

Following a series of successful singles, Vince Hatfield is releasing his rendition of the Kiss classic, “Beth” to country radio. Hatfield was introduced to the song by his wife, and recorded it for his forthcoming album at her request. Through the TV program Gene Simmons Family Jewels, Hatfield also learned Gene Simmons promised Peter Criss that Kiss would never perform “Beth” again after Criss retired and has stuck to his word. Hatfield hopes that his version will allow fans to once again hear “Beth” performed in a live setting.

Born the son of a West Texas oil refinery worker, Vince worked tough jobs like cleaning inside oil tanks to pay the bills as a young man just getting started. His early life revolved around music, where drew inspiration from icons like Marty Robbins, Bobby Goldsboro, Merle Haggard and Ronnie Milsap. Hatfield later went on to record with some of Nashville’s best producers and musicians, releasing albums and singles that have built the foundation for where he is today. He was also awarded New Music Weekly’s “Breakthrough Artist of the Year” earlier in 2010, and continues to build his following outside of Texas.

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Melanie Denard

“All I Ever Did Was Love You”
StarPath Records

”This sassy belter has been noted for her dynamic delivery in this column several times. The upbeat romp of the song gives her plenty of room to work with… she has a very appealing huskiness in her voice, full of barely suppressed fire. I’ll bet she can really take charge of a stage. Promising, indeed.”
—Robert K. Oermann, MusicRow

Melanie Denard’s latest release to country radio is “All I Ever Did Was Love You,” a soulful number that is already climbing MusicRow’s CountryBreakout Chart. Her debut album Dare To Live for StarPath Records is available on Amazon, iTunes, and CDBaby and features songs from such top-shelf talent as as Gary Burr, Victoria Shaw, Kylie Sackley, Rodney Clawson and more. The video can be seen on her YouTube page at

Denard originally hails from the Kennesaw Mountain area of Georgia, and she relocated to Nashville in 2007 to record and continue singing. Denard also recently started working on her live experience with famed live show producer Joe Guercio, who has worked with luminaries such as Elvis, Barbara Streisand, and Diana Ross among others.

“Life has taught me that I have to stand up for myself, especially in matters of the heart, and that’s a hard lesson for a woman in love to learn,” explains Denard. “Sometimes a woman just has to reach down into her inner self and find some attitude and sass in order to survive with her heart intact and still be able to celebrate life. That’s what my songs are about.”

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Moving Swift-ly To No. 1

Music industry pundits at desks across the major music centers will be pounding out the story of Taylor Swift’s great debut week sales numbers—1.047 million! But maybe the real story is how Swift’s success flies in the face of conventional industry wisdom. “Album sales are falling, consumers only want to buy single tracks, piracy has destroyed sales, you can’t compete with free…” These are the current excuses for an industry in dire straits. So how does one explain Swift’s incredible result? What prompted over one million consumers to engage and relate to this young lady from Hendersonville, TN?

Unlike many of the top charting female artists of today, Ms. Swift eschews tabloid behavior and asks fans to focus on her music. With Speak Now she offers an emotion-packed journey bursting with insight into real life events. In some universal way her life contests connect with similar moments that have brushed the fabric of others as well.

There’s also something spunky about this lady; she’s a fighter. Critics complained she can’t sing, that her co-writers contributed everything on the other albums. On Speak Now, she walks out onto the stage having written all the songs by herself, including, “Mean” where she shares how hurt she was by some of these criticisms. “You have pointed out my flaws again, as if I don’t already see them,” she sings. But if Swift briefly falls to pieces, she also picks herself back up, asking, “Why you gotta be so mean?”
• • •
Speak Now ends its first sales week in the No. 1 position on both the all genre Top Current Albums and Top Current Country Album lists with sales of almost 1.047 million units, according to Nielsen Soundscan. About 26.5% of those sales were in digital format. Swift’s record breaking debut week eclipses Shania Twain’s previous title for highest ever female country artist sales of 874k in 2002. It also is Swift’s personal best, beating Fearless which debuted with 592k in 2008. Speak Now boasts the best first week showing of any album in 2010. (Eminem’s Recovery did 742k in June 2010.)

As noted by Spielberg Consulting’s Neal Spielberg, “Swift’s four albums (three CDs and a holiday collection) make up 60% of total country album sales this week and represent 18% of total album sales for the week.”

In organizing this multi-media debut, Big Machine’s team should not be underestimated. Only a few weeks ago, insiders deemed “impossible” a million plus result. The multi-layered marketing plan, forged with nerves of steel, should be documented, published and offered to others as a textbook example of engaging fans on all fronts.

The massive launch also moved the YTD country sales needle. Last week country album sales were off 12.3% compared with the same period last year. Voila!, this week’s scans improved numbers to only down 9.1%!

Sugarland’s Incredible Machine motored through second week sales with a “normal” drop of 56% to almost 89k units but sales on the Top 75 Current Country Chart minus Speak Now barely edged above 400k, even with all the new CDs in bins. How the year will play out is still shrouded in mystery. A parade of recent debuts from Darius Rucker, The Band Perry, Kenny Chesney, Zac Brown Band, Toby Keith, Jamey Johnson, Billy Currington and more have slid rapidly from debut week glory. Upcoming launches are scheduled for Reba, Blake Shelton, Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban, and Jason Aldean and Brad Paisley both released this week.

The CMA Awards should be the switch that ignites holiday sales and starts the numbers climbing toward a seasonal frenzy. Will consumers be able to focus on so many different new titles this year or will they RSVP at their favorite music retailer for Taylor plus one? These are questions that are yet to be answered.

Kelly Parkes

Edge Records/Lofton Creek

Kelly Parkes is releasing her new single “Nothing” to country radio. The feisty 23 year-old from rural Lancaster County, Penn., loves performing and cites Carrie Underwood as her favorite vocalist. Her recording session was produced by Darran Smith (Tim McGraw) and Lofton Creek Records chief Mike Borchetta.

Parkes also recently sang the national anthem live on the SPEED Channel for a NASCAR truck race. She will be heading out on an extensive fall and winter radio promotion tour soon and she is eager to perform for programmers.

“I’m a ham,” she says. “I’ve always been a ham. I love what I do and I love that I get to do it…When I see someone on stage performing, I want to be the one up there performing.”

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