Monthly Archives: November 2010

Jason Aldean featuring Kelly Clarkson, "Don’t You Wanna Stay"

After stealing the show during this year’s CMA awards, country radio immediately began playing Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson’s power ballad, “Don’t You Wanna Stay.” Hoping to capitalize on the airplay, Aldean’s camp quickly released the song as the second single from Aldean’s My Kinda Party. Will the single become another smash hit for Aldean?

In recent years country music stars have not only taken the country world by storm, but some have also been able to crossover into the pop music world. Carrie Underwood had “Before He Cheats,” Taylor Swift has had “You Belong With Me,” and Lady Antebellum became the most recent country superstars to have a smash crossover hit with “Need You Now.” Now that he’s teamed up with pop darling Kelly Clarkson, I think Jason Aldean could see himself crossing over with this pop ballad.

What has plagued Jason in becoming one of country’s best male artists is his lack of versatility when it comes to his single choices. Thankfully he’s ditched the “I’m country-esque” theme for his new single and finds him taking a step towards becoming an all-around great artist. The song isn’t one of the best written songs, the verses are only four lines each, but it’s the performance from Aldean and Clarkson that elevates it to be a great song.

The duet partners’ voices are completely different as Jason has the rough, raspy vocal styling while Kelly offers a more powerful tone. On paper, you wouldn’t think their voices would work well together. However, they prove to be the perfect match on this recording and provide one of the best vocal performances from a duet that I’ve heard in awhile. Though towards the end of the song the vocals are at a near scream as they are fighting to be heard over the heavy production, it all works for some odd reason. I personally think this is one of Aldean’s best singles and could become one of his biggest hits.

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Billboard Chart Flash: Week of Nov. 8 – 14

After being on hiatus for a few weeks, ATC is back with another Billboard Chart Flash. Let’s see who are the top dogs in country music this week!

Ever since her million copy debut three weeks ago, country-pop princess Taylor Swift continues to dominate the Country Albums chart. Her third album, Speak Now, sold another 211,000 copies this week to remain number one and bringing the album’s total sales to just over 1.5 million copies. Holding strong at number two is Jason Aldean’s latest release, My Kinda Party, which moves over 80,000 copies in its second week to bring the album’s total to over 270,000 copies. Making a strong debut at number 3 is Reba McEntire’s latest release, All The Woman I Am, which yields 64,000 copies in its first week of release. Sugarland’s controversial album, The Incredible Machine, falls one spot to number four with sales of 60,000 units while Lady Antebellum’s Need You Now leaps five spots to number five and bringing the album’s total to 2.768 million copies.

On the Hot Country Songs chart, the Zac Brown Band and Alan Jackson remain on top of the chart with their song, “As She’s Walking Away,” as it spends a second week as the nation’s most played country song. Moving up one spot to number two is the newly crowned Entertainer of the Year Brad Paisley’s latest single, “Anything Like Me.” Slipping down one notch to number three is Sugarland’s “Stuck Like Glue” while The Band Perry makes their first visit to the top five as “If I Die Young” jumps up two spots to number four. Rounding out the top five country songs for a second week is Rodney Atkins’ “Farmer’s Daughter.”

Three new songs make their debuts this week and they are led by Easton Corbin as his third single, “I Can’t Love You Back,” makes its debut at no. 54. Following Corbin are songs by Darius Rucker (“This” comes in at no. 59) and Reba (“If I Were a Boy” comes in at no. 60). Making this week’s biggest leap is Taylor Swift’s second single from Speak Now, “Back to December,” which leaps 18 spots from no. 57 to no. 39 this week.

Next week we’re expected to see a big shakeup on the albums chart as new releases from Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban could possibly out-sell Taylor Swift to debut at number one. It should be an interesting fight to the finish. Come back next week to see who lands where!

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Indie Spotlight: Introducing Danielle Car

After the success of our first Indie Spotlight series featuring the Stephanie Eason Band, ATC is excited to introduce a new Spotlight and a new artist to our readers. This Indie Spotlight is featuring Detroit native Danielle Car. As usual, we’ll begin our feature with a quick biography to introduce you to Danielle!

Luckily for me, Danielle was nice enough to write her own bio to be featured in the Spotlight so here it is!

Having grown up in and around Detroit, MI as a first generation Italian-American, one could say the country music deck was stacked against me.  I’ve seen it as a challenge to be embraced and a goal (as the first female country/rock  artist from Michigan) to be accomplished.  Growing up, our two family passions were food and music. You could always count on salami and fresh Italian Bread in the kitchen,   and music on the stereo in the Carlomusto house. Yes, I’ve chopped off the “lomusto” part and shortened my last name to “Car” because nothin’ says yee-haw like a multi-syllable, ethnic last name, eh?  Be it Dad playing Pavarotti and ABBA or Mom blaring Kenny Rogers and Glen Campbell, great music was an essential part of my childhood.  All of us kids were encouraged to play and sing music as well, with the guitar and violin being my self-assigned instruments. While I enjoyed my brother’s frequent renditions of Crazy Train on his hot pink Ibanez guitar as well my adolescent foray into the Queen fan club, Glen Campbell’s version of “It’s Only Make Believe” was ultimately what I gravitated toward.  The soaring strings and atmospheric rise of Campbell’s voice sealed the deal for me. Writing my own tunes became a natural progression. I wanted to write tunes that moved others the way that song moved me.  I believe that all performers should write their own new tunes, especially when they’re just starting out. It’s imperative for folks to get to know me and what I’m feeling, not what some other dude has in mind. He can’t possibly write the soundtrack to my heart, that’s my job.
My discovery and subsequent passion for Dwight Yoakam nudged me to start performing live and in 2003 I hit Nashville for a little self-taught crash course in Music Row. Singing at the Nashville Palace and seeing the inner workings of the Grand Ole Opry were an absolute honor, but Motown kept calling.  In 2004, I began fronting the house band of S.E Michigan’s biggest honky-tonk, the Diamondback Saloon. It was there that I learned to entertain. Sometimes, it’s not just a pretty voice folks come for…where I come from, you’ve got to entertain. From Workin’ Man Blues to Dueling Banjos (yeah, I play a little banjo too…very little) to playing the fiddle behind my back for Boil Them Cabbage Down, I did it all 4 nights a week for 5 years!  Opening up for everyone from Eric Church to Kenny Chesney were definite highlights of playing in the bar and I wouldn’t trade those years for anything in the world, but I was tired (literally) and ready to set out on my own.
So here we have it: 30 years, a couple hundred cannoli, and a lifetime of music on the stereo has brought me to my first EP.  These 5 tunes are my little appetizer, my ham & cream cheese roll-ups if you will, with a main course coming soon, God willing! My new release, Danielle Car: The EP is a bit of a departure for what many would characterize as a Detroit sound.  No synths, no garage, no Martha Reeves.  I sing what I know: blue collar, no frills, catchy tunes…well, maybe a couple of frills.  Having grown up around an area known worldwide (undeservedly so in most cases) as the very definition of urban decay, I think my tunes carry the same confident anti-swagger our citizens do. We know who we are, what we are and we own it. I think that honesty  lends itself perfectly to country music. Motown is now No-town to many, but many of us have a connection to these streets and factories and wouldn’t have it any other way. These tunes are a bit of what I’ve seen and lived over the past few years.  I’m riding the momentum to see where it leads me.  Hopefully, it leads me to your ears!
(Thanks again to Danielle for taking the time to write this for our readers!)
Look for the second installment of our Spotlight next week as we review Danielle’s EP and to get ready for the holidays, we’ll be reviewing her Christmas song as well!

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"I Can’t Love You Back," Easton Corbin

After scoring back-to-back number one singles with the CMA nominated “A Little More Country Than That” and “Roll With It,” newcomer Easton Corbin is hoping to score a third chart topper with the ballad, “I Can’t Love You Back.” Does the song have enough to become a smash hit like his previous singles?

It’s been less than a year since his debut album hit the top five of the Country Albums chart, but Easton Corbin is already considered as this generation’s new torchbearer for traditional country music. He lived up to that standard with both his previous singles, but he hasn’t done it as well as he has on his latest, “I Can’t Love You Back.”

“I can love you all morning, I can love you all day, I can love even more when I get home” Inititally, the opening lines to the song could lead you to believe this is just another typical country love song. However once the chorus hits, the song takes a different twist: “Girl, I love you crazy, it comes so easy, after all we had, I could love you with all my heart but the hardest part is I just can’t love you back.” The big twist then leaves you wondering what happened. Did he break up with an old flame? Did the love of his life pass away?The song never states what happened and leaves it up to your interpretation, which is the most brilliant aspect of the song. But, whatever the case may be, it becomes an easy song to relate to if you are missing a lost loved one.

Meanwhile, the delivery of an emotional song like this is extremely important and Corbin delivers a fantastic vocal performance that further cements himself as one of country’s finest vocalists. Often compared to George Strait, Corbin’s voice suits the song perfectly and the amount of heart and emotion he pours into the song elevates it to a whole new level. The production is very understated and once again resembles a production that could’ve been heard during the traditional movement of the 90’s.

Out of the 11 tracks on his debut album, this one is one of the highlights and is without a doubt his best single to date. I’m expecting this Florida native to be one of country’s biggest stars in the near future, especially if he continues recording strong music like this.

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Talkin’ About the CMA Awards: The Winners

The 44th Annual CMA Awards have crowned their winners and, to no one’s surprise, Miranda Lambert was the belle of the ball as she walked away with three wins. Other multiple winners were Lady Antebellum and Blake Shelton with two each. Meanwhile, Brad Paisley, after 6 nominations, finally claimed his first Entertainer of the Year award.

Miranda Lambert’s 2010 was capped off in a big way on Wednesday night as the blonde beauty from Texas took home three CMA trophies to go along with her three ACM awards this year. Miranda’s fantastic video for “The House That Built Me” claimed Video of the Year honors before the main telecast and during the main show she took home Album of the Year for Revolution as well as her first Female Vocalist of the Year award. An emotional Lambert accepted the Female Vocalist trophy after she performed with Loretta Lynn. In a poignant moment, Miranda thanked Loretta and Reba McEntire for paving the way for female vocalists like herself. In addition to her three wins, Miranda’s song, “The House That Built Me,” claimed Song of the Year honors for writers Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin.

At the end of the show, Tim McGraw presented the Entertainer of the Year to first-time winner, Brad Paisley. Overwhelmed with emotion, Paisley thanked his late grandfather for telling him to pick up a guitar and how he never thought it would lead to him performing in front of 20,000 fans each night. For the last five years, Brad has always been overlooked in the Entertainer category for bigger artists like Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney, and last year’s winner, Taylor Swift. It was clear how much the award meant to him as he fought back tears throughout his emotional speech.

Earlier in the show, country trio Lady Antebellum looked like they could be the night’s big winners as they won the show’s first award, Single of the Year. The group’s crossover smash hit, “Need You Now,” became the group’s second single to take home Single of the Year honors. The group also claimed their second consecutive Vocal Group of the Year trophy.

In one of the night’s biggest upsets, Blake Shelton beat out perennial favorite Brad Paisley for his first Male Vocalist of the Year award. “That’s about 34 years of steps for me right there,” Shelton said while during his speech. It was clear he was not expecting to hear his name at all. Before the big show began, Shelton won his first CMA award in the Musical Event category where his hit, featuring Trace Adkins, “Hillbilly Bone” took home the award.

Other winners included Sugarland for Vocal Duo of the Year and the Zac Brown Band for New Artist of the Year.

Going back to ATC’s official predictions, I’m pleased to say that we got 8 out of the 11 winners correct! That wraps up our CMA coverage and we’ll be talkin’ about more awards shows in December when we discuss the inaugural American Country Awards followed by the Grammy awards.

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Talkin’ About the CMA Awards: Official Predictions

The CMA Awards will be broadcast live from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena this Wednesday night on ABC. Going into the ceremony, Miranda Lambert leads the field with a record 9 nominations. How many will she take home? Will she win her first Entertainer of the Year award? Will Lady Antebellum rain on her parade? There are many story lines that will unfold come Wednesday night. To sort some of them out, we’re posting our official predictions.

This year’s awards show has the opportunity to break the mold when it comes to winners so we’re offering our predictions of who should win in each category as well as who we think will win come Wednesday night. Let’s get started!

Entertainer of the Year
  • Lady Antebellum
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Brad Paisley
  • Keith Urban
  • Zac Brown Band

This year’s Entertainer race is a three-horse race. I think Urban and the Zac Brown Band can instantly be thrown out of contention seeing as the three remaining nominees have had bigger impacts this year. This then allows for the CMA to award the genre’s biggest-selling artist, Lady Antebellum with their first Entertainer trophy. Or they can decide to go with this year’s “it” girl and most critically acclaimed artist, Miranda Lambert. Or they can award the nominee with the biggest touring numbers, Brad Paisley, who finds 2010 to be the best chance he has at taking home an Entertainer trophy. Considering the fact that they have been the genre’s biggest artist, I’m thinking this will go to Lady Antebellum.

Who Should Win: Brad Paisley
Who Will Win: Lady Antebellum
Spoiler: Miranda Lambert

Male Vocalist of the Year

  • Dierks Bentley
  • Brad Paisley
  • Blake Shelton
  • George Strait
  • Keith Urban
This year saw Dierks Bentley and Blake Shelton breakthrough into this difficult category for the second and first time, respectively. Paisley, Strait, and Urban are all returning from last year’s field into this year’s nominees once again. For the past three year’s in a row, Brad Paisley has taken home this award and this year he once again comes in with little competition. Look to Brad Paisley to win his fourth straight Male Vocalist trophy.

Who Should Win: Brad Paisley
Who Will Win: Brad Paisley
Spoiler: Keith Urban

Female Vocalist of the Year

  • Miranda Lambert
  • Martina McBride
  • Reba McEntire
  • Taylor Swift
  • Carrie Underwood

The same five nominees are once again nominated this year; however, there’s a new frontrunner this year in Miranda Lambert. She comes in on the heels of the best year of her career as she’s had two singles hit the top of the chart, both of which received nominations in the Single and Song categories. She’s once again delivered the most critically acclaimed album of the year with Revolution, and she’s embarked on her first headlining tour of her career. If there was ever a year where this blonde beauty deserved to win this award, it’s this year and I think she’ll finally receive the recognition she’s deserved for so long…sorry Carrie Underwood fans!

Who Should Win: Miranda Lambert
Who Will Win: Miranda Lambert
Spoiler: Carrie Underwood

New Artist of the Year

  • Luke Bryan
  • Easton Corbin
  • Jerrod Niemann
  • Chris Young
  • Zac Brown Band

This year’s New Artist nominees have all hit the top of the charts this past year. Essentially, this is a two-horse race between country’s newest traditionalist, Easton Corbin, and second year nominee, Zac Brown Band. Easton was the first male artist since Dierks Bentley to send a debut single straight to number one and he also had his debut album debut at number one. Zac Brown Band have had more success at radio by adding a couple more number one singles to their credit. If I was choosing the winners, Easton Corbin would walk away with his first CMA award mainly because he is actually NEW. However, I think it’ll be hard for the CMA to ignore Zac Brown Band’s success.

Who Should Win: Easton Corbin
Who Will Win: Zac Brown Band
Spoiler: Easton Corbin

Vocal Group of the Year

  • Lady Antebellum
  • Little Big Town
  • Rascal Flatts
  • The Band Perry
  • Zac Brown Band

Congrats to The Band Perry on receiving their first ever CMA nomination, but they have no chance at winning. This is a two-horse race between country’s newest supergroups Lady Antebellum and Zac Brown Band. This year, Lady Antebellum has been the biggest selling country artist and delivered one of the biggest hit singles of any genre with “Need You Now.” The Zac Brown Band have sent a few more singles to number one and have been a constant force at retail with both their studio albums. Come Wednesday night, it’ll be Lady Antebellum taking home this award for the second consecutive year.

Who Should Win: Lady Antebellum
Who Will Win: Lady Antebellum
Spoiler: Zac Brown Band

Vocal Duo of the Year

  • Brooks & Dunn
  • Joey + Rory
  • Montgomery Gentry
  • Steel Magnolia
  • Sugarland

Congrats to the CMA’s for nominating five duos that have all been active in the past year! It’s awesome to see my two favorite new duos, Joey + Rory and Steel Magnolia, securing their first nominations in this category this year. This category, like the vocal group category, is essentially a two horse race. Last year’s recipients, Sugarland, have had a quiet year until recently when their hit “Stuck Like Glue” raced to the top five on the singles chart. Brooks & Dunn released a greatest hits album and had minor success at radio. Since this is their last nomination as an active duo, look for the CMA’s to award Brooks & Dunn with one last CMA award.

Who Should Win: Sugarland
Who Will Win: Brooks & Dunn
Spoiler: Sugarland

Single of the Year

  • “A Little More Country Than That” – Easton Corbin
  • “Hillbilly Bone” – Blake Shelton featuring Trace Adkins
  • “Need You Now” – Lady Antebellum
  • “The House That Built Me” – Miranda Lambert
  • “White Liar” – Miranda Lambert

This year’s nominated songs all spent time at number one on the country charts and are among this year’s biggest hits. In a CMA rarity, one artist has two songs competing for the award in the same year as Miranda Lambert’s “White Liar” and “The House That Built Me” both received nominations. Lambert could see the double nomination hurt her as the songs could split the votes making way for another single to come out with the win. This year also sees the inclusion of the multi-genre smash hit, “Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum which took home both the ACM for Single and Song of the Year earlier this year. Since the single reached multiple genres and audiences and occupied the number one spot on the charts for five consecutive weeks, I’m calling this Lady Antebellum’s award to lose.

Who Should Win: “Need You Now” – Lady Antebellum
Who Will Win: “Need You Now” – Lady Antebellum
Spoiler: “The House That Built Me” – Miranda Lambert

Album of the Year

  • Need You Now – Lady Antebellum
  • Play On – Carrie Underwood
  • Revolution – Miranda Lambert
  • Twang – George Strait
  • Up on the Ridge – Dierks Bentley

Five great albums are up for this year’s award including surprise nominee, Dierks Bentley. However, the Bentley, Underwood, and Strait albums, though all fantastic albums, have no shot at winning this award. This year the CMA’s have the opportunity to award the biggest-selling album of the year in Lady Antebellum’s Need You Now or the most critically acclaimed and most artistic album in Miranda Lambert’s Revolution. I’ve said before that CMA night will become the Miranda Lambert and Lady Antebellum show with the artists splitting the big awards. This one will go to Miranda Lambert’s amazing album making it both the ACM and CMA Album of the Year.

Who Should Win: Revolution – Miranda Lambert
Who Will Win: Revolution – Miranda Lambert
Spoiler: Need You Now – Lady Antebellum

Song of the Year

  • “A Little More Country Than That” – Rory Lee Feek, Don Poythress, and Wynn Varble
  • “Need You Now” – Dave Haywood, Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott, and Josh Kear
  • “The House That Built Me” – Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin
  • “Toes” – Zac Brown, Wyatt Durrette, John Driskell Hopkins, and Shawn Mullins
  • “White Liar” – Natalie Hemby and Miranda Lambert

Five fantastic songs all have been included in this year’s Song of the Year category. Like the Entertainer, Single, Album, and Music Video categories, this is going to be a battle between the Lady Antebellum and Miranda Lambert songs. However, this one should go to the brilliant masterpiece written by Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin, “The House That Built Me.” This was one of the best songs to hit country radio this decade and deserves this recognition. However, like the Single category, the inclusion of Lambert’s other smash hit, “White Liar,” could hurt as they could split votes to make room for another song to take the win.

Who Should Win: “The House That Built Me” – Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin
Who Will Win: “The House That Built Me” – Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin
Spoiler: “Need You Now” – Dave Haywood, Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott, and Josh Kear

Musical Event of the Year

  • “Bad Angel” – Dierks Bentley featuring Miranda Lambert and Jamey Johnson
  • “Can’t You See” – Zac Brown Band featuring Kid Rock
  • “Hillbilly Bone” – Blake Shelton featuring Trace Adkins
  • “I’m Alive” – Kenny Chesney with Dave Matthews
  • “Till The End” – Alan Jackson with Lee Ann Womack

Such an interesting collection of nominees that includes songs by some of country’s finest artists. This could come down to the smash hit “Hillbilly Bone” and the critical darling “Bad Angel.” Since it was the only song to hit number one and since it claimed the ACM Musical Event trophy earlier this year, I’m thinking “Hillbilly Bone” will go two-for-two.

Who Should Win: “Bad Angel” – Dierks Bentley featuring Miranda Lambert and Jamey Johnson
Who Will Win: “Hillbilly Bone” – Blake Shelton featuring Trace Adkins
Spoiler: “Bad Angel” – Dierks Bentley featuring Miranda Lambert and Jamey Johnson

Music Video of the Year

  • “Hillbilly Bone” – Blake Shelton featuring Trace Adkins
  • “Need You Now” – Lady Antebellum
  • “The House That Built Me” – Miranda Lambert
  • “Water” – Brad Paisley
  • “White Liar” – Miranda Lambert
Five videos that represent their songs fantastically have all been nominated for video of the year. This is the fifth category that Miranda Lambert and Lady Antebellum will battle it out for the win and I’m thinking one of their three nominated videos will take home the prize. Miranda Lambert scored the win at the ACM’s with “White Liar,” but come CMA night, voters could go with “The House That Built Me.” Or like the other categories where Lambert has two nominations, the votes could cancel each other out paving the way for Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” to secure the win. I’m thinking Lambert will reign supreme with “House.”
Who Should Win: “The House That Built Me” – Miranda Lambert
Who Will Win: “The House That Built Me” – Miranda Lambert
Spoiler: “Need You Now” – Lady Antebellum
If you’re keeping score, ATC is predicting leading nominee Miranda Lambert to take home three awards and also her smash hit “The House That Built Me” to take home Song of the Year. We are also predicting 2010’s biggest country artist, Lady Antebellum, to take home three awards including their first Entertainer of the Year award. This year’s awards show is probably the hardest one to predict so it’ll be interesting to see how we did come Wednesday night.
The 44th CMA Awards will be broadcast live on ABC this Wednesday, November 10, at 8/7 central. This year’s awards will once again be hosted by Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley.

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Review Blast: 2010 Fall Concert Series

Since I’ve been extremely busy with school and work these past few months, I’ve been slacking on reviews. So this week look for a few Review Blasts that include small reviews of recent concerts I’ve attended, singles, and albums. Also make sure you check back last this week for some more talk about next week’s CMA awards.

Arizona has had one of the best fall concert series that I’ve seen in quite sometime. Many of country’s biggest tours have hit the Grand Canyon state including Brad Paisley’s H20 Tour, Zac Brown Band’s 2010 tour, Rascal Flatt’s tour, and Carrie Underwood’s Play On tour. I was lucky enough to get to attend all four of these concerts and here are my quick reviews.

H2O Tour 2010: Brad Paisley featuring Darius Rucker, Justin Moore, Easton Corbin, Steel Magnolia, and Josh Thompson
CMA Entertainer of the Year nominee brought his H2O tour to Arizona’s Cricket Wireless Pavilion and the tour as a whole did not disappoint. The country music started early in the afternoon on the Waterworld Plaza Stage with Josh Thompson. Thompson delivered a solid set that included hits “Beer on the Table” and his latest single, “Way Out Here.” Thompson was followed by country’s newest traditionalist, Easton Corbin. Easton was the small stage’s highlight as he played through some of his songs off his debut album like “Just Can’t Love You Back,” “Don’t Ask Me About a Woman,” “A Lot to Learn About Livin’,” and “The Way Love Looks” as well as his chart-topping singles, “Roll With It” and “A Little More Country Than That.” Duo Steel Magnolia capped off the small stage’s performances with a set that included hits “Keep on Lovin’ You,” and “Just By Being You” as well as a cover of Johnny and June Carter Cash’s hit, “Jackson.”

Over on the main stage, Justin Moore kicked off the night with a decent set that included hits “Backwoods,” “How I Got to Be This Way,” and his number one smash, “Small Town U.S.A.” The audience seemed bigger during Easton Corbin’s set than it did for Moore’s set which make me wonder why Easton wasn’t the main stage’s opener. Following Justin was Darius Rucker who included many of his country hits and album cuts off his album, Learn to Live, as well as throwing in several Hootie and the Blowfish songs. Rucker did a fantastic job at warming up the crowd for Paisley by singing all his country singles as well as his latest hit, “Come Back Song.” Rucker ended his set with a cover of Prince’s classic, “Purple Rain.”

Brad Paisley opened his headlining set with “Water” and ran through nearly every smash hit he’s ever released from early hits like “Wrapped” and “Mud on the Tires” to current songs like “American Saturday Night” and “Welcome to the Future.” He was joined onstage by a virtual Alison Krauss for this hit “Whiskey Lullaby” and Dierks Bentley even made a small cameo on the large screens behind Paisley. Paisley ran through the crowd to a diving board shaped stage near the lawn to perform his nostalgic hit, “Letter to Me.” He had all the couples dancing and singing along to slow ballads like “She’s Everything” and “Then.” Paisley ended the night with the usual set closers, “Ticks” and “Alcohol” which everyone on the tour helped perform and even included a strange onstage cameo by Steven Seagall.

This was one heck of a show that proved to be a bang for your buck considering some lawn seats were on sale for just $10.

Breaking Southern Ground Tour 2010 featuring Zac Brown Band
Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of the Zac Brown Band until they released their latest single, “As She’s Walking Away.” So when the opportunity arose to be able to see them in concert, I initially declined. However, when the CMA nominations came out and ZBB was nominated for Entertainer of the Year, I knew I had to attend since this could be first time I’ve seen all five Entertainer nominees in a single year. However, I was soon wishing I could get a refund of my $40 during their concert.

The night started with a couple of unknown, non-country bands that left the enthusiastic crowd really confused about why they were even there. I even caught myself asking if I was still at a country show. Once they openers ended, it was time for Zac Brown Band to take the stage. They tried to build the suspense by showing an intro video that went way too long (it was about 15 minutes of them doing nonsense acts). Once they finally hit the stage, they delivered a set that was very up and down and included major hits “Free,” “Highway 20 Ride,” and “Toes.” The band also threw in their cover of the Charlie Daniels Band’s “Devil Went Down to Georgia.” They ended the night with “Chicken Fried” and failed to return for an encore. The biggest complaint I heard from most people was that some of the band’s instrumental breaks were far too long, one in particular lasted about 15 minutes and consisted of one guitar. I get that they are great musicians but turning each 3 and a half minute song into a 10 minute song isn’t the way to go about proving it. I don’t understand how they were included in the Entertainer field but they have no chance at winning. This show gets the unfortunate honor of being the worst of 2010.

Nothing Like This Tour featuring Rascal Flatts, Kellie Pickler, and Chris Young
Rascal Flatts has always been a big draw in Arizona and their recent stop in Phoenix was no exception. The night started with Chris Young delivering a fantastic set that was way too short. He managed to perform hits like “Gettin’ You Home,” “The Man I Want to Be,” and his latest single, “Voices.” He also threw in album favorites like “Beer or Gasoline” and “Raining Night in Georgia.” Young was followed by country bombshell Kellie Pickler who opened her set with “Best Days of Your Life.” It was painfully obvious that Pickler wasn’t feeling to good because she came out with no makeup on and her hair tied into a messy ponytail. Throughout the night she kept apologizing for her voice citing allergies as the reason she wasn’t 100%. Nevertheless, she sang through her hits like “Red High Heels,” the somber “I Wonder,” and her recent release, “Making Me Fall In Love.” She also included a cover of her idol, Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.”

Once Pickler was finished, Gary, Joe Don, and Jay (also known as Rascal Flatts) burst onto the stage and delivered a solid headlining set. They included hits from the past ten years like early favorites “Prayin’ for Daylight,” “I’m Movin’ On,” and “These Days.” They also included newer classics like “Why Wait,” “Unstoppable,” “Bob that Head,” “Mayberry,” and “Bless the Broken Road.” Throughout the show, the guys made it crystal clear that they were excited to be entering their tenth year in the music industry and chose to use this tour to celebrate it. They promised to deliver hits from every corner of their catalog and they delivered. However, their setlist was poorly arranged because they loaded the front two-thirds of the show with fast, rocking songs and saved power ballads like “Stand,” “What Hurts the Most,” and “Every Day” for the last third of the show. The group ended the night with their smash hit, “Summer Nights.” I’ve seen Rascal Flatts several times and I always feel like I see the same show every year. I think they need to switch things up for their upcoming tours to avoid being repetitive.

Play On Tour featuring Carrie Underwood, Billy Currington and Sons of Sylvia
Carrie Underwood has been one of the biggest female superstars of the decade and she proved why during her Play On  Tour stop in Phoenix. The night began with the trio of brothers, Sons of Sylvia. They delivered an interesting rock flavored set that showed off their musicianship and their vocal talents. It’s clear that since they aren’t exactly country, they were given the opening slot in large part to their duet with Carrie, “What Can I Say.”

The trio was followed by country hearthrob Billy Currington who opened his set with his recent smash, “That’s How Country Boys Roll.” Currington showed the crowd that he’s more than just a pretty boy by performing hits like “Pretty Good at Drinkin’ Beer,” “I Got a Feeling,” “Must Be Doin’ Something Right,” and “People are Crazy.” He ended his set with his smash hit, written by Luke Bryan, “Good Directions.” It’s interesting to wonder whether or not Billy really feels comfortable on stage because he mainly just stood in one spot the entire night and rarely visited the sides of the stage until he was walking off stage. Still, his set was fairly solid and well put together.

Headliner Carrie Underwood took the stage to perform her recent hit, “Cowboy Casanova,” to open the show. In numerous interviews about this tour, Carrie has always said that she wanted to go big and pull off all the stops and she didn’t disappoint. She rose from under the massive stage on a couch while performing “Casanova” and made sure she utilized the elevation changes throughout the night. She continued performing songs like “Quitter,” “I Know You Won’t,” and “Wasted” before she went backstage for a quick costume change. She returned to the stage to sit on a swing that lifted her above the stage while she sang “Just a Dream.” Underwood powered through nearly all her singles including “Temporary Home,” “So Small,” and “All American Girl.” The highlight of her set was the powerful medley of “Jesus, Take the Wheel” and the gospel classic, “How Great Thou Art” which resulted in a huge standing ovation for the three time CMA Female Vocalist of the Year.

Carrie threw in numerous gimmicks like riding above the crowd in the back of a pickup truck to sing “Country Roads” and “This Time.” Underwood was joined onstage by opener the Sons of Sylvia to perform their duet, “What Can I Say.” Carrie ended her main set with “Last Name” and then performed an encore of “Before He Cheats” and “Songs Like This.” This was, at the time, my favorite concert of 2010 and proved that Carrie was no doubt snubbed of an Entertainer nomination. However, I think she’ll get one eventually if she continues to perform shows like this she did this year.

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