Country Music Hall of Fame Celebrates New Luke Combs Exhibit

The Country Music Hall of Fame® (CMHOF) and Museum on Wednesday celebrated the opening of its newest exhibition Luke Combs: The Man I Am. The exhibit traces Combs’ story from singing with his school choirs in North Carolina to headlining stadiums worldwide. The exhibit, which opened on Thursday, is included with museum admission. Combs’ exhibit will go til June 2025.

Besides the CMHOF staff and Sony executives, Luke Comb’s wife and parents, his high school choir teacher, and his pals from Town Tavern in Boone, North Carolina, where he first began performing, were in attendance for the unveiling.

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Music Spotlight: Slash

Slash’s sixth solo project, a blues album entitled Orgy of the Damned, is out on Gibson Records. To celebrate, the iconic Grammy-winning guitarist and songwriter has curated an all-star Blues lineup for the S.E.R.P.E.N.T. Blues Festival touring North America this summer. His tour includes locations across the USA, including a stint in Franklin, Tennessee, on August 14 at the FirstBank Amphitheatre.

When asked how he came up with the title for his latest blues album, Slash told Germany’s Rock Antenne, “Blues and Rock n Roll have long been considered taboo and devil’s music—hide your kids from it —especially the Blues…”

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Jay Allen Releases Debut Album, ‘Des Moines’

Music Spotlight artist Jay Allen released his debut album, Des Moines named after his hometown. Inspired by a moment that happened 11 years ago, Allen takes listeners through the experience of leaving Iowa to pursue his music career in his new home in Nashville, Tennessee—this well-thought-out project looks at divorce, grief, healing, and growth.

Allen’s new album follows his recent releases, including “No Present Like the Time,” a tune he wrote when his mom endured early-onset Alzheimer’s. The track is included on his debut record and is on country radio to serve as a beacon of hope for those facing their struggles. “Blank Stares” was also inspired by his mother’s journey.

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Commentary: My Favorite Patriotic Recipes for Independence Day

Pancakes

Independence Day is just around the corner! I’m planning to celebrate with a feast. What better things to cook than classic American recipes?

Much of what we think of as “American food” actually comes from Western Europe where the majority of immigration to our country originated. Most of the immigrants were poor, simple, and hardy, and the dietary traditions they carried across the Atlantic reflected this nature.

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Music Spotlight: Remembering the Rose Garden Marines

Country music legend Lynn Anderson became the U.S. Marines’ unofficial ambassador 50 years ago when they used her award-winning song, “I Beg Your Pardon (I Never Promised You a Rose Garden),” in a recruitment ad campaign.

The term “rose garden” is an ironic reference that led to one of the most memorable recruitment campaigns in the Marine Corps history, forever linking country music superstar Anderson with the Marines.

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Cleveland Browns One of Next NFL Teams in Line with Large Taxpayer Stadium Subsidy Request

Cleveland Browns Stadium

Cleveland is one of the next cities asking for public funding for a renovation or new NFL stadium after the city councils of Charlotte and Jacksonville each approved more than $600 million in public funding.

Browns’ ownership, the Haslam Sports Group, has reportedly pitched Cleveland and Ohio state leadership on funding half of a potential $1.2 billion renovation of Cleveland Browns stadium or having state and local governments each pay $600 million of taxpayer funds – a total of $1.2 billion – toward building a new stadium in Brook Park.

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Jacksonville, Florida Will Pay $775 Million in Public Funds Toward $1.4 Billion Jaguars Renovation

J.C. Bradbury

The Jacksonville Jaguars became the second NFL team this week to get a large sum of public money for a stadium renovation when the City Council voted 14-1 to approve $775 million toward a $1.4 billion renovation of EverBank Stadium.

The Jaguars and NFL are expected to pay $625 million toward the project, using NFL G-4 loans along with funds from items such as naming rights through the new 30-year lease and non-relocation agreement.

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Music Spotlight: Britnee Kellogg

Britnee Kellogg grew up listening to all the good stuff: Waylon, Willie, Dolly, and 90s country. But it was when she was just six years old that her life was profoundly impacted. She attended a Johnny Cash and June Carter-Cash concert. Smitten from the first note, the young girl knew she had found her chosen career.

“I knew that [singing] was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” she recalled.

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Michigan Museum Funding Could Raise Property Taxes

Tom Kuhn

A new Michigan policy could cost Oakland and Macomb county households thousands in higher property taxes.

The Michigan House recently approved House Bill 4177, seeking to subsidize two nonprofit museums run through the Wright and Detroit Historical Societies. Because they likely could not stay open through admission fees and donations alone, Oakland and Macomb County residents would pay up to $200,000 in property taxes over the next 10 years.

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Music Spotlight: Tae Lewis

Having lived in Nashville for more than 12 years, I have learned you never know who you will meet or see perform at a random writers’ round who may become the next big thing. And even though I only watch bits and pieces of the music competition shows, I was watching The Voice this year because Music Spotlight artist, Donny Van Slee, was on it.

But I got the shock of my life when I saw Tae Lewis in the Knockout Round. When he sang Cody Johnson’s “Nothing on You,” you could have picked me up off the floor. I remember sitting next to Lewis at the Listening Room a few years back. His friend introduced him as a new artist in town (of which there are literally hundreds).

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Music Spotlight: Jordan St. Cyr

Jordan St. Cyr is from a small town of around 1,200 people located outside Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. As a child, he remembers his dad showing him a few chords on a guitar, and then he took it from there. He attended a youth group at his church, and they asked if anyone was interested in singing and playing guitar. He was soon enlisted to lead worship.

St. Cyr recalled, “My competitive nature took over and I’d spend three, four hours a night just learning these songs and singing. It’s really what helped me learn my craft.”

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Legendary Musician Peter Frampton Honored with Les Paul Spirit Award

Peter Frampton Award

The Les Paul Foundation partnered with Gibson Gives to award Peter Frampton last week with the annual Les Paul Spirit Award. Bob Weir, Nile Rodgers, and U2’s The Edge are previous recipients of this award. Frampton continues to write and perform despite being diagnosed with inclusion body myositis in 2019.

Les Paul was a trailblazer with recording technology, sound effects, and the solid body guitar. He championed music trailblazers, paving the way for rock and roll, metal, punk, country, pop, and all forms of modern music. The Les Paul Foundation inspires innovative and creative thinking by sharing Paul’s legacy through the support of music education, recording, innovation, exhibits about Paul, and medical research related to hearing.

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Fanatics Fined $50K and Zen Sports Fined $60K for Tennessee Sports Wagering Violations

Fanatics Sportsbook

Fanatics Sportsbook was fined $50,000 in Tennessee for allowing eight people who were on an in-app self-exclusion list to place bets during that exclusion. Zen Sports received a $60,000 for not maintaining a high enough balance in its reserve account to cover outstanding bets and obligations.

The issue was self-reported by Fanatics and the Tennessee Sports Wagering Council agreed with the fine, which worked out to eight violations with a Level 2 fine of $6,250 apiece.

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Music Spotlight: High Mountain Breezes

Nashville has no shortage of super-talented singers, songwriters, and musicians. For every hit song you hear, somebody somewhere had to write and play the music, engineer and produce it, and somehow get it to radio or streaming services.

Without these studio musicians, we wouldn’t have the quality of music we have today. High Mountain Breezes (HMB) is a collection of Nashville’s finest studio musicians who create music for other artists. But sometimes, these musicians want to make music for themselves, not just to accompany a famous lead singer.

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Music Spotlight: Zach John King

Zach John King

NASHVILLE, Tennessee—Zach John King is from Fayetteville, Georgia, a small town outside of Atlanta with a population of 18,000. His grandparents exposed him to country music, but his dad gave him a preloaded iPod shuffle with everything from Otis Redding to Alabama on it. King took guitar lessons for four years but realized he didn’t want to play other people’s music. He wanted to write his own. By age 15, he discovered he had a knack for singing, especially songwriting, and that was all he wanted to do. King writes heartfelt lyrics inspired by multiple events from his own life, intermixed with a genre-bending sound of country, Americana, and indie rock. His songs carry twist-heavy lyrics, memorable melodies, and heartache from an artist who considers himself “kinda country,” pointing back to small-town life and love lost. He started an indie band that played around Athens, Georgia, where his goal was to combine a rock band influence with old-school country. In 2022, King got serious about music and moved to Nashville. It didn’t take long for the industry insiders to notice King’s prolific acumen for songwriting. Music Row Magazine said, “The Georgia native’s innate ability to pull acute emotion from a storyline…

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Music Spotlight: MaRynn Taylor

MaRynn Taylor

When I met MaRynn Taylor at CMT’s Next Women of Country 2023, I knew I would love her music because I immediately loved her personality. And while I covered her at CRS and her music in my Christmas blog, I had not done a full feature on the songstress. When I learned her debut EP, Get To Know Me was being released at the end of May, I knew it was high time that I get to know her.

Taylor grew up in Rockford, Michigan, listening to country music. Although no one in her family was particularly musical, she was obsessed with artists like Hannah Montana, Carrie Underwood, and Taylor Swift.

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Tennessee Judge Blocks Attempt to Sell Elvis Presley’s Former Home Graceland

Graceland

A Tennessee judge on Wednesday ruled to block the auction of Elvis Presley’s (pictured above) home, Graceland, by a company that alleged the singer’s daughter didn’t repay a loan that used the home as collateral.

The auction had been slated for this week, though Shelby County Chancellor JoeDae Jenkins issued the temporary injunction, according to The Associated Press.

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Music Spotlight: Matt Oakley

Matt Oakley grew up around all kinds of music. His dad was a DJ in the military in Germany.

He recalled, “We always had those little boomboxes going and those old CD players that were like small oval-shaped. We have our home videos. And almost everyone, whether it was on a desk or a kitchen table, or me and my sisters dancing around, we were always around music. And in car rides, when we would go on road trips, we would play music trivia or play the song. The first person to get what the song is and who it’s by gets a point.”

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The Dryes Release ‘Dear Heart’ for Mental Health Awareness Month

The Dryes

Last July, when NBC The Voice alums, Katelyn Drye and Derek Drye announced their lead single “Sawdust” off their forthcoming EP, I was keen to feature them because I loved the song so much. Now, after the success of the rowdy Raisin’ Beers & Hallelujahs EP, The Dryes have chronicled a more serious side of the past four years of their lives with their newest EP, Dear Heart.

Even though they are an extremely talented, happily married couple, they still go through struggles like the rest of us. This newest body of work showcases moments of grief, honest questioning, finding relief in moments of hope, and living with a beautiful new perspective. This is especially important now as May marks the highly important Mental Health Awareness Month.

In February, the duo released the first track off of their newest EP, “A Little Longer.” The video for the song, which was played on CMT, features a breathtaking sunset. The couple pic

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Music Spotlight: Zach Top

Zach Top

Anybody who follows me or my column knows that I have a type. Traditional country music stirs my soul. When I find someone young who can do the same thing, I do my best to track them down.

Zach Top is such an artist. His name kept showing up all over my feeds. When I heard the popular “Sounds Like the Radio,” I was thrilled and couldn’t stop smiling. I relentlessly pursued his people until I got an interview.

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Music Spotlight: Scotty McCreery

Scotty McCreery

To say 2024 has been a banner year for Scotty McCreery would be an understatement. From his beloved North Carolina State making it to the NCAA Final Four to recently being added to the prestigious roster of Grand Ole Opry members, you would think that there wasn’t much left for the 30-year-old to accomplish.

In 2011, 17-year-old McCreery beat out Lauren Alaina to win American Idol. In June 2018, McCreery married the love of his life, Gabi, and in 2022, they welcomed a son, Avery. Since becoming a solo artist, the Triple Tigers recording artist has garnered five number-one hits, including the fan favorites “Five More Minutes” and “Damn Strait.”

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Music Spotlight: Skip Ewing

Donald Ralph “Skip” Ewing is a musician’s musician. To say that his singing and songwriting are brilliant is an understatement. And he can play almost any stringed instrument.

He said, “I don’t remember when I couldn’t play a guitar. I took a woman’s pink foam curler, took the plastic out of it, and stuck it up under my strings so I could play late into the night without the guitar making a sound.”

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Music Spotlight Follow-Up: Donny Van Slee

Donny Van Slee

Since I interviewed Donny Van Slee back in 2022, I’ve always been intrigued by the chiropractor/country music singer who unashamedly goes to the beat of his own drummer. He was the first person to bring artists like Zach Bryan and Jack Johnson to my attention as they are performers that Van Slee likes to emulate.

Because his life is spread in so many directions, you can imagine my surprise when Van Slee showed up on Reba’s team on NBC’s The Voice earlier this spring. When he sang Lanco’s “Greatest Love Story” he was so good that Reba blocked Dan & Shay so she could have him all to herself. He was confident, showing that he was having the time of his life.

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Music Spotlight: Nicolette and The Nobodies

Nicolette and the Nobodies

I’ll confess. Sometimes I get so many emails I can’t read them all. The downside to that is I am sure I have missed several great artists. But thankfully, I did open Taran’s Smith email when she pitched Nicolette & the Nobodies to me.

When I heard the song “Better Days,” my audible response was, “What is this?” When I saw Nicolette Hoang, I wondered, “Where did she learn to sing like that?”

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Music Spotlight: Presley Tennant

Presley Tennant

One thing I have learned about TV singing shows is that the finalists are nearly always as good (if not better) as the actual winner. So, I try to interview as many country singers from these shows as possible.

Presley Tennant is a powerhouse singer from Norco, California, a horse town that is 35 miles east of Los Angeles. She was a finalist on Season 16 of NBC’s The Voice in 2019 when she was just 16. She has often been compared to Whitney Houston and Carrie Underwood.

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Music Spotlight: Cody Webb

Cody Webb

In September of 2023, my brother sent me a video of a country song called “If Daddy Didn’t Have a Truck” by Cody Webb. At the time, TikTok wouldn’t play it because of “sensitive religious content.” That naturally made me want to listen and find out what about the song was so offensive.

For inexplicable reasons, the lyrics I’da never known Jesus loves me/ Fell in love with kicking up dirt/ I’da never known how forgiveness or a carburetor works/ Only the good Lord knows how a good ol’ boy like me mighta wound up/ If Mama didn’t have a Bible/ And Daddy didn’t have a truck were not permissible to the general public.

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Tennessee Becomes 10th State to Sanction Girls Flag Football

Flag Football

The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) voted on Tuesday to make girls flag football an officially-sanctioned Tennessee high school varsity sport beginning in the 2024-2025 school year.

The TSSAA voted unanimously in favor of Franklin High School’s proposal to make the sport a sanctioned sport. The TSSAA previously tabled the proposal during its December 2023 legislative council meeting.

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Song Suffragettes Celebrate 10th Anniversary

In a historic event at Belmont’s Fisher Center, the female collective known as the Song Suffragettes celebrated its tenth anniversary to a packed-out crowd last week

Each year, they celebrate their March anniversary, and they honor a significant female singer and/or songwriter. This year’s Yellow Rose of Inspiration award fittingly went to Wynonna Judd, an acclaimed singer/songwriter and long-time promoter of women in country music. Past Yellow Rose of Inspiration award winners include Laura Veltz, Ashley McBryde, Natalie Hemby, and Kelsea Ballerini.

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Music Spotlight: Bryce Leatherwood

Bryce Leatherwood

When I heard the buttery twang that encapsulates Bryce Leatherwood, I knew exactly why he won Season 22 of NBC’s “The Voice.” Even before he sang a word, you knew he had it.

Leatherwood is a 23-year-old singer/songwriter who aims to carry the torch of the country music he grew up with. He was born and raised in Woodstock, Georgia, and spent every summer working on his grandpa’s farm and listening to his grandpa’s music.

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Movie Review: Someone Like You

With her newest movie, Someone Like You, fans of Karen Kingsbury’s movies and books are in for the treat of their lives. While her books have been put to film on many occasions, this is the first time that her new production company, Karen Kingsbury Productions, has released a movie completely on its own.

Kingsbury said, “While I was very thankful (for the other movies) it was never the movie that God put in my heart.”

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Music Spotlight: Kelsey Hickman

Kelsey Hickman

As a product of the 80s music scene, I discovered country music later in life. When country rocker Kelsey Hickman came across my desk, I knew she was right up my alley.

Hickman is from Central Illinois. No one in her family is particularly musical, but she can remember singing all her life. She started as a tot singing Disney songs, then joined school choirs and got her first exposure singing in musicals.

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Music Spotlight: Amy Sheppard

When Amy Sheppard who is part of the wildly popular Australian band, Sheppard, decided to put out country music, I was intrigued. I wanted to find out more about this family and their musical roots.

Amy Sheppard is an Australian singer-songwriter. Along with her siblings George Sheppard and Emma Sheppard, she is a founding and current member of the indie pop band Sheppard. The group is 34X platinum, and their massive hit “Geronimo” has had more than 750 million streams.

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Movie Review: The Neon Highway

More than 30 years in the making, the movie The Neon Highway debuted on the silver screen this last week in Nashville. Originally written by Phillip Bellury and directed by William Wages for the likes of Johnny Cash, the deal never worked out. They say everything happens for a reason: Beau Bridges was meant to play Claude Allen, and Rob Mayes was meant to play Wayne Collins.

Here is a synopsis of the plot: 20 years ago, Collins, played by Mayes, an aspiring singer/songwriter, was a heartbeat away from making it in Nashville when a car accident derailed his ambitions. Now working a 9-5 job and struggling to support his family, Collins has a fateful encounter with waning country music great Allen, played by Bridges, who reignites Allen’s musical dreams. Together, they go to Nashville with one of Collins’ songs, believing they can make it big with Allen’s fame and contacts. The problem is the industry has changed and no one is interested in the song – or Allen. Devastated and out of options, Collins creates a way to get the song out to the public; not for himself, but for Allen.

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Music Spotlight: RaeLynn

RaeLynn

An artist I have been wanting to interview for years is RaeLynn. Born Racheal Lynn Woodward, the artist has a singular spunk and sass that is a huge asset in the sea of female country singers/songwriters. But her gift for storytelling through her honest lyrics endears her so fiercely to her fans.

RaeLynn grew up in a musical family and began singing in church at a young age.

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Music Spotlight: Darci Lynne

Darci Lynne

It’s hard to believe that I interviewed 13-year-old Darci Lynne six years ago. In 2018, she was the reigning winner of season 12 of America’s Got Talent proving her skills as an exceptional ventriloquist, puppeteer, and entertainer. Lynne was in town to perform at the Ryman and the Opry.

I remember thinking, “If she can sing that well with her mouth closed, how great she would be singing with her mouth open.”  The answer is, “Very well.”

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Music Spotlight: Flat River Band

Flat River Band

Flat River Band consists of three brothers Andy Sitze, Chad Sitze, and Dennijo Sitze, who grew up in a multi-generational family band. Performing alongside their parents and grandparents, they held residencies at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, and at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

No strangers to success, the Missouri natives have charted #1 hits on the bluegrass gospel charts and have opened for Natalie Maines, Alison Krauss, Ricky Skaggs, Rhonda Vincent, TG Sheppard, and more.

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Country Radio Seminar 2024 Wrap Up

CRS

After three packed days of musical performances, informative panels, and engaging sessions, Country Radio Seminar (CRS) has concluded.

This year’s event was a success, with attendees enjoying a full-day Streaming Summit, with insightful panels and CRS anchor events such as the “Amazon Music Presents: Country Heat at CRS” showcase, Warner Music Nashville’s Luncheon, Bob Kingsley’s Acoustic Alley, “Team UMG” at the Ryman, Big Machine Label Group’s Luncheon, BBR Music Group Decades Party, “Paddle Royale” Ping Pong Tournament, and the New Faces of Country Music Show and Dinner.

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Music Spotlight: Bettin’ On The Mule

Bettin on the Mule

Anyone who follows my blog knows I like a good hometown rockin’ country band. When I first heard Bettin’ On the Mule (BOTM) from Rockmart, Georgia, I instantly loved their energy.

The “Hometown Rock” pioneers consist of Jacob Wilson on lead vocals, bass, and rhythm guitar, who also serves as the band’s lead songwriter, new member Phil Beavers on lead guitar and backing vocals, Rick Norris on drums and backing vocals, and Shannon “Beef” Wilson on bass and backing vocals for the band.

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