Proud To Be A Country Fan

Thursday, December 02, 2004

You all know my love for the music by now. It is always has and always be a deep passion inside me burning intensely bright for country music. I can tell you so many ways why that I point out daily just about when people ask why country?

Today, and in the last week or so, a reason I've always known about became personal experience. You see, I have been working with a few friends on a silent auction fund raiser for a scholarship fund that is in honor of an officer that was killed in the line of duty from my department. I sent a quick e-mail to some of the people I work with daily to bring you all country music news and information. The response I got was amazing. I can't thank enough the support of the labels of Universal-South (provided items from Joe Nichols through Paula Erickson Piblicity) and Universal Music Group (provided items from Jedd Hughes, Sugarland, Lee Ann Womack, Billy Currington, Darryl Worley, Terri Clark, and toby Keith through Stephanie Watanabe of i.e. Marketing.)

This just another way country music is special. Their dedication and support to the community is so many ways is impressive, to say the least. They don't do it for the publicty or to show off. None of the artists required anything in return or special mention of any kind. The labels, representing the artists, did from the bottom of their hearts and the way the artists of country music are brought up and live their lives.

Right now, I can't even begin to express how good it feels to be a country music fan. I am so proud of the way that they treat their communities and fans in giving back. Sure, it doesnt take much time or cost for them to sign an autograph. However, that simple gesture in providing these items will go a long way in supporting a worthy cause such as a scholarship for a high school senior or whatever the cause is.

I know the ones of you that read my writings are fans of the music and support. Well, this is one of many reasons you can feel good about being a fan of country music and be so very proud to be a country music fan.

The Silence

Friday, November 26, 2004

Holidays sure do die things down a bit. It sure is nice in a way. Went Tues/Wed with probably 30 emails a day to Thurs/Fri with 1.

Happy Thanksgiving continued, and maybe I can get caught up on all the emails that I haven't read.


Happy Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 25, 2004

To all my country music friends, members, and people I don't even know that read my blog:

I wish you each a very Happy Thanksgiving.

From a country music prospective, this year I am thankful for so many things. The music is what is all about for me and so very thankful for the country music. So very much has happened in the past year as far as the newsletter goes. All the exciting things and hard work will be mentioned as I look back on the year in about 5 weeks from now. However, I am so thankful that I have you all that enjoy reading my comments, read my newsletter, and value my opinions.

I truly have some of the best people as members. If I am feeling down or un-motovaited, all I have to do is look at the list of my members and the passion I have for writing returns almost instantly.

Here in Richmond, Virginia, the sun is fastly fading down as the clouds continue to hover in the sky and the temperature drops from the mid 60's to a nice fall evening of 49 degrees. Another Thanksgiving holiday is coming to an end, however, the reflections that have been made today will continue on for many days to come.

Country Weekly's Calendar Insert

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Today, I got my Country Weekly in the mail, almost on time for a change. This issue was unusually heavy. The reason was in the center of it was a 2005 standard size wall calendar. Of course, its an advertisement for Chevy. Really good idea I think. Great picutres through it and very well put together.

I begin to think quickly when January 2006 arrives, how many of the artists featured will we actually remember?

Here is the list of artists featured:
Blue Country (January)
Josh Turner
Julie Roberts
Trick Pony
Katrina Elam
Dierks Bentley
Trace Adkins
John Michael Montgomery
Big & Rich
Blake Shelton
Gretchen Wilson
Rachel Proctor (December)

Looking through the list, there a few I sure hope will be around still. There a few that I sure hope will disappear even before their "month" shows up on my wall. September will be a very long month to look at this year, thankfully, it is only 30 days.


One Website To Stay Away From

Friday, November 19, 2004

you know, I love telling people about great sites to visit and love helping people out with their web experience.

This is one time, I am going to suggest one to stay away from.

cowboylyrics.com STAY AWAY.

Sure it has a good listing of lyrics. However, it is full of spyware and hidden downloads. I visited the site once a few months back and crashed my computer. I didnt know what caused it until today. I visited the site again tonight and noticed that it was downloading something. It downloaded a search bar which I cant stand, a rebate assistant of some kind, and at least 3 auto pop-up programs. Not pop-ups, but programs that generate pop-ups even just being connected to the net.

If you want lyrics dont visit this site, rather visit one of these:

http://www.roughstock.com/cowpie/songsnf.html
http://www.lyred.com/


Music Downloads; Cheap, Easy, Convenient, and Legal

Thursday, November 18, 2004

In the digital age we live in, one of the hottest topics in the past years has been downloading music. When it first began through sites like Napster and then Kazza it was highly controversial. The reason was based on it was basically stealing music, in which I believed it was. Sure, I had both programs and used them. However, the only songs I downloaded from the sites were songs that I either already had on a CD or that I intended to buy and wasn't available at that time to buy. The reason I would do it is the convenience of having the song right here on my desktop. It was a whole lot quicker than pulling the album from my vast CD collection, putting in the CD player, and playing it.

Now, we have services through walmart.com, Napster, I-tunes, and countless others that give us the music we want and more at a fair price and easier than ever to use. While I am typing here, I am currently downloading a full album. The first time I have done a whole album. Walmart.com Is priced at $0.88 a song or $9.44 an album in most cases. Literally, it took typing 2 words and 3 mouse clicks. A 16 song album took less than 10 minutes using a DSL connection. Amazing to me.

The best part of it all is the legality. Not that I feel like I'm gonna get slapped with a huge fine or jail time for downloading music, but I feel much better downloading a song that I know that all the people it takes to put an album together get their money. Ever looked in an album cover and noticed how how many people it takes to produce a CD?

I have used most of the services. Walmart I think is the best of them for a couple reasons. Ease of use, exclusive downloads that can't be found anywhere else, and the cheapest price. I also feel very confident in their site to actually work. Also, the files are in MP3 format, unlike I-Tunes that are in MP4 format that makes it very hard to burn to a CD for PC users.

I believe that this is going to be the new way of providing music to their buyers. It has to be a good deal for the people behind the scenes. Think about it. They don't have to pay for materials like CD cases, album covers, CDs, and the costs of making them. I think this is a win-win situation for the music makers and the music listeners.

The only downside to digital downloads of music for me is the lack of a cover. I love to look at the song listings, the photography, and the overall package of a CD. I think one day that this information will become digital as well. My suggestions is to add one file to the downloading process when you buy the full album that would include what we normally find in a CD cover today, and in this format, much more can be provided. Interactive links to go write to the artists website or links to other special features. Also, links to go buy even more from the artist and labelmates.

Happy downloading...easy, cheaply, and legally


Long Time No Post, whoops!

I hadn't realized until I was laying in bed watching a panel discussion that included a mention of weblogs on C-SPAN that it has been forever (any the web-world anyway) since I have posted.

Also, I can't believe it is already the 18th of November. Where is time going. Life has become so fast paced that it is hard to believe the date on the calendar when you see it. However, a fast paced life can be good in some ways. This is a good thing when it comes to my life and Country Music Alive.

I stay so busy because Country Music Alive is a one man operation. I do it all. From this blog, to the website, to the newsletter writings, to the reviews, to everything else that comes under the header of "Country Music Alive" is me. Some people always ask, why don't I get people to help me. Well, its a good question. I think it has to do with my passion for this service I provide. I get so much gratitude from my readers and visitors that I want to be sure what I provide is exactly the way I want it. Not that I don't value other opinions and ways of doing things, but I enjoy the control and knowing that every new member, every reader, every visitor to my site is my work and thought. It gives my site a bit of an edge to it among the other sites like mine. However, I have yet to find another service quiet like Country Music Alive.

I do value opinions of my readers and visitors. I whole-heartly support their point of view and opinions. That is the reason the MSN Group exsists. If you visit the group, you will notice I don't post much...then again it is a fairly slow board in the first place. The reason I don't is because that is a place for my members, visitors, and readers to have their say. I get mine about every 9 days when the newsletter is published or what appears on the website. The board is for people just like you to have your voice heard.

I do stay very busy from reading countless e-mails, press releases, websites, member comments, listening to many albums and keeping current on what's new, hot or not, and writing and preparing the information you get presented to you. I think everyone of you would be amazed how much time and planning of that time it takes to provide the service.

And you know what....

I love every single second of it.

As Always, Keeping Country Music Alive,
Kirk Fitzgerald

CMA Awards: Performances

Saturday, November 13, 2004

The performances this year at the CMA Awards were, well,
as aspected. Nothing spectacular that I will remember for
years to come, but none of them that I will remember for
being overly bad either.

Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss had to be my highlight of
the show, talent wise. What awsome vocals. We, as
country music fans, are so very lucky to have these great
talents.

The most entertaining performance of the evening was
Shania Twain with Billy Currrington. It was neat to see a
performance "act" during the show. Having a set of each
of them talking to each other on the phone was kinda cool
to see.

The rest of the performances were good, from Gretchen
Wilson's performance of her newest single "When I Think
About Cheatin'" to Alan Jackson and Patty Loveless
performing "Monday Mornin's Chruch" it was a great night
to showcase the talent of our artists.

CMA Awards: The Winners

Friday, November 12, 2004

Iregardless of how I actually voted for the awards, overall, I was happy with the results. There is always one or two that I don't agree with each year. This year it was two.

Before I get to those two, lets look at the ones I agreed with or can see why they won that I have heard a little of disappointment in. Entertainer of the Year Kenny Chensey deserves his award; his tour this year was creative, fun, and did incredible in sales. His album sold very well and still is. Also, Chesney's overall persona is an ideal spokesperson for the CMA. I think this may be the reason in the long run that the members voted for him. I also think this may be the reason Toby Keith missed out on it.

Male vocalist also has been a topic of discussion. Keith Urban deserves it I believe. He has been everywhere this past year. Your turn on CMT, GAC, look at his tour schedule, and most look at the charts. He has had huge success from his album "Golden Road, and that sucess has been consistent. The album came out Oct. 8, 2002. It was certified double platinum this past June and still is getting airplay. His newest album, "Be Here" has gone platnium in 6 weeks. His international success also plays apart in it I believe.

Now the two I wasn't happy about:

Female Vocalist. Yes, Martina is a big success, a voice like no other, and one of country music's most loved artists. However, I believe this year was Sara Evans' year. She has gained incredible star status this tear with singles like "Suds in the Bucket", "Perfect", and has been all over magazines, television, and radio this year (both on country and non-country places.)

Vocal Duo. Again, Brooks & Dunn are talented. This year though, let's face it hasnt been their best year. An album that has done fairly well and an overall low-key presence, with the exception of Kix Brooks as President of the CMA. Montgomery Gentry has exploded this year. Great songs, incredible album, and such a fun duo for the fans. They have done so much for country music and its fans by bringing in new fans due to their rock edge to their traditional country sound. They also have done a lot of work for the troops. These guys deserved this award this year.

Next, we will take a look at the performances from the artists during the show.

CMA Awards: The Show Itself

Thursday, November 11, 2004

In the last day, I have read tons of posts from people talking about the CMA Awards. Some good, some bad, some people that just enjoy picking fights and demean the industry, some that "their" artist could come out with no voice, sing the wrong song to the music, and cry and still think that artist was the best of the show.

I thought this show was a bit different. The pace of the show was real fast. I felt that I was watching a marathon showcase. I think it was a good thing though. It gave the chance to about 18.5 million viewers to see what country music is all about. The show easily took first place in the ratings for the evening.

I was very happy with how things went, though, may not the best show they have done. I was somewhat disappointed in the lack of retospect the Vince Gill usually helps bring to the show. This is a time not only for award presentations and performances, but also a chance to take a look back at the year's accomplishments. What was missing the most was a tribute to the indutry members that died in the past year.

I was happy with the overall show, keeping it entertaining, fast moving, and acceptance speeches meaningful but not too long.

In the next few days, I will take a look at what I thought of the award winners and what I thought of the performances.




Country Music and Politics

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Now that the election is over, I have seen a few stories on major cable news networks looking back at what part music played in this year's presidential elections.

No matter what your political views are, country music has won again.

President Bush's campaign included many big names in the spotlight at rallies all over the United States from the country music world. Toby Keith for instance I know showed at one of the events, and I'm sure there were more.

Each night on the FOX News Network's "Hannity & Colmes" they had a few second clip from the campaign trail for each candidate and their music they were using at rallies called "Sounds from the Trail." John Kerry's included Bruce Springsteen and other classic rock artists. President Bush's included country almost exclusively. In post analysis of the election by news networks, they came to the conclusion that basically domestic and moral issues (such as gay marriage) were largely the issues at focus, more so than international (like Iraq.)

I fully believe that the music was an influence on the election, maybe not as a actual campaign issue, but definately setting the stage for what background and the lifestyle of each canidate have.

The citizen's spoke and just maybe country music influenced it as well as more exposure to the great music from the country artists.




Outlaws; dont forget

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Hank Williams Jr., Kid Rock, Gretchen Wilson, Montgomery Gentry, Big & Rich, Tanya Tucker, Jessi Colter, Shooter Jennings, Metallica’s James Hetfield and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Gary Rossington, Billy Powell and Johnny Van Zant joined together for CMT's Outlaw Concert last week.

You are probably thinking Im going to go off in a rage about how this is a mess and no need for a show like this. Well, you're wrong. This special was full of badass rocking country.

I was about of my seat a few times so into the show, and would have if it wasn't for all of the commericals. If you haven't seen this special, I'm sure CMT will re-run it at 50 times or so (ha).

The attitude of country was alive that night. Country does have style within of major attitude. Attitude in music is good. This is what is bringing more fans to the music and is at the soul of country music.

However, one thing. Are these really "Outlaws" Hank Jr. can be the exception. Our real "outlaws" are quickly dying off or dead already. These artists may have some of the attitude, but nothing close to the real outlaws. Welcome the new Outlaw sound, but never never forget the real outlaws...such as Johnny Cash, Johnny Paycheck, David Allan Coe, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, and oh yes, Hank Williams Sr.

Gary Allan's loss bring country music fans closer

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Monday, it was very sad to hear the news of Gary Allan's
wife and mother to their combined 6 children died of a
self-inflicted gunshot wound. However, it seems when
the worst happens in life, some good or a ray of sunshine
comes through.

In this very sad situation, that my deepest sympathy and
condolences are sent to the family and friends, it is very
moving to see the comming together as we do in the time of
need. If you visit Allan's website, you will see hundreds
of posts from individual fans and numerous fan clubs
sending their sympathies. Just take a look at the message
board on his website, http://www.garyallan.com

This is one of the greatest attributes of country music
fans, and I hope all people in life, but it seems more so
in the country music community. It is so wonderful for
myself to see the messages, but I can't imagine how Im
sure it makes the families and friends that are dealing
this extremely difficult time in their lives.

George Strait Keeps on Going..

Friday, October 22, 2004

You know, it must be nice to be George Strait. He has this whole music business down to a part-time science. Just look at this press release's first paragraph:

George Strait’s 50 Number Ones Lands the #1 Spot on Billboard Pop and Country Chart
Boasts the Highest Debut Week Sales of His Career


Nashville, TN (October 13, 2004 – 3:45PM CT) – George Strait’s new MCA release, 50 Number Ones, has landed him the #1 position on Billboard’s Top 200 and Top Country Albums charts, beating out R&B sensation Usher by over 7,000 units. With sales of 342,969 units this week, it marks the highest debut of Strait’s illustrious 22-year recording career. Ironically, as “I Hate Everything,” Strait’s current single and the only new song off his 2 CD set, jumps to #1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles and Tracks Chart this week, it becomes his 51st #1 and leaves Strait with the unique problem of giving his fans more number one hits than they bargained for.

Wow. Here is a guy that takes his 50 #1's (that aren't all number one's on Billboard, rather from Radio & Records, Billboard, and a chart no longer published. He only tours on the weekends now, basically. He does limited interviews and other marketing/publicity events are slim to none.

He has truly mastered the country music industry, but you know what? Good for him...he deserves it. Strait has done his time since the mis-80's and he has earned this break and still is on the height of his career.

George Strait is the king of currently performing country music artists in my book.

Country Music Is Really Alive...

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

I am a volunteer for allexperts.com, where I answer
questions through an e-mail form that the information
seeker fills out with their question and then I respond
back with an answer. Most of the time I know the answer
or can find the information fairly quickly. Most of the
time, I deal with a lot of "Who sings..." or "Can you tell
me what this song is.." kind of questions.

However, yesterday, I recieved a question from the service
where he inquired about suggestions of artists he could
listen to. He explained that he is fairly new to country
and more of a rock music fan. I suggested a few artists,
such as Montgomery Gentry and Keith Urban to give a try.

That is the great thing about country music. No matter if
you like more of a rock sound, a pop sound, or any other
style of music... there is room for your likeness in the
country music community.

Country music has to be one of the most special types of
music because there is so very many sounds under the
category. From the classic traditional sounds of Hank
Williams Sr. to the newest single from Big & Rich we all
share one thing. The love of country music. Now, it can
be argued what exactly country music is, but let's face
it, country music has grown into a very large style with
sub-genres.

I also have found in keeping in touch with new country
music fans that once they get hooked on one style or
artist, it grows from there into liking more and more.

All it takes is one artist or one song to hook a new fan.
I know yesterday a new fan was born. I also know it
happens everyday over and over. Yes, country music fans
are truly born. With country's powerful lyrics that are
true to life, the first time listner starts seeing life in
a new light. This new look, a re-birth, is a happier way
of looking a life's challenges.


Greatest Hits

Monday, October 18, 2004

Is it just me, or has there been an overwhelming amount of
greatest hits albums lately? Terri Clark, Toby Keith?s
second greatest hits coming soon, Brooks & Dunn second out
this week, Shania Twain upcoming album, and I?m sure I
have left out a few more. Oh yes, the big one, George
Strait?s ?50 #1s.?

Do these artists really deserve to have a greatest hits
package be released? Well, I believe a greatest hits
package should be just that and nothing more. The latest
marketing strategy includes adding 3 new songs to the
project for two reasons. First, a tactic to get those
fans that already have all the albums for that artist to
have to buy it. Secondly, in order to be considered
eligible for award nominations the album must include
three original tracks.

I think there should be a checklist to releasing greatest
hits albums.
1. Does the artist have a substantial amount of albums out
where the listener benefit from a greatest hits album?
2. Does the artists have 10 true hits (Billboard Top 10?s
at least) since the last greatest hits album?
3. Is it being produced truly for the fans or a marketing
ploy?

If, and only if, these 3 questions can be answered yes,
then I believe it is ok to release a greatest hits
package. It should only be that though. Save the
original material for the next album. It will increase
sales of the next album. Release them together even. One
new album, one greatest hits. Even package them together
as a 2-CD set even. In fact, I like that the idea of a
2-CD set; 10 tracks of original material and 10 greatest.
This way the potential buyer of the album that already
has every album released, can have something to look
forward to.

Let?s take a look at just a few of the artists of today
and their ratio of studio releases to greatest hits/live
albums. From least to most:

Kenny Chesney- 8:1
Tim McGraw- 8:1
Martina McBride- 8:1
Reba McEntire- 7 1/2:1
Brooks & Dunn- 5:1
Terri Clark- 5:1
Alan Jackson- 5 1/2:1
George Strait- 5:1
Toby Keith- 4 1/2:1
Alabama: 2 3/4:1

I believe the rate of releasing these greatest hits
packages and re-release of material really shows the true
reason for being in the industry; the ones that are in it
for monetary reasons versus the ones in it for the true
love of the music.

Chely Wright/New Richmond Country Radio

Friday, October 15, 2004

It is so awsome to see Chely Wright on FOX's Dayside program talking about her experiences in Iraq. Just a nice gesture for her to do and I know that our troops appreciated her visit. Wright's appearance though wasnt to brag or try to make a deal out of it, but more so share the experience with us. That little interview was so nice to see.

Some local country music news. Richmond, VA now has another country radio station. This isnt the first time we have had 2 country stations in the market. They come and they go it seems. No one can seem to beat out WKHK-95.3 K95. I sure hope this station can however. K95 falls right into the mold of the typical radio station, especially country. Take 35 songs or so and play them all the time, with obnoxious and un-country educated disc jockeys. Of course, not all DJs are like that, but K95 has done a pretty good job of finding them. The new one is called 93.1 The Wolf. It used to be a smooth jazz station. They are just getting started. But so far, it is an great change. Sure, they play the top 40 like country, but they throw in a lot of the older music from what I can hear so far about the late 80's. I hope they will broaden out even more and grab into some of the even more classic sounds. Just have to see. The Wolf has an edge to it. Its programming is seemingly marketed to a male than female. Also, so far, it seems to be guided in a more dedicated country fan.

Best wishes to The Wolf and lets keep praying they continue to grow and they keep up what they are doing. It would be a breath of fresh air to have them truly give K95 a run for their money.


UrlWire Exposure

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

I feel soo good right now. As of just a few hours ago, after a lot of updating work on the website and some very busy typing fingers, my URLwire campaign has begun. Eric did a great job in posting the information and is working hard I know on getting the word out as I type.

Hopefully a lot of people will hear about the website and will enjoy it.

Take a look and pass along this website to everyone you know and get the word out about Country Music Alive....

http://www.urlwire.com/news/101304.html

Reviews, Reviews, Reviews

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Boy, I have been so behind in the last 2 weeks on getting reviews written. I stayed up til the early morning hours last night getting caught up some. Feels pretty good to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I have been blown away with Julie Robert's CD for awhile, so it felt good to get the review done so I can publish it soon.

Also, its pretty interesting how people notice that George Strait's new "50 #1 Hits" has a few that werent actually Billboard #1's but showed up on some of the other lesser known charts. It looks like he has had 38 #1 Billboard Country Singles. None the less, he is the king of country music. He has done so much for the sound and is just an amazing guy. CMT has posted a great interview with Strait. It doesn't happen often that he does any kind of interview, so when Strait speaks, I listen. Thats for sure.
http://www.cmt.com/news/articles/1492085/20041008/strait_george.jhtml?headlines=true

Also, as the new 50 #1's come out, so does a songwriters tribute album. Now, this is one hell of a CD. Songwirters are the mind behind all of the great music we hear. They don't get no where near the credit they should. "A Songwriter's Tribute To George Strait" is an album that has the sognwriter's of some of Strait's biggest hit performing them. It is a real treat to hear.

Well, time to get back to catching up on some reviews and things.

CMA Awards 2005

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Today the news hit my e-mail inbox that the 2005 CMA Awards will move to New York City, just for the year. It has been talked about for awhile and thrown around publicaly. If you don't know me, you should know the CMA Award night is probably my most favorite day of the year. It has been since I was very young. I think that this decision can go 2 ways. Either the best thing to ever happen to the show or the worst.

New York currently does not have a country music radio station. One of the largest media centers in the world, does not have a country station. Very few concerts from country acts even go up there, and I expect sales are slow in that area. So, if moving the show up there for this one year's show is marketed just right, over the next year and not just before the show, it may actually hook some new fans. The CMA also needs to put on the pressure to get a country radio station up there. Do it through the artists and get the word out to the fans in that area to get the support. There are country fans in the area. I know some of them and know they want country music and would support it.

Now, how can they go wrong? Easy. Don't take the time and gain support for the show. If they don't do this, what will happen is that country music will be laughed at, basically. It will just be a one night deal and hardly no coverage, and will be a hick convention in New York.

If they do it right... which I hope and think they will, it will educate, if you will, the people of New York on the talent, compassion, and power of country music. Time will tell...

404 days, 20 hours to go... I hope The CMA is hard at planning.

Getting Started

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Well,

Its official, Im a blogger now.... Ive heard so much about it and enjoyed reading others, but now its time for me to get into it myself.

What a great way to let people really learn about how much time I spend putting my website together and providing the best work I can for them...

I just finished a very hard week of updating the website and also writing a feature article on Anthony Michael James. I am really proud of this work and hope a lot of people get to read it.

But anyway, its time for the Opry to start, looks like a pretty good lineup tonight.. LeAnn Rimes is stopping by, so that should be a nice crowd pleaser Im sure.