There's a big difference between Music Row and the country-music industry. Music Row is all about selling albums and getting hit singles. But the strange thing is that the people in the country-music industry sometimes personally listen to and respect a completely different group of artists.
In fact, if you checked the CD changers of most music critics, you wouldn't find many of the Top 20 country albums on them. And, yes, I'm as guilty of this as anyone else.
So, even though in 2005 Rascal Flatts won its third consecutive Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association Vocal Group of the Year awards, both the Billboard and the R&R Artist of the Year trophies, a Grammy for Country Song of the Year ("Bless the Broken Road"), was the most-played artist on country radio (10 weeks at No. 1), and had the best-selling country album of the year and the No. 7 best selling album in ALL genres with "Feels Like Today," the band is still dismissed by a large segment of the country-music industry as either a "boy band" or as a lightweight "country pop" group.
But then Rascal Flatts' brand-new album, "Me and My Gang," debuted in the No. 1 position on the Top 200 albums chart and the country album chart a feat only four other country acts have managed to do in the past 10 years or so. The first single from the album, "What Hurts the Most," has taken up residence at the top of both the Billboard and R&R country singles charts.
You just have to take that kind of success seriously, y'all. "Me and My Gang" has everything from the soaring opener "Stand" to the Joe Don Rooney-penned "Cool Thing." Jay DeMarcus contributed "To Make Her Love Me," while all three group members helped pen the lush "Pieces." There is, of course, more than a little humor in "Backwards" (What do you get when you play a country song backward?). Always fearless, the guys experiment successfully with a little country-reggae on "Yes I Do" and get funky on "Me and My Gang."
Yes, Rascal Flatts may have found that the country-music industry didn't take the band seriously as artists before. But with "Me and My Gang," that's all about to change.
QUIBBLES 'N BITS
Enough to Curl Your Hair Dept.: OK, folks, I want you to close your eyes and picture Toby Keith ice-skating with a push broom. Well, if Toby has his way, you'll actually see that at the 2010 Olympics, because he wants to be on the U.S. Olympic curling team! He and his buddies became fascinated with the sport during this year's Winter Olympics so much so that Toby rented an ice rink and brought in Canadian curling champion Sean Gerster (who lives in Nashville) to give them all a private lesson. "Practices are going to be worked into the tour schedule," says Toby's booking agent, Curt Motley, "and they plan to enter curling tournaments with the ultimate goal of competing at the 2010 Winter Olympics."
Play Nice! Dept.: Diamond Rio's Jimmy Olander puts together a team (called Team Rio) to run in the Country Music Marathon in Nashville every year. He always campaigns for folks to sponsor the runners and then gives the donations to the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. But the donation letter he sent out this year took a few slams at some famous sports figures by making up "quotes." For instance, Barry Bonds supposedly said, "I've been helping him with nutritional supplements." To be fair, Jimmy also poked fun at himself: "Thanks for your support as I push myself beyond my preconceived physical limits and meet my insurance deductible." If you would like to make a donation to Team Rio, go to www.active.com/donate/diamondrio.
Rough Cuts Quote of the Week: "The sound of glass breaking and the ripping and tearing above us was horrifying. Then, after about 15 seconds, everything became quiet." Oak Ridge Boy William Lee Golden, describing what it was like to have his house hit by an F3 tornado.
I'd love to hear from you, so please write me at P.O. Box 121438, Nashville, TN 37212.