Keith and Kristyn Getty
Ireland | Christian & Gospel
Irish singer/songwriters and recording artists Keith & Kristyn Getty are among the preeminent modern hymn composers of this generation. Best known for “In Christ Alone” (penned by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend), the world-renowned hymn has been recorded by numerous artists over the past decade—including Owl City, Natalie Grant and Newsboys—and is a classic sung in churches around the globe. Writers of an acclaimed repertoire of 21st century hymns revered both for their theologically astute lyrics and universally beloved melodies, the couple’s popular U.S. recordings include In Christ Alone, Awaken The Dawn and Joy – An Irish Christmas. Keith & Kristyn have shared their music at Franklin Graham crusades, the GMA Dove Awards, The Third Lausanne Conference on World Evangelization, as well as feature performances at London’s Royal Albert Hall and the legendary Grand Ole Opry, among many other noted platforms. Along with their band—an ensemble of some of the top names in Irish and American folk music—Keith & Kristyn have toured extensively in both America and the Celtic Islands this year. Additionally, their annual Joy – An Irish Christmas Tour, which included a sellout performance at Nashville’s prestigious Schermerhorn Symphony Center in 2011, has become a highlight of the holiday season for audiences around the country and is slated to stop in 20 stateside cities later this year.
Diamond Rio recently took home their first Grammy Award for The Reason. Named Grand Ole Opry members in 1998, Diamond Rio has had an illustrious career that includes over 10 million album sales, nine #1 singles, six Vocal Group of the Year awards (Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music) and 14 Grammy nominations. The band is highly regarded for their charitable contributions as the longtime National Spokespersons for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and was further honored with the prestigious Minnie Pearl Humanitarian Award in 2004.
Riders In The Sky
Riders In The Sky are truly exceptional.
By definition, empirical data, and critical acclaim, they stand "hats & shoulders" above the rest of the purveyors of C & W - "Comedy & Western!"
For more than thirty years Riders In The Sky have been keepers of the flame passed on by the Sons of the Pioneers, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, reviving and revitalizing the genre. And while remaining true to the integrity of Western music, they have themselves become modern-day icons by branding the genre with their own legendary wacky humor and way-out Western wit, and all along encouraging buckaroos and buckarettes to live life "The Cowboy Way!"
Riders In The Sky are exceptional not just in the sense that their music is of superlative standards (they are the ONLY exclusively Western artist to have won a Grammy, and Riders have won two), but by the fact that their accomplishments are an exception to the rule as well. That Riders In The Sky was even formed is a feat of improbable likelihood. What are the odds that a theoretical plasma physicist, a wildlife manager - galvanizer - Life Scout, an English major - shot putter - Bluegrass Boy, and a Polka Hall of Fame member would collectively become "America's Favorite Cowboys?" And even more unlikely is that 30-plus years later, the original members are still "bringing good beef to hungry people" while putting up Ripken-like numbers! The Rolling Stones only made it a few years before replacing Brian Jones; the Sons of the Pioneers constantly changed personnel; even the Ringo-era Beatles only lasted 8 years. (Perhaps Too Slim, as a sophomore writer for the University of Michigan Daily, had an ulterior motive in 1969 by propagating the rumor that Paul McCartney was dead! It's true... go ahead and Google "Paul is dead rumor"...) But the key to keeping the same founding members intact for three decades on the road is more easily explained: "Separate hotel rooms," cracks Ranger Doug!
Riders In The Sky's first official public performance was Nov. 11, 1977, at the erstwhile Nashville nightspot "Phranks & Steins." Taking the stage that night for a crowd of eight or nine (counting Herr Harry behind the bar) were Ranger Doug (Idol of American Youth) on arch-top guitar and baritone vocals, and Too Slim (A Man Aging Like Fine Cheese) on bunkhouse bass, face, and tenor vocals. A chain saw may have been in the mix somewhere that night, but was soon retired. Replacing the chain saw was Woody Paul (King of the Cowboy Fiddlers) on fiddle, tenor vocals and rope tricks, and the launch was successful! They subsequently added the "Stomach Steinway" stylings of Joey the Cowpolka King on accordion and baritone vocals, much to the delight of 'Polkaholics' everywhere.
As a classic cowboy quartet, the trail has led them to heights they could have never predicted. Riders have chalked up over 6100 concert appearances in all 50 states and 10 countries, appearing in venues everywhere from the Nashville National Guard Armory to Carnegie Hall, and from county fairs to the Hollywood Bowl. Their cowboy charisma and comedic flair made them naturals for TV, and landed them their own weekly show on TNN, as well as a Saturday morning series on CBS. They have been guests on countless TV specials, documentaries and variety shows, appearing with everyone from Barney to Penn & Teller. And their animated likenesses have shared the screen with Daffy Duck on the Cartoon Network, and the Disney Channel's Stanley. If you consider their compositional credits, one might call them "Writers In The Sky!" In addition to penning award winning songs for their own albums, they wrote the score for Pixar Animation's 2002 Academy Award-winning short "For the Birds." They composed the theme song for the internet cartoon show "Thomas Timberwolf" by renowned Bugs Bunny creator Chuck Jones. But the animated character that history will most certainly link to Riders In The Sky is the loveable cowboy Woody, as Riders performed "Woody's Round Up" in "Toy Story 2," with the album of the same name garnering Riders their first Grammy Award in 2001 for "Best Musical Album for Children." Two years later, Riders roped their second Grammy in the same category, for "Monsters Inc. - Scream Factory Favorites," the companion CD to Pixar's award winning movie.
Equally as exceptional, but of greater significance, is that in 1982, Riders In The Sky became the first, and to date only, exclusively Western music artist to join the Grand Ol' Opry, the longest running radio show in history, and thus began a love affair with radio as well. In 1988, they recorded comedy skits for the album "Riders Radio Theatre" and launched the long-running international weekly radio show of the same name on public radio. And keeping pace with the ever-changing technological landscape, in 2006 "Ranger Doug's Classic Cowboy Corral" debuted on XM Satellite Radio, still heard weekly on SiriusXM Channel 56.
Exceptional artists also appeal to a diverse and broad-based cross section of their adoring public. Riders In The Sky's music and comedy delights cowboys and cowgirls of all ages, and from all walks of life. Riders are equally at ease amusing a theatre full of children as they are enthralling a symphony audience accompanied by 50 or 60 classically trained instrumentalists, or even an NCO club full of servicemen during a USO Tour. Riders have performed at the White House for both Democratic and Republican administrations, and at Major League Baseball's winter meetings for both American and National Leagues (although with an admitted bias for the Detroit Tigers). With their ability to persuade cowpokes on both sides of the fence to set aside their differences for a brief escape from day-to-day tribulations, is it any wonder that Riders have a virtual home called "Harmony Ranch?"
Ultimately, exceptional careers do not go unnoticed, and throughout theirs, Riders In The Sky have been honored regularly. In addition to being inducted into the Grand Ol' Opry, Riders are in the Western Music Association's Hall of Fame, the Country Music Foundation's Walkway of Stars, and the Walk of Western Stars (in Newhall, CA near Melody Ranch Studios) along with Gene, Roy, John Wayne and other cowboy legends. No less important than their two Grammies, Riders have been the Western Music Associaton's "Entertainers Of the Year" seven times, and won "Traditional Group of the Year" and "Traditional Album of the Year" multiple times. The Academy of Western Artists has named them "Western Music Group of the Year" twice in 5 years, and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum has bestowed Riders with their Wrangler Award statuette three times. It comes as no surprise then that Billboard magazine's Jim Bessman counts them as one of "the most historically significant acts in the history of American music."
Yes, it would be "The Easy Way" to call it a career after 30-plus years, but it wouldn't be..."The Cowboy Way!" And so, the never-ending trail drive continues. The ponies are rested and watered, and America's Favorite Cowboys are ready to saddle up and ride, bringing good beef to hungry people wherever they may be. Yes, Riders In The Sky are truly an exception to the rule.
Mercury Nashville recording artist Easton Corbin is the most successful new artist in country music in the last year. The native of rural Gilchrist County, Fla., is being lauded for his traditional country sound, authentic lyrics and mastery of understatement. USA Today says Easton “is a country music throwback with an easygoing, old-school style.” He is the first country male artist in 17 years to have his first two consecutive singles reach No. 1 -- “A Little More Country Than That” and “Roll With It.” Easton won all of the Breakthrough Artist awards at the 2010 American Country Awards: Artist of the Year: Breakthrough Artist, Single of the Year: Breakthrough Artist and Music Video: Breakthrough Artist for “A Little More Country Than That.” Billboard named him as the Top New Country Artist of 2010.
Great musicians will always find a way to make good music, but for great musicians to make great music, they must form a bond – one that, more often than not, goes beyond the purely musical to the personal. For The Grascals, that bond has been forged at the intersection of personal friendships, shared professional resumes and an appreciation for the innovative mingling of bluegrass and country music that has been a hallmark of the Nashville scene for more than forty years. As their records prove, The Grascals’ rare musical empathy gives them an unerring ear for just the right touch to illuminate each offering’s deepest spirit - whether they’re digging into one of their original songs or reworking a bluegrass classic or a pop standard.
Bolt WV | Country
Hillbilly singers never will come any hillbilly-er than Little Jimmy Dickens. Indeed, as he put it himself on one early hit record, he’s “a plain old ... cornbread lovin’ country boy,” from the toes of his loudly colored cowboy boots to the top of his head, just 4’11” higher.
The current generation of country fans will recognize Jimmy from his frequent guest spots in the videos of Brad Paisley, but the truth is that Jimmy first gained national exposure nearly half a century ago. None other than Roy Acuff first introduced him to the old Ryman Auditorium stage all the way back in 1948, and Dickens has been wowing Opry audiences pretty much ever since—longer than any other current cast member—with his flamboyant rhinestone-studded outfits, wild novelty hits, and country humor.
Jimmy was the oldest of 13 children born to a West Virginia farmer. He started singing on radio station WOLS in nearby Beckley while attending the University of West Virginia, opening his program “crowing like a rooster.” Even though Jimmy had to walk to and from the station, he set his sights on an entertainment career that would eventually find him spreading his brand of “Hillbilly Fever” all around the world.
Jimmy Wayne is all of the things the public sees. He is all of the things those closest to him see. He is a songwriter and advocate; a first-tier vocalist and an activist. He will be a published author on Nov 1, 2011 when his debut novella is released, a work of fiction titled "Paper Angels" and inspired by his own childhood. He is a much sought-after speaker. His live concert performances are filled with energy and passion. He is the youngest-ever recipient of the Salvation Army's William Booth Award. He is a neglected child and a concerned adult.
Jimmy Wayne is the sum of his experiences — the good and the bad. And he will tell you he is grateful for every one of those experiences because they made him the complex man he is today.
Titusville PA | Country
Along with many accolades including awards from Billboard, Cashbox and Record World, country music legend Jeannie Seely has achieved No. 1 songs as a solo artist, as a duet partner and as a songwriter. Her deeply moving vocals earned her the nickname of "Miss Country Soul".
Jeannie’s recording of "Don’t Touch Me" not only topped the charts, but also earned her a Grammy Award for the "Best Country Vocal Performance by a Female". It is ranked at No. 97 in the book "Country Music’s 500 Greatest Singles" published by the Country Music Foundation, and also included in "The Stories Behind Country Music’s All-Time Greatest 100 Songs".
Born in Titusville, Pennsylvania, and raised on a farm outside of nearby Townville, Jeannie was singing on Meadville radio station WMGW at age 11, and by 16 was performing on TV station WICU in Erie. When she moved to Nashville upon the encouragement of friend Dottie West, Jeannie only had $50 and a Ford Falcon to her name, but within a month Porter Wagoner hired her as the female singer for his road and television series.