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Published: Friday, 10/1/2004

Artists flood market with CDs ahead of holidays

It's a real tribute to Cledus T. Judd that he's been able to

maintain his sense of humor all these years. The parody king of

country music has had some rough times in his life, including a

divorce, a loss of his record deal with Sony Music, and most notably,

a continuing battle with depression and bipolar disorder.

Despite his troubles, he continues to make people laugh. He hosted

the opening day at Country Concert in Fort Loramie, Ohio, this year,

and he was one of the highlights of the weekend. He also took that

opportunity to debut the video for his first single off of "Bipolar

and Proud," his first album with KOCH Records. The "I Love NASCAR" video includes a special appearance by Toby Keith. It's been a mainstay on GAC and CMT.

With the holidays right around the corner, a deluge of albums are

just out or getting ready to hit the market. You might want to check

out Judd's release. It's funny stuff. "I Love NASCAR" is a knockoff

of Keith's "I Love This Bar." He's got a hysterical take on Gretchen

Wilson's "Redneck Woman" called "Paycheck Woman." However, the two best songs aren't parodies. "I'm Going Ugly Early Tonight" tells the story of a man's adventures at a bar. "Starkissed" takes a shot at some of the groupies in country music.

Parents should be cautioned that innuendoes throughout the album

make it inappropriate for children.

Of course Judd's album is just the tip of the iceberg as far as

albums coming out. Here are a couple of other records you might want to put on your shopping list.

* Sugarland is Mercury Records' newest group. You might not be

familiar with them because their first single, "Baby Girl," is just

now climbing the charts as they build a name for themselves. There

are no guarantees in the music business, but the trio appears to have a bright future. Jennifer Nettles is the lead singer, backed by

guitarist Kristen Hall and mandolin player Kristian Bush.

One thing you'll note about "Twice the Speed of Life" is that each

song is written by members of the group. They have an unbelievable

chemistry on stage and on this record, which is due to hit stores on

Oct. 26.

* George Jones is celebrating his 50th year as a recording artist

with the release of "George Jones - 50 years of Hits," which will be

in stores on Nov. 9. The album features one year from each year of

his career. Although he released a few singles in 1954, the

collection begins with "Why Baby Why," a hit that Jones released in

1955.

*And what can you say about Keith Urban? He is an unbelievably

talented artist who is getting ready to hit the road for the first

time as a headliner. His CMT on Tour: Keith Urban Be Here '04 opens Oct. 8 at Emens Auditorium in Muncie, Ind. The tour will feature material from his new album, "Be Here," which was just released to stores. Urban has long stayed in the shadows - for the last several years as an opening act for Kenny Chesney - but he is on the verge of superstardom. There is no finer guitar player in the business. "Be Here" continues a string of solid albums, and the first single, "Days Go By," is perched atop the radio charts this week.

*As far as songwriters, there is none finer than Phil Vassar, who

released his latest album, "Shaken Not Stirred," this week. Early

sales will be driven by the success of the first single, "In A Real

Love," which has quickly climbed to the Top 10. For whatever reason,

Vassar's last album never took off, but his talent is too good to

keep him down. While Urban is the guitar giant of country music,

Vassar is the piano man, separating himself as a unique performer in the industry. Plus, you'll never meet a finer man than Vassar. All

class.

*And the boys of Rascal Flatts are back with their third album,

"Feels Like Today," which was released this week. Columbus-native

Gary LeVox once again leads this successful group. Some traditional

country fans chafe at the popish sound of the trio, but they have

been unbelievably successful with their first two albums. "Rascal

Flatts" and "Melt" are platinum and double platinum, respectively.

"Melt" debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Country Album Sales Chart on

Oct. 29, 2002. This album will do just as well, powered by the

initial single, "Feels Like Today."

* And finally, Brooks & Dunn is set to release "The Greatest Hits

Collection II," a 17-song package that will be out on Oct. 19. The CD

includes three new songs, including the duo's current single, "That's

What It's All About." It also includes hits like "If You See Him (If

You See Her)," "Ain't Nothing 'Bout You," "Only in America," and "Red

Dirt Road." You really can't go wrong with Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn.



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