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Published: Friday, 1/20/2006

Kristen Hall leaves Sugarland

It was painful to hear the news yesterday that Kristen Hall is

leaving Sugarland to spend more time at home writing songs.

Hall played guitar and sang harmony for Sugarland, but more than

anything, she was the creative force for country's hottest group. She

wrote or co-wrote most of the songs on the group's award-winning

debut album, "Twice the Speed of Life."

Eyebrows were raised recently when Hall did not join Jennifer Nettles

and Kristian Bush during a performance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."

In a statement yesterday on www.sugarlandmusic.com, Nettles and Bush released this statement: "Kristen has decided that she wants to stay home and write songs, and we support her in that decision."

The group will continue its touring schedule and will open for Kenny

Chesney on his tour beginning March 23 in Dayton.

The band's CD has been certified as double platinum for sales of more than 2 million copies.


And the news keeps getting better for the guys and girls of Little

Big Town. Kimberly Roads, Jimi Westbrook, Karen Fairchild, and

Phillip Sweet learned this week that their CD, "The Road to Here,"

has passed sales of 250,000, making it the top-selling independent

label album.

Sales are being driven by the Top 10 smash, "Boondocks," the first

cut off the CD. The group recently finished the video for "Bring It

On Home," which will be released soon to radio.


In a move that's either going to irritate or excite her fans, Trisha

Yearwood will re-release her current album, "Jasper County." The new version will contain all 12 cuts of the original Grammy-nominated

album, but it will also include her new single and duet "Love Will

Always Win" with husband Garth Brooks.

The revised album will be stores on Feb. 7, and the single will be

released to radio on Jan. 30.


Alan Jackson's preparing for the release of a new album, but this one

is particularly meaningful for Jackson.

The Grammy-winning superstar stepped into the studio before Christmas to record Precious Memories, a 15-track collection of classic hymns, recorded as a Christmas gift to his mother.

"We just went in there with a piano and acoustic guitar, and just

laid it down, just real loose . making an album for my mama. And we

got a little company to press a few covers and stuff. I gave some to

my family for Christmas, and a few other people, and now they're

wanting to put it out."

They, would be the folks at RCA. Chairman was so excited by the album that he decided to claim it for the label.

Now, beginning Feb. 28, fans will now have a chance to hear his

renditions of such hymns as "Softly and Tenderly," "I'll Fly Away,"

and "The Old Rugged Cross." On "'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus,"

Jackson is joined by wife Denise and two of his daughters.


Country album sales dropped 3.3 percent in 2005 - to 75,327,000 units from the 2004 total of 77,912,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan, the company that monitors retail music sales. On the plus side for country, however, Rascal Flatts' Feels Like Today ranked No. 7 in the Top 10 bestselling albums of all genres in 2005.

However, country album sales didn't dip as much as other genres.

Overall album sales were down 3.9 percent - from nearly 681 million

to just over 654 million units.


And finally, Martina McBride has returned to the road after canceling

a show Sunday in Richmond, Va., due to laryngitis.

According to her Web site, www.martinamcbride.com, this is McBride's first concert cancellation in her career.

McBride will be one of the headliners at this year's Country Concert

festival in Fort Loramie, Ohio. She will be performing Saturday, July


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