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Published: Friday, 12/15/2006

Sugarland enjoying the ride

Some people wondered how Sugarland was going to make out after Kristen Hall left the group at the beginning of this year. It turns out they haven t missed a beat.

Kristian Bush and Jennifer Nettles hit the top of the charts this week for the first time when "Want To" climbed to No. 1 on Radio & Records. It is the first single off the group s sophomore album, "Enjoy the Ride."

"I am proud and so thankful," Nettles said. "This is such a moment for us to have our first No. 1 be this song on this album."

The group s next single, "Settlin ," will hit radio next month.

***

Being on the road day after day can be disorienting. An artist becomes encased in the cocoon of a musician s life - bus, sound check, fans, show, bus, sound check, fans, show.

But Steve Azar pushed the level of disorientation to new limits recently while traveling across Kansas for the opening night of the GAC Country Christmas Tour.

"I don t know where in Kansas we are - somewhere near Wichita, I think - but they have absolutely no cell service out here," he said through a crackling phone connection.

Twenty minutes later, after talking about his new record, family, friends, touring, he paused.

"You know, the more I think about it, I think we re stuck. We re not moving," Azar said, before peeking out the pulled blinds of the back bedroom on his tour bus.

"We re in the shop, and the other guys in the band are on my bus. Their bus broke down," he said, laughing, then adding, "Maybe we re not even in Kansas."

After a little work in the shop, Steve s bus was back on the road. After finishing his GAC tour, Azar will be playing four sold-out dates in Detroit with Bob Seger. He then will continue touring with Seger through February. Azar s new album, "Indianola," should be released early next year.

***

In late spring, Jimi Westbrook and Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town pulled off a Nashville surprise by getting married. Now, their longtime pal and fellow group member Kimberly Roads has tied the knot.

Roads married Stephen Schlapman in the Caribbean on Nov. 28. Roads first husband, Steven, died of a heart attack at the age of 41 in April, 2005.

"When I least expected it, love came back to me, and I am so grateful to God for his blessings and for our family and friends who were able to join us in the celebration," Roads said in a statement.

***

Congratulations to CMT s "Top 20 Countdown." The network will air the 300th episode of the popular countdown on Thursday from 4-7 p.m.

Host Lance Smith will be joined in the studio by Little Big Town and Blake Shelton.

The show will also take a look back at the top videos of the year. In addition, there will be bloopers and a retrospective rewind of some popular moments since the show first aired in 2001.

***

Recently Heidi Newfield announced that she was leaving Trick Pony to venture out on a solo career. Earlier this week, Heidi, Keith Burns, and Ira Dean recorded one last album when they performed at the Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville.

The live album should be in stores sometime next year. Heidi is also hoping to begin work on her solo album soon. Check out www.heidinewfield.com for additional news on the projects.



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