HOT TALK: Trisha Sifting, Flags Waving

(HOT TALK is a weekly column by longtime CMT.com contributing writer and former Billboard country music editor Edward Morris.)

Trisha Yearwood Sifting Songs for New Album
Trisha Yearwood and her producer, Garth Fundis, are currently sifting through songs for her next album for MCA Records. There have been rumors on Music Row that Yearwood, who normally defers to others songwriters for her material, may do some co-writing for the new project with Garth Brooks . However, an assistant to Fundis says he’s heard of no such plans. A spokesman for Yearwood’s management company notes that the album is in such an early stage that not even a release date has been set.

Hank Jr., Wynonna, McGraw, Rimes on Patriotic CD
Here’s the tentative lineup for the patriotic album from Curb Records I mentioned in last week’s column. It’s called Best of America, Vol. 2 — God Bless America 2003 and will be out June 3. The singers and songs are Lee Greenwood, “God Bless the USA 2003”; Hank Williams Jr. , “America Will Survive” and “Don’t Give Us a Reason”; Tim McGraw , “Please Remember Me”; Jeff Carson , “I Can Only Imagine”; Steve Holy , “A Long, Long Way From Home”; the Bellamy Brothers , “Let’s Roll America”; Wynonna , “Freedom”; Jonathan Pierce, “Go in Peace”; Ronnie McDowell , “Don’t Mess With America”; the Mike Curb Congregation, “America the Beautiful 2003”; and LeAnn Rimes , “The National Anthem.”

Country’s “Superbowl” Filling Up
Although it always draws vast crowds, Jamboree in the Hills, held annually in Morristown, Ohio, seldom gets the widespread attention it merits. In business since 1977, the so-called “Superbowl of Country Music” is a masterful blend of glittering new names and durable country talent. This year’s Jamboree will be held from Thursday through Sunday, July 17-20. The acts booked so far are Sara Evans , Cledus T. Judd , Marty Stuart , Travis Tritt and Keith Urban (Thursday); Mark Chesnutt , Joe Diffie , George Jones , Tracy Lawrence and Lorrie Morgan (Friday); Jessica Andrews , Jeff Bates, BlackHawk , Carolyn Dawn Johnson , Sammy Kershaw , Martina McBride , Brad Paisley (who got his start at Jamboree) and SHeDAISY (Saturday); and Brooks & Dunn , Emerson Drive , Neal McCoy , Rascal Flatts and Ricky Van Shelton (Sunday).

Art Garfunkel Muses Over Politics and Art
“They’re all dead, and they’re all Democrats.” This was the succinct objection Bell Telephone made to Simon & Garfunkel when the famed duo decided to spotlight John Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King in their 1969 television special, Songs of America. During his appearance in Nashville last week to tape the PBS series, Speaking Freely, Art Garfunkel recalled some times when personal politics clashed loudly with art. (Can you say Dixie Chicks?) Ultimately, Bell concluded that the special was too risky to its corporate image, Garfunkel said, and withdrew its sponsorship. But another sponsor came in at the last minute to save it, and so the show went on. In another confrontation, the state of Georgia convicted a theater owner of obscenity for showing Carnal Knowledge, a movie Garfunkel starred in. The case was appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court, which, in 1974, struck down the Georgia law.

Besides reflecting on the more perilous aspects of art, Garfunkel told of how he and Paul Simon came together and what they aspired to. “We saw ourselves as children of the Everly Brothers,” he said. His only personal encounter with the brothers, he admitted, was running into a sharp-dressed Phil Everly in front of New York’s legendary songwriting temple, the Brill Building, and giving him directions to another address. Everly didn’t recognize him. “I’ve been a rehearsal freak all my life,” Garfunkel said in explaining his approach to music. “I love to detail it. … We weren’t so much singers or songwriters as record-makers.”

Following his conversation with Speaking Freely host, Ken Paulson, Garfunkel sang Simon’s “Kathy’s Song” and then joined his fellow recording artists, Buddy Mondlock and Maia Sharp, to perform selections from their new album, Everything Waits to Be Noticed.

Collin Raye, Other Country Folk Brighten Disney Disc
For the many of you who’ve inquired about the fate of Collin Raye , here’s some good news. The singer has the lead cut on the just-released, bluegrass-tinged collection from Disney Records, O Mickey, Where Art Thou? His song is “Circle of Life.” There are loads of other country folk on the album, including a couple of surprising and welcome choices — veteran Grand Ole Opry stars Stonewall Jackson and Charlie Louvin . Jackson sings “Bare Necessities,” while Louvin chimes in with “I Will Go Sailing No More.” Ronnie Milsap , an Opry standby of more recent vintage, offers “When You Wish Upon a Star.” Elizabeth Cook’s contribution is “Zip a Dee Doo Dah,” and Sonya Isaacs’ is “When Somebody Loved Me.” Also in the cast: Robbie Fulks, Kevin Montgomery, Carolyn Brown and Amanda Martin.

The Gospel According to Rhonda
I just got my advance copy of Rhonda Vincent ’s forthcoming CD, One Step Ahead, and was delighted to see that she’s sticking with her practice of resurrecting classic country hymns for a new generation of fans. On her last album, The Storm Still Rages, she did a fine cover of Carl Story’s excoriating “You Don’t Love God (If You Don’t Love Your Neighbor).” In the new collection, she dusts off the lament made famous by Wilma Lee & Stony Cooper, “Walking My Lord Up Calvary’s Hill.” Believe me, you don’t have to be a believer to get chills from this one. One Step Ahead will be out April 29.

Jim & Jesse’s Jesse McReynolds Sings On
Jesse McReynolds , the surviving brother of Bluegrass Hall of Honor members Jim & Jesse, has continued to appear on the Grand Ole Opry and is now touring full time under the rubric “Jesse McReynolds & the Virginia Boys.” Last week, he taped the PBS special, All-Star Bluegrass Celebration II. Working with McReynolds are his grandson, Luke McKnight (vocals, mandolin), and bandsmen Matthew Allred (tenor vocals, guitar), Daniel Grindstaff (banjo), Bobby Hicks (fiddle) and Kent Blanton (bass).

Barbara Mandrell Still Retired — Musically Speaking
A reader asks if Barbara Mandrell has returned to performing after her self-imposed retirement. Not according to her booking agency. A spokeswoman for Creative Artists Agency tells Hot Talk that Mandrell occasionally agrees to a speaking engagement but that her decision not to do concerts remains firm.

Bing Crosby Package Has His Lone No. 1 Country Hit
Bing Crosby was the Garth Brooks of pop music and probably sold even more records. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth on May 3, MCA/Decca/UME Records is releasing the two-CD set Bing Crosby: A Centennial Anthology of His Decca Recordings. It will contain Crosby’s only No. 1 country hit, “Pistol Packin’ Mama,” which he recorded in 1944 with the Andrew Sisters. Missing from the package is his only other country hit, the No. 10 “Till the End of the World,” which he cut in 1952 with the celebrated country guitarist, Grady Martin and His Slew Foot Five. The album will be out April 18.

Where else can you encounter such monumental trivia? OK. Where else? Enough! Forward your tips and torments to Hottalk@cmt.com.