HOT TALK: Big Names on Louvin Salute, Reba Set to Record

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

Johnny Cash, Vince Gill, Joe Nichols Aboard For Louvin Salute
The Louvin Brothers tribute album Carl Jackson is producing for Universal South Records is shaping up to be a dynamite package. Ira and Charlie Louvin, who were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001, wrote and recorded some of the most exquisite music imaginable during the ’50s and ’60s. Because of contracts yet to be signed, Jackson says he can confirm only a few names on the project. But they’re pretty impressive ones. Johnny Cash and Pam Tillis will cover “Keep Your Eye on Jesus,” Joe Nichols and Rhonda Vincent “Cash on the Barrel Head,” Vince Gill and Terri Clark “I Can’t Keep You in Love With Me,” Jackson and Linda Ronstadt “New Partner Waltz,” and Marty Stuart and Del McCoury “Let Us Travel, Travel On.” There will be some direct contributions from the Louvin family as well. Kathy Louvin, Ira’s daughter, and Pamela Brown Hayes sing “I Wish You Knew.” Charlie will provide liner notes. Still untitled, the album is due out Sept. 23. I’ll keep you posted on the other artists and cuts as they clear.

Reba McEntire Working With Chesney’s Producers
Reba McEntire has picked Kenny Chesney ‘s current producers, Norro Wilson and Buddy Cannon, to oversee her next album. Wilson produced McEntire early in her career, but this will be the first time she’s been in the studio with Cannon. “We’re still in the song-gathering process and a couple of months away from recording,” Cannon tells Hot Talk. McEntire, who’s now living in Los Angeles where her TV series is shot, will return to Nashville the first week of July to work on the record. Cannon says they’re not looking to take the album in any particular musical direction — other than cutting the best songs they can find. But, he adds, “It’s not going to be as slick as some of the things she’s done in the past.” There are no plans at this point to involve guest artists.

Garth Brooks: Coming (Eventually) to a Theater Near You
Where’s Garth ? Still in Oklahoma and still writing screenplays. So says his Los Angeles spokeswoman, Nancy Seltzer, who declines to reveal what the screenplays will be about. Well, Hot Talk asked, does Garth have a deadline for finishing the scripts? “No,” Seltzer says, “he’s actually able to do it on his own time.”

Alison Krauss Readies DVD, Will Resume Touring
Editing has been completed on the much-anticipated DVD presentation, Alison Krauss & Union Station Live, which was filmed last year during two shows in Louisville, Ky. “I don’t have an actual release date,” reports Krauss’ manager, Denise Stiff, “but I think it will be early June.” Currently off the road, Krauss and her band will return for a few dates in July and then head out again for most of August and early September. In the meantime, you can catch her on the All-Star Bluegrass Celebration II, which begins airing on PBS in June.

Stiff also says that the Peasall Sisters — that endearing young trio from O Brother, Where Art Thou? and the Down From the Mountain tours — will sing and speak at a couple of week-long conferences on home-schooling in August at the LifeWay Convention Centers in New Mexico and North Carolina. After relying on other musicians, the Peasalls are now doing their own picking, with Sarah on guitar, Hannah on mandolin and Leah on fiddle. Their dad handles bass.

Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes? The IBMA
The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) began filming an interactive CD-ROM for its Bluegrass in the Schools program at the just concluded Merlefest in North Carolina. When completed, this “educational module” will cover bluegrass’ history, instruments, singing style and place in American culture. Designed for use in Grades 3-8, the CD-ROM is being created by Image Base of Chicago and will probably be ready for use late this year. Distribution will be through the IBMA, regional and local bluegrass associations and probably the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro, Ky.

IBMA has hosted several day-long accredited teachers’ workshops over the past few years featuring such artist-consultants as Ricky Skaggs , Special Consensus and Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike. Information on Bluegrass in the Schools, as well as downloadable teaching material, can be found at the association’s Web site.

LeAnn Rimes: C&W Meets S&M
OK, so you don’t read music and aren’t really a huge LeAnn Rimes fan. No matter. You owe it to yourself to check out the songbook from Warner Bros. Publications that matches Twisted Angel, Rimes’ newest album. We knew our little girl had grown up, but we had no idea that she was into recreational bondage. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. In one photo, she strains dreamily against tethers attached to posts. In another, she’s bound to a wall with arm and waist restraints. In neither is she dressed for cold weather, if you know what I mean. And, really, that shot of her in a teddy and holding a teddy bear will just have to speak for itself. Can you hear it?

The Chicks Roosting High Again
Hats off to the Dixie Chicks for sticking together and refusing to grovel to those who think only their own opinions should be heard. As the Chick’s recent conversation with ABC-TV’s Diane Sawyer demonstrated, they have weathered the storm and emerged standing tall. This point was underscored last Thursday (May 1) in Greenville, S.C., when they triumphantly played the first date of their American tour with hardly a protester in sight.

The Chicks’ attackers have tried to mask their intolerance with all sorts of glib but intellectually vacant arguments. Entertainers, they say, shouldn’t meddle in politics. (Apparently Ronald Reagan and Sonny Bono weren’t aware of this prohibition.) Citizens mustn’t publicly question their commander-in-chief during a national crisis. (This will come as news to ex-President Carter, who had to contend with constant criticism from Reaganites during the Iran hostage affair.) It’s wrong to demean the office of the president. (Only the resident can do that.) How is it, I wonder, that we’re smart enough to elect a president but too dumb to judge his performance?

Country music has been graced with some conspicuously strong and determined women — Kitty Wells , Loretta Lynn , Dolly Parton , Tammy Wynette , Reba McEntire, K. T. Oslin . It’s heartening to see a new generation pick up the banner.

When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes, I still find time to read all my e-mails. Write me at HotTalk@cmt.com.