Now you hear them. Now you don’t.
A lot of big-name and up-and-coming artists lost their recording contracts during the past year and with them their most direct links to radio exposure. Among those no longer affiliated with major labels are Mark Chesnutt, Kathy Mattea, Doug Stone and Confederate Railroad.
While such label purging is common in both good times and bad, this latest round of separations contributes to the general sense of unease now plaguing country music. In recent months, the country music industry has suffered label upheavals and closings, a decline in album sales and the highly publicized projected retirement of Garth Brooks, the artist chiefly responsible for country’s biggest boom years.
Last year, country album sales dropped by more than 2 million below the 1999 level. On the label front, Virgin Records/Nashville has just announced that it will close its doors after just over two years of operation. Asylum Records’ long-struggling country division has lately come under the day-to-day control of its parent company, Warner Bros. Arista/Nashville, the once-mighty stand-alone label, has been reduced to a subsidiary of the RCA Label Group. Trichord Records, which issued an album last year on Marty Raybon, former lead singer for Shenandoah, also appears to have closed shop. It no longer has a Nashville listing.
These are the artists listed last year by their labels who do not appear on the 2001 rosters: Bering Strait, Jeff Black, BlackHawk, Paul Brandt, Mark Chesnutt, Confederate Railroad, Clint Daniels, Linda Davis, Tara Lynn Hart, Wade Hayes, the Judds, Robert Earl Keen, Jerry Kilgore, Kincaid, Jim Lauderdale, Danni Leigh, Kathy Mattea, the Mavericks, Mark Nesler, Lee Roy Parnell, Shana Petrone, Julie Reeves, Kim Richey, Ricochet, Bruce Robison, Sisters Wade, Doug Stone, Billy Swan, William Topley, Randy Travis, Monte Warden and Lari White.
And here are the current label rosters:
ARISTA: Brooks & Dunn, Diamond Rio, Alan Jackson, Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Brad Paisley, Pam Tillis and Phil Vassar.
ASYLUM: Chad Austin, Chalee Tennison, Bryan White, Kasey Chambers and George Jones.
ATLANTIC: Craig Morgan, Elizabeth Cook, John Michael Montgomery, Kristin Garner, Old Dogs (Waylon Jennings, Mel Tillis, Bobby Bare, Jerry Reed), South Sixty-Five, Tim Rushlow, Tracy Lawrence and Wayne Warner.
AUDIUM: Loretta Lynn, Daryle Singletary, Ricky Van Shelton, the Tractors and the Kentucky HeadHunters.
BLUE HAT: Charlie Daniels Band, Bonnie Bramlett and Luke Reed.
BNA: Shannon Brown, Kenny Chesney, Jennifer Day, Bill Engvall, Lonestar, K. T. Oslin, John Rich and the Warren Brothers.
CAPITOL: Trace Adkins, Jason Aldean, Susan Ashton, Garth Brooks, Deana Carter, Rodney Carrington, Tyler England, Chris LeDoux, Mindy McCready, Cyndi Thompson, Keith Urban, Steve Wariner, Tim Wilson. Capitol may also take some or all of sister-label VIRGIN’s roster, which consists of Chris Cagle, Clay Davidson, River Road, Roy D. Mercer and Tom Mabe.
COLUMBIA: Chet Atkins, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Deryl Dodd, Montgomery Gentry, Travis Tritt, Billy Yates, Bobbie Eakes and John Anderson.
CURB: David Kersh, Tim McGraw, Jo Dee Messina, Tamara Walker, Sawyer Brown, Keith Perry, Shane McAnally, Steve Holy, Clark Family Experience, Junior Brown, Jeff Carson, Hal Ketchum, LeAnn Rimes, Hank Williams Jr., Trini Triggs, Hank Williams III and Lesley McDaniel. CURB/MCA: Lyle Lovett. CURB/MERCURY: Wynonna.
DREAMCATCHER: Kenny Rogers and Marshall Dyllon.
DREAMWORKS: Jessica Andrews, Lisa Angelle, Jolie & The Wanted, Emerson Drive, Rick Ferrell, Jeff Foxworthy, Joanna Janet, Toby Keith and Darryl Worley.
EPIC: Ty Herndon, the Kinleys, Patty Loveless, Collin Raye, Billy Gilman and Tammy Cochran.
GIANT: Liz Byler, Keith Harling, Adam Hughes/Sarah Majors, Neal McCoy, Georgia Middleman, Joe Nichols, Blake Shelton, the Johnny Staats Project, Christy Sutherland, Clay Walker and the Wilkinsons.
LUCKY DOG: Charlie Robison, Jack Ingram, Waylon Jennings, BR5-49 and Johnny Paycheck.
LYRIC STREET: Nate Barrett, Sonya Isaacs, Kortney Kayle, Brian McComas, Rascal Flatts, SHeDAISY and Aaron Tippin.
MCA: Gary Allan, T. Bubba Bechtol, Alecia Elliott, Vince Gill, Rebecca Lynn Howard, Holly Lamar, Shannon Lawson, Reba McEntire, Dean Miller, Allison Moorer, Sons of the Desert, George Strait, Lee Ann Womack, Chely Wright and Trisha Yearwood.
MERCURY: Terri Clark, Neal Coty, Daisy Dern, Meredith Edwards, Tom T. Hall, Eric Heatherly, Jamie O’Neal, Keith Stegall, Shania Twain and Mark Wills.
MONUMENT: Joe Diffie, the Dixie Chicks, Yankee Grey, Billy Ray Cyrus and Cledus T. Judd.
RCA: Alabama, Clint Black, Tracy Byrd, Sara Evans, Andy Griggs, Martina McBride, Coley McCabe, 3 of Hearts and Lorrie Morgan and Sammy Kershaw (for their duet album).
REPRISE: Dwight Yoakam and the Lynns.
WARNER BROS: Chad Brock, Anita Cochran, Trick Pony, Faith Hill, Lila McCann, Leslie Satcher and Randy Travis (for the Inspirational Journey album).