Hot Talk: Rhonda’s New Track, Dierks’ Self-Promotion:

Capsules From Country Music Week

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

What a week! I haven’t partied this hard since Maalox first became available in tablet form. I’m referring, of course, to the annual Country Music Week, which reaches communal orgasm with the CMA Awards show. It’s a period filled with lavish parties and lascivious partygoers. So what’s not to love? The secret to surviving these back-patting bacchanals is pacing. I always limit myself to one drink per hand. Now, the news:

“Five O’Clock Somewhere” Is Everywhere
Can things possibly get any better for Don Rollins and Jim Brown, the writers of “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere”? The song stayed at No. 1 for eight weeks — longer than any other Alan Jackson single has ever perched at the top. It spawned a hit music video. And this past Wednesday night (Nov. 4), it won Jackson and Jimmy Buffett the CMA’s vocal event of the year prize. Well, we’ve just learned that Buffett has also included his version of the song on two of his albums, Live in Las Vegas and Live in Auburn. It’s also featured on his new DVD, MiniMatinee. Any day now, we expect to hear that the song has been spun into a book, a movie, a TV series and a very drunken action figure.

Rhonda Vincent Adds Song To Album
When Rhonda Vincent’s brother (and Ricky Skaggs’ bandsman), Darrin Vincent, played her a song one of his co-writers recommended, she liked it so much that she vowed to add it to a new edition of her current album, One Step Ahead, which has been out since April. Not only that — Vincent’s also made a video of it, which has just been added to CMT’s playlist. The song, “If Heartaches Had Wings,” was written by Jody Alan Sweet. Vincent told Hot Talk she made plans to cut the song the instant she heard it. She said the first batch of One Step Ahead has sold out, so it just made sense to add “Heartaches” to the second pressing. The video, by the way, was shot in the Nashville suburb of Franklin. Vincent’s revised album will be out from Rounder Records by Dec. 1.

Dierks Bentley Pitched Himself for CMA Awards Slot
Before Dierks Bentley gave vent to every tomcat’s rowdiest dream — and darkest nightmare — with “What Was I Thinking,” he did a lot of volunteer work for the Country Music Association, including assisting backstage at the CMA Awards show. It was here that he became acquainted with the show’s producer, Walter Miller. Bentley’s recent success with “What Was I Thinking” — it went No. 1 — convinced him he deserved a spot on this year’s show. Earlier this summer, Capitol Records had sent a television crew on the road with Bentley to tape footage of his opening slots for Pat Green. Bentley had these tapes edited and then sent a sampler to Miller, reminding him of his past free labors for the show. He even found out Miller’s cell phone number and made a personal pitch. “You know, I’ve got to give it to him,” the sometimes-volcanic Miller told a Capitol publicist, “the kid’s got some guts.” And the kid got his spot.

Mandy Barnett Signs Contract With Epic
Grand Ole Opry favorite Mandy Barnett, who played the lead role in the long-running musical Always, Patsy Cline, has signed to record for Epic Records in New York. She told Hot Talk she won’t be doing country music for the label. Barnett’s manager, Stan Moress, says they’re “looking for a direction” for the singer and will soon be meeting with songwriters. Barnett has one of the strongest, most enchanting voices in Nashville — or anywhere else. Here’s hoping this deal finally finds her the audience her talent deserves.

Dean Miller Escorts Ronna Reeves to BMI Bash
Singer-songwriter Dean Miller, who’s recorded for Capitol and Universal South, escorted the delectable Ronna Reeves to the BMI awards last Tuesday (Nov. 4). Reeves, herself a former recording artist for Mercury and River North, told Hot Talk she’s put her singing career on hold to take a staff position at Vivaton Records, the new country label that is expected to open early next year. Reeves’ biggest chart single, which came in 1992, was “The More I Learn (The Less I Understand About Love).”

Songwriter’s Book Disses Dating
Hot Talk ran into former RCA recording artist Hilary Kanter at the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame dinner. Kanter co-penned “Lovin’ Only Me” for Ricky Skaggs and “Black Coffee” for Lacy J. Dalton. These days, she’s looking for a publisher for her book on the rigors of mature dating, particularly after one turns 40. The title: Dating Sucks. Well, at least she’s not bitter.

Diamond Rio Plays for the Home Crowd
Diamond Rio put on a special show Nov. 1 for Rhythms of the South, a group that promotes tourism for Nashville, Atlanta and New Orleans. When the host introduced the group to the relatively small gathering at Nashville’s Opryland Hotel, he proclaimed, “You’re about to hear a band that does not play for 200 people.” To which, lead singer Marty Roe responded, “I’d like to tell you that you’re the smallest audience we’ve ever played for. I’d like to, but I can’t. I remember 18 people in Columbus, Ohio.” Roe greeted the conventioneers with a sustained, “How-dee,” noting that he had once worked with the late Minnie Pearl (whose trademark yell that was) on “this very stage.” Although Diamond Rio’s musical roots are in bluegrass, they did a splendid western medley, complete with authentic yips and yodels. Another highlight, one that quickly had the crowd up and dancing, was Jimmy Olander’s instrumental romp, “Jose, Can You See,” which segued into the equally sizzling “El Cumbanchero.” (In keeping with practice, here is the complete set list for the show: “How Your Love Makes Me Feel,” “Meet in the Middle,” “Mirror, Mirror,” “Bubba Hyde,” “Wrinkles,” “You’re Gone,” “It’s All in Your Head,” western medley (“Cattle Call,” “El Paso,” “Tumbling Tumbleweeds,” “They Call the Wind Maria,” “Way Out There”), “Beautiful Mess,” “Norma Jean Riley,” “I Believe,” “Jose, Can You See”/”El Cumbanchero,” “One More Day” and “Unbelievable.”

Nipping at Nipper’s Lair
If I could have taken you to just one event during Country Music Week, it would have been the fabulous RCA Records party, held just after the CMA Awards show concluded. The label had pitched a circus-size tent for the blowout that covered its entire parking lot. As stretch limousines purred up to the curb to disgorge their cargoes of pretty and pretty ordinary people, fans lined the far sidewalks to glimpse the likes of Kix Brooks, Tracy Byrd, Andy Griggs, Dana Williams (of Diamond Rio), Keech Rainwater and Michael Britt (of Lonestar) and ASCAP’s songwriter of the year, Craig Wiseman. Inside, hundreds of artificial butterflies froze in suspended flight above the two mammoth bars. On one side of the tent, a row of busy cooks dished up made-to-order delights at the “Custom Stir-Fry Station.” On the other side, a fountain of liquid chocolate stood flowing on a capacious dessert table, stocked with strawberries, marshmallows, cream pastries, pretzels and sliced bananas. The layout was such that you were never more than two strides away from a caloric or spirituous excess.

Threading their way through the tuxes and gowns and proffering trays of hors d’oeuvres were lissome young nymphs, clad in sea-green, translucent, form-fitting dresses with serrated, above-the-knee hems and topped in the back by gossamer wings. (My memory of the table decorations is less detailed, but I’m sure there were some.) There was such a Grand Canyon expanse of cleavage in all direction that I expected to see helicopters hovering. In the “chapel” inside the RCA building that adjoined the tent, the Blues Other Brothers pumped out an undulating torrent of rhythm and blues. At one point, I noticed Kix and his wife dancing dreamily in the center of the crowded floor. I might have lingered over this touching scene, but, somewhere out there in the night, a gin and tonic was calling my name.

Music Row Killer Gets Life
Richard D’Antonio, who was convicted of killing Cash Box chart analyst Kevin Hughes and wounding singer Sammy Sadler in a Music Row shooting in 1989, has been sentenced to life in prison. “I’ve spent the last 14 years of my life looking over my shoulder,” Sadler said after the sentencing, “always aware that danger can come at any place, at any time. I don’t have to do that anymore. I’m free and I can move on.”

David Didn’t Demo
Thom Schuyler has been wowing country fans for years with such gems as “My Old Yellow Car,” “Years After You,” “Love Out Loud” and the definitive songwriters, saga, “16th Avenue.” But he’s a funny guy, too. Speaking at the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame induction last Sunday (Nov. 2), he presented a fable of biblical proportions about the hazards and glories of his profession. Here’s part of it:

“A young man named David wrote a song. He didn’t make a demo. He had no publisher. There was no young punk to tell David that his song sucked and no A&R person to put his song on hold for 18 months. There were no lawyers involved; no artists. Just this song. It was composed for the purpose of soothing David’s own soul, and, in so doing, it also soothed the soul of another. I have never heard the original melody to this song — I suspect it was a ballad — but I have heard the words, and so have you. It begins like this, ’The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

“The other man who was moved by this song was named Saul — mean, moody, envious, angry, insecure, bloated, almost crazy. But hearing this song and others like it made Saul feel better. So Saul made a deal with David: David would write and perform his beautiful songs exclusively for Saul in exchange for the basic compensation of food, lodging and protection. Saul referred to this as an ’advance.’ It was a good deal for a good while. But soon the songs lost their magic, and Saul grew despondent and jealous of David’s popularity. And Saul banished David from his court, hunted him like an animal and tried, in vain, to kill him. This song and a collection of other songs were compiled in a book that, to date, has sold billions of copies, and David became known eternally as ’a man after God’s own heart.’ Saul, on the other hand, began consorting with witches and died a tragic death at his own sword. On his grave marker, it says simply: ’Saul: King of Israel, Music Publisher.'”

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Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to