COUNTRY BEAT: Steve Earle, Kenny Rogers, Paul Overstreet ...

Earle on tour; Rogers song on 'Touched by an Angel'; Overstreet special airing on Christmas Day.

Steve Earle's December minitour will begin with two dates at New York's Madison Square Garden. Earle will open for the Dave Matthews Band at the Garden on Tuesday and Wednesday (December 12–13). After playing the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey, on Friday (December 15), Earle again will open shows for the Dave Matthews Band on Saturday (December 16) at Providence, Rhode Island's Providence Civic Center, and on Sunday (December 17) at Philadelphia's First Union Center. He will resume his tour on January 18 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, at the Tivoli Theatre. ...

"A Trinity Music City Christmas With Paul Overstreet" will air on the Trinity Broadcast Network at 11:30 p.m. on December 25. The half-hour holiday special features Christmas songs and memories. Overstreet will also be part of the network's special programming on New Year's Eve. …

Kenny Rogers' song "All That You Could Be" (RealAudio excerpt) will be featured in an upcoming episode of CBS' "Touched by an Angel." The episode, titled "An Angel on my Tree," airs December 17. Earlier this year, an episode of the show was built around Rogers' single "Buy Me a Rose." ...

Billy Ray Cyrus will perform at a December 23 fund-raiser at Lewis County High School in Tennessee to benefit the family of a slain police officer. Alan Ragsdale was shot and killed November 27 while on duty. Proceeds from the concert will go to a fund for Ragsdale's wife, two step-children and 10-year-old son. ...

Lawyers for Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney are due in court Thursday (December 14) in upstate New York for preliminary motions in a trial stemming from the singers' June 3 scuffle with sheriff's deputies, a representative for McGraw said. The two were arrested backstage following a performance in Buffalo. A preliminary trial date may be set for January. McGraw faces charges of obstructing governmental administration, menacing and resisting arrest, while Chesney is accused of disorderly conduct. A felony assault charge against McGraw was dropped in August. ...

Joe Ely will appear Thursday (December 14) on "The World Cafe" concert series celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Rounder Records. The public radio program will present the Tony Trischka Band and Balfa Toujours on Wednesday (December 13), Ely and Slaid Cleaves on Thursday (December 14), and Jimmie Dale Gilmore and the Tarbox Ramblers on Friday (December 15). ...

On CMT's upcoming Dixie Chicks weekend (December 16-17), all programming on the network will be devoted to the group. Two specials — "Dixie Chicks Uncut" and "Dixie Chicks: On the Fly" — will be aired, as will an array of videos, interviews, musical segments and previously unseen tour footage. (CMT is owned by sonicnet.com's parent company Viacom.) ...

Faith Hill said she hopes to record the follow-up to her 1999 smash, Breathe, as well as a Christmas album next year. Speaking backstage at the Billboard Music Awards, the singer said she plans to release at least one more single, if not two, from Breathe before putting it to rest. "The next one is 'If My Heart Had Wings' (RealAudio excerpt), and hopefully 'If I Should Fall Behind' (RealAudio excerpt), the Bruce Springsteen [cover], after that," she said Tuesday at the Billboard show, where she won four awards. Asked how she answers critics who say she's sold out country, Hill replied, "I don't answer 'em. ... I've always focused on my music and tried to develop and grow as an artist. ... Critics have always had those little lines about me, and now that my career has gotten as big as it is, it's just in bold print." ...

Brad Paisley, Chely Wright, Billy Dean, Toby Keith and Mindy McCready are among the more than 20 country artists who will take part in the 7th Annual Country in the Rockies, from January 27 to February 3 in Crested Butte, Colorado. Proceeds from the series of concerts and outdoor events help fund research efforts of the Frances Williams Preston Laboratories for Cancer Research, a division of the T.J. Martell Foundation at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville. ...

Charlie Robison will play New Year's Eve at Fort Worth, Texas' huge nightclub Billy Bob's Texas. ...

Well-known country and pop music video director Martin Kahan is in critical condition in Nashville's Vanderbilt University Medical Center with head injuries he sustained after a fall, the Tennessean reports. Kahan, who won a Country Music Association Award for the Alan Jackson "Chattahoochee" video and has done videos for Neal McCoy, Kenny Chesney, Bon Jovi, Loverboy and others, fell down a flight of stairs Tuesday night (December 5) at a house where he was staying. Kahan lives in New York City and was in Nashville editing a video for 3 of Hearts. ...

Dwight Yoakam's directorial debut, "South of Heaven, West of Hell," will open December 15 for a two-week run at the Mann Westwood Fourplex in Los Angeles. The Western film stars, among others, Warren Zevon, Billy Bob Thornton, Bridget Fonda, Peter Fonda and Paul "Pee-Wee Herman" Reubens. It's about a U.S. marshal seeking to bring to justice a gang made up of his former surrogate family after the Spanish Civil War. Yoakam has also recorded a duet with Earl Scruggs for the latter's upcoming album. They recorded the song "Down the Road" and also co-wrote "Borrowed Love" with Randy Scruggs. ...

Brooks & Dunn and Kenny Chesney have been added as presenters on the American Music Awards special airing January 8 on ABC. Martina McBride and SheDaisy will perform on the show. ...

Country Music Association Duo/Group of the Year Montgomery Gentry will be the halftime entertainment for the third annual Music City Bowl at Adelphia Coliseum in Nashville on Thursday (December 28). The game pits West Virginia against the University of Mississippi. For the crowd, expected to be in excess of 65,000 people, they'll perform a three-song set of their first top-10 hit "Hillbilly Shoes" (RealAudio excerpt), the Waylon Jennings classic "Ramblin' Man" and their current hit "All Night Long." ...

Sara Evans has been added to the lineup for the Fourth Annual George Strait Country Music Festival, which hits the road in March. Evans joins Alan Jackson, Lonestar, Lee Ann Womack, Brad Paisley and Asleep at the Wheel on the tour. The annual, stadium-only festival has played to more than 2 million fans, averaging an audience of 45,000 people per show. The fest also features the Straitland midway and a second stage featuring country music up-and-comers. ...

George Strait has donated one of his stage outfits to the Country Music Hall of Fame, along with one of his rodeo championship belt buckles, custom-made spurs and a leather saddle. …

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' Animal Times magazine readers have voted Shania Twain the "sexiest vegetarian alive." Even her dog, Tim, is on a meat-free diet. ...

Ralph Stanley is recording a new studio album with guest appearances by Lucinda Williams, Dolly Parton, Iris DeMent, Maria Muldaur, Chely Wright, Gillian Welch and Valerie Smith. The 72-year-old bluegrass singer also has two cuts on the "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack, due for release on Tuesday (December 5), and an album of his classic songs, Man of Constant Sorrow, will be released December 26. ...

Rodney Crowell has delayed the release of his album The Houston Kid until February 13, to coincide with the release of a documentary film being made about him. Crowell's first release of new music in six years is about growing up on the wrong side of the tracks in Houston, the singer said when he previewed songs from the album at the recent Americana Music Association convention in Nashville. "It seemed kind of strange to me to have each of these two things isolated from the other," Crowell said. Nashville film students are making the documentary, also called "The Houston Kid." ...

Billy Gilman, who has two albums in the top 10 of the Billboard Top Country Albums chart, has finished taping "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," a Walt Disney World Christmas special, which will air on ABC on Christmas Eve. SheDaisy will also be on the program. Gilman, Kathy Mattea and teen opera singer Charlotte Church will perform at the 77th annual Christmas Pageant of Peace and tree lighting ceremony Monday (December 11) in Washington, D.C. The event will air live on C-SPAN and HGTV. ...

Martina McBride and SheDaisy have joined the talent lineup for the American Music Awards show, to be broadcast January 8 on ABC. ...



— sonicnet.com staff report