COUNTRY BEAT: Rodney Crowell, Lorrie Morgan, Sammy Kershaw …

Crowell leads Legacy series of reissues; Morgan, Kershaw record, tour together.

Rodney Crowell‘s hit-studded 1988 album, Diamonds & Dirt, leads a series of Legacy albums being reissued in expanded and remastered form on February 6. Diamonds yielded five #1 songs, including “After All This Time” (RealAudio excerpt). Also included in Sony Nashville/Legacy’s American Milestones series are Charlie Rich‘s Behind Closed Doors, which was #1 for 21 weeks in 1973; Kris Kristofferson‘s self-titled 1970 debut; and the hugely influential instrumentalist Joe Maphis‘ 1957 album, Fire on the Strings. …

Lorrie Morgan and Sammy Kershaw are recording a duet album titled I Finally Found Someone. Due in April, the project will include six Morgan/Kershaw duets as well as three solo recordings by each artist. The duo will perform the title track at the January 18 Bush inaugural bash at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., according to a spokesperson for Morgan and Kershaw. They also plan to tour together later this year. The first single from the album, “He Drinks Tequila,” will be released on January 29, with a video clip following in February. …

Steve Earle and Kasey Chambers will appear on “Austin City Limits” on Saturday (January 13). …Willie Nelson is in a Los Angeles studio recording his next album for Island Records. He’s been co-writing with Rob Thomas and Bernie Taupin. …

Billy Gilman begins recording his third album in February, reports the Associated Press. The 13-year-old said he’s been approached to do acting gigs on “7th Heaven” and “Touched by an Angel,” but has made no decisions on acting. … The Dixie Chicks‘ NBC special, “On the Fly,” will rerun at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday (January 14). …

Reba McEntire sang “There’s No Business Like Show Business” on Tuesday (January 9) in New York City to announce her upcoming appearance in the Broadway revival of Irving Berlin’s “Annie Get Your Gun.” Beginning January 26 at the Marquis Theatre, McEntire will open as the musical’s Annie Oakley in her Broadway debut. On Tuesday, she serenaded a crowd, including Berlin’s three daughters, at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, a Greenwich Village restaurant. …

Nashville songwriter Don Schlitz wrote the score for a new musical set for Broadway’s spring season, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” Schlitz has written several hits for Kenny Rogers, including “The Gambler” (RealAudio excerpt) and “The Greatest.” The $8 million show is said to have a spectacular set, with a model of the Mississippi River onstage. The last Nashville-scored production on Broadway, Roger Miller‘s “Big River” musical about Huckleberry Finn, won a Tony in 1986. …

Kenny Chesney is auctioning the silver tractor used in his concert special “CMT All Access: Kenny Chesney,” which aired in December and early January. Bids for this auction, which benefits St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, will end on January 10. The tractor has become part of Chesney’s show as he performs the single “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” (RealAudio excerpt). Fans can bid on the tractor at country.com. (CMT and country.com are part of sonicnet.com parent company Viacom.) …

Kenny Rogers‘ 1981 song “Through the Years” (RealAudio excerpt) will be featured in the film “The Pledge.” The film, directed by Sean Penn, features Jack Nicholson, Robin Wright, Vanessa Redgrave, Mickey Rourke and Harry Dean Stanton. …Dolly Parton will tape an episode of “Austin City Limits” on January 18. It will be her first appearance on the PBS series. An air date has not been set. …

Tickets have gone on sale for Fan Fair, set for downtown Nashville on June 14-17. Artists already committed to appear are Alan Jackson, Andy Griggs Bill Engvall, Billy Gilman, Billy Ray Cyrus, Brad Paisley, Collin Raye, Jo Dee Messina, Joe Diffie, Kenny Chesney, Lonestar, Martina McBride, Montgomery Gentry, Patty Loveless, Sara Evans, Susan Ashton, the Kinleys, Tracy Byrd, Travis Tritt, Trisha Yearwood and Vince Gill. …

Joe Diffie hosts the “Country Steps In For First Steps 2001″ concert on February 11 at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. Featured performers include Mark Wills, Keith Urban, the Martins, Chalee Tennison and Mike Snider. The event will include a silent auction with items donated by George Strait, Vince Gill, Kenny Rogers, Clint Black, Ricky Skaggs and others. Proceeds benefit the First Steps school for children and their families. Diffie’s son, Tyler, was born with Down Syndrome and attended First Steps school until he was 3. Over the years, Diffie has raised more than $600,000 for the school through his annual benefit concerts and golf tournament. …

The Del McCoury Band, Jim Lauderdale and Ricky Skaggs have announced they’ll play Merlefest. The annual Americana music festival, named for late guitarist Merle Watson, runs April 26-29 in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. Artists already booked include Mary Chapin Carpenter, Stacey Earle, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, the Lonesome River Band, Dolly Parton, Earl Scruggs Family and Friends, and Merle’s father Doc Watson. …

The only female record label head in Nashville has stepped down, the Tennessean reported. Evelyn Shriver’s resignation as president of Asylum Records came 10 months after Asylum had been shifted from the control of New York-based Elektra Records to Warner Bros. in Nashville. Shriver says she will start a new record label with former O’Kanes co-leader Jamie O’Hara as the first artist. Warner Bros. will keep Asylum as an imprint with a roster including Chalee Tennison Bryan White and Chad Austin. The label recently released Australian singer Kasey Chambers‘ American debut. …

Asylum under Shriver won Grammy awards for the George Jones album Cold Hard Truth and the Trio II project by Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt. …

Dolly Parton and Patty Loveless wrote original songs for the soundtrack to “Songcatcher,” due February 13. Parton sings “When Love Is New” on the soundtrack, and Loveless contributes “Sounds of Loneliness.” Also on the album are traditional folk songs sung by Roseanne Cash, Gillian Welch, Sara Evans, Emmylou Harris, Allison Moorer, Deana Carter, Maria McKee, Iris DeMent, Julie Miller, and Hazel Dickens. The film features Aidan Quinn and Janet McTeer and made its Sundance Film Festival debut in January 2000. …

Pam Tillis has been in the studio recording a duet with her father, Mel Tillis. Their duet on “Waiting on the Wind,” their first collaboration on an album cut, will appear on Pam Tillis’ upcoming album, Thunder and Roses, due March 6. …

T. Graham Brown is readying a live album for release in the spring. T. Graham Brown Lives features Bekka Bramlett on guest vocals and includes such Brown staples as “I Tell It Like It Used to Be,” “Darlene” (RealAudio excerpt), “Come as You Were” and “Wine Into Water.” …

Amy Rigby will play a series of clubs in January and February, Pollstar reported. The Nashville singer/songwriter opens in Killington, Vermont, on Thursday (January 11) and plays in Northampton, Massachusetts on Friday (January 12); New York on Saturday (January 13); Houston (February 1); Dallas (February 2); Austin, Texas (February 3); and Portland, Oregon (February 17). …

A memorial fund has been established for the late Eddy Shaver. Donations may be made to Billy Joe Shaver at P.O. Box 6695, Ft. Worth, Texas, 76115. …

“What an incredible honor this is,” said Brad Paisley about his Grammy nomination for Best New Artist, along with Shelby Lynne, Sisqó, Jill Scott and Papa Roach. “I was fortunate enough to end 2000 by being invited to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry, and now I’m starting out the new year with this Grammy nomination. I must admit I’m not familiar with all of the artists in this category. Until today, I thought ‘Papa Roach’ was a Nat Stuckey song. I need to buy a few records, do some listening and get to know these folks’ music. They’re probably wondering who I am too.” …

Willie Nelson will celebrate his 68th birthday on the road. The Country Music Hall of Fame member heads out on tour again beginning February 2 at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, Florida. For now, he’s booked 39 dates through an August 21 appearance at the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville. … Mindy McCready fans will find a surprise in their McCready 2001 wall calendars. The singer poses nude for the month of August and there’s not a whole lot of cloth covering the rest of the year. …

Country comedians Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall, Ron White and Larry the Cable Guy are taking the Blue Collar Comedy Tour back on the road throughout much of 2001. They’ll start another leg of their tour Friday (January 12) at the Hersheypark Arena in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Theater dates are scheduled nationwide through May 4. … Sara Evans has added more dates to her opening gig with Alan Jackson. She’ll open for him January 31 in Albany, New York; February 1 in Salisbury, Maryland; February 2 in Pittsburgh; February 3 in Auburn Hills, Michigan; and February 7 in Augusta, Maine. …

Dolly Parton‘s second bluegrass album, Little Sparrow, is scheduled for a January 23 release. Guest artists include Rhonda Vincent, Alison Krauss, Chris Thile, Sonya Isaacs and the Irish group Altan. Parton includes a version of the Cole Porter song “I Get a Kick Out of You.” …

Jo Dee Messina‘s first headlining tour will start February 8 in South Bend, Indiana. She’s calling it the “Burn Tour 2001,” after Burn (RealAudio excerpt of title track), the title of her third album. Rascal Flatts will open dates during the 75-city tour. …

— sonicnet.com staff report