COUNTRY BEAT: Tim McGraw, Clay Walker, Sam Bush …

McGraw readies new CD; Walker on the links; Bush in ballet.

Tim McGraw‘s next album will be titled Set This Circus Down and is scheduled for release April 3. It will include his song commenting on the state of country music, “Things Change,” which he premiered on last fall’s CMA Awards show. McGraw’s Greatest Hits album remains #1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. …

Clay Walker is again playing in and performing at golf’s Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, along with such fellow golfers as Tiger Woods, Clint Eastwood, and Alice Cooper. The tournament runs between Monday (January 29) and Sunday (February 4) at Pebble Beach, California. …

Sam Bush will make his ballet debut February 16 and 17 with the Augusta Ballet at the Imperial Theater in Augusta, Georgia. Bush and his band will perform “The Legend of the Hatfields and McCoys.” Meanwhile, three country artists will perform with the Nashville Ballet on February 9 and 10. Nanci Griffith, Jonell Mosser and Hal Ketchum will perform with the Nashville Ballet for three ballets featuring music by each artist at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville. Ketchum’s, for example, will be based on his album Awaiting Redemption (RealAudio excerpt of title song).

Dixie Chicks member Emily Robison will appear on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” in February and donate her winnings to The Nature Conservancy of Texas. The show’s appearances by Robison, who lives in San Antonio, Texas, are tentatively set to air February 11 and February 14. …

Robbie Fulks is on the cover of the latest Journal of Country Music. Inside, the poster boy for alt-country says his time spent on Geffen Records, which released his Let’s Kill Saturday Night (RealAudio excerpt of title track), “was the worst year of my career, as the record that contained what I thought to be my best work and which I labored on without compensation for many months was consigned to oblivion.” Fulks has a new CD available on the Internet, an homage album called 13 Hillbilly Giants, and he plans to release an eclectic work titled Couples in Trouble this August. …

Vince Gill, nominated for four Grammys, is scheduled to be a presenter on the February 21 awards show. He will appear Thursday (February 1) on “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” to perform “Shoot Straight From Your Heart.” …

Tim Rushlow, whose song “She Misses Him” deals with Alzheimer’s disease, performed the song Tuesday (January 30) to commemorate the start of a new clinical trial aimed at preventing the disease. The ceremony was held at the Sun Health Research Institute in Sun City, Arizona. The song will be featured on Rushlow’s self-titled debut solo album, due February 20. Rushlow was formerly the lead singer in Little Texas. …

Faith Hill has been nominated for four Blockbuster Entertainment Awards — Favorite Female Artist, Favorite Female Country Artist, Favorite Internet Pop Female and Favorite Internet Single for “Breathe” (RealAudio excerpt). Public voting began Tuesday (January 30), and the presentations will be shown April 11 on Fox. Other nominees in the Favorite Female Country Artist category are Lee Ann Womack, Jo Dee Messina and Reba McEntire. Favorite Male Country Artist nominees are Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, Tim McGraw and George Strait. Favorite Country Group nominees are SheDaisy, the Dixie Chicks and Lonestar. …

Dolly Parton, who has two Grammy nominations, including Best Female Country Vocal Performance for “Travelin’ Prayer” and Best Bluegrass Album for The Grass Is Blue (RealAudio excerpt of title track), will perform a duet with Brad Paisleyon the Grammy Awards, airing February 21 on CBS. Paisley is nominated in the Best New Artist category. …

Keith Urban won the Instrumental of the Year Award on Saturday (January 27) at the Country Music Association of Australia’s awards show. Urban, an Aussie native, lives in Nashville and won for the song “Roller Coaster.” Adam Brand took album honors and was named Male Vocalist of the Year. Beccy Cole was named Female Vocalist of the Year, and the Crosby Sisters took the Vocal Group or Duo of the Year award. …

Terri Clark has been nominated for two Juno Awards. The accolades, given by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, will be presented March 4 in Hamilton, Ontario. Clark will compete with Shania Twain, Tara Lyn Hart, Michelle Wright and Carolyn Dawn Johnson for Best Country Female Artist. Clark also received a nod in the all-genre category for Best Female Artist, in which the other nominees are Jann Arden, Isabelle Boulay, Lara Fabian and Lynda Lemay. Nominees for Best Country Male Artist are Paul Brandt, Julian Austin, Chris Cummings, Adam Gregory and Jason McCoy. Country Duo or Group nominees are the Wilkinsons, Farmer’s Daughter, the Johner Brothers, Lace and Prairie Oyster. Clark has just launched her first acoustic tour and, after concerts in Portland, Oregon on Tuesday (January 30) and Seattle on Wednesday (January 31), will play Canadian dates through late March. …

Reba McEntire, who made her Broadway debut Friday (January 26) in “Annie Get Your Gun,” has signed to star in a half-hour comedy series for the WB television network, with the working title “Sally.” She will play a Texan who has marital adventures. …

The Bellamy Brothers will mark their 25th anniversary in music with a two-volume CD series. Volume I will be released in March with a single and video titled “What’ll I Do,” with Volume II to follow in August. …

Larry Cordle, co-writer of the award winning “Murder on Music Row,” will be among the teachers at a songwriting workshop during the SPBGMA (Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music) convention on Friday (February 2) at the Sheraton Music City in Nashville. An evening concert will feature Blue Highway, Tina Adair & The Adairs, Southland, Wildfire and others. …

Jo Dee Messina will appear on “Hollywood Squares,” along with Bette Midler, the week of Feb. 12. …

Naomi Judd of the Judds broke up a male-striptease act in a Nashville restaurant on the evening of January 24. According to a police report, Judd was walking to the restrooms when she spied “what appeared to be a nude male straddling a young girl. The subject was sitting in the girl’s lap facing her and simulating intercourse.” Judd gave a stern lecture to the stripteaser and the 18-year-old woman for whose birthday party the stripper had been hired. Police were called in the ensuing fracas and no charges were filed. …

Chris Cagle and other artists on Virgin Nashville will be switched to the Capitol Nashville roster, according to a statement issued by parent company EMI Recorded Music. News of Virgin Nashville’s impending demise was leaked to news organizations January 24 by company employees. EMI’s statement, issued late Wednesday, said that Virgin’s artists — including Cagle, Clay Davidson, Tom Mabe, Roy D. Mercer and River Road — would join Capitol Nashville on February 12 when Virgin Nashville is officially shuttered. The EMI statement said that Virgin Nashville president Scott Hendricks would be leaving and that the company would seek to absorb Virgin Nashville’s 16 employees into its other Nashville operations. In addition to Capitol Nashville, EMI has several Christian labels in Nashville. …

Willie Nelson, Flaco Jimenez and Van Cliburn are among the first 13 winners of the new Texas Medal of Arts Awards. Medals will be presented in a March 20 ceremony at Austin’s Paramount Theatre, with Lyle Lovett headlining the entertainment lineup. The awards, which honor outstanding Texans in the arts, are patterned on the National Endowment for the Arts’ Medal of Arts Awards, given each year by the president. …

The final two dates on George Strait‘s Country Music Festival have been changed to avoid a conflict with the National Basketball Association schedule. The previously announced Dallas date has moved from June 9 to June 10 and vice-versa for the San Antonio show. …

Roots legend Sleepy LaBeef will head up an eclectic roster at “Rockin’ at the Ryman,” a benefit presented by the Rockabilly Music Foundation at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium on April 5. Also appearing will be the Jordanaires, Ronnie Dawson, Gene Vincent’s Blue Caps, Rosie Flores, D.J. Fontana, Janis Martin, Jack Scott and Jerry Naylor. …

Martina McBride will headline the post-race concert at this year’s Country Music Marathon on April 28 in Nashville. The charity event drew 8,500 runners in its debut last year, and more than 10,000 are expected this year. …

Nashville’s Brooklyn Cowboys will launch their “Doin’ Time on Planet Earth” tour February 1 at Gino’s in Boone, North Carolina. Joining country-rock veterans Walter Egan, Fredro Perry and pedal steel player Buddy Cage is the group’s new singer, Lona Heins, who has worked with Pam Tillis, Garth Brooks and Kenny Rogers. Other members areJeff “Stick” Davis, founding member and bass player for the Amazing Rhythm Aces, keyboardist Michael Webb and 5 Bucks vocalist Brian Waldschlager. Other immediate dates — all in Georgia — include the Monkey Barrel in Gainesville on Friday (February 2), JP’s in Valdosta on Saturday (February 3), J.J. Cagney’s in Savannah on Monday (February 5), Rafters on St. Simons Island on Tuesday (February 6), Charley B’s in Albany on Wednesday (February 7), Brandy House in Atlanta on Thursday February 8, and the Loft in Columbus on February 10. …

Clay Walker, a hometown favorite, kicks off the 69th Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo on February 13 at the Astrodome. Alan Jackson performs February 14, followed by Hank Williams Jr. on February 15, Alabama on February 17, Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen on February 19, Neal McCoy and Rascal Flatts on February 20, Lonestar and Brad Paisley on February 22, Kenny Chesney and Phil Vassar on February 24, Brooks & Dunn on February 26, Jo Dee Messina on February 28, Martina McBride and Lee Ann Womack on March 2 and LeAnn Rimes and Billy Gilman on March 4. Non-country artists appearing will include Diana Ross, Gladys Knight, Duran Duran, Barry Manilow, Def Leppard, Destiny’s Child, 98° and Patti LaBelle. …

Nashville songwriter Bob DiPiero will host “MADD About Bob,” a series of concerts to benefit Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The first show, featuring Vince Gill, Jeffrey Steele and Al Anderson, is set for February 8 at Nashville’s Belcourt Theater. …

— sonicnet.com staff report