COUNTRY BEAT: Reba McEntire, Wade Hayes, Joe Diffie …

McEntire takes Broadway; Hayes live at Bluebird; Diffie benefits school.

Broadway rookie and country music vet Reba McEntire is proving to be a hit with critics during her starring run in the Irving Berlin musical “Annie Get Your Gun,” which began January 26. A New York Times review on Friday (February 9) called McEntire a “nonchalant showoff [who makes] a highly polished performance look so easy,” while the New York Post said she’s “over-the-top funny. … And her singing, substituting country character for Broadway belt, gives the old Berlin numbers a special piquancy.” …

Wade Hayes will headline a live radio broadcast from Nashville’s Bluebird Café on Monday (February 12). Shawn Camp and Chick Rains will also perform for the broadcast, one of a series of live Bluebird shows presented on WSM-AM, with audio streaming on wsmonline.com. The show runs from 9:30 to 11:30 p.m. CT. …

Joe Diffie‘s annual Country Steps in for First Steps benefit is being held Sunday (February 11) at the Ryman Auditorium. Other artists taking part include Mark Wills, Neal McCoy, Trace Adkins, Chalee Tennison, Keith Urban and Lisa Angelle. The First Steps school helps children with special needs. Diffie’s son Tyler, who was born with Down syndrome, attended the school. …

Lucinda Williams and her new band are scheduled to perform at the Austin Music Awards, to be held at the Austin (Texas) Music Hall on March 13, reports the Austin Chronicle. Other scheduled performers are James Cotton, Vallejo and the Gourds. …

Ricky Skaggs, Patty Loveless, Travis Tritt, Steve Wariner, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and the Whites will perform a Bill Monroe tribute on the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday (February 10). The show will be broadcast live on TNN at 6 p.m. ET. … The Dixie Chicks will be on “Austin City Limits” on Saturday (February 10). …

Randy Travis is working on an album combining new, original material and some of the songs he’s done in his movie and TV projects. The album is due in the fall from new label Relentless/Nashville. …

Country Music Hall of Fame member Ray Price is recovering from stomach surgery in Houston. Price, whose current album is Prisoner of Love (RealAudio excerpt of title cut) and who celebrated his 75th birthday on January 12, plans to resume performing soon. …

John Michael Montgomery has been added to the lineup for Fan Fair, scheduled for June 14–17 in downtown Nashville. Other artists joining the roster include Tracy Lawrence, Bryan White, South 65, Gary Allan, Tim Rushlow, Craig Morgan and Kristin Garner. Four-day tickets, allowing access to all events, are now on sale and range from $90 to $115. …

Hank Williams III will drop in as a guest performer on the Grand Ole Opry on Friday (February 9). Mary Chapin Carpenter will play on Saturday (February 10). …

Jamie O’Neal‘s debut single, “There Is No Arizona” (RealAudio excerpt), tops the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart this week. It’s the first time since 1996, when Deana Carter’s “Strawberry Wine” hit #1, that a female country artist’s debut single has topped the chart. Other recent female artists who hit #1 with their debut singles are Faith Hill in 1993, with “Wild One,” and Trisha Yearwood in 1991, with “She’s in Love With the Boy.” O’Neal makes her national television debut on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” on February 26. …

Kenny Chesney is following his fall 2000 tour with a shorter, 20-concert series, with Phil Vassar as the opening act. Chesney’s Florida shows this week — Pensacola on Thursday (February 8), Jacksonville on Friday (February 9) and Panama City on Saturday (February 10) — have all sold out . …

Vince Gill has announced several tour dates for the summer: June 30 in Kelseyville, California, at Konocti Harbor Resort; July 11-12 in Cherokee, North Carolina, at Harrah’s Cherokee Smokey Mountain Casino; August 24-25 in Westbury, New York, at the Westbury Music Fair; and August 26 in Cohasset, Massachusetts, at the South Shore Music Circus. …

Charley Pride is recording a new studio album in Nashville for the first time in years. The Country Music Hall of Fame member is cutting a tribute album to the late Jim Reeves. Charley Pride’s Tribute to Jim Reeves is due from Music City Records on April 3. …

Rick Trevino is working on his first album focusing on traditional Mexican folk music. Known mainly as a country singer, Trevino decided to learn and perform music reflecting his heritage. Los LobosSteve Berlin is producing the album, tentatively due in May. Trevino will also appear on the second album by Los Super Seven, the occasional supergroup that now includes eight members: Trevino, Mavericks‘ lead singer Raul Malo, David Hidalgo, Ruben Ramos, Cesar Rosas, Caetano Veloso, Alberto Salas and Susana Baca. Their new album, Canto, is due in March. …

Patsy Cline‘s former house in Winchester, Virginia, is up for rent for $625 a month. A Winchester company bought the house where the singer lived on and off during the 1940s and ’50s with the goal of preserving it. The 1,716 square-foot house, built in 1900, is assessed at $51,800. Cline, who died in a plane crash in 1963, was living in a larger house in Nashville at the time of her death. …

LeAnn Rimes‘ manager has posted a letter on the singer’s official Web site (rimestimes.com) next to Rimes’ own open letter to fans disavowing the Curb Records-released I Need You. Echoing Rimes’ letter of apology, manager Tom Ross says Curb compiled and released I Need You on January 30 independently of any input from Rimes. Ross also says I Need You includes several songs that have been available for some time. “I Need You” (RealAudio excerpt) is from the 2000 soundtrack from television’s “Jesus — The Epic Mini Series”; “Can’t Fight the Moonlight” and “But I Do Love You” are from the 2000 soundtrack Coyote Ugly; and the duet with Elton John on “Written in the Stars” was released as a single in early 1999. After Rimes posted her letter of apology Thursday (February 1), Curb defended the album, calling it her best. …

Dolly Parton will be inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in New York in the summer, along with Billy Joel, Eric Clapton and Sting. …

A memorial service will be held for prominent Nashville songwriter John Jarrard at 11 a.m. Saturday (February 10) at First Church Unity in Nashville. Jarrard, who wrote such hits as George Strait‘s “Blue Clear Sky” (RealAudio excerpt) and Diamond Rio‘s “Mirror, Mirror” suffered from diabetes; he died Thursday (February 1) at age 47. Donations can be made to the American Diabetes Association, 4205 Hillsboro Road, Suite 200, Nashville, Tennessee, 37215-3339, or to Possibility Incorporated, P.O. Box 150005, Nashville, Tennessee, 37215. …

Lucinda Williams and her father, Miller Williams, the 1997 Presidential Inaugural poet, are scheduled for a program of music and poetry together, presented by the International Poetry Forum. They will appear onstage March 30 at 8 p.m. at the Carnegie Music Hall in Pittsburgh. …

Ricky Skaggs and guest artists will stage an hour-long tribute to the late bluegrass legend Bill Monroe on the Grand Ole Opry’s “Opry Live” segment Saturday (February 10). Joining Skaggs onstage at the Ryman Auditorium will be Mary Chapin Carpenter, Patty Loveless, Travis Tritt, Steve Wariner and the Whites, to present such songs as “Cry, Cry Darling” (RealAudio excerpt) from Skaggs’ Grammy-nominated Big Mon: The Songs of Bill Monroe. The “Opry Live” segment is televised live on TNN at 7 p.m. CT. …

Brooks & Dunn will launch their Neon Circus and Wild West Show on April 27 in Birmingham, Alabama. The tour, which will run through August, will include opening acts Toby Keith, Montgomery Gentry and Keith Urban. Various sideshow acts, special effects and street performers will also be included. Brooks & Dunn’s next album, Steers & Stripes, is scheduled for an April 24 release. …

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

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 Friday (February 9) and Saturday (February 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 Sunday (February 11) and Wednesday (February 14). …

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 Paisley on the Grammy Awards, airing February 21 on CBS. Paisley is nominated in the Best New Artist category. …

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. …

Jo Dee Messina will appear for a week on “Hollywood Squares,” along with Bette Midler, beginning Monday (February 12) …

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. …

Hometown favorite Clay Walker kicks off the 69th Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo on Tuesday (February 13) at the Astrodome. Alan Jackson performs Wednesday (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. …

— sonicnet.com staff report