COUNTRY BEAT: Garth Brooks, Loretta Lynn, Mandy Barnett …

Brooks headlines tribute show; Lynn is hospitalized; Barnett cuts with Asleep at the Wheel.

Garth Brooks will headline a tribute to singer/songwriter and fellow Grand Ole Opry member Johnny Russell on Thursday (March 22) at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry House. George Jones was originally scheduled to headline, but will miss the show due to scheduling conflicts. Also performing will be Roy Clark, Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, the Oak Ridge Boys and the entire Grand Ole Opry cast. “Johnny inducted me into the Opry 11 years ago, and that’s still the highest honor I’ve received in this business,” Brooks said in a statement. The benefit will help defray Russell’s medical expenses. Although hospitalized and undergoing dialysis treatment, he plans to attend the show. Russell, who joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1985, has written such songs as “Act Naturally” (RealAudio excerpt of Russell version), which was a hit for the Beatles. …

Loretta Lynn, who also was scheduled to perform at Thursday’s Johnny Russell tribute, is being treated for pneumonia in a Nashville hospital. The singer was admitted on Tuesday (March 20), said a spokesperson. Besides canceling her appearance at the tribute, Lynn also nixed her scheduled performance at this weekend’s Grand Ole Opry shows. Lynn performed last week on A&E’s “Live by Request,” which the cable channel says received more than a million phone calls during the two-hour broadcast. …

Mandy Barnett has recorded “The Letter That Johnny Walker Read” (RealAudio excerpt of Asleep at the Wheel version) with Asleep at the Wheel for their upcoming The Very Best of Asleep at the Wheel. Brad Paisley recently recorded Hank Garland‘s “The Sugar Foot Rag” with the group for the album, due in late spring. The Wheel will open the George Strait Country Music Festival tour on Saturday (March 24) for the fourth consecutive year. …

Jessica Andrews and Billy Gilman will host the 7th Annual Sizzlin’ Country Concert, set for May 8 at Los Angeles’ Warner Bros. Studios. The benefit for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is traditionally held on the eve of the Academy of Country Music Awards show, held at Los Angeles’ Universal Amphitheater. Andrews, whose current hit is “Who I Am” (RealAudio excerpt), and Gilman will tour together this summer. Other artists for the Sizzlin’ Country show will be named later. …

Slaid Cleaves and a number of other alt-country luminaries are scheduled to play Twang Fest 5, to be held June 6–9 at Blueberry Hill in University City, Missouri. Acts include Deke Dickerson, Roger Wallace, the Domino Kings, Ass Ponys, Charlie Chesterman, Elizabeth Cook, Fear and Whiskey, Rockhouse Ramblers, Star City and the Tarbox Ramblers. …

LeAnn Rimes has lost in her attempt to have her recording contract dissolved, the Associated Press reports. A Nashville judge late Friday (March 16) turned down her request to have her Curb Records contract rendered null because she was a minor when she signed it. Davidson County Chancellor Irvin Kilcrease — who approved her signing of the contract at age 12 in 1995 — said he saw no reason to overturn his earlier decision. Rimes has been publicly critical of her label and her contract and recently disavowed her current album, I Need You (RealAudio excerpt of title track), declaring in an open letter to her fans that Curb Records issued the album without her knowledge or input. Rimes, who is suing her father, Wilbur Rimes, in a separate proceeding, was visibly upset at the ruling. She turned to her father in the courtroom and said, “I hate you,” according to the AP report. A Rimes spokeswoman said she plans to appeal the decision. …

Don McLean will release two albums in April on his new Nashville record label. The Don McLean Records releases on April 24 are Starry, Starry Night, from his recent PBS television special, and Don McLean Sings Marty Robbins. On Starry, Starry Night, McClean is accompanied by the Austin Symphony Orchestra and guest vocalist Nanci Griffith. The 24-track set covers McLean’s hits from “American Pie” to “Vincent” (RealAudio excerpt). Griffith joins McLean for the songs “And I Love You So” and “Raining in My Heart.” The 12 songs on Don McLean Sings Marty Robbins include such Robbins hits as “El Paso” (RealAudio excerpt) and “Singin’ the Blues.” …

The birth of Natalie Maines‘ first child was announced Thursday (March 15) on national TV as well as from a South by Southwest stage. The Dixie Chicks‘ lead singer gave birth to a boy that morning and she and husband, actor Adrian Pasdar, named him Jackson Slade. Charlie Robison made the announcement from the stage at his SXSW show that evening at Austin’s Waterloo Park. With the other two Dixie Chicks — Robison’s wife, Emily Robison, and her sister Martie Seidel — in the audience, he dedicated “The Wedding Song” (RealAudio excerpt) to Maines, his duet partner on the tune. Later, as Loretta Lynn was taking calls on A&E’s “Live by Request,” Emily Robison called Lynn to break the news on TV. In addition to dueting with Charlie Robison on his upcoming album, Step Right Up, Maines sings “Too Far From Texas” with former Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks on the latter’s upcoming Trouble in Shangri-La. …

Dolly Parton has been invited by the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce to serve as “The Queen of the 25th Anniversary Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati” and to lead the World’s Largest Chicken Dance and Kazoo Band as part of the festivities. A local radio station has launched a “Good Golly! We Want Dolly!” campaign, in which fans send invitations to Parton. The 2001 Oketoberfest-Zinzinnati celebration will be held on September 15–16. …

Proclaiming him bluegrass music’s “greatest living exponent,” the Rex Foundation has honored Ralph Stanley with its Ralph J. Gleason Award in the form of a grant. The award, named for the late jazz and pop music journalist, is given to artists who have made “outstanding contributions to culture.” The Rex Foundation was established by members of the Grateful Dead and their friends to support artistic, environmental, social, cultural, community and educational concerns. …

Donna Summer has been added to the roster of Tin Pan South’s Legendary Acoustic Concert, which features noted songwriters. Summer will join Gordon Lightfoot, Ray Parker Jr., Andrew Gold, Sharon Vaughn and host Merle Kilgore for the concert, at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium on April 3. …

The late Doug Sahm was honored during SXSW by the Texas House of Representatives, which introduced memorial resolutions Thursday (March 15) for Sahm and his group the Texas Tornados. Sahm died of a heart attack in 1999. …

Kenny Rogers is accusing his longtime former manager of disloyalty and attempted theft of musical acts, the Tennessean in Nashville reported. In a lawsuit filed in Davidson County Circuit Court on March 6, Rogers accuses Ken Kragen — who was Rogers’ personal manager for 33 years and was head of Rogers’ Dreamcatcher Management until the singer fired him January 22 — of attempting to take the Rogers management company’s act 3 of Hearts to his own management company. The lawsuit also claims Kragen tried to attract Dreamcatcher artists Sara Evans and Diamond Rio. …

Fan Fair 2001 has added the following artists to its roster: Trace Adkins, Susan Ashton, John Berry, Terri Clark, Eric Heatherly, Sonya Isaacs, Lila McCann, Neal McCoy, Jamie O’Neal, Rascal Flatts, SheDaisy, Sons of the Desert, Chalee Tennison, Pam Tillis, Trick Pony, Phil Vassar, Steve Wariner, Mark Wills, Lee Ann Womack and Chely Wright. Fan Fair takes place in Nashville from June 14-17. …

Lucinda Williams, Steve Earleand Gillian Welch will sing on a forthcoming Mississippi John Hurt tribute album, Avalon Blues. …

Dolly Parton is scheduled to star in an ABC television movie about the life of actress Mae West, reports Variety. Also upcoming is the Dolly Parton Collectors Convention, to be held in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, following the annual Dolly Parton Homecoming Parade there (Pigeon Forge, near Parton’s hometown of Sevierville, is the home of the Dollywood theme park). Parton merchandise from years past, out-of-print albums, photos and promotional materials will be sold and traded. The convention will be held from 9 to 11 p.m. on April 6 at the Smoky Shadows Convention Center. …

The Bellamy Brothers will release their retrospective album The 25 Year Collection — Vol. I on March 27. The 20-track collection includes two new songs and new live versions of their hits “Redneck Girl,” “If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body (Would You Hold It Against Me)” (RealAudio excerpt) and “I Could Be Persuaded.” …

Brenda Lee will be honored on April 5 at the Rockin’ at the Ryman concert, when the veteran country and rockabilly artist will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rockabilly Music Foundation. Lee rose to fame with her 1959 pop hit “Sweet Nothin’s” (RealAudio excerpt). Artists set to appear include: Eric Heatherly, Rosie Flores, Billy Burnette, the Jordanaires, Boots Randolph, Jack Scott, Janis Martin, Ronnie Dawson, Sanford Clark, Sleepy LaBeef, Jerry Naylor and members of the late Gene Vincent‘s band, the Blue Caps. Proceeds of the concert will go toward building a rockabilly museum and establishing a benefit/relief fund for rockabilly artists. …

Some 3,000 items belonging to the late Roy Rogers and Dale Evans will be put up for auction at the couple’s Apple Valley, California, home. A turquoise recliner, toaster, dishes, clothing, knickknacks and other items are going on the auction block at a March 31-April 1 auction at the home, which is also being sold. Rogers died on July 7, 1998, and Evans died February 7 of this year. More information is available at royrogers.com. …

BR5-49 are finishing a studio album before heading out on George Strait‘s big stadium tour. They just recorded the old Everly Brothers song, “The Price of Love,” which the Everlys released as single in 1965. The cover will likely be the first single from BR5-49′s new album, the group’s Gary Bennett said. …

Brad Paisley has recorded Hank Garland‘s signature song, “Sugarfoot Rag,” with Asleep at the Wheel. The song will appear on the album The Very Best of Asleep at the Wheel, due in April or May. “Not everybody knows that Brad’s a good fingerpicker,” says the Wheel’s Ray Benson. …

Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams and John Prine have been added to the lineup for River Stages 2001, an outdoor festival to take place in downtown Nashville on May 4-6. They join previously announced acts Bob Dylan, the Wallflowers, Blues Traveler, Joan Osborne, the Black Crowes, Cheap Trick, the Dickey Betts Band, Evan & Jaron, Meredith Edwards and two dozen or so other groups and artists. …

Jo Dee Messina has four nominations in the 2001 Boston Music Awards, scheduled for April 19 at Boston’s Orpheum Theatre. The Boston-area native won Act of the Year last year and is again nominated in that category, as well as for female vocalist, album and single. …

Kenny Rogers will re-release 14 of his earlier albums, including The Gambler (RealAudio excerpt of title track), on his own label, Dreamcatcher Records. The albums, due in May, were originally released on Capitol/EMI from 1976-1985. Seven of them went to #1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart, and several have never been available on CD. The re-issues are Love Lifted Me, Kenny Rogers, Daytime Friends, Every Time Two Fools Collide, Love or Something Like It, The Gambler, Classics, Kenny, Gideon, Share Your Love, Love Will Turn You Around, We’ve Got Tonight, Duets, Love Is What We Make It.

Trent Summar and the New Row Mob will play 15 dates on this year’s Volunteer Jam tour in May and June. The group will join .38 Special, the Dickey Betts Band and the Charlie Daniels Band on the tour, in support of its self-titled debut album. “Paint Your Name in Purple” (RealAudio excerpt), the third single from the album, is set to be released to radio. …

Dolly Parton and Rory Block have been added to the talent roster for the 14th annual MerleFest, scheduled for April 26–29 in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. Parton, whose latest album is Little Sparrow (RealAudio excerpt of title track), will perform April 28. Other artists scheduled for MerleFest include Earl Scruggs With Family & Friends, the David Grisman Quintet, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, Sam Bush, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Balfa Toujours, Vassar Clements, Peter Rowan, Jerry Douglas, Donna the Buffalo, Herb Pedersen, John McEuen, Jimmy Ibbotson Chris Hillman, Rhonda Vincent & the Rage, Tony & Larry Rice, Beth Nielsen Chapman, the Lonesome River Band, Tim O’Brien & the Crossing, the Del McCoury Band and the Dan Tyminski Band. …

Steve Earle will headline a contingent of artists taking part in the 500th broadcast of the two-hour, weekly syndicated radio series “Mountain Stage.” Others appearing on the May 4 broadcast will be Jesse Winchester, Bruce Cockburn, Amy Ray with the Butchettes and mandolinist Johnny Staats. …

Tim McGraw‘s forthcoming album, Set This Circus Down, includes 14 tracks and is due for release April 24. The track listing is: “Cowboy in Me,” “Telluride,” “I Guess You Get Used to Somebody,” “Unbroken,” “Things Change,” “Angel Boy,” “Forget About Us,” “Take Me Away,” “Smiling,” “Set This Circus Down,” “Angry All the Time,” “Let Me Love You,” “Grown Men Don’t Cry” and “Why We Said Goodbye.”

— sonicnet.com staff report