NASHVILLE Mainstream country radio has lately turned its back on older artists and on songs that are male-oriented, but current hits by Toby Keith and Kenny Rogers are bucking the trends.
Keith's "How Do You Like Me Now?!" (RealAudio excerpt) a spirited male pride song hangs on at #1 for the fourth consecutive week on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart. Meanwhile, veteran artist Rogers' "Buy Me A Rose" featuring accompaniment by Alison Krauss and Billy Dean moves into that chart's top 10, at #9, making it the singer's first such top-10 country hit since 1989.
Country radio stations seem to be in search of the female 35-plus demographic, with playlists emphasizing tracks by women such as Faith Hill, Martina McBride and SheDaisy.
Conversely, major record labels and country radio have apparently turned away from strong male manifestos, such as Johnny Paycheck's "Take This Job and Shove It," and have for years shunned veteran artists, including Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings.
In mounting his comeback, Rogers formed his own Nashville label, Dreamcatcher, and slowly gained airplay after maverick Nashville country station WKDF-FM began playing him.
Meanwhile, on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart, Keith's How Do You Like Me Now?! album on the DreamWorks label entered the top 10 at #9, after 21 weeks on the chart. Rogers' She Rides Wild Horses LP, which spawned his single, holds at #12 this week, after 46 weeks on the chart.
In other significant country chart action, the Dixie Chicks knock aside George Strait's Latest Greatest Straitest Hits to return to No. 1 on the album chart. On the singles chart, the Chicks' somewhat controversial song about offing a battering husband, "Goodbye Earl," jumps from #22 to #17. Many mainstream country stations still won't play it.