Love that country music!!

Country and pop stars get back together for songs, tours
Country and pop music’s on-again, off-again romance is heating up.
Sammy Hagar is playing stadium dates with Kenny Chesney. Brooks & Dunn is co-headlining with ZZ Top. CMT is airing Tim McGraw’s Nine Lives duet with Def Leppard. And Dierks Bentley is booked for alt-rock festival Lollapalooza.
In the past, acts from the Eagles to Aaron Neville occasionally have gotten country airplay. Now, the two genres seem closer on the country chart than they’ve been in years.
Jewel and Hootie & The Blowfish’s Darius Rucker, the ’90s pop favorites, have singles on the country chart. Blake Shelton recently recast Michael BublÈ’s 2005 hit Home as a country song, and Sugarland covered the Dream Academy’s 1986 hit Life in a Northern Town on last month’s CMT Music Awards. Garth Brooks cut Workin’ for a Livin’ with original singer Huey Lewis. Newcomers Rissi Palmer and David Nail have covered Jordin Sparks’ No Air and Train’s I’m About to Come Alive, respectively.
The influx of pop songs and acts doesn’t surprise Gregg Swedberg, program director for country station KEEY-FM in Minneapolis. “People are smart about (their) audience,” he says. “They’re playing to a group that’s older than top 40 and predominantly white, predominantly pop- and R&B-based with a rock sensibility.”
Shelton found Home on his iPod after girlfriend Miranda Lambert uploaded it without telling him. “The more I listened, the more I thought, ‘That’s not just an adult-contemporary record, that’s a country hit, too,’ ” Shelton says.
Some of country’s acknowledgement of the download generation’s diverse tastes can be traced to CMT Crossroads, which regularly features country and pop acts playing together. Chart-topping collaborations between Reba McEntire and Kelly Clarkson, and Bon Jovi and Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles, resulted from Crossroads.
“Crossroads is just the first televised manifestation of something that already existed,” says CMT executive vice president Brian Philips.
The romance between country and pop could be nothing more than a summer fling ó although Robert Plant was serious enough about touring with bluegrass chanteuse Alison Krauss in support of their critically acclaimed album Raising Sand that he shrugged off the possibility of a lucrative Led Zeppelin reunion.
Philips says some cultural differences that once divided country and pop performers may be disappearing.
“There’s no artist under 30 ó and probably under 40 ó who was not raised in a diverse musical environment,” he says. “It’s the rare exception who comes through our doors and says, ‘The only thing I’ve heard all my life is country music.’ ”
Shelton doesn’t see that as a bad thing: “It’s good for everybody that it’s starting to mix up.”