By Jeffrey B. Remz , December 2007
ountry music followed the rest of the music industry by not having a particularly boffo year at the sales register. This continues the trend of declining record sales in an increasingly digital world with digital sales growth slowing.
It also was a year marked by the return of Garth Brooks, the careers of a few artists surging and record labels being sold and having significant problems.
Brooks returned in November with "The Ultimate Hits," ostensibly a greatest hits package with four new songs. But one of them, "More Than a Memory," resulted in a number one hit once again for Brooks.
And he also made his way back to the concert stage for the first time in nine years with a slew of shows in Kansas City in November and more forthcoming in January in Los Angeles.. Brooks has said he would not return to the concert tour full-time until his youngest daughter is finished with school.
Carrie Underwood survived the sophomore slump with "Carnival Ride" out this fall. She had an immediate number one single with "So Small," announced plans for a co-headlining tour in 2008 with Keith Urban and won three Academy of Country Music Awards.
Teen star Taylor Swift and Sugarland had big break out years in 2007. Swift released her self-titled debut at the end of 2006. Her career then took off this year with hit singles "Tim McGraw" and "Teardrops On My Guitar." She also hit the concert circuit hard. Sales of her album were strong throughout the year, and her label even released a deluxe version of her debut.
Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles's profile increased markedly with several hits "Settlin'" and "Stay" from Sugarland's "Speed the Ride." Nettles also benefited from dueting with Beyonce at an awards show in November.
Out of left field was the collaboration between Alison Krauss and Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant in a rootsy outing, that sold well and received solid reviews. The two will tour together in 2008.
The Eagles, who were not mainstays on the country chart during their previous heyday, released their first disc in about three decades, "Long Road Out of Eden" and immediately went to the top of the charts.
Several artists continued going their own way when it came to releasing new music. Tracy Lawrence started his own label, releasing "For the Love" last January. The result - a number one single with "Find Out Who Your Friends Are."
Dolly Parton announced she was forming her own label with a disc due out in 2008.
Among the new artists releasing music this year were Jason Michael Carroll, Bucky Covington and Luke Bryan, who all had hit singles. Eric Church, who released his debut in 2006, gained some traction in 2007 with several hit singles and a very heavy touring schedule.
A few artists found themselves without a label, including Patty Loveless, who split with SonyBMG. As did Jamie O'Neal and Capitol Nashville; Phil Vassar left Arista for Universal South. Trisha Yearwood left her longtime home of MCA Nashville for Big Machine Records, releasing a new album in November and opening shows for her husband, Garth Brooks.
Long-time country star Porter Wagoner died of cancer at 78 in October, only months after releasing the well-received "Wagonmaster" CD. This past summer, the man from West Plains, Mo. opened a show for White Stripes at Madison Square Garden.
Del Reeves died at 73 on Jan. 1. The Grand Old Opry member had hits with "Girl on the Billboard" and "The Only Girl I Can't Forget."
Boots Randolph, the sax player best known for his 1963 hit "Yakety Sax" and a key builder of the Nashville Sound, died July 3 at 80.
The Opry inducted Mel Tillis and Josh Turner during the year.
That wasn't the only induction for Tillis this year. He entered the Country Music Hall of Fame along with Vince Gill and Ralph Emery.
George Strait tied Conway Twitty for the most number 1 singles of any genre with 55 when "Wrapped" went to the top.
The touring year was highlighted once again by Kenny Chesney hitting the stadiums during the summer with his Flip Flop Summer Tour, while Tim McGraw and Faith Hill did their Soul2Soul 2007 tour with no more scheduled for the future.
Chesney had the top country tour of 2007, grossing more than $71 million and drawing in excess of 1.1 million fans, according to Billboard.
Brad Paisley continued his ascendancy by hitting the summer shed circuit. Dierks Bentley started headlining mid-size venues in a tour towards the end of the year.
Lonestar had an up-and-down year. They left the RCA label group and in a less than cordial situation, lead singer Richie McDonald left to pursue a solo career. In the fall, he was replaced by Cody Collins.
Trick Pony also has a new lead - Aubrey Collins - replacing Heidi Newfield, who left to forget a solo career. Trick Pony has yet to release an album.
While the Dixie Chicks did not release any new music in 2007, they led the country folks by winning five Grammys in what was considered support of the group in the face of the trio's split with country music over Natalie Maines's comments about President Bush in London
On the indie front, The Avett Brothers continued touring hard and made a dent, highlighted by winning two awards at the Americana Music Association awards show.
Angela Hacker won Nashville Star, but no one seemed to pay attention to her album when it was released.
Matthew Knowles's Music World Entertainment (he's also the father of Beyonce) bought Compadre Records, a Texas-based label and home to Billy Joe Shaver.
Category 5 Records was one of the new labels that seemed full of promise a few years ago. But the year ended quite badly. Label owner Ray Termini's main company - Haven HealthCare in Connecticut - was under investigation by the state attorney general's office for issues including using funds from that business to fund Category 5.
As an outgrowth, the label's lead artist, Travis Tritt, who released an album in August, sued the label.
The Dualtone label was sold by its co-founders to a former minority partner.
Big Machine Records started a new label, Valory Music, with Jewel, Jimmy Wayne and newcomer Justin Moore aboard.
Shanachie Records entered the country fray briefly with albums by Gene Watson, Tammy Cochran and Confederate Railroad. But after less than expected sales, Shanachie indicated it was leaving country to others.
An April 10 fire destroyed Johnny Cash's lakeside home in Hendersonville, Tenn., where he wrote many songs. He lived there with wife June until his death in 2003.
On the personal front, Brad Paisley became a father for the first time, while Little Big Town's Kimberly Roads became a mother; Wynonna, Terri Clark and Sara Evans divorced, and Shaver was arrested in a shooting. Joe Nichols got hitched and almost immediately went into rehab. Not to mention releasing one of the best albums of the year.
Sounds like a country song, no? Only this and everything else was part of country music 2007;.