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Looking ahead to 2005

Country Standard Time Editorial, January 2005

In many ways, 2004 was a good year for music in general as well as country music specifically. Fortunately, sales were up with country music doing very well. Concert business was pretty good on the country side as well with Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith and Tim McGraw among others drawing good numbers.

So, what may be in store for 2005?

Probably one easy prediction is that the career of Gretchen Wilson will continue on the upswing. She is not a one-hit wonder like many artists as she already has three hits under her belt and seems to have a lot more of where that came from. Hopefully, Wilson's label, Sony, will not manufacture Wilson into something she's not. She possesses a great voice and knows how to pen great songs.

And the career of veteran Chesney shows no signs of slowing down. His new album due in late January continues the Caribbean country brand of music he's been emphasizing, particularly the tropical sound. And he was no dummy in having Wilson agree to go on tour with him in 05, which shapes up to be a big tour.

Keith Urban has been tabbed as someone who's career ought to put him in superstar status. He plays a fine guitar amidst songs that aren't exactly hard core country. But with his good voice, playing and fine looks, Urban - good thing he got rid of that silly keith urban moniker - could be moving up to the next tier.

Someone who definitely deserves to go up a level is Brad Paisley. He combines everything that Urban does except that he does play traditional country music and is awfully proud of it. Paisley seems due for a new album in the new year, which could turn the trick.

As for new artists making a go of it in 2005, that is always a crap shoot. The music might be there, but if the timing isn't right and a song doesn't break at radio - just ask Wilson about that - then the career may never get off the ground. Thus far, few new artists are even slated to release their debuts, but plans often change quickly.

Musical surprises are likely to abound - will someone step up the plate out of left field with a great album like Loretta Lynn did in 2004 with "Van Lear Rose"? Or an unknown make a sudden, unexpected impact? Will satellite radio make any difference in promoting new music? What about the smaller labels, who could be heard from with music from artists generally a bit under the radar screen?

These questions, of course, are unanswerable with the entire year ahead of us.

Let's hope 2005 brings us all health, happiness and lots of great country music.