On Music Row: Big stars set for CMA Music Festival

Monday, May 19, 2008 at 1:20am

The CMA Music Festival is just three weeks away, running Thursday through Sunday, June 5-8 in downtown Nashville.

Phil Vassar and Jo Dee Messina open the event at 10 a.m. on the Greased Lightning Daytime Stages on June 5. Accompanying the daytime shows are nightly performances on the VAULTT Concert Stages at LP Field where Faith Hill, Alan Jackson, Sugarland, Carrie Underwood, Billy Ray Cyrus, Sara Evans, Montgomery Gentry, Kenny Rogers and Randy Travis are scheduled alongside many other hitmakers.

The CMA Music Festival, formerly known as Fan Fair, has long celebrated the relationship between fans and celebrities. The event still offers plenty of meet and greet opportunities with Underwood, Taylor Swift, Little Big Town, and James Otto among the big names signing autographs and posing for photos at the truTV Fan Fair Hall at the Nashville Convention Center.

Underwood will also appear at a special Tuesday night edition of The Grand Ole Opry presented by Cracker Barrel Old Country Store on June 3. The newest Opry member will take the stage with Montgomery Gentry, The Oak Ridge Boys, and Luke Bryan as the Opry kicks off its CMA Music Festival week of shows.

Bryan opens the evening with a 5:30 p.m. performance at the free Opry Plaza Party.

Numerous other events surround the CMA Music Festival. Marty Stuart’s 7th annual Late Night Jam to benefit MusiCares and CMA's Keep The Music Playing program will feature Gretchen Wilson, Charlie Daniels, John Rich, Kathy Mattea, Old Crow Medicine Show and more on June 4 at the Ryman Auditorium.

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum has programs and autograph signings beginning June 5 with artists such as Trace Adkins, Kathy Mattea, Phil Vassar, and Trisha Yearwood.

The Festival also offers plenty of free entertainment at the Family Zone, Fun Zone, and Sports Zones where celebrities participate in cooking and athletic competitions.

To order CMA Music Festival tickets call 1-800-CMA-FEST (262-3378); visit www.CMAfest.com; or www.ticketmaster.com. Four-day packages and single-day tickets are available.

’Hits’ packages give

country sales a bump

Neil Diamond (146,000) bested Toby Keith (103,000) last week in the debut album SoundScan sweepstakes, coming in at No. 1 on the Top 200 albums chart.

SoundScan measures actual unit sales at stores nationwide. Looking at the country list, Keith and Dierks Bentley (42,537) topped the list, both with new Greatest Hits packages.

Mother’s Day traffic helped attract buyers into the stores. As a result, Top 200 sales increased from the previous week by a robust 12 percent and country’s Top 75 current album chart recorded a week-over-week sales jump of 54 percent.

Year-to-date country sales remain down 14.3 percent while overall sales are off 11 percent.

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