AVRIL LAVIGNE ON TOP AGAIN
Five-time Grammy-nominated Arista recording artist Avril Lavigne has logged her third consecutive No. 1 single on the Billboard Top 40 Monitor chart this week with "I'm With You" -- the first time a debut artist has accomplished this feat since Ace Of Base back in 1994. The follow-up hit to "Complicated" and "Sk8er Boi" from Avril's five-time-platinum debut album "Let Go," "I'm With You" also is positioned as the No. 1 most-played video this week at both MTV and VH1, where it is tied with the Dixie Chicks. Avril's first major headlining North American tour, the five-week "Try To Shut Me Up Tour" will begin April 9 at Air Canada Center in Toronto in her native Canada, and finish May 17 at First Union Center in Philadelphia. Fellow Arista group Gob is set to open all dates.
CARY'S 'STAYING OUT'
Caitlin Cary is putting the finishing touches on her second full-length album, "I'm Staying Out," scheduled for April 22 release. The album follows last year's acclaimed "While You Weren't Looking." Chris Stamey once again produced. Cary is joined on the album by longtime accompanists Jen Gunderman (piano, organ, accordion and vocals), Dave Bartholomew (acoustic and electric guitars, vocals), Brian Dennis (guitar) and Jon Wurster (drums and percussion) as well as special guest Don Dixon. Several artists make cameo appearances, including Mary Chapin Carpenter, Greg Humphreys, Thad Cockrell, Audley Freed, Mitch Easter and Jane Scarpantoni.
"We made what I believe is a big, colorful record," Cary said. "There's a purple song and for sure a red song, and yellow, and several shades of green. So I guess it's safe to say there's a lot of variety. There are complex stories in a lot of the songs, but not the sort that bog things down. I think a lot of energy runs throughout, so that even the sad or the poignant songs don't dwell in melancholy, and the songs with 'plots' will still be good listening after the story's been digested."
SALUTE TO THE BLUES
The Salute To The Blues benefit concert will take over Radio City Music Hall in New York City Feb. 7 with an all-star blues lineup. Harmonica player and 2002 Grammy nominee Kim Wilson, who will be featured on the show, will have a new studio recording out on M.C. Records in May. Among the many artists expected to take the stage are B.B. King, Robert Cray, Bonnie Raitt, Aerosmith, Lyle Lovett, Aaron Neville, Keb' Mo', Odetta, Dr. John, Vernon Reid, Mavis Staples, Gregg Allman, and Chuck D.
"Bringing all these legendary performers together under the same roof to celebrate the blues is truly a historic event," show producer Alex Gibney said. "For blues aficionados, it just doesn't get any better than this, and with the participation of some of today's hottest contemporary artists, the concert will surely inspire a new generation to explore the genre further."
The concert will be filmed for theatrical distribution and will be directed by Antoine Fuqua ("Training Day") and produced by Martin Scorsese. The event is part of Scorsese's "The Blues" -- a seven-part series of personal and impressionistic films viewed through the lens of seven world-famous directors who share a passion for the music. It's expected to air on PBS next fall.
LOST TOWNES DISCOVERED
A "lost" album of demos recorded by the late singer-songwriter Townes Van Zant, "In the Beginning," is set to come out April 22 on Compadre Records. The 10 songs were recorded as demos in 1966 -- some with a band, some solo -- well prior to his debut LP, "For The Sake Of The Song," later retitled "First Album." Brad Turcotte, president of Houston-based Compadre, talked about the project.
"Townes spent a lot of time here and honed his skills in local spots like The Jester, Sand Mountain and later the Old Quarter so it's a huge honor and very fitting for a Houston label to release 'In The Beginning'," Turcotte remarked.
The album's release marks the end of a long search for Jeanene Van Zandt, Townes' ex-wife, executor of his estate and mother of two of his three children.
"Townes told me about these songs many times and I had lyrics on them but he insisted he had recorded them when he first came to Nashville," she recalled. "Townes' first publisher, Jack Clement, rang me about 10 years ago when he came upon a cache of Townes' material but neither of us thought there was anything else in the vaults. Then I got a call from our mutual friend, photographer C.J. Flanagan, who said Jack had found these tapes when he was converting the catalog to digital."