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By CRYSTAL CAVINESS, United Press International  |  May 2, 2002 at 6:12 PM
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NASHVILLE, May 2 (UPI) -- There are several reasons "Cledus Envy" might be at an all-time high.

Cledus T. Judd released his sophomore effort on Monument Records on April 30, titled "Cledus Envy," while in the midst of touring with arguably the most popular country tour on the road this season, Brooks & Dunn's Neon Circus and Wild West Show. The comedian from Georgia is respected and well-liked by his Nashville peers, which include Ronnie Dunn, Kix Brooks and Vince Gill. He counts popular country singer Toby Keith among his best friends.

Not an easy accomplishment for someone who makes fun of other singers' songs.

The first single from the new project is a parody of Faith Hill's No. 1 crossover song, "Breathe." Judd's version, titled "Breath," features the line "I can smell your breath." The hilarious video, starring Judd and WWF wrestler Rena Mero, aka Sable, is airing on cable's Country Music Television and Great American Country.

Judd has enjoyed success with a handful of songs, including tunes from "Just Another Day In Parodies," a spin-off of Phil Vassar's song "Just Another Day In Paradise." That album included "My Cellmate Thinks I'm Sexy," based on Kenny Chesney's hit "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy," and "How Do You Milk A Cow?," based on Toby Keith's "How Do You Like Me Now?"

Fifteen videos and 1.3 million records later, Judd is as savvy a businessman as he is a parody writer.

"We've always battled the element of timeliness," Judd said recently from a Nashville office. "The question is: how can we be timely and still be timeless?"

Lest someone think that Judd and his co-writer Christopher Clark throw any silly rhyme into the song that fits at first try, a closer listen reveals intelligent rhythm and word choices.

"We put a lot of thought into these things," Judd said. "It's not something that we get together and drink a bunch of beer and giggle and laugh and cut up. We beat ourselves to death for days, weeks writing these albums.

"It's tough sonically. The best example is if you take Kid Rock's 'Cowboy,' and play it line by line to my 'Plowboy,' the rhyme scheme is exactly the same. We rhyme 95 percent of every word that Kid Rock rhymes and that's hard to do, but I think that's what makes a great parody."

Comedy also is key to successful parody, another element that Judd has mastered.

"It's easy to be funny (to one person)," he said, "but it's incredibly hard to be funny and appeal to the masses."

The masses likely will enjoy the second single from "Cledus Envy." Judd wrote and recorded, "It's A Great Day To Be A Guy," a clever and funny spoof of Travis Tritt's "It's A Great Day To Be Alive."

Of course, the majority of the songs on "Cledus Envy" are parodies of popular country songs. The project also contains several originals, including "Willie's Got A Big Deck," "If George Strait Starts Dancin'" and "Let's Burn One," a commentary on the current "download vs. intellectual property rights" debate.

"Leave You Laughing," a song that Judd co-wrote with Paul Overstreet, is the only serious song on the project.

"We wrote it for me and people like Johnny Russell and Minnie Pearl," Judd said. "For everybody that's ever left out of here with a sense of humor. I think if they had their choice, that's the way they'd want to be remembered -- leaving people laughing. And I really hope that can be an anthem to people that we lose along the way that would like to be remembered that way."

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