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Where has St. Louis' offense gone?

July 1, 2014

It's July 1, and the 2014 season hasn't gone as planned for the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Redbirds find themselves looking up in the standings at the surprising Milwaukee Brewers, thanks in large part to a struggling offense. Last season, the Cardinals hit .330 as a team with runners in scoring position, shattering the previous record of .311, en route to capturing the National League pennant.

The 2013 Cardinals ranked No. 27 in home runs in, hitting just 125 -- five fewer than the New York Mets. Only the Royals, Giants and Marlins hit fewer home runs than the Cardinals did in 2013, making their run to the World Series all the more remarkable. So far in 2014, the Cardinals rank No. 29 in home runs, with 48 as of July 1. Only the Royals have hit fewer home runs -- and they've hit 47. Yes, the San Diego Padres who have an historically bad offense have hit seven more home runs than the Cardinals to date.

Let's take a look at how the Cardinals are trending the last few years, shall we? We'll use 2011 as our starting point.


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Garth Brooks is making a comeback.

The country superstar is set to play five sold out shows at Croke Park in Ireland in July. The shows come eight months after Brooks made an announcement on Good Morning America that he was going to embark on a world tour in 2014.

Unless the world shrunk to the size of the Emerald Isle where Bono is king, Brooks' July comeback doesn't qualify as a world tour.

So, what gives? When and where will Brooks play later this year?


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Hank Williams Postage Stamp

Did Hank Williams really die at age 29?

I'm not suggesting an "Elvis lives"-type conspiracy theory, I'm just incredulous that someone with so few years on the planet could have had such an immense influence on country music. Oh, I'm familiar with the so-called "27 Club" -- musicians who, with two fewer years in which to amass a body of work, still managed to leave behind important musical legacies. But, with all due respect to Jimi, Janis, Jim, and Kurt, Williams had 11 number one hits in his foreshortened career, a remarkable feat. Even more remarkable is the number of other musicians, from all genres (and including several members of the "27 Club"), who have released recordings of these songs.



The Non-Country Fan's Guide to Country Music

The past few years has seen an explosion in the popularity of country music. In the 90's it was "alternative" music, the aughts saw the rise of hip hop as the mainstream's biggest music genre, and if the first few years of the teens hold up, this could be the decade of country music. If you need further proof, Rolling Stone just launched

Sure, there were some big country music stars in the past, but with the rise of Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean and Miranda Lambert, plus a cadre of young guns coming up behind them, there's no reason to think this country revival is going anywhere anytime soon.

I did my best to ignore the onslaught of country music but at a certain point, you need to get with the times (especially when your job depends on knowing what the hot artists are).

So I decided to get to know the big names in country music, and share my findings to help others like me who need to play a little catchup with their country music acts.

So here it is, The Non-country Fan's Guide To Country Music:

Luke Bryan

Luke Bryan tickets

Currently Touring with Lee Brice & Cole Swindell

At the moment, Luke Bryan is the top dog in country music. You'll hear country fans admire his playful and fun side, but also make it clear he's got a serious, sensitive side as well. He's dealt with some tragedy in his life, as both his older brother and sister died suddenly while in their 20s. This son of a peanut farmer started out as a country music ghost writer before releasing I'll Stay Me in 2007.

Events On Sale This Week: 5/8/14

Here's a list of the hottest events with dates going on sale this week. For tickets to these and more events, head over to Ticket Liquidator.





Celine Dion Saturday, 6/21/14 Las Vegas, NV
Chicago and REO Speedwagon Saturday, 6/21/14 Atlanta, GA
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young Friday, 6/27/14 Memphis, TN
Drake vs Lil Wayne Friday, 6/20/14 Noblesville, IN; Saratoga Springs, NY; Burgettstown, PA; Camden, NJ; Mansfield, MA; Virginia Beach, VA; Bristow, VA; Charlotte, NC; Atlanta, GA; Cincinnati, OH; Clarkston, MI; Hartford, CT; Dallas, TX; West Valley City, UT; Tinley Park, IL; Auburn, WA; Mountain View, CA; Wheatland, CA; Chula Vista, CA; Phoenix, AZ; Ridgefield, WA
Drake vs Lil Wayne Saturday, 6/21/14 Darien Center, NY; Holmdel, NJ; West Palm Beach, FL; Tampa, FL; Forest Hills, NY; Woodlands, TX; Austin, TX; Irvine, CA; Hollywood, CA
Jason Aldean Friday, 6/20/14 Sioux Falls, SD; Phoenix, AZ

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I'm the product of a mixed marriage. My father was pure Connecticut Yankee, from the roots of his gingery hair to the tips of his Sperry Topsiders®. Mom was born in Oklahoma.

Dad didn't approve of country music, which he referred to as "that gawdawful yodeling," and wouldn't have it on the radio. But when Dad was out of the house, Mom would tune in to the country station. She loved to sing along and I'd harmonize, singing soprano to her deep alto. Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Patti Page (Mom's cousin, who she'd sung with as a child), Tammy Wynette and Dolly Parton were the female country singers whose songs I learned. Mom loved the songs, even if she sometimes shook her head at the lyrics.

The songs all seemed to be about broken-hearted women, each suffering because of some man's bad behavior. Jeanne Pruett slept on satin sheets, abandoned by the rich husband who paid for them. Tammy Wynette stood by her man, forgiving his good timing ways and Dolly Parton wasted her tears. Patsy Cline fell to pieces, went crazy and was left with only mementos of her lost love.

In the words of Tammy Wynette, sometimes it's hard to be a woman.

No More Victims - Revenge Rules the Country Airwaves

If, at least according to the songs, it's still hard to be a woman, today's women of country have risen to the occasion. Oh, the men continue to cheat and lie and abandon and abuse, but the female country stars burning up the charts (and the 2014 summer concert tour circuit) are mad as hell and they're not going to take it any more.

Miranda Lambert has been on the country charts for ten years, and this year she's finally headlining shows on the Country Megaticket roster. Although she's recorded her share of country laments, she's a regular on the "revenge song" list. Her 2008 hit, "Gunpowder and Lead," portrays a woman waiting in the dark with a shotgun and a six-pack for her abuser to turn up. His fist is big but my gun's bigger. He'll find out when I pull the trigger...

Her 2014 CMA Awards® Single of the Year, "Mama's Broken Heart," admits that breakups hurt, but makes delightfully mean fun of the old-fashioned notion that a woman needs to be stoic about her pain.

Source: YouTube Miranda Lambert - Mama's Broken Heart 2014

Taking up a shotgun isn't the only way today's women of country mete out justice. Methods include a baseball bat (Carrie Underwood - "Before He Cheats"), black-eyed peas laced with poison (Dixie Chicks - "Earl Must Die"), arson (Martina McBride - "Independence Day" and Miranda Lambert - "Kerosene"), and a dose of turnabout as fair play (Miranda Lambert - "White Liar"). Gentlemen, I'd think twice before I pissed off any of these ladies.

We Write the Songs

One tradition that I'm glad is still around is the female country songwriter. Dolly Parton claims to have written over five thousand songs and has, in fact, published more than three thousand. It's nice to peruse the song lists from new artists' releases and see that they wrote most of the tunes they're recording. Kacey Musgraves is not only one of the co-writers of Lambert's "Mama's Broken Heart," but is credited as a writer for every single song on her 2013 No. 1 album, Same Trailer, Different Park. The release is chock-full of traditional country tunes, with ample banjos and and steel guitars to please a country purist, but enough attitude to get the attention of pop diva Katy Perry, who invited Musgraves to join her for several stops on her Prismatic World Tour. The unlikely pair teamed up on CMT's Crossroads and critics can't decide whether it was more fun to hear Perry joining on Musgraves' "Follow Your Arrow" or when the tables were turned for "Roar" and an oddly melancholy version of Perry's "Firework."

Source: YouTube Katy Perry & Kacey Musgraves - "Firework" at CMT Crossroads 2014

It's Not Always About the Pain...

Lady Antebellum is another act that's moved from second billing to first on the country tour, and Hilary Scott's lead vocals are a big reason why. But the songs I love best are when she harmonizes with co-frontman Charles Kelley. The feel-good anthem "Compass" is a song I can't imagine hearing on the country station Mom tuned in on the transistor radio that sat on our breakfast table in the 1970's. The video for Sugarland's "All I Want to Do" starts off looking more like a Beach Boys classic and is at least as happy. How can you not love a lyric like "Give me a kiss...from that Elvis lip..."? Sugarland's lead singer, Jennifer Nettles, is in the middle on her first solo tour, playing fairly small venues--for now.

Source: YouTube Sugarland - "All I Want to Do" 2013

And the Hits Keep Coming

Don't just watch for the mega-stars you know, like Faith Hill, Martina McBride, and record-breaking ticket seller Taylor Swift. Keep an eye on the singers who are showing up as "special guests" on the big tours this summer--they'll probably be headlining themselves in a year or two. Gloriana is touring with Rascal Flatts (and a newly countrified Sheryl Crow), The Voice winner Cassadee Pope is hanging out with Tim McGraw, newcomer Leah Turner appears with Brad Paisley, and Brandy Clark, another prodigious songwriter, is touring with Eric Church.

It's not your Mama's country music -- it's better!

Events On Sale This Week: 5/8/14

Here's a list of the hottest events with dates going on sale this week. For tickets to these and more events, head over to Ticket Liquidator.





Alan Jackson Friday, 6/13/14 Atlantic City, NJ
Cher Saturday, 6/14/14 Fargo, ND; Green Bay, WI
Cher Monday, 6/16/14 Fort Wayne, IN; Richmond, VA; Grand Rapids, MI; Cincinnati, OH; Chicago, IL; Moline, IL; Wichita, KS; Sioux Falls, SD; Omaha, NE
Elton John Friday, 6/13/14 Sacramento, CA
Enrique & Pitbull Friday, 6/13/14 Miami, FL; Uniondale, NY; Auburn Hills, MI

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Breaking down the NFC East

June 11, 2014

There's no division in the NFL with more intrigue than the NFC East. Every time an intra-division game occurs, it's a rivalry game. Cowboys-Eagles? Check. Cowboys-Redskins? Check. Cowboys-Giants? Check. Redskins-Giants? Yep. Giants-Eagles? You better believe it. Redskins-Eagles? Now more than ever.

What should fans expect out of the NFC East this season? The usual -- drama, desperation and entertainment.

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett will undoubtedly coach with an edge of desperation this season. If the Cowboys fail to make the playoffs, there's almost no chance that Jerry Jones will bring Garrett back to coach the Cowboys in 2015. Garrett is already fighting an uphill battle, as stalwart linebacker Sean Lee is already out for the season -- not to mention the fact that quarterback Tony Romo underwent his second major back surgery in as many years just months ago.

On the surface, the Cowboys look like a 6 or 7 win team -- which will mark them irrelevant by November. That leaves the Giants, Redskins and Eagles -- and all three teams could easily win the division.

Last year's defending NFC East champions, the Eagles, had an interesting offseason to say the least. Philadelphia released DeSean Jackson, coming off a career year, due to character concerns. On the surface, losing Jackson seems like it's a major blow to the Eagles' offense. If we've learned anything after watching Chip Kelly orchestrate Oregon's offense and then Philadelphia's last year, it's one thing -- don't doubt Kelly's ability to guide his offense and put plenty of points on the board.

Jeremy Maclin will be a year removed from an ACL injury, and will help fill Jackson's void. The Eagles traded for running back and jack of all trades Darren Sproles, who will be another exciting weapon for Nick Foles. Expect the Eagles to score and score plenty. Philadelphia's defense should be improved as well, after the team signed Malcolm Jenkins and drafted linebacker Marcus Smith.

Philadelphia isn't a shoe-in to win the NFC East -- and really, aside from the Patriots and Broncos, is anybody a lock to make the playoffs this season?

The Redskins should improve substantially from a lackluster 2013 season. Mike Shanahan is out as head coach and Jay Gruden is in -- which will only help Robert Griffin III blossom as a quarterback. The Redskins signed DeSean Jackson and RG3 will be another year removed from his major knee injry, but Washington did little to help its defense in the offseason.

Washington lost London Fletcher through free agency, but did add Tracy Porter and Jason Hatcher. The fact that Washington didn't have a first round pick after finishing 3-13 hurt the team's ability to address its defensive woes. Had Washington had its pick, the Redskins could have drafted Khalil Mack, but alas, the Redskins now pay the price for acquiring the rights to the pick used on RG3.

Expect the Redskins to be a fringe contender, but not a serious threat to the Eagles in 2014.

That brings us to Big Blue. The Giants missed the playoffs for a second consecutive season in 2013, and finished under .500 for the first time since 2004 -- when Kurt Warner was the starting quarterback.

New York's offseason was busy. The Giants lost wide receiver Hakeem Nicks through free agency, as well as Aaron Ross, Da'Rell Scott, Justin Tuck, David Diehl and many other familiar Giants. New York wasted little time replacing many of its players, signing Robert Ayers, Mario Manningham, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Trindon Holliday and others. The Giants used their first-round draft pick on wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., giving Eli Manning another weapon on offense.

The Giants are still a flawed team -- like almost every team in the league. But the 2014 Giants should be much, much better than the 2013 Giants, and the addition of Rodgers-Cromartie could be enough to propel New York's defense back to respectability.

Look for the Giants to contend this season -- and don't be at all surprised if Big Blue ends up winning the NFC East.

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George Strait rode off into the sunset of all sunsets this weekend. A record of approximately 105,000 concert-goers attended Strait's concert at AT&T Stadium in Dallas to watch the final show of Strait's last tour -- marking the last time the country superstar will ever perform a concert of his own.

The number is almost mind-numbingly high. 105,000 people inside AT&T Stadium for a concert -- but it wasn't just Strait there -- Miranda Lambert, Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, Sheryl Crow, Martina McBride, Jason Aldean, Bubba Strait, Vince Gill and Faith Hill all joined Strait at various times throughout his 41-song setlist, which concluded aptly with, "The Cowboy Rides Away."

There's no doubting that Strait is an absolute superstar in the music industry, but he's never been known for having record-breaking attendance numbers in terms of touring. Despite his illustrious career, Strait never managed to crack the top 20 on the highest-grossing tours of all-time -- yet he managed to draw over 100,000 for his final concert.

What if music's biggest touring superstars called it quits -- and declared in advance that it the tour was going to be that band or artist's final tour?


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Are you on Lorde's 'Team'?

June 6, 2014

Lorde North American 2014 Tour Dates


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