Local band competing for spot on CMT's 'Studio 330 Sessions'

Friday, February 16, 2007
The John D. Hale Band is part of a "Music City Madness" Web-based competition sponsored by CMT. The contest is set up like NCAA's March Madness.

A local alternative country band has a chance to get some national exposure through a Country Music Television Internet contest.

CMT unveiled its "Music City Madness" contest Tuesday. The Web-based competition pits 64 unsigned country artists against each other for a chance to record an episode of CMT's "Studio 330 Sessions."

Jackson's John D. Hale Band, a group that mixes the outlaw country ethic of artists like Waylon Jennings with traditional and modern country styles and rock 'n' roll, is one of the 64 finalists.

"Studio 330 Sessions" is a Web-only program that records artists live in CMT's own studio. Recent "330 Sessions" have featured the likes of Cross Canadian Ragweed, Charlie Daniels and Steve Azar. Some noncountry artists like David Lee Roth and Hootie and the Blowfish also have performed in the studio.

A representative with CMT who wished not to be identified said the winner of the "Music City Madness" competition would be the first unsigned country act to record on the show. The representative said more than 600 submissions were received for the contest. They were narrowed to a field of 64 by CMT's music experts.

Visitors to the "Music City Madness" Web site can watch videos of the groups, which oppose each other in an NCAA basketball tournament-style bracket, and pick their favorite in each of the 32 matchups. Voting for the first round lasts through Feb. 27, after which the field will be narrowed to 32. Voting in each subsequent round will last a week.

JDHB frontman John D. Hale said his band hired a professional video production company to shoot the video for their song "Stake Our Claim Again" last month after hearing about the contest. The song and video lament the development of countryside into subdivisions and were inspired by Hale's own observations of the changes in the land around his family's 5-H Ranch north of Cape Girardeau.

Hale said he hopes voters can identify with the song and video because urbanization is happening around the United States. "Every place is running out of land," Hale said. "People are building these big houses everywhere, and they're just kind of pushing the country farther and farther out."

The song starts with a rock 'n' roll intro before transitioning into more traditional country. The video bounces between images of the Hale band performing, pristine country scenes and images of construction.

Hale has been sending e-mails to his fans and friends telling them to vote for him but says, "I'm not real big into the shameless self-promotion thing."

Neither are Hale and his bandmates fans of the Nashville country establishment. They take on the industry in their hidden track "Outlaw Groove" from their independent "One of a Kind" album released last year.

The "Music City Madness" concert isn't the first time the band has received national attention. Last year "One of a Kind" was named one of the top 50 albums of 2006 on XM Satellite Radio's "X-Country" station, which features alternative country and Americana acts. The band is preparing for concert dates in Columbia, Mo., and Springfield, Mo., followed by a series of gigs in Texas next month.


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