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Country music dips after decade of growth

Soundtracks, roles key in upswing

Country music’s share of the record sales charts may be dipping after a decade of buoyant growth led by acts such as Garth Brooks and Shania Twain, but denizens of Nashville’s Music Row are determined to keep country’s visibility high by playing the Hollywood card, as in grabbing soundtrack slots and acting spots for country performers.

On the soundtrack front, Arista Nashville’s senior vice president of marketing, Fletcher Foster, said the label is set to release “Happy, Texas” on Sept. 14, the first ever Arista Nashville soundtrack album.

The soundtrack for the upcoming Miramax comedy has its roots, Foster said, from “when it (the film) was an independent. They had no money for music and we gave them a BR5-49 track. The band played at Sundance at the release party and music supervisors Emily Kaye and Alex Patsavas really saw eye to eye with the filmmakers.”

Rimes in limelight

Nashville song-pluggers are also scoring success in nabbing prized soundtrack cuts in major studio releases such as this summer’s comedy hit “Runaway Bride.” Young country star LeAnn Rimes has warbled the Diane Warren-penned theme song for upcoming Fox pic “Anywhere But Here,” starring Susan Sarandon and Natalie Portman.

Rimes also shows up in the country music mockumentary “Dill Scallion,” as herself and is seriously mulling over an offer for a lead role in a feature film.

Elsewhere on the acting front, perhaps no one is taking the thesp route more seriously than country star Mark Collie. He was in Hollywood last week for the premiere of John Lloyd Miller’s award-winning short film, “I Still Miss Someone,” a 17-minute riff on the rough and rowdy life of country legend Johnny Cash.

“The idea was to make an audition tape of Mark as Johnny Cash,” said director Miller. “It turned out to be much more than we dreamed.”

Since then, their so-called “audition tape” has played several fests, including the Nashville Independent Film Festival, where it won the top short-film honors.

Collie’s script

Cut to Hollywood, where musicvid vet Miller is being courted by talent agencies and taking meetings with producers and Collie is in the process of setting up his original script, “Pulp Country” which he’d star in and he describes as ” ‘The Player’ and ‘L.A. Confidential’ set in the world of country music.” Then jump cut to Las Vegas, to where Collie jetted after the film’s premiere. He’s featured in the Joel Silver-produced series “The Strip.”

Country music also hits the bigscreen in the form of country songster Dwight Yoakum’s directorial debut, the upcoming feature “South of Heaven, West of Hell,” which Yoakam co-wrote and co-stars in. Yoakam also turns up in the cast of the upcoming Hampton Fancher sci-fi pic, “The Minus Man.”

There’s buzz in Music City about the development of a Merle Haggard biopic for triple-threat talent (and country buff) Billy Bob Thornton, who’s wrapped his film “Daddy and Them” for the Shooting Gallery. The soundtrack includes several new Marty Stuart tunes and a thesp turn by legendary singer-songwriter John Prine.

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