Billboard Bits: Allman Brothers, CMT Awards, Phoenix, Case

Allman Brothers open annual NYC residency, CMT Awards add pre-show block party, French act Phoenix releases third album, Case plans two albums this year.

The Allman Brothers Band kicked off its annual residency at New York's Beacon Theatre last night (March 9) with an epic set highlighted by a cover of the Band's "The Weight" and a guest appearance by longtime Howlin' Wolf guitarist Hubert Sumlin.

Introduced by guitarist/vocalist Warren Haynes as "someone who has influenced everybody," 74-year-old Sumlin joined the Allmans for the first three songs of the second set, kicked off by a Gregg Allman-sung take on the late Wolf's signature, "Smokestack Lighting." One of the few remaining original Chicago bluesmen, Sumlin basked in the opportunity and took a seemingly unexpected turn at the mic, leaving band members smiling.

An annual tradition in New York since 1992, the Allmans' Beacon stand routinely offers the iconic act an opportunity to spread its creative wings and tinker with the set list, as opposed to playing the hits-driven set expected on summer shed treks. This year's 14-night Beacon run continues through March 26.

-- Wes Orshoski, N.Y.

Jason Aldean, Little Big Town and Van Zant will be performing at an April 10 block party preceding the 2006
CMT Music Awards. The free event, hosted by the country music television network's Lance Smith, will take place outdoors in downtown Nashville. No tickets are required for entry and the pre-party will be televised live on the channel.

As previously reported, Toby Keith, Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts, Trace Adkins, Gretchen Wilson, Brooks & Dunn and Sugarland are all slated to perform at the ceremony with Jeff Foxworthy will hosting.

-- Katie Hasty, N.Y.

French rock act Phoenix will release its third studio album, "It's Never Been Like That," May 23 via Astralwerks. While prior efforts often channeled a slick, 1970s vibe in the vein of Steely Dan and the Bee Gees, the new 10-track set opts for a more straightforward rock approach with shades of the Strokes and Kings Of Leon, best heard on opener "Napoleon Says," the urgent "Rally" and the melodically memorable "Courtesy Laughs."

An April tour of Europe is in the works, to be followed by an April 30 appearance at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in Indio, Calif.

Here is the track list for "It's Never Been Like That":

"Napoleon Says"
"Consolation Prizes"
"Long Distance Call"
"One Time Too Many"
"Lost and Found"
"Courtesy Laughs"
"Sometimes in a Fall"
"Second to None"

-- Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

R&B singer/songwriter Case is making up for lost time. It has been five years since the former Def Jam artist's last album, "Open Letter," which featured the No. 1 Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs hit "Missing You." Case plans to issue two new albums this year through Indigo Blue, an independent label operated by his manager, Blue Wiliams.

The first set, "The Rose Experience," is due in June and will be preceded by first single "Turns Me On." The as-yet-untitled second disc is expected in November. Case recently wrapped the Ladies Night Out tour with fellow contemporary soulsters Jagged Edge, Ginuwine and Donell Jones.

-- Gail Mitchell, L.A.