News on George Strait, Widespread Panic, Bogguss

StraitGeorge Strait is the latest artist to be added to the performance slate for the 38th annual Academy of Country Music (ACM) Awards. He will also be honored with a Special Achievement Award during the event, acknowledging his impressive string of No. 1 country hits. (In December Strait notched his 38th No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks tally with the song "She'll Leave You With a Smile." He's now tied with Merle Haggard; only Conway Twitty has more with 40.)

Strait joins previously announced performers Willie Nelson, Toby Keith, Kenny Chesney, Brooks & Dunn, and Martina McBride. Set for May 21 at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, the ACM Awards will be hosted again this year by Reba McEntire, and will be broadcast live in the U.S. on CBS beginning at 8 p.m. ET.

-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.

WideWidespread Panic has made the track "Nebulous," from its forthcoming Sanctuary album "Ball," available free online today (April 9) to users of Altnet's Kazaa Media Desktop peer-to-peer file-sharing software. As previously reported, the jam band broke its tradition of road testing songs for months prior to recording. Therefore, no material from the new album has previously been heard by fans in any setting.

"Widespread has always been committed to bringing music to their fans by encouraging tape-trading and the like," a band representative said in a statement. "This is simply another step forward in that direction. We're excited about this technology and think it should be embraced." For more information or to download the KaZaA Media Desktop software application, visit

Widespread Panic kicks off its spring tour tonight in Madison, Wis. Following the tour's end May 16-17 in Indianapolis, the group has plans to co-headline the second annual Bonnaroo festival in June in Manchester, Tenn. "Ball," the band's first album since the death of founding guitarist Michael Houser and first studio set for Sanctuary, is due Tuesday.

-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.

suzySuzy Bogguss has signed with Compadre Records, which will release her new Western swing and jazz album, "Swing," June 17, Billboard Bulletin reports. The album, Bogguss' first non-holiday project in three years, was co-produced by the artist and Asleep At The Wheel's Ray Benson at the latter's Bismeaux Studio in Austin, Texas. It contains some new songs, including five written by Nashville singer/songwriter April Barrows, along with standards previously recorded by Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, and Billie Holiday.

Bogguss previously recorded for Nashville labels Capitol, Liberty, and Platinum and has scored four gold albums and six top-10 singles on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart.

-- Phyllis Stark, Nashville