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New Country Artists to Watch in 2005

In 2004, Country album sales reached nearly 78 million copies, an increase of 12 percent over 2003's numbers. Can the industry continue on that track in 2005? Record companies are hopeful that Country newcomers will keep sales soaring, as Gretchen Wilson, Big and Rich, and several others did during the past year. VOA's Mary Morningstar has this report on some of the new faces to watch in 2005.

Recent high school graduate Blaine Larsen addresses teen suicide in his new single, "How Do You Get That Lonely." The Country newcomer first earned national attention in 2004 with the title song from his debut album In My High School. Although an independent record company released that collection, Blaine has now signed a major label deal with BNA Records. His second studio album is due out soon.

Universal South is putting its money on 21-year-old Oklahoma native Katrina Elam. "No End In Sight" is one of nine songs Katrina Elam co-wrote for her self-titled debut album. Katrina introduced herself to Country music fans in 2004, when she opened concerts for Australian Country star Keith Urban. She's scheduled to head back out on the road with Keith later this month.

In 2004, Brad Cotter won the second annual Nashville Star talent competition, Country music's version of American Idol. The Alabama native will spend 2005 promoting Patient Man, his first album for Epic Records, which debuted in the Top 5 on Billboard's Country chart.

Another newcomer, discovered after becoming a Nashville Star finalist, is 21-year-old Miranda Lambert.

"Me And Charlie Talking" is one of several tracks Miranda Lambert wrote with her father, Country guitarist and songwriter Rick Lambert. Epic Records will release Miranda's debut album, Kerosene, on January 25.

Singer Catherine Britt had already made a mark in her native Australia, when Elton John heard her album and decided to help break her into the American Country scene. He recommended Catherine to some of his Nashville contacts, including RCA Label Group Chairman Joe Galante. Joe flew her to Music City, and immediately signed her to a recording deal. "The Upside of Being Down" is the first hit from Catherine Britt's upcoming album, Too Far Gone. The collection will also include a duet with her new friend and fan, Elton John.

Billy Currington's career also got a big jump with the help of a superstar. He currently appears on the Country chart with this duet he recorded with Shania Twain.

Shania Twain's latest hit, "Party For Two," featuring Country newcomer Billy Currington.

Time will tell if any of these new artists will lead Country music toward another banner year. Mercury Records is counting on the talented Atlanta-based trio Sugarland, which recently made its first appearance on the Country chart with the album Twice the Speed of Life.