Well, here’s something I’d never thought I’d see: A tribute album to veteran hard-rockers Motley Crue enters Billboard's Top Country Albums chart at #2. The album, Nashville Outlaws: A Tribute To Motley Crue, also enters the all-genre Billboard 200 at #5 (31K). The album features such top country acts as Rascal Flatts, Florida Georgia Line, LeAnn Rimes and Brantley Gilbert performing Motley Crue songs.
Country music has changed a lot in the past 30 years, making the success of a project like A Tribute To Motley Crue possible. The week that Motley Crue landed its first chart album (Oct. 15, 1983), the top five albums on the country chart were by Alabama, Kenny Rogers, Merle Haggard & Willie Nelson, Lee Greenwood and Ronnie Milsap. I can’t see any of them on a Crue tribute.
Garth Brooks helped kick off this genre-bending trend in 1994 when he appeared on the KISS tribute album, Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved. He sang “Hard Luck Woman,” which became his first hit on the Hot 100 Airplay chart. Brooks was the only country artist on that album, which also featured Lenny Kravitz, Anthrax and Gin Blossoms, among others.
In 2006, Bon Jovi chipped away at the wall separating rock and country from the opposite direction. The band hit #1 on Hot Country Songs that May with “Who Says You Can’t Go Home,” a duet with Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland.
The Crue tribute album includes two similar rock/country pairings. The single from the album is Justin Moore's cover of “Home Sweet Home,” which features Crue lead singer Vince Neil. The song was a Hot 100 hit for Motley Crue twice, in 1985 and 1991. The album also includes Cassadee Pope, Season 3 winner of The Voice, teaming with Robin Zander, lead singer of Cheap Trick, on Crue’s 2008 album track “The Animal In Me.”
The album also includes two tracks by country artists who first achieved prominence in rock bands. Darius Rucker, who rose to fame fronting Hootie & The Blowfish, has amassed six #1 country hits since 2008. He performs Crue’s 1989 album track “Time For Change.” Aaron Lewis, lead singer of the hard rock band Staind, has had a sideline career as a country artist since 2011. He sings Crue’s 1997 album track “Afraid.”
Nashville Outlaws: A Tribute To Motley Crue isn’t the first tribute album to a non-country act to hit big in country music. Common Thread: The Songs Of The Eagles topped the country chart for 13 weeks in 1993-‘94. And Lionel Richie's Tuskegee, on which he sang duet versions of his greatest hits with top country stars, had four weeks on top in 2012. But both of those acts had a far stronger connection to country music than Motley Crue does. Eagles had a top 10 country hit in 1975 with their classic “Lyin’ Eyes.” Richie had a top 10 country hit in 1987, “Deep River Woman,” which featured Alabama.
The tribute album to Motley Crue has more in common with earlier country tributes to two other acts who have little obvious connection to country music: the Beatles (1995’s Come Together: America Salutes The Beatles) and ZZ Top (2002’s Sharp Dressed Men: A Tribute To ZZ Top). The Beatles tribute reached #13 on Top Country Albums. The ZZ Top tribute reached #7.
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