Commentary: Faulty U.S. Crime Stats Make It Hard to Know What to Believe

Americans can be forgiven for suffering from whiplash regarding law and order.

In recent weeks the Biden administration and many news outlets, including USA Today and The Hill, have touted declines in violent crime statistics to argue that America is becoming a safer place.

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Music Spotlight: Presley Tennant

Presley Tennant

One thing I have learned about TV singing shows is that the finalists are nearly always as good (if not better) as the actual winner. So, I try to interview as many country singers from these shows as possible.

Presley Tennant is a powerhouse singer from Norco, California, a horse town that is 35 miles east of Los Angeles. She was a finalist on Season 16 of NBC’s The Voice in 2019 when she was just 16. She has often been compared to Whitney Houston and Carrie Underwood.

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‘Operation Rainmaker’ Arrests Result in Dozens Charged in Alleged Cartel-Affiliated Drug-Trafficking Ring

Seized Drugs

Agents arrested 23 people in relation to a cartel-linked drug operation in Texas that dealt in cocaine, fentanyl, heroin and meth. 

The arrests came after a five-year investigation that started in 2019. Prosecutors said the drug ring operated in the Houston and Galveston areas and was under the control of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG).

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Song Suffragettes Celebrate 10th Anniversary

In a historic event at Belmont’s Fisher Center, the female collective known as the Song Suffragettes celebrated its tenth anniversary to a packed-out crowd last week

Each year, they celebrate their March anniversary, and they honor a significant female singer and/or songwriter. This year’s Yellow Rose of Inspiration award fittingly went to Wynonna Judd, an acclaimed singer/songwriter and long-time promoter of women in country music. Past Yellow Rose of Inspiration award winners include Laura Veltz, Ashley McBryde, Natalie Hemby, and Kelsea Ballerini.

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Music Spotlight: Bryce Leatherwood

Bryce Leatherwood

When I heard the buttery twang that encapsulates Bryce Leatherwood, I knew exactly why he won Season 22 of NBC’s “The Voice.” Even before he sang a word, you knew he had it.

Leatherwood is a 23-year-old singer/songwriter who aims to carry the torch of the country music he grew up with. He was born and raised in Woodstock, Georgia, and spent every summer working on his grandpa’s farm and listening to his grandpa’s music.

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Music Spotlight: Ashley Anne

Occasionally, you meet an artist, and you know they were born with a gift. At age 17, Ashley Anne wrote/released her first single, “Dear Dolly,” a song that she penned entirely on her own.

And while Dolly Parton is arguably the most popular country star on the planet, most people of Anne’s peer group only know “Jolene” and probably don’t realize that Parton wrote “I Will Always Love You” and may not have ever heard Whitney Houston’s version of it.

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Music Spotlight: William Michael Morgan

William Michael Morgan has been in Nashville since he was 19. Many country music fans will remember his gold-certified hit “I Met a Girl” from 2016, which continues to be a favorite at engagement parties and weddings.

Morgan hails from Vicksburg, Mississippi, which is the heart of the Delta Blues and a seven-minute drive from the Louisiana state line. His dad introduced him to country music by covering Marty Robbins and George Jones tunes on his guitar. Then, when he was 12, he got his own guitar, locked himself inside, and learned to play by watching YouTube videos.

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Music Spotlight: Orlando Mendez

 I’ll admit that I don’t watch music competition shows like I did when I was younger. When I watch TV, it’s usually a mind-numbing procedural or mystery.

But thankfully, a lot of the people I interview got their start on a show and if they are country, they often find their way into my email inbox. Because the competition is so fierce, most of the artists pitched to me are outstanding performers. Orlando Mendez is one such artist and I feel privileged to tell his story.

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Music Spotlight: William Beckmann

When I was sent William Beckmann’s song, “She Can’t Be Found,” I was mesmerized. It sounded like something from Johnny or Waylon with a little bit of Elvis thrown in. Surely that young man who I saw on Instagram wouldn’t be singing a song that sounded like it was straight out of 1970s country. I was impressed.

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Man Charged in Alleged Threat Against Journalist Seeking Nashville Shooter Manifesto

A Tennessee man has been charged in connection with a threat against conservative journalist and talk radio show host Michael Patrick Leahy over Leahy’s lawsuit to obtain the Nashville school shooter manifesto, allegedly telling Leahy, “I’m willing to go to prison to end you.” 

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Music Spotlight: Anne Wilson

As I continued writing my Music Spotlight column, a new name kept popping up: Anne Wilson. In 2022, Wilson won a Dove Award for Pop/Contemporary Song of the Year, “My Jesus.” She won Songwriter of the Year and New Artist of the Year. She also sang a duet with Hillary Scott which won Bluegrass/Country Roots Song of the Year, “Mamas.”

The reason I had never heard of her before is because Anne Wilson, who is 22, has only been singing for a few years.

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Music Spotlight: Pryor Baird

One of my favorite groups to interview is the music competition show’s finalists. To make it to the finales of any of the shows, artists normally have talent in spades. The actual winners are often untouchable, but those who rank in the top 10 are usually fabulous performers.

Pryor Baird is no exception. From Season 14 of NBC’s The Voice in 2018, Baird had all four judges vying for him to be their team. While he would ultimately go with Blake, it didn’t really matter because not only could he sing with a bluesy, Muddy Waters grit, he was different. And more importantly, he was memorable.

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Music Spotlight: Spencer Crandall

I remember the first time hearing Spencer Crandall’s song “Made.”

The lyrics Cause soulmates aren’t found they’re made/ Yeah, we choose each other every day/ Even when we bend, we know we won’t break/ We just bounce back better ’cause/ Soulmates aren’t found/ they’re forged in the same fire/ Work at it even when we get tired/ Making ups out of downs/ doing all that it takes/ ‘Cause soulmates aren’t found/ they’re made stopped me in my tracks.

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Music Spotlight: Tigirlily Gold

I first met the sister duo, Tigirlily Gold, back in 2022, when they were part of a fundraiser for one of my favorite charities, Music Will. I knew then that I wanted to feature the effervescent pair.

When I recently heard their megahit “Shoot Tequila” on Sirius XM’s The Highway, I was reminded that it was time to contact them.

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Music Spotlight: Conner Smith

One thing that I have learned by writing this column is that the country music that young people like (who are the biggest consumers of digital music) is not always the same as the music that I like.

But sometimes artists can bridge that gap. Twenty-two-year-old Conner Smith is such an artist. I know exactly why he is so popular with the younger set. But it was his writing ability that impressed me most. He is a gifted songwriter. He has been writing songs since age six. He scored his first publishing deal at age 16. Not only that, I also learned that he was born in the same town in East Tennessee where my children were born, Cleveland.

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Music Spotlight: Mark Taylor

NASHVILLE, Tennessee- Rising Nashville artist and Maryland native Mark Taylor has had a guitar in his hand since he was two years old and has never looked back.

“My dad was/is a huge influence on my music career. He paid his way through college playing cover gigs in bars. By the time I was two years old, I was playing nonsense chords on a little guitar. By the time I was six and seven, I was playing in his band with a bunch of his friends,” he said. 

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Music Spotlight: Jake Worthington

NASHVILLE, Tennessee- Jake Worthington first wowed America in 2014 as a teen from LaPorte, Texas, when he became a finalist on NBC’s The Voice. Fast forward ten years, and the traditionally influenced country artist has put out a lot of music but is just now releasing his debut album.

He recently signed with Big Loud Records and fitted in perfectly with current country heavyweights like Hardy, Morgan Wallen, Larry Fleet, and Lauren Alaina.

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Commentary: The Bitter Fruit of Madness that has Poisoned a Generation

After the horrific massacre in Nashville, the Democratic Party is hellbent on feeding the malignant narcissism of the “trans community,” in which they see a reliable, perpetually aggrieved voter base and a tool with which to terrorize society.

This isn’t “Christian nationalism.” Virtually every institution is sending a message that murderous violence toward Christians is acceptable, or at least less bad than exposing the “trans community” to obloquy. Law enforcement is obstructing the release of the manifesto. Merrick Garland won’t call it a hate crime, and neither will Joe Biden, who apparently thinks this is all a big joke.

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Music Spotlight: Jaye Madison

NASHVILLE, Tennessee- Doing what I do, I get sent a lot of artists to check out. A Facebook friend told me to check out the Jaye Madison band. I listened and they could absolutely sing. But normally I deal with PR representatives or managers. In a few days, I got contacted by 37-Media about this amazing new duo, Jaye Madison.  This time I really paid attention. Their song “Down” was unlike anything I had heard in a while. It wasn’t country, but it did have a rock/soul/R&B vibe and it was outstanding.

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AG Merrick Garland Refuses to Investigate Nashville Shooting as Hate Crime

On Tuesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland refused to commit to using federal resources to investigate Monday’s shooting in Nashville as a hate crime, despite the perpetrator’s clear motivations against the Christian victims.

The Daily Caller reports that the Nashville Police Department discovered “writings” in Audrey Elizabeth Hale’s home after the shooting, which suggested a “calculated and planned” attack. Addressing these reports, Senator John Kennedy (R-La.) noted during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing that the 28-year-old Hale “could have had collaborators.”

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GOP Presidential Candidate Ramaswamy: Department of Education’s Radical Gender Ideology Creates Psychopaths

Republican Presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy blasted the U.S. Department of Education for creating “psychopaths” through gender ideology agendas while the nation’s schools are left unprotected from mass shooters like the one that terrorized a Nashville elementary school this week. 

“The real question is why this psychopath in Nashville was able to get into the school in the first place,” the Ohio entrepreneur and anti-woke crusader wrote in a tweet. “We protect green pieces of paper in a bank with more armed guards than we do our kids in schools … There’s more security at a random mall than in a public school.”

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Music Spotlight: Aliyah Good

I remember Jamie O’Neal telling me that her 17-year-old daughter accompanied her when she re-released her mega-hit “Somebody’s Hero.”

Now, O’Neal’s daughter, Aliyah Good is 19 and is pursuing a Bachelor of Music in Professional Studies at the Frost School of Music in Miami. And while she is first to admit that going to school while pursuing an artist’s career is quite the juggle, she is fortunate enough to attend a university that understands what she is doing. Frost School has programs for people like Good who are college students who want to get an education but also want to pursue their careers.

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Music Spotlight: Hillary Reese

NASHVILLE. Tennessee – Hillary Reese comes from a big sports family in Mississippi full of coaches and teachers. But she and her brother both desired to do music instead. (Her brother, Parker Reese, has a degree in Music Education.)

“We were not coordinated and couldn’t throw a ball to save our lives,” Hillary Reese said.

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Music Spotlight: Siena

NASHVILLE, Tennessee- One of my favorite things is discovering new talent, often ahead of the labels and music industry. PR teams pitch me an artist, and if I like what I hear, I schedule an interview. When Dead Horse Branding sent the song, “Sass” by new country artist Siena (Paglia), I was hooked by the title alone.

It turns out that this real-life Las Vegas cowgirl can sing quite well. With her debut single, she has just enough twang to keep us old-timers interested, but with lyrics that are fresh and relatable to the younger set.

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Music Spotlight: Casi Joy

NASHVILLE, Tennessee- Casi Joy has been singing publicly since she was 5 years old. Her first performance was a talent at her hometown’s local talent show near Kansas City, Missouri. Not being from a musical family, her parents were a little confused by her desire to become a singer.

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Music Spotlight: Mackenzie Carpenter

NASHVILLE, Tennessee – Those who follow my column know I find a lot of my new artists from the Song Suffragettes or SiriusXM’s The Highway. On The Highway, They feature new artists who are often named as their “Highway Finds.” And while I’m not always crazy about every new musician they feature, when I heard Mackenzie Carpenter’s “Can’t Nobody” a few months back, it was love at first listen.

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Music Spotlight: Erin Kinsey

NASHVILLE, Tennessee- Although she only vaguely remembers it, I met Erin Kinsey at a Writer’s Round in a side room at the Bavarian Bierhaus at Opry Mills in March of 2021 and we still weren’t sure if we should even be gathering.

Long before Kinsey officially launched her country music career, the Texas girl was already a full decade into it. Her parents had her in every sport, club, and extra-curricular activity they could think of. She played tennis, basketball, and soccer and even took piano lessons. They wanted to help her figure out what she loved. Their goal was to help her find a career born out of passion.

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Music Spotlight: Ian Munsick

NASHVILLE, Tennessee – Ian Munsick comes from a musical ranching family. They were and are real-life singing cowboys. Under the tutelage of their fiddle-playing father, Munsick and his two older brothers grew up playing everything from bluegrass to The Beatles.

Ranching was how their father provided for them, but in the evenings, the family would often play music around town. They did rodeos and private events while traveling around the Rocky Mountain region.

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Music Spotlight: Chapel Hart

NASHVILLE, Tennessee –Before the rest of the world discovered Chapel Hart this summer on America’s Got Talent, I was a fan. They had come across my newsfeed, and I sent an email inquiring about a possible interview in 2021. When I never heard back, other artists got pushed to the forefront.

This summer Chapel Hart electrified America with the original hit “You Can Have Him, Jolene.” Multiple people contacted me asking if I had heard them sing. I determined then that I had to interview this dynamic trio because they truly were unlike any other group I had ever featured.

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Music Spotlight: Chase Wright

NASHVILLE, Tennessee –In the past few years, a name that kept showing up in my feed was Chase Wright. (Not to be confused with another country singer/songwriter, Chase Rice.) Recently, as I was driving to work, I heard SiriusXM The Highway’s Storme Warren talking to Chase Wright. He invited him to become SXM The Highway’s next “Highway Find,” a platform that has launched many artists’ careers from Florida-Georgia Line to Carly Pearce.

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Little Kids Rock Rebrands as ‘Music Will’

NASHVILLE, Tennessee- As part of a five-city tour to promote their new branded non-profit Music Will (formerly known as Little Kids Rock) founder Dave Wish spoke to me about their latest adaptation.

The former first-grade teacher started Little Kids Rock because his students didn’t like their current music program. He asked them what they wanted to play and at the time, they said, “Ricky Martin” and “Selena.” He began to teach the kids to play the music they wanted to hear and eventually it led to teaching other teachers to do the same.

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Music Spotlight: Donny Van Slee

Donny Van Slee is a Florida boy from the rural town of Weeki Wachee Springs, home of the famous live mermaids. Growing up, Van Slee was shy and his dad bought him a guitar to help him. Later, influenced by the bands he loved – Led Zeppelin and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – he took lessons, but his main focus in school was soccer.

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