CATCHING UP WITH ... ANNE MURRAY

Return Of The Snowbird

Anne Murray's career is hot again. Surprised as anyone that she's become the queen of direct TV marketing, the Canadian singing legend was thrilled when 1999's What A Wonderful World CD of inspirational classics not only planted her back in the Billboard Country Albums Top 10 after a 12-year absence, but also sold over one million copies!

"Isn't that fantastic? And without airplay that's the amazing thing," says Anne, who charted more than 40 Billboard country hits over 32 years. "There was no radio airplay whatsoever." Now the native of Springhill, Nova Scotia, hopes to repeat her platinum success in 2002 with a brand-new collection, the two-CD Country Croonin'.

"Doing this album was like falling off a log for me, because my voice is so suited to sing this kind of music," notes Anne. "It was meant to do this. This was the most fun I've ever had in the studio.

Imagine saying that after all these years and albums in the studio? It's my 32nd album - I've been making albums since 1968. So this is by far the best experience I've had. It was wonderful."

A sequel to 1993's Croonin', Anne's tribute to pre-rock 'n' roll artists of the '50s, Country Croonin' offers 30 interpretations of classic country songs, including a special bonus: a duet with Vince Gill on "Let It Be Me."

"Vince comes to everybody's mind, I'm sure, because he's such a great singer," explains Anne, 57. "I thought 'Let It Be Me' would be unique because he could sing above me - he sings so high. And when we called him, he said, 'Oh yeah! I'd love to do it!' He said I was his father's favorite singer, and this was one of his favorite songs."

Anne says she entered the studio with a list of 100 songs before her and producer Tommy West reduced the list to 50. But Anne says making the right song choices wasn't her only challenge. "When you do an album like this ... these are all hurting songs," she explains. "It's hard to find up-tempo songs to give you a change now and then. Don Gibson was the only person who ever wrote up-tempo [sad] tunes and they were still heartbreaking, but they don't sound it."

She included three Gibson tunes - "Oh Lonesome Me," "I Can't Stop Loving You" and "Blue, Blue Day" - as well as a trio of Kris Kristofferson songs - "Help Me Make It Through The Night," "Me And Bobby McGee" and "For The Good Times" - on Country Croonin'. "Kristofferson changed the face of country [song]writing," acknowledges Anne. "What a writer!" Aside from Country Croonin', Anne's career was also recently marked by her induction Sept. 9 into the Canadian Country Music Hall Of Fame.

"I'm honored," says Anne. "I got introduced to country music as a 21-year-old on [the CBC TV program] Singalong Jubilee by Freddie McKenna, who was a blind guitar player and singer. He always performed country songs."

Anne scored the first of her many pop and country hits in 1970 with her smash signature song, "Snowbird," and has since won four Grammys, 20 Canadian Junos, three CCMA Awards, plus she's been added to the Country Music Hall of Fame Walkway of Stars and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. More recently, she made headlines in 1999 when her daughter Dawn went public with her battle with anorexia.

Although Anne is hitting the concert trail in support of Country Croonin', she says the concept of retirement is slowly creeping into her thoughts. "I certainly have thought of it," admits Anne. "I'll probably wind down over the next couple of years, but there's no immediate date. I don't think I'll make any great announcement. I'll fade quietly away, just in case I change my mind."

-- Nick Krewen

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