Lee Ann Womack Adds Steel Guitar to Thanksgiving Day Performance of National Anthem

Courtesy Sugar Hill RecordsTexas native Lee Ann Womack will sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before the Dallas Cowboys’ Thanksgiving Day game, and she’s got something unusual planned -- steel guitarist Paul Franklin will accompany her.

“When I was asked, I didn’t just want to go and sing, I wanted to really invest this performance of our national anthem with something that makes us all reconsider what the song is expressing,” she says. “If you’ve ever heard... or really listened to Paul’s musicianship and the emotions he brings out... I think having him play opens up so many aspects of what Francis Scott Key was celebrating when he wrote that.”

Lee Ann’s first CD in seven years, The Way I’m Livin’, came out this fall. Paul Franklin’s collaboration with Vince Gill called Bakersfield was recently nominated for a Grammy.

You can watch Lee Ann and Paul perform at 4:30 p.m. ET on FOX, before the Cowboys take on the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium.

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Country Star Trivia

Comstock/ThinkstockWhat was Luke Bryan's least successful single on the country charts? ANSWER:  "We Rode in Trucks" only made it to number 33 in 2007.

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Darius Rucker Enjoys His European Adventure

Image Courtesy Chris Hollo/OpryWhen Darius Rucker wraps up the European leg of his True Believers tour this Sunday in Dublin, Ireland, chances are he'll have taken in a historic building or two in his spare time.

"The thing I really love to do is I love to go around and see old churches and museums and stuff," he says, "because we think if something was built in the 1800s, we think it’s old. You know, you go over there and something was built in 39 B.C. and it’s still up. I think that’s pretty cool."

Darius's trip took him to Berlin and Munich, Germany, in addition to England and Ireland. The "Homegrown Honey" hitmaker says he also appreciates the differences in the audiences.

"I love going over to Europe because the cultures are so different. From here, you go state to state, and there’s differences in accents and everything, and the cultures are a little different. But when you’re in Europe, you go from country to country, just like you go from state to state, and there’s different language and totally different cultures, and I love being a part of that.'

As Darius prepares to slow down for the Christmas season, fans all across the globe can celebrate with his first yuletide album Home for the Holidays, which is new this year.

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Nashville Notes

Burke/Triolo Productions/ThinkstockThe new CD from two-time CMA Vocal Group of the Year the Mavericks will be released February 17 by the Valory Music Co. It's titled Mono.

When she's not dueting with Blake Shelton on his new single "Lonely Tonight," Pistol Annies' Ashley Monroe is busy finishing up her next solo album with Vince Gill.

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Billy Gilman Reveals He’s Gay

One Voice ProductionsBilly Gilman has come out as gay.  The 26-year-old singer made the announcement via a YouTube post on Thursday, the same day his friend and fellow country artist, Ty Herndon, revealed he was gay.

“It’s taken me a good many weeks to figure out how I was to approach this video that you’re watching right now,” Gilman begins the video. “But today, actually, a fellow country artist and friend made it easier for me to make this video. And I wanted my fans, who have stuck by me for many, many years, to know.”

Gilman went on to explain that he decided to come out after he was spotted with his partner by a local reporter.

“We filmed a video for the single ‘Say You Will’ in Rhode Island and was getting ready to do an interview with a reporter, locally," he recalls. "And coincidentally I ran into this reporter at a local fall festival with my partner, someone who I am happily now sharing my life with."

"This reporter took a picture of us and it was in that moment that I knew that I’d rather it be from me, than you reading it somewhere else, and probably filled with not truth,” he adds.

Gilman also expressed his displeasure at the Nashville establishment, which he claims discriminates against gay artists.

"Being a gay male country artist is not the best thing," he says, explaining, "You know, if people don’t like your music, that’s one thing. But after having sold over five million records and having a wonderful life in the music industry, I knew something was wrong when no major label wanted to sit down and have a meeting and listen to the new stuff."

Gilman, however, had nothing but praise for his fellow artists.

“I want to say that all of the country artists that literally I grew up in front of, Keith Urban, Vince [Gill] and LeAnn Rimes and all of these wonderful friends of mine, have been nothing but supportive," he insists. "Not that they knew, but they have been such wonderful people.”

“So I thank you for your support," he concluded, noting, "I know some people won’t agree with this. And that’s OK. To each his own. But I felt it was time for me to be honest and to be truthful. I love you all and from the bottom of my heart, I thank you.”

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