A Little Bit of Country Music Goes a Long Way for Nontraditional Artists

Country music has given birth to some of the nation's best songs, artists and has helped give birth to rock-'n'-roll. And while some skeptics may believe the genre is limited to distraught love songs about tears in beers, emotionally disturbed girlfriends or patriotic propaganda, country music has proved it is and can be so much more than these stereotypes.

It has given rise to some of the best crossover artists and new perspectives from traditionally noncountry musicians. With the help of artists like Ray Charles, Faith Hill and the hip-hop man of the moment Lil' Wayne, the field has gained new fans and shown just how powerful and widespread its reach can be.

Check out some of the unexpected musicians who've dabbled in country music.

Darius Rucker

Surely few people believed that the frontman of the mid-'90s Hootie and the Blowfish could have a successful country music career. Yet Rucker has surprised critics and fans with his success as a country music star.

The 42-year-old singer, who first shot to pop star fame with songs like "Hold My Hand," "Only Want to Be With You" and "Time," now has the No. 9 album on Billboard's Country Music chart.

"Learn to Live" has reignited Rucker's once-stalled career and produced a No. 1 single in the genre, "Don't Think I Don't Think About It."

It's a long title that may lengthen Rucker's Nashville career.



Julianne Hough

Best known as the supersweet, supercute coach on "Dancing With the Stars" who twice helped stars take home the mirror-ball trophy, Julianne Hough decided to show the world she could two-step to more than just a ballroom beat.

After only three weeks, her holiday album sits in the No. 25 spot on the Billboard Country Music chart and is marked as a pacesetter. The 20-year-old released her debut album earlier this year, and it debuted at No. 3.

Hough joined superstar Brad Paisley's 2008 Tour, which also featured Jewel and Chuck Wicks. Her country music prowess has translated into commercial power as she appeared in a Juicy Fruit ad campaign.

Jessica Simpson

Hoping to revive a sagging musical career and break out from the dumb-but-beautiful-blond persona that the reality show "Newlyweds" helped solidify, Jessica Simpson decided to see if country music could bolster her musical credibility.

Her 2008 country release "Do You Know" gave the crooner the first No. 1 album of her career. The singer is set to tour with Rascal Flatts.

This may make up for her December 2006 miscue during a tribute to Dolly Patron when Simpson forgot the lyrics at the Kennedy Center Awards.



Lil' Wayne

Hip-hop's current lyrical king may be a far stretch from traditional country music performers, but that didn't stop Lil' Wayne from dropping by the CMA Awards for a performance with Kid Rock.

The pair performed Rock's "All Summer Long" just as they did at the MTV Video Music Awards last summer. The New Orleans rapper didn't spit any rhymes during the performance, but the dreadlocked performer did rock out on a guitar, proving his skills go beyond setting the mic ablaze.



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