When Sugarland toured here in March it played venues diverse as Snowy Mountains festival at Thredbo, Fremantle and the humble Northcote Social Club.

With its first two albums' sales nudging five million the Atlanta star duo road tested songs from just finished third disc.

But not the ditty that would have earned writers Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush a rousing reception.

Yes, Steve Earle - a wry celebration of the outlaw singer's seven marriages - was left at the altar.

It's not clear what the uber cool Earle thinks of the plea by Nettles to write her a song as his next singing spouse.

Maybe he would baulk at caveat - "a really small wedding, only about 300 people/ did I tell you I have kids, you're gonna love them/ they're gonna need to go to college."

Sugarland is at the opposite spectrum of country music to Earle with its country rock anthems pitched at mainstream radio and stadium-arena audiences the Texan long ago rejected.

"Jennifer is a fan, but I'm an absolutely stupid fan," Bush confessed,"I started to explain to her, 'I think he is on wife No. 6 or 7 now, even though wives one and four were the same woman.' Jennifer just said, 'Really? This dude is a country song.'"

As it turns out Steve has no opinion on the song.

"We sent it to him," Kristian explained, figuring "if the song pisses him off, let's not put it on the album. We are bigger fans than we are insistent songwriters.

"The response we got was that Steve doesn't read anything - reviews, anything at all - about himself, so why would he listen to a song that has been written about him? We thought, 'Genius! We love him even more.' But his manager explained to him what we were trying to do. We were told he laughed. That, in itself, is a triumph."

But, by using Atlanta - not Nashville as its launch pad and writing all songs - the duo joined latter day New Yorker Earle as a geographical outsider.

But that's where the similarities end.

Sugarland aims squarely at the youth market from hedonistic entrée All I Want To Do and quasi-rebellious It Happens where the character's borrowed Cadillac rear-ends a memory in a pick-up truck.

But the fate of the driver in the vehicular mayhem of Joey - penned with the legendary Bill Anderson - is left open ended, which could be a worse than being rear ended.


Nettles explored her Georgia clay rural roots in Genevieve, not so mythical (single) mama's advice in Already Gone and rising above menial toil of a motel cleaner in the anthemic Take Me As I Am.

Already Gone reached #5 on the Billboard charts at the start of December.

Bush says the song has a "round"-about connection to an old campfire tune.

"I love this song," he confided.

"It's a waltz. It's a classic country story of something that redefines itself each time.

When you say 'I'm already gone' what does that mean to you in your life? And I love how this song progresses as you go through it, and it's a round, which I think is even more interesting, you know, like 'Row, Row Your Boat' round."

The title of Already Gone has been used previously.

The Eagles had a pop hit in 1974 with the same name.

It's not the first time Sugarland has had a repeat title: Stay was the name of a 1978 single by Jackson Browne.

The Sugarland Stay has been nominated for two Grammy Awards and the duo scored another nomination for its collaboration with Little Big Town and Jake Owen on Life In A Northern Town.

Stay, a tale of infidelity written and sung by Nettles from the viewpoint of the other cheater in the triangle, won the 2008 CMA Awards song of the year.

The group started as a trio with Kristen Hall but is now the duo of Nettles and Bush and was also named CMA Vocal Duo of the Year.


Those tunes break the mould of generic love lava that flows from turbo tonking tunes We Run (new romance), Love, healing of Keep You and regret of What'd I Give.

Perhaps the album's finale Very Last Country Song is also its pinnacle - the narrator reaches into history to mine the motherlode of faded love that could have been perfect if it had boomeranged to its idealistic birth.

Yes, spicy soul food and icing on this country cake.

And, of course, selling enough copies internationally to ensure another Australian tour - maybe the summer of 2010.

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