Country's power couple: Shelton and Lambert generating plenty of WE Fest buzz
Watch out, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. There's a new power couple in town.
That town would be Nashville, but this week it will also be Detroit Lakes, where country superstars and recent newlyweds Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton play WE Fest.
Think of them as Mirandake or Blanda or SheLambert or LamberTon.
Neither part of this new dynamic duo is headlining any of the three nights, and they are performing separately. But going into the annual music festival, no other act has more buzz behind it.
She's the rising country darling, a spunky spitfire with spirited songs like "Kerosene," "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" and "Gunpowder & Lead." He's the tall, dark heartthrob who parlayed his mix of sentimental tunes ("The Baby" and "Home") with standard honky-tonk ("Some Beach" and "Hillbilly Bone") into a starring role as a talent coach on NBC's "The Voice."
So what makes the stars align for these singers? Fans and country DJs say it's a mix of timing, talent, songs and a really good story.
Even before summer started, Lambert, 27, and Shelton, 35, were having a remarkable year.
Lambert's "House that Built Me" won her a Grammy for best female country vocalist and Academy of Country Music awards for female vocalist, single, song and video of the year.
For his part, Shelton won Country Music Association's male vocalist and vocal event of the year for his duet with Trace Adkins, "Hillbilly Bone."
In mid-May, the country couple tied the knot after five years of dating.
"Their wedding was called 'The Redneck Royal Wedding,' " says Amanda Lea, morning show host on Froggy 99.9 FM, the official radio presenter of WE Fest.
Lea's not sure if the newlyweds are really bigger than Hill and McGraw, "but definitely right behind them. Give them a few years, and they'll be at that status."
She adds that Lambert and Shelton have said, down the road after they have kids, they would like to do a joint tour like Hill and McGraw have done.
Lea's co-worker, Jeremiah Bullfrog, thinks Lambert and Shelton have already closed in on the country crowns.
"I think they're more relatable as a young couple than Tim and Faith are now, anyway," Bullfrog says. "The way that they met and the way that they got together is just a great story."
Lambert and Shelton met while performing for CMT's 100 Greatest Duets Concert in 2005 and started dating the next year, the same year he got divorced from his first wife.
"I grew tired of going out drinking until 7 a.m. and then waking up at noon and eating pizza," Shelton said earlier this year in US Weekly. "Now if I want to go drinking, I only want to sit at the house with Miranda watching 'Snapped' on TV at home. It's crazy because even if I'm just out on her bus while she's on the road or watching her do her shows, I'm 100 percent comfortable because she is there. She really is that rock for me and the center of all of this."
Requests to interview Shelton and Lambert (and other WE Fest artists) were denied by the artists' managers.
Miranda get your gun
"I would have to say Miranda is the powerhouse behind everything," Lea says. "She's brought them both to where they are right now. He always jokes that he's riding her coattails."
Shelton may joke about it, but he has nine No. 1 country hits compared to Lambert's two. When it comes to major awards, however, she has more statues.
Neither Lea nor her co-worker sees a competition in the stars' relationship and point out the country couple does a lot together.
"Together they're just so much fun. They're just as redneck as you can get, hunting and fishing and just hanging out shooting things," Bullfrog says. "They're fun, and they're everyday people, and I think people can connect with them.
"Miranda attracts male fans with her party girl, ass-kicking attitude, and I think a lot of guys pick up on that. She's a beer-drinking, hunting and fishing gal. Who wouldn't like that?"
Shelton has proven a worthy, shoot-from-the-hip match.
"He's a really funny guy," Bullfrog says. "If you follow him on Twitter, it's absolutely ridiculous the things he says."
But, like other stars, sometimes he goes a tweet too far.
Earlier this year, Shelton raised heck by tweeting: "Re-writing my fav Shania Twain song ... Any man that tries Touching my behind He's gonna be a beaten, bleedin', heaving kind of guy."
Some considered the missive homophobic and condoning of gay-bashing.
Shelton apologized and said that he was writing from Twain's female perspective.
"But when it comes to gay/lesbian rights or just feelings ... I love everybody. So go look for a real villain and leave me out of it!!!" he tweeted.
He also tweeted to Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamaition (GLAAD) and NBC's "The Voice," "hey I want my fans and @nbcthevoice fans to know that anti-gay and lesbian violence is unacceptable!!!!! Help me!!!! And (direct message) me ..."
Back in the saddle
The fracas subsided and never distracted the star from his high-profile wedding and his role on the surprise hit TV show, "The Voice."
Earlier this month, Shelton released his sixth CD, "Red River Blue." (The title references the Red River that runs through Oklahoma.) The disc features the singles "Honey Bee" and "God Gave Me You."
Lambert duets with her beau on the title track as she's done previously on "Bare Skin Rug" and "Draggin' the River" and the new title track.
Lambert's fourth disc, "Four the Record," comes out in November.
There's a good chance she'll take the stage when he plays Thursday night. She has nothing booked until her WE Fest appearance Saturday night. Shelton moves on from Detroit Lakes to play concerts the following days.
Lea says that when they perform together, Shelton will often take a step back to let his bride take center stage.
"I think that just kind of shows he likes to let her shine, and as a female, I just think that's very powerful," Lea says.
WE Fest kicks off its annual country music party this Thursday at Soo Pass Ranch, outside of Detroit Lakes, Minn. And while there's a little bit of rock 'n' roll on the bill - the southern rock act Lynyrd Skynyrd, there's enough country music to keep traditional and new-school country fans happy. Here's the festival's lineup of musicians.
2:45-3:45 p.m.: Troubadour
4:15-5:45 p.m.: Jerrod Niemann
6:15-7:45 p.m.: The Charlie Daniels Band
8:30-10 p.m.: Blake Shelton
10:45 p.m.-2:15 a.m.: Brad Paisley
12:15 a.m.: Lost Highway*
2:45-3:45 p.m.: Hitchville
4:15-5:15 p.m.: Sunny Sweeney
5:45-7:45 p.m.: Willie Nelson
8:30-10 p.m.: Lynyrd Skynyrd
10:45 p.m.-12:15 a.m.: Sugarland
12:15 a.m.: Hitchville*
2:45-3:45 p.m.: Rocket Club
4:15-5:45 p.m.: Easton Corbin
6:15-7:45 p.m.: Darius Rucker
8:30-10 p.m.: Miranda Lambert
10:45 p.m.-12:15 a.m.: Rascal Flatts
12:15 a.m.: Rocket Club*