Yep, that's right, pardner … Lionel Richie's a country singer now, dueting with Blake Shelton, Rascal Flatts, Kenny Chesney
Grammy winner and bestselling R&B/pop crooner Lionel Richie is returning to the music scene, but it's a slightly different scene this time.
Richie sold 20,000 copies of his new country duets CD, "Tuskegee," in just one hour on the Home Shopping Network on Friday,
The CD is new, but the tunes are not. Rather, "Tuskegee," named for Richie's Alabama hometown, is a greatest hits collection with a twist: Richie's doing countrified covers of his own hit songs, paired with country stars.
He sings with Blake Shelton on "You Are," for example, Kenny Chesney on "My Love," Rascal Flatts on "Dancing on the Ceiling," Willie Nelson on "Easy," Kenny Rogers on "Lady" (a song Rogers previously covered for a solo hit), Tim McGraw on "Sail On," Shania Twain on "Endless Love" and fellow country crossover artist Darius Rucker on "Stuck on You."
Richie, who'll also be a judge on ABC's upcoming singing competition series "Duets," tells Rolling Stone he's been drawn to country music for some time. "Conway Twitty wanted me to come years ago and 'be country,'" Richie said, "but I was too busy being a Commodore. Then Kenny Rogers wanted me to go country, but I was too busy being the 'pop' Lionel Richie.
"Then all of a sudden we went into an area where it was, 'Can Lionel Richie rap?' No! Trust me. I can do it, but you don't want to hear me. Flava Flav said, 'Don't try it! If you want somebody to rap, you call me. I'll rap. You just sing!"
Richie will also perform a CBS concert with several of his new country cohorts in April. "ACM Presents: Lionel Richie and Friends — In Concert" will be taped in Las Vegas on April 2 and broadcast on CBS on April 13, with performances by McGraw, The Band Perry, Rogers, Rascal Flatts, Chesney, Lady Antebellum, Martina McBride and Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles.
"Tuskegee" will be released by Universal Music Nashville on March 26.