By Brian Mansfield, Special for USA TODAY
American Idol's bespectacled third-place finisher, Danny Gokey, has cut a record deal with 19 Recordings/RCA Nashville, marking the first time in the show's history that Idol's recording arm has signed the entire final four.
Contracts for winner Kris Allen, runner-up Adam Lambert and fourth-place finisher Allison Iraheta were announced in June.
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"We absolutely love Danny," says Sony Music Nashville chairman Joe Galante, who praises the "soulful edge" in the 29-year-old singer's gravelly voice. "We haven't had anybody like that (in country) since Ronnie Milsap or T. Graham Brown."
Though no producer is attached to Gokey's album yet, he'll go into a Nashville studio shortly after the Idols Live tour ends Sept. 15. Galante expects a single in late fall and an album to follow, most likely in March.
When Gokey was on Idol, "I was so wet behind the ears, I didn't know where I wanted to go," the singer says. "But I most related to the message and the music of country."
Gokey sang three country tunes during his Idol run and is performing Rascal Flatts' What Hurts the Most and My Wish on tour. He counts Wynonna Judd, Alan Jackson and Brooks & Dunn among his favorite country acts.
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Idol's track record as a reliable generator of mainstream hits has become more appealing as album sales continue to slide. Eleven Idol alumni now have singles in the top 40 at some radio format, and three —Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Chris Daughtry— are among the few acts that have sold more than half a million albums this year.
Any of Season 8's final four could have won, and they all deserve their deals, says music consultant Tom Vickers, a former A&R executive. "Each had the chops, the personality," he says. "Each was distinctly different."
Last week, Allen announced via Twitter that his album would arrive Nov. 17. As he did on the show, Allen could combine blue-eyed soul and singer/songwriter pop on his album, since he's been working with The Fray's Joe King, Mat Kearney and R&B writers Claude Kelly and Salaam Remi.
Release dates for Lambert's and Iraheta's albums are planned for November but have not yet been set. Lambert has promised a mix of glam-rock and dance music in his collaborations with RedOne, Max Martin, Linda Perry and Greg Wells, and the teenage Iraheta aims for an energetic rock sound and writing with Kevin Rudolf and David Hodges.http://www.usatoday.com/life/music/news/2009-09-01-idol-albums_N.htm