By Vernell Hackett
NASHVILLE (Reuters) - A judge on Wednesday ruled that country singer Tim McGraw can now sign with a new record label or record for his own company, releasing him from his longtime distributor Curb Records following a court battle.
Davidson County Chancery Court Chancellor Russell Perkins ruled in favor of McGraw in a legal tussle over the unreleased album "Emotional Traffic" that the singer completed but which the record label believed was not ready for release.
The Grammy winning singer, whose hits include "Live Like You Were Dying," "Southern Voices" and "Something Like That," signed with Curb Records in the early 1990s and has never recorded for another label.
The label filed a breach of contract suit in Davidson County, Tennessee in May, claiming McGraw violated his contract by turning in the new album too soon after his previous greatest hits album was released. The record label claimed the material wasn't topical or new, and said few singles were good enough to air on radio.
Curb asked for another record, meaning McGraw would owe them an additional album beyond "Emotional Traffic."
McGraw countersued, asking for advance payment for the album, reimbursement of some recording expenses, unspecified damages and a jury trial. McGraw also asked that "Emotional Traffic" be declared his final album for Curb.
It was not clear whether the album would ever be released.
Wednesday's ruling means McGraw can now move forward with his recording career, and another hearing was set for July 2012 on the damages portion of the lawsuit.
Ironically, Curb released a new McGraw single on Wednesday from "Emotional Traffic" called "Better Than I Used To Be," saying it is the first new music from the singer in 11 months.
McGraw's prior single, "Felt Good On My Lips," was a three-week No. 1 hit, and originally turned in as part of the "Emotional Traffic" album. The song, however, was released as part of a "Number One Hits" package.
(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)