Chicks, Jackson, Gill & Cash Dominate Scene Poll

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January 27, 2007

The results of the 7th Annual Country Music Critics’ Poll have been released by Nashville Scene, and just like they did on the Country Universe Top Singles and Top Albums lists for 2006, the Dixie Chicks rule the roost.

In a poll of over 80 country music critics across the continent – the most comprehensive survey of its kind – the Chicks were voted Best Overall Act and Best Group or Duo, Taking the Long Way was voted Best Album and “Not Ready to Make Nice” was voted the top single of 2006. The Chicks came in #2 on the list of Best Live Acts, Natalie Maines finished fourth among Female Vocalists, and Emily Robison ranked #10 among Best Instrumentalists.

Alan Jackson was another big winner, finishing as the #2 Overall Act. He was voted Best Male Vocalist, “Like Red On a Rose” was ranked #2 among Singles, and he placed twice on the Best Albums list: Like Red on a Rose (#4) and Precious Memories (#15).

Vince Gill finished third overall. He was voted Best Songwriter, and finished #2 among Male Vocalists, Instrumentalists, and Albums for These Days. He was also ranked #6 among Live Acts.

Rosanne Cash was the #4 overall artist. She was named Best Female Vocalist, the #2 Songwriter and the #10 Live Act. Her album Black Cadillac finished #3 and it apparently had a single, as “House on the Lake” was ranked #6 on that list.

Other list toppers were Kenny Chesney (Best Live Act), The Wreckers (Best New Act) and Jerry Douglas (Best Instrumentalist.)

You can read the entire list here, along with an analysis by Geoffrey Himes. Here’s a sample of the latter:

This year’s poll is dominated not by alternative-country outsiders who have never even sniffed the country charts, nor by Music Row insiders who control the charts today. Instead the poll belongs to insiders-turned-outsiders—the Dixie Chicks, Vince Gill, Rosanne Cash, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash—five acts who once ruled the charts but who haven’t had a Top 20 country single between them since 2002. The voters preferred those artists who demonstrated an ability to connect with a broad country audience but who are also determined to challenge that audience rather than pander to it.

Three generations of country music are represented here. Johnny Cash and his three bandmates in the Highwaymen—Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson, who all did well in the poll—flourished in the ’70s. Cash’s daughter Rosanne and her studio collaborators such as Gill, Rodney Crowell, Guy Clark and Emmylou Harris prospered in the ’80s, as the Chicks did in the ’90s. Running through country-music history is a current of such musicians—they have No. 1 hits, push the limits of the genre, feud with the industry, get exiled from country radio and create some of their best art afterward. In other words, the Dixie Chicks aren’t an isolated incident—they’re heirs to a tradition.

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  1. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar says:

    Interesting, and the miscellaneous critics mde some very eclectic selections. I don’t think this poll is as mainstream country as you (and the NASHVILLE SCENE) represent, however. The article from NASHVILLE SCENE references “big-city newspapers and glossy mags, from alternative newsweeklies and self-published fanzines”.

    The Nashville Scene, itself an alternative newspaper (although not on the lunatic fringe like many alt-papers) , printed its list of critics and the publications for which they write. Some of them are mainstream but a good many are out on the fringes, both musically and politically (that area of the political spectrum that even my liberal friends refer to as “the lunatic left”). Some of these publications pay little attention to country music other than to smile on the Dixie Chicks occasionally.

    I suspect that a critic by critic breakdown would reveal some interesting information that has been lost by the aggregating of the data

  2. KevinNo Gravatar says:

    I don’t think the poll, nor myself, try to present it as “mainstream.” The word I used was comprehensive, meaning it surveyed more than 80 critics that specialize in country music. The Scene is very clear that its a widespread survey as well. From their own description:

    “For the Scene’s annual country music poll, over 80 critics from all over North America, from big-city newspapers and glossy mags, from alternative newsweeklies and self-published fanzines, voted on the best country acts and records of 2006.”

    I thought I was pretty clear on that in the post, and the Scene was as well. Your claim that I or the Scene tried to say this was a mainstream list is demonstrably false.

  3. KevinNo Gravatar says:

    Liberal Country Fan is on hiatus, so I’m happy to post it here. My original vision for this site was a mixture of politics and country music, though I’ve moved away from that since then. Perhaps I’ll start including politics again while LCF is taking a rest.

    I don’t think Keep Country Conservative is still active. Shame, since it was an interesting idea. If the blogger there kept it current and allowed comments, it would fill a niche that is currently vacant in country music blogging.

  4. Matt C.No Gravatar says:

    I read the Liberal Country Fan blog when active and think that it provides an important outlet for an underrepresented group and needs to continue. However, count me among those that will be disappointed if political content becomes part of Country Universe. LCF or no LCF, I’d rather not see posts like “FUTK” regularly on this site.

    Regarding the Nashville Scene poll, given that the critics considered both Roseanne Cash’s “Black Cadillac” and Bob Dylan’s “Modern Times” to be country albums, I’m a bit suprised that “Taking the Long Way” grabbed the top album spot. “Not Ready to Make Nice” was a brilliant song and deservedly was named best single, but I consider “Taking the Long Way” to be a very good, but not great, album. It would’ve been interesting to see “Taking the Long Way” released in a year with a stronger field, like 2005. Competition like that would’ve provided a better measure of how “mainstream” the Scene’s critics are.

  5. Matt C.No Gravatar says:

    The scene published some comments from the critics at http://www.nashvillescene.com/Stories/Cover_Story/2007/01/25/Comments_From_the_Critics/index.shtml
    and they’re revealing to say the least.

    Comments include praising the Chick’s album and their politics, ripping the album while admiring their politics, criticizing the “big Bush backers” of Clear Channel and questioning the patriotism of “King George”, complaining that Carrie Underwood’s breakthrough hit was not secular enough and calling Toby Keith a prick for recording an anti-abortion song. Given that the political climate of country music is decidely right of center, these do not sound like “mainstream” critics to me.

    That having been said, I don’t have a problem with most of their choices.

  6. KevinNo Gravatar says:

    I think the comments chosen to be published by the Scene show the left-leaning bent of the paper itself, but not the poll. They chose a few comments out of the many written for each album, and may be revealing their own biases in the process – though it’s hardly a shock to any reader that the Scene is left-leaning. I just don’t think it’s a fair assessment of the poll, especially considering Republicans topped the poll the previous two years (Lee Ann Womack in 2005, Loretta Lynn in 2004).

    I write for LCF so I don’t seperate it much in my mind from what I do at Country Universe, though the emphasis will always be different at CU than it is at LCF, even when posting about the same thing (compare my Grammy news features on each site and you’ll see what I mean.) I was talking about the Chicks/Keith thing way back when the blog started in 2004, and it is very much worth commenting on that Keith is suddenly saying he was against the war all along, when he was posting photoshopped pics of Hussein with Natalie Maines at his concerts back in 2003. I was going to write something long about it, then Atrios just nailed it and saved me a hell of a lot of work.

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