No Picture

In Memoriam: Dan Seals

March 26, 2009 Kevin John Coyne 10

Successful country singer Dan Seals has passed away at the age of 61. Seals had a long run at the top of the country charts after a pop career as one half of England Dan and John Ford Coley. After the duo scored a huge hit with “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight,” Seals returned to his country roots.

Although he had a string of country hits, he is most remembered for his two award-winning chart-toppers. In 1986, he won two CMA awards: Single of the Year for “Bop”, and Vocal Duo of the Year for “Meet Me in Montana”, his collaboration with Marie Osmond.

Seals is survived by his wife and his four children. Share your memories and tributes to his music in the commments.

No Picture

Alan Jackson, “Sissy’s Song”

March 25, 2009 Guest Contributor 23

Alan Jackson is blessed with a voice that exudes sincerity. It’s a rare gift in country music, but one that many of country’s greats have shared. Jackson utilizes this gift most effectively on songs like

No Picture

Carrie Underwood featuring Randy Travis, “I Told You So”

March 24, 2009 Kevin John Coyne 14

What a fascinating collaboration. Both Randy Travis and Carrie Underwood have recorded distinctly different but equally compelling versions of “I Told You So.”

Travis was all tortured uncertainty in his version, like a nervous inner monologue made public. It was only on the chorus that he truly sang, as the verses were practically spoken.

Underwood chose to sand down those rough edges in her spin on the classic, expanding the hook into a power note and crafting a smooth melody out of the jagged verses.

Each original recording played to its artist’s strengths, but how can such disparate performances come together to make one cohesive record?

No Picture

Martina McBride, Shine

March 24, 2009 Kevin John Coyne 16

Like Waking Up Laughing before it, Shine promises a far more upbeat album than Martina McBride intends to deliver. It’s almost disappointing, as McBride can be a burst of positivity when she sets her mind to it, with deliciously upbeat treats like “Safe in the Arms of Love” and “Happy Girl” to her credit.

There are a few songs in that vein this time around. “Ride”, the infectious first single, open with a “Yeah!” that would make Shania Twain proud, and McBride belts the song with eager intensity. Equally charming is “Sunny Side Up”, which was co-written by McBride herself. It’s the closest thing to “Walking on Sunshine” that we’re ever likely to hear in country music.

The best of the upbeat material comes late in the album. “You’re Not Leaving Me” is McBride’s most convincing rocker to date, all fiery conviction and stubborn will. You can almost hear her furrowing her brow and putting her foot down, stopping her weak-kneed partner in his tracks.

But a few of the other uptempo attempts falter because they don’t strike the right tone. The jangly “Don’t Cost a Dime” is almost Beatlesque, but the banality of the lyrics make it an unconvincing attempt at boosting the morale of those dealing with hard times.

The lyrics are stronger on album opener “Wrong Baby Wrong Baby Wrong”, but the song never gets off the ground. With a faster tempo and a more energetic production, it would have been far more effective.

No Picture

Say What? – Little Big Town

March 24, 2009 Guest Contributor 23

In a review of the recent Little Big Town concert in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Star-Tribune reporter Jon Bream commented on the group’s lack of a lead singer. He noted that although the group has the potential

No Picture

The Return of Recommend a Track

March 23, 2009 Kevin John Coyne 20

It’s been a good long while since I’ve shamelessly plugged a favorite song, and far too long since all of you have made me break the bank to purchase your recommendations. We’ve taken some heat

No Picture

Toby Keith, “Lost You Anyway”

March 23, 2009 Dan Milliken 8

Toby Keith is such an ace ballad singer that he can make a totally lame ballad still sound kind of cool. That’s pretty much the story with “Lost You Anyway.”

The song attempts to flesh out a relationship which has presumably been doomed from the beginning, but reveals frustratingly little about why that is, content to linger in one-dimensional self-pity instead. The chorus is especially annoying, as the strong melody gets neutered by a barrage of lazy, vague lyrics (“could’ve tried just a little bit harder…dug down just a little bit deeper.” Are we talking about the relationship or the songwriting?)

But the vocal performance is strong as ever, and the production does the country-arena rock hybrid thing better than most of its ilk, with a repeated electric guitar fill that manages to not sound obnoxious. I doubt anyone is going to remember this five years from now, but as skip-it radio filler goes, it’s palatable.

No Picture

William Ward joins Country Universe

March 22, 2009 Kevin John Coyne 9

I am proud to announce a new staff member at Country Universe!

William Ward has been a regular contributor to discussions on this site since his wife and CU editor Leeann Ward became a lead writer in early 2008. He is joining Country Universe in a special capacity. As Online Marketing and Publicity Director, he will be primarily responsible for promoting and publicizing Country Universe through various online outlets, including social networking sites.

Please join me in welcoming William Ward to Country Universe. Here is his bio:

William Ward is an Orientation and Mobility Specialist for the Maine Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired. He has earned a Bachelor’s of Arts in English and a Bachelor’s of Liberal Studies in Cultural Studies from the University of Maine, Presque Isle; he also completed a Master’s of Arts in Orientation and Mobility from Western Michigan University. William became Online Marketing and Publicity Director at Country Universe in March 2009.

No Picture

Brad Paisley, “Then”

March 22, 2009 Leeann Ward 24

With a few notable exceptions Brad Paisley’s catalog consists of jocularity and love. He covers both categories rather well, but he also runs the risk of sounding stale after trotting out the same themes time

No Picture

Jo Dee Messina, “Shine”

March 22, 2009 Kevin John Coyne 3

Jo Dee Messina’s singles generally into two categories: empowering anthems and sardonic kiss-off numbers. Her best singles, like “Bye Bye” and “Downtime”, are a little bit of both.

Given the title, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out which type of song “Shine” is. She’s had enough of looking at the glass half empty and is now determined to live her life to the fullest, taking every moment that she can to shine.

It’s decent enough, but the problem with releasing so many songs in the same vein is that the new releases are invariably stacked up against the old ones. In this case, the comparison does “Shine” few favors.

It doesn’t feature the energetic spark normally associated with Messina’s spurts of positivity, and she sounds more resigned to her life rather than reinvigorated by it. It doesn’t help that the production has such little luster, a strange choice to make for a song that is trumpeting the sunny side of life.

1 2 3 4 6