I am not one who typically embraces extremes, but I must make an exception for Johnny Cash’s recording of “Ring of Fire.” It’s the definitive version; it’s an untouchable. Sure, some people have made valiant attempts, even changing things up so as not to try to mimic Cash, but make it their own, and I even like some of these other versions. None of these other efforts, however, has surpassed or even come close to touching Cash.
A case study in musical identity crisis.
Here we have one of the most gifted vocalists in the history of country music, searching in vain for her voice. The trend has been going on for some time now, and if this isn’t its apex, we’re in for a long and bumpy ride. Not since her days with Mercury has McEntire ever tried so hard to fit in with the current sound on country radio, and much like those early records, this trend-chasing set is both overprocessed and underdeveloped.
I don’t think there’s ever been a song that I’ve wished remained an instrumental as much as this one, as the gorgeous instrumentation, especially the fiddle, is the very best example of what the title claims.
But alas, our reigning Entertainer of the Year insists on tackling the title with lyrics, and it doesn’t end well. It doesn’t even begin well, with the ridiculous notion that country music is where you need to go to hear that Jesus is the answer, as it’s not afraid of rubbing folks the wrong way by saying so in a song. Michael W. Smith and countless Winans have made a career out of doing so without ever recording a country song.
Growing up, Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday, and it’s still pretty high up there today. When I was younger, I loved it because it was the one day out of the year that the extended family was all in one place, gathered around what seemed like an endless table. Those days are long gone, so now I appreciate the concept as much as the actual day.
For one day a year, people actually take the time to reflect on what they’re thankful for and verbalize it. I wish we could make it a semi-annual event, maybe add another three or four day weekend. Who wouldn’t be grateful for that?
Following in the footsteps of Taylor Swift’s “Mine” and Tim McGraw’s “Felt Good On My Lips,” Kenny Chesney’s latest single sheds its country coat for, in his case, a mellow, strictly-rock groove. Though it’s a little edgier than usual, “Somewhere With You” finds Chesney doing what he’s built half his career doing: brooding. And it all looks and sounds a little “haven’t I heard this before?”…until the chorus hits.
For record labels, this means that most of the major albums have been released for the year. Therefore, for Country Universe, this means that we’re preparing to begin the daunting process of compiling our Best of the Year lists, which includes best singles and albums of the year.
“It turns out freedom ain’t nothing but missing you.” So sings Taylor Swift on her new release, “Back to December.” It’s always a good sign when there’s a line as memorable as that one, the kind that lingers around in your head more than the song itself.
There isn’t another turn of phrase in the same league, but the rest of the song is pleasing enough. As usual, Swift is singing to a guy, but unlike most of her musical conversations with old flames, she lays the blame squarely on herself. I appreciate the restrained vocal, though a more varied melody would’ve made the chorus quite a bit more distinctive.
Entertainer: Brad Paisley
Female Vocalist: Miranda Lambert
Male Vocalist: Blake Shelton
Vocal Duo: Sugarland
Album: Miranda Lambert, Revolution
Vocal Group: Lady Antebellum
New Artist: Zac Brown Band
Song: “The House That Built Me” – Tom Douglas & Allen Shamblin
Single: Lady Antebellum, “Need You Now”
Music Video: Miranda Lambert, “The House That Built Me”
Musical Event: Blake Shelton & Trace Adkins, “Hillbilly Bone”
Musician: Mac McAnally
Correct Prediction Tally:
10:59 Brad deserved it last year, got it this year. Carrie deserved it this year, will hopefully get it next year. When the history list is written though, nobody’s gonna care which year they won in, just that they were acknowledged. So a good end to an okay night. – KC
10:58 Very, very pleased! And what a sweet, sincere moment. – TS
10:57 You know, I’m kind of relieved. Granted, Brad gave possibly the worst performance of the night and is generally not someone I like much, but I just didn’t feel like having to listen to a bunch of whining tomorrow about Miranda or Lady A or someone winning. – DM
When the nominees were announced in August for the 44th annual CMA Awards, they sparked a firestorm of headlines —and thoughtful commentary by critics and fans alike— thanks to the CMA voters’ surprisingly bold moves. It’s all about change this year, as the voters revamped the ballot with a slew of fresh faces in almost all of the big categories.
How will it all play out? We’ll know for sure on Wednesday at 8pm Eastern, but before Gwenyth Paltrow throws on her cowboy boots, check out our staff picks and predictions and join the discussion in the comments below. And be sure to drop by Wednesday night for all of the CU live blog madness!