Author Archives: Kevin John Coyne

2015 ACM Awards: Nominations & Analysis

The third most prestigious country music industry award nominations – but the most important ones handed out in the spring – have been announced.  Here’s a rundown of all the major categories, along with some back-of-the-envelope analysis:

Garth Brooks 3Entertainer

  • Jason Aldean
  • Garth Brooks
  • Luke Bryan
  • Florida Georgia Line
  • Miranda Lambert

Who’s In: Jason Aldean, Garth Brooks, Florida Georgia Line

Who’s Out: Blake Shelton, George Strait, Taylor Swift

Last year’s winner, George Strait, didn’t get a return invitation, but Garth Brooks, who has won this award six times before, returns to the competition.  Much like Strait’s farewell tour was a reminder of his extensive popularity, Garth’s ability to sell out several dates per city overshadows the lukewarm reception to his new material at radio and retail.   Taylor Swift’s exit is directly tied to her cutting ties with the genre. Jason Aldean’s return makes logical sense, but it’s quite the mystery to see Blake Shelton gone and Florida Georgia Line in.

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Album Review: Carrie Underwood, Greatest Hits: Decade #1

carrie underwood greatest hits decade 1

Carrie Underwood
Greatest Hits: Decade #1

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Hits compilations have become an odd thing in the digital age, as they give both hardcore and casual fans little reason to purchase. The new tracks can be downloaded if you’re interested. The hits that you would’ve wanted, you’ve probably downloaded anyway.

So kudos to Carrie Underwood for putting together a collection that’s worth purchasing in physical form, with beautiful artwork and liner notes, and for putting together a track listing that doesn’t cut corners in any way. Every single hit is included, and she’s had a ton of them so far, all consistently good and quite a few that have been great.

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Album Review: Jon Pardi, Write You a Song

Jon Pardi Write You a Song

Jon Pardi
Write You a Song

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A surprisingly entertaining debut effort, Jon Pardi’s relentless enthusiasm infuses even mediocre material with enough energy to make it listenable. Of course, that’s the advantage of a debut album. Even if the material isn’t fresh, the artist is.

So the real promise for Pardi’s future is his ability to write and record songs that are a cut above the average radio fare of the day. He does this on the best tracks of Write You a Song, most significantly on the title track, where a traveling musician leaves behind a one night stand in every town, but basically says, “Hey! When you hear that song of mine on the radio, I wrote it about you!”

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Album Review: David Nail, I’m a Fire

David Nail I'm a Fire

David Nail
I’m a Fire

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If he’s a fire, it’s one that doesn’t burn nearly enough. Three albums in, Nail continues to pair great potential with middling results. Despite having better pipes than most of his contemporaries and a knack for finding some genuinely interesting material each time out, his albums as a whole never quite take off.

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Kicking the Canon: Jonathan Keefe on Trisha Yearwood’s Hearts in Armor

Trisha Yearwood Hearts in ArmorCountry Universe writer and editor Jonathan Keefe has contributed to an awesome new project called Kicking the Canon.  Put together by In Review Online, Kicking the Canon attempts to expand on what has traditionally been considered the definitive music and films of eras gone by.

Keefe’s take on Trisha Yearwood’s landmark 1992 set, Hearts in Armor has gone live:

Her self-titled debut may have spawned four top-ten singles, but it was on Hearts in Armor that Trisha Yearwood properly announced herself as one of the finest country artists of her generation. Informed by the end of her first marriage, the album explores both the subtle and the dramatic ways that a relationship can dissolve, and it allows Yearwood to lay bare hard-earned truths that lesser vocalists might have left hidden.

And that’s just the beginning!  You can read the whole thing here.

The only other country album  featured so far is Iris Dement’s My Life,  but there are plenty more on the way. You can preview their 25 albums from each year (1960-1999) on their master list.

 

 

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Miranda Lambert, Sturgill Simpson Dominate Nashville Scene Critics Poll

Nashville Scene Country Music Critics' PollThe results are in:

Nashville Scene’s 15th Annual Country Music Critics Poll

Miranda Lambert and Sturgill Simpson dominated this year’s results, with Maddie & Tae topping the Singles list for their progressive and timely hit, “Girl in a Country Song.”

Be sure to check out the Critic’s Comments, which feature some choice quotes from our very own Sam Gazdziak!

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Album Review: Garth Brooks, Man Against Machine

Garth Brooks Man Against Machine

Garth Brooks
Man Against Machine

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Garth’s first proper studio album in thirteen years is chock full of all of his best and worst traits, but thankfully errs more often on the side of subtlety over excess.

He’s always been good at straddling the fence between heartfelt sincerity and saccharine sentimentality, and the strongest moments are the ones that explore parenthood. “Mom” is a maternal celebration that would make Boyz II Men teary-eyed, while “Send ‘Em on Down the Road” captures the terrifying truth that finishing the job of parenthood means letting go, no matter how much you want to hold on.

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In Memoriam: Little Jimmy Dickens (1920-2015)

Little Jimmy Dickens2015 is off to a sad start for country music as a whole, and the Grand Ole Opry in particular.

From the Tennessean:

Country Music Hall of Famer Jimmy Dickens, the Grand Ole Opry’s most beloved and diminutive ambassador, died Friday at a Nashville area hospital. He was 94.

Mr. Dickens starred for decades on the “Opry,” where he was a vital part of the scene both onstage and backstage. His dressing room was an essential stop for performers on the show, and it was there that he held court for a variety of artists, some of whom came to the Opry more than a half century after Mr. Dickens’ 1948 debut.

He remained a vital performer throughout his life, last playing the “Opry” on Dec. 20, a day after his 94th birthday and five days before he would be admitted to the hospital after suffering a stroke on Christmas Day. He died of cardiac arrest on Friday.

When the spotlight shone on him, Mr. Dickens would make fun of his size (“I’m Little Jimmy Dickens, or Willie Nelson after taxes”), his rhinestone-studded outfits (“There goes Mighty Mouse in his pajamas”) and his old-timer status (He would often introduce his “latest hit,” from 1965).

“The Grand Ole Opry did not have a better friend than Little Jimmy Dickens,” Opry vice president and general manager Pete Fisher said in a statement Friday. “He loved the audience and his Opry family, and all of us loved him back. He was a one-of-kind entertainer and a great soul whose spirit will live on for years to come.”

In the final decades of his career, Mr. Dickens’ kindness, affability and hospitality were his calling cards. Where others would say “goodnight,” Mr. Dickens would shake hands and offer, “We appreciate you.” But some of those who laughed with him and sang along to the songs he regularly performed on the “Opry” were unaware of what a potent, even groundbreaking performer he was in the 1950s.

Ever since the illness and death of Porter Wagoner,  Dickens had become the single most visible ambassador for, and the living legacy of, the Grand Ole Opry.   Yes, there were all those cameos and appearances with Brad Paisley, which were his primary introduction to more recent country fans.   But the Opry was his home and he was the star there, not the sidekick.

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The Best Albums of 2014

2014 was a banner year for country music albums.   In addition to the predictably solid entries from the Americana, folk, and bluegrass scenes, some excellent albums also surfaced from the unlikeliest of sources: mainstream, radio-friendly contemporary country artists!

Here are our twenty favorite albums from 2014.   Fingers crossed that 2015 is as good or better than this year has been.

Jennifer Nettles That Girl

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Jennifer Nettles
That Girl

KJC #8 | LW #16

A confident, intelligent solo project that washes away all of the bitter taste left by Sugarland’s preceding studio album, The Incredible Machine.  Nettles manages to remind us what was so appealing about the trio-turned-duo in the first place, while also staking out her own musical territory that has room for independence anthems alongside wry, humorous commentary on society and, of course, palpably vulnerable heartbreak numbers.  – Kevin John Coyne

Recommended Tracks: “Me Without You”, “Know You Wanna Know”, “Jealousy”

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The Best Singles of 2014, Part 2: #20-#1

The countdown concludes with our top twenty singles of 2014.   Check out the first twenty entries here, and look for our countdown of the year’s twenty best albums tomorrow.

Shovels & Rope Swimmin' Time

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“The Devil is All Around”
Shovels & Rope

LW #5 | JK #13

The soulful husband-wife duo that comprises Shovels and Rope delivers a no holes barred analysis of trials and temptations, which boils down to the idea that the devil is all around, which means that one must do what he can to push against such a devastating force. – Leeann Ward

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