Author Archives: Kevin John Coyne

2015 Grammy Awards: Open Thread

57th Grammy AwardsTelecast Winners:

Best Country Album: Miranda Lambert, Platinum

Album of the Year: Beck, Morning Phase

Best New Artist: Sam Smith

Record of the Year:  Sam Smith, “Stay With Me (Darkside Version)”

Song of the Year: “Stay With Me” – James Napier, William Phillips & Sam Smith

Pre-Telecast Winners:

Best Country Solo Performance: Carrie Underwood, “Something in the Water”

Best Country Duo/Group Performance: The Band Perry, “Gentle on My Mind”

Best Country Song: “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” – Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond

Best American Roots Performance: Rosanne Cash, “A Feather’s Not a Bird”

Best American Roots Song: “A Feather’s Not a Bird” – Rosanne Cash and John Leventhal

Best Americana Album: Rosanne Cash, The River & the Thread

Best Folk Album: Old Crow Medicine Show, Remedy

Best Bluegrass Album:  The Earls of Leicester, The Earls of of Leicester

Best Contemporary Instrumental Album: Chris Thile & Edgar Meyer, Bass & Mandolin

Best Historical Album: Hank Williams, The Garden Spot Programs, 1950

 

 

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2015 Grammy Awards: Predictions & Personal Picks

57th Grammy AwardsThis year’s Grammy Awards air on Sunday, February 8, and country music will be represented with performances Eric Church, Miranda Lambert, and the tantalizing pairing of Brandy Clark and Dwight Yoakam.   Most of the awards will be handed out before the show, and we will post the relevant winners here, as part of a Grammy Open Thread where CU readers and writers can share their thoughts on this year’s awards.

Four CU writers, including myself, have shared our predictions and personal picks for the general and country-related categories below.  Of course, one of the coolest things about the Grammys is that it celebrates a wide range of music from the past year, and as you’ll see by our varying levels of participation, our tastes here at CU run the gamut.

This year, I’m as excited about the performances by Madonna, Kanye West (twice!), and that Hozier and Annie Lennox duet as I am about any of the country performers, and I’ll be rooting for West and Childish Gambino to sweep the Rap and Hip-Hop categories.

Who do you think will be the big winners on Sunday night, and who are you hoping will win and looking forward to seeing perform?  As always, share your thoughts in the comments!

Meghan Trainor All About That BassRecord of the Year

Will Win:

  • Iggy Azalea featuring Charli XCX, “Fancy”
  • Sia, “Chandelier”
  • Sam Smith, “Stay With Me” (Darkchild Version) - Kevin, Leeann, Jonathan, Ben
  • Taylor Swift, “Shake it Off”
  • Meghan Trainor, “All About That Bass”

Should Win:

  • Iggy Azalea featuring Charli XCX, “Fancy”
  • Sia, “Chandelier” – Jonathan
  • Sam Smith, “Stay With Me” (Darkchild Version)
  • Taylor Swift, “Shake it Off”
  • Meghan Trainor, “All About That Bass” – Kevin, Leeann

Kevin: In a decent year for pop music, any one of these records could credibly represent the year.  I think Sam Smith is Grammy catnip, so I expect him to win big.  I think “All About That Bass” was the most creative and interesting record of the five.

Leeann: I’m a fan of the Sam Smith song, but I agree with Kevin that “All About That Bass” is the most creative and interesting, not to mention the catchiest.

Jonathan: I actually thought it was a weak year for mainstream pop, as reflected by this fairly poor slate of nominees. Smith is right in that Adele / Norah Jones adult-pop wheelhouse that Grammy voters love, so he’s the most likely winner.  Sia’s “Chandelier” is the most progressive take on pop music among the five, though, if “Shake it Off” were to win anything, this would probably be the least egregious place to recognize Swift’s hit. I would have gladly rooted for the mash-up between Iggy Azalea’s and Reba’s respective takes on “Fancy.”

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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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