Written by Brandy Clark, Jessie Jo Dillon, and Jennifer Nettles
A remarkable performance elevates an unremarkable song.
If “Sugar” given a perfunctory performance by a lesser vocalist, I might not enjoy it at all. It’s a bit fluffy, especially for a Brandy Clark co-write. The chorus is a tad repetitive, and I’m tempted to poke a stick at its use of the “sugar and spice and everything nice” cliché.
Some cover songs pale in comparison to previous incarnations. Other attempts may come across as competent but disposable. But every now and then, a cover song comes along that just might rival or even replace the original in my listening rotation.
What are your top five cover songs that you like better than the original?
Here’s my list:
1. Dixie Chicks, “Landslide” (Fleetwood Mac)
2. Linda Ronstadt, “Blue Bayou” (Roy Orbison)
3. Alison Krauss & Union Station, “When You Say Nothing At All” (Keith Whitley)
4. Jo Dee Messina, “Lesson in Leavin'” (Dottie West)
5. Pam Tillis, “When You Walk in the Room” (Jackie DeShannon)
This week in 1792, Kentucky became the fifteenth state to join the union. It’s also the state that two Country Universe writers – Jonathan Keefe and myself – call home.
Kentucky is well known as the home of bluegrass music, but our state’s rich musical heritage spans multiple genres. A wide variety of music legends hail from the bluegrass state, while its unique natural beauty and varied culture has served as inspiration for many a songwriter.
Jonathan and I have put our heads together for a Country Universe Top Five that covers two topics in one. I’ve chosen my top five favorite artists from Kentucky, while he has chosen his top five favorite songs about Kentucky. Since there are plenty of eligible inclusions for both topics, this leaves plenty of room for reader discussion, so be sure to share your own choices in the comments.
Ben’s Top Five Artists from Kentucky:
1. Patty Loveless
2. Loretta Lynn
3. Wynonna/ The Judds
4. Dwight Yoakam
5. Crystal Gayle
Jonathan’s Top Five Songs About Kentucky:
1. Patty Loveless, “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive”
2. John Prine, “Paradise”
3. Bill Monroe, “Blue Moon of Kentucky”
4. Neko Case, “Bowling Green”
5. Dierks Bentley, “Bourbon in Kentucky”
Maddie & Tae
Written by Taylor Dye, Maddie Marlow and Aaron Scherz
Maddie & Tae made a big, bold, attention grabbing statement with their breakthrough hit “Girl in a Country Song”, which rocked and twanged all the way to number one while laying bare the problems with country music’s treatment of women under the bro-country regime. Wisely, the two women show an entirely different creative side with their second single, showing that they are not one-trick ponies.
All-Time Greatest Hits
In the eleven years since the release of LeAnn Rimes’ first Greatest Hits package, she’s certainly released enough material to fill out a second installment. But the song selections of her new All-Time Greatest Hits clearly position it as a replacement rather than a continuation, with 13 of its 20 tracks having already appeared on her original 2003 retrospective.
“God Made Girls”
Written by RaeLynn, Nicolle Galyon, Liz Rose and Lori McKenna
In hearing this song, my mind is constantly asking one simple question: What were they thinking?
“Gentle On My Mind
The Band Perry
Written by John Hartford
The Band Perry’s Grammy-winning cover of Glen Campbell’s classic “Gentle On My Mind” (the trio’s contribution to the soundtrack of the recent I’ll Be Me documentary on Campbell) is an absolute delight. It feels fresh and energetic, but you don’t get the sense that they’re going to needless lengths to modernize or reinvent it.
I discovered Country Universe in the spring of 2010 and quickly became a regular reader. At the time, Dan’s review of Miranda Lambert’s much-lauded release “The House That Built Me” was a recent post.
Besides making me wish that my own ‘shameless rants’ could come out sounding half as smart and classy as Dan’s, the article raises a series of points that remain valid nearly half a decade later. “The House That Built Me” is a great record, but should it really have stood out so dramatically as such? Dan discussed the single in a way that turned the mirror back on us. Have we developed a tendency to praise or over-praise music, not on its own merits, but in comparison to the weaker material surrounding it?
Perhaps it was my recent participation in Country Universe’s Best of 1994 feature which moved me to revisit this article and topic. I think about the great difficulty I had in narrowing down my personal list of favorite singles from that incredible year, and then I look at the singles I’ve reviewed favorably in the recent past. How many of those singles would have had a prayer of making that list if they had been released in 1994? At a time when great music is becoming harder and harder to find, Dan’s review remains a potent reminder of the need to maintain a wider perspective in evaluating the music of today. – Ben Foster
Single Review/Shameless Rant: Miranda Lambert, “The House That Built Me”
by Dan Milliken
April 1, 2010
Let’s be real: to most core readers of this blog, it’s probably old news that Miranda Lambert is releasing this unusually good song to radio. And it’s probably old opinion for me to proclaim that she’s playing a more sophisticated game than just about any mainstream artist out there. You know: “she’s real, everyone else is a phony!” Is there some amount of truth in that? Sure. But you don’t need another country music Caulfield to tell you. You just have to listen to the song. The difference between this record and most of the others at radio can be felt within seconds.
“Baby Be My Love Song”
Written by Jim Collins and Brett James
Easton Corbin was a refreshing arrival at country radio when he first hit airwaves a half-decade ago, toeing the line between what was commercially viable and what was interesting with hits that brought some added warmth and personality to familiar radio tropes. He kicked off his career with an “I’m so country” song and a summer song that were both listenable and likable, even utilizing enough audible fiddle and steel for him to be tagged as a “traditionalist.” Since then he’s scored a string of radio hits with material that has been enjoyable, but not especially challenging or compelling. Is the best yet to come?
We at Country Universe are very saddened to hear that Dawn Sears passed away yesterday at age 53 after a battle with lung cancer. She is survived by her husband Kenny Sears and their daughter Tess.
Born in East Grand Forks, Missouri in 1961, Sears began her country music career as a solo recording artist on Warner Bros. Records in the early nineties. Her debut album went sadly ignored by the country music mainstream, and she at first decided to leave the industry as a result. That changed when she got a call from Vince Gill inviting her to join his road band as a harmony vocalist, which led to her appearing on several of his albums as well. She is perhaps best known for her work as a vocalist for traditional country and Western swing ensemble The Time Jumpers, her husband Kenny also being a member, with whom she recorded two albums and received two Grammy nominations.
We offer our sincere condolences to Sears’ family, friends and bandmates. She will be deeply missed.