Articles by Ben Foster

Single Review: Jennifer Nettles, “Sugar”

July 24, 2015 // 18 Comments

“Sugar” Jennifer Nettles 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.

Daily Top Five: Cover Songs You Like Better Than the Original

June 25, 2015 // 23 Comments

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)

Daily Top Five: Kentucky Country

June 5, 2015 // 11 Comments

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. Read More

Single Review: Maddie & Tae, “Fly”

March 4, 2015 // 16 Comments

Maddie & Tae “Fly” 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.

Album Review: LeAnn Rimes, All-Time Greatest Hits

February 20, 2015 // 6 Comments

LeAnn Rimes 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.

Single Review: The Band Perry, “Gentle On My Mind”

February 18, 2015 // 5 Comments

“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.

CU10 Flashback: Single Review/Shameless Rant: Miranda Lambert, “The House That Built Me”

December 29, 2014 // 7 Comments

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 Read More

Single Review: Easton Corbin, “Baby Be My Love Song”

December 19, 2014 // 9 Comments

“Baby Be My Love Song” Easton Corbin 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?

In Memoriam: Dawn Sears, 1961-2014

December 12, 2014 // 6 Comments

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 Read More

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