Articles by Jonathan Keefe

Sunday Selections: November 22, 2015

November 22, 2015 // 8 Comments

Earlier this week, writer and friend-of-Country Universe C.M. Wilcox announced that he was shuttering his blog, Country California. The crew here have long been admirers of the sharp, insightful writing and wry humor that Country California brought to the country music blogosphere, and we all wish Chris the best in his new ventures.

Album Review: Allison Moorer, Down to Believing

October 4, 2015 // 2 Comments

Since making her debut with 1997’s Alabama Song, Allison Moorer has been one of country music’s most consistent albums artists. The singer-songwriter has three unqualified masterpieces to her credit— the flawless stone-country heartbreak cycle of The Hardest Part, the politically charged The Duel, and the somber, heady Southern Gothic of Crows. Despite having those triumphs— and other excellent albums like Alabama Song and Good Fortune— to her credit, Moorer’s latest effort, Down to Believing, is perhaps the finest album of her career because it finds Moorer challenging both her singing and her songwriting voices to plumb truly difficult emotional depths.

Starter Kit: Ryan Adams

September 29, 2015 // 12 Comments

The pop music world is still buzzing over last week’s release of 1989: Not Taylor Swift’s pop-cultural juggernaut, but alt-country singer-songwriter Ryan Adams’ cover album of 1989 “in the style of The Smiths.” A quick review of the iTunes comments on Adams’ version of 1989 reveals that a not insubstantial portion of Swift’s fanbase hasn’t gotten a handle on his angle or his appeal, while the mainstream music press is agog over Adams’ guile and audacity.

2015 CMA Nominations

September 9, 2015 // 21 Comments

Throughout 2015, there have been rumblings of a backlash against the prevailing trends at country radio, and that backlash is certainly reflected in the year’s crop of CMA nominees.

Album Review: Jason Isbell, Something More Than Free

August 17, 2015 // 7 Comments

In an ideal world, Jason Isbell would somehow be able to switch the titles of his two most recent albums. While his previous effort, Southeastern, chronicled his struggle toward sobriety and found liberation in the powers of redemption and self-worth, Isbell’s latest, Something More Than Free digs deep into the foundations of the contemporary South. In terms of tone and theme for each of these exceptional records, the titles would be more fitting were they swapped, and it’s simply remarkable that slight misnomers are as close as Isbell comes on either album to striking a false note.

Single Review: Kacey Musgraves, “Dime Store Cowgirl”

August 10, 2015 // 10 Comments

“Dime Store Cowgirl” Kacey Musgraves Written by Luke Laird, Shane McAnally, and Kacey Musgraves Despite a slew of industry awards and sales figures that dwarf those of male artists who receive ten times the airplay, Kacey Musgraves has yet to connect with country radio. Plenty of thinkpieces have been logged about #SaladGate, Musgraves’ social mores, and the disconnections between critical favor, sales, and radio’s callout research, but there are increasing murmurs that it is Musgraves’ refusal to play politics with the powers-that-be at radio that has kept all but one of her singles (“Merry Go Round,” her debut single and lone top 10 hit) from missing the top 20. This is hardly a new phenomenon, and it is, unfortunately, indicative of contemporary gender politics both within and beyond country music that Musgraves might be penalized for not behaving in the ways that a woman is expected to behave. That context Read More

Daily Top Five: Twitter Country

June 1, 2015 // 4 Comments

We’ve been beefing up our activity on Twitter of late– for those of you not following us yet, you’ll never in a million years believe that our name is @CountryUniverse— and have been enjoying the opportunity to engage with our readers– and, on occasion, with the artists we’ve written about– using that platform. So, for this Daily Top Five, we’ve listed some of our most essential, “Must Follow” Twitter accounts! Country Music News, Culture, & Humor: 1). Windmills Country (@WindmillsMusic) You want opinions that are driven by real data and thoughtful, incisive analysis? No one does it better. 2). Grady Smith (@gradywsmith) The in-house country music columnist for The Guardian has truly stepped up in a post-Chris Neal, post-Chet Flippo world. 3). Americana Music Association (@AmericanaFest) Essential coverage of the artists we love who reside on the fringes of the country universe. 4). Jessica Northey (@JessicaNorthey) No one works harder Read More

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