Author Archives: Leeann Ward

Single Review: Gary Allan, “Hangover Tonight”

Gary Allan Hangover Tonight

“Hangover Tonight”
Gary Allan

Written by Gary Allan, Cary Barlowe, Jesse Frasure, and Chris Stapleton

With its play on the word “hangover” and its playful production, Allan’s latest single has a happy and silly vibe with an infectious swampy groove. “Hangover Tonight” is carefree and treads the old topic of partying, but it still stands above and apart from the loud raucous party anthems of his mainstream peers.

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Single Review: Tim McGraw with Catherine Dunn, “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools”

Tim McGraw Catherine Dunn Diamond Rings and Old Barstools

“Diamond Rings and Old Barstools”
Tim McGraw with Catherine Dunn

Written by Barry Dean, Luke Laird, and Jonathan Singleton

Tim McGraw should be applauded for finally meeting the potential that many of us had hoped for after he left the oppressive Curb Records. His most recent album, particularly his last couple singles, have dialed back the loudness, embraced a more traditional and organic sound, reconnected him with the warm vocals with which he had all but lost, and the last two singles have even presented more thoughtful lyrics than he’d been singing in the last few years.

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Single Review: Trisha Yearwood, “I Remember You”

Trisha Yearwood I remember You

“I Remember You”
Trisha Yearwood

Written by Kelly Archer, Ben Carver, and Brad Rempel

After the anthemic “Prize Fighter”, Trisha Yearwood softens things with the emotional “I Remember You.” With just an acoustic guitar and simple strings, “I Remember You” is a gorgeous tribute to the memories of someone who has passed from this life to the next.
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Single Review: Ashley Monroe, “On to Something Good”

Ashley Monroe On to Something Good

“On to Something Good”
Ashley Monroe

Written by Barry Dean, Luke Laird and Ashley Monroe

Happily, Ashley Monroe has announced a new album that will, once again, be produced by Vince Gill with the help of Justin Niebank. The lead single from the album is “On to Something Good.” Sadly, the single only makes me very cautiously optimistic instead of very optimistic.
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Single Review: Josh Turner, “Lay Low”

Josh Turner Lay Low“Lay Low”

Josh Turner

Written by Ross Copperman, Tony Martin and Mark Nesler

Good for Josh Turner for sticking with his neo-traditional country sound, even though he’s in the oft talked about minority nowadays. I don’t listen to country radio anymore, but I imagine that some people will think that “Lay Low” sounds stale and boring amongst the bombastic and party anthem “escapism” of country radio playlists these days.

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Single Review: Garth Brooks, “People Loving People”

Garth Brooks People Loving People“People Loving People”

Garth Brooks

Written by Michael Busbee, Lee Thomas Miller & Chris Wallin

There is no nuanced way to say it. Garth Brooks’ long anticipated comeback single is really bad with a little bit of good to keep it from being really, really bad.

We’ll start with the good. The message and concept of the song is admirable and hits my personal sweet spot of songs that promote love, peace and goodness in the world. He posits that it’s simply people loving people that will make the world better. It’s a simplistic view of things, but a sweet one that I can get behind on a basic level. In fact, the lyrics are well constructed and not even too cloying to sell the sentiment, which is a difficult line to balance.

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Single Review: Jason Aldean, “Burnin’ It Down”

Jason-Aldean-Burnin-It-Down“Burnin’ it Down”

Jason Aldean

Written by Rodney Clawson, Tyler Hubbard, Brian Kelley,  and Chris Tompkins

Country music isn’t historically prudish. It covers the topical gambit of love, drinking, cheating, murder and, yes, even passion. Conway Twitty, Alabama, Charlie Rich, even Alan Jackson ,as well as many others,  haven’t shied away from memorably singing about sexual intimacy. But their songs maintained a respect for the intimacy, which Jason Aldean’s “Burnin” it Down” grossly fails to do. Instead, the song is high octane graphic with no sense of real intimacy and nothing left up to the imagination.

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Song Talk: Papa Don’t Preach!

It’s fun to think of our favorite endearing songs about dads. We’ve even done it here at Country Universe a time or two. But let’s face it, dad’s aren’t always right and they’re not always wise. Here are a few songs that show villainous fathers.

While I’m so fond of my dad that I almost feel guilty about writing this Song Talk installment, my guilt is eased by knowing that he would actually be amused by the topic. So, here we go! Feel free to add your selections in the comments.

Lefty Frizzell Saginaw Michigan

Lefty Frizzell, “Saginaw, Michigan”

I was listening to this song the other day and it’s what inspired this list. It’s the classic scenario of the dad thinking that his daughter’s suitor isn’t good enough for her, but the twist at the end takes a hilarious turn!

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Song Talk: Music that Moves Me

Sarah JaroszMy local Public Radio station has a wonderful series called Music that Moves Me, which was conceived and originally produced by the inimitable Suzanne Nance who has now (sadly for us, but happily for her) moved on to bigger things in a big Chicago market. For this series, people across Maine submitted touching or funny stories about how a particular song or specific music has moved them in their lives. As a result, this series inspired me to make a playlist of songs that move me whenever I hear them. The songs that move me the most are those that promote sensitivity and kindness in the world or in me.

Here are just a few of the songs that move me. What are some of yours and why?

Sarah Jarosz, “Ring Them Bells”

Jarosz beautifully interprets this Bob Dylan Chestnut with the help of Vince Gill. There’s just something in her voice that makes me feel that she’s emotionally connected to the song and it’s inclusive message, which, in turn, connects me to the song.

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Single Review: George Strait, “I Believe”

I-BelieveWriting a song about a current event that pulls at the heartstrings is a difficult thing to accomplish without seeming opportunistic, not to mention that the part of current fades away over time and can potentially make a song seem irrelevant as a result. It’s inevitable, however, that such songs will be written, since one of the most emotional ways to respond to a tragedy is to process feelings through music.

So, a country song about the horrific event that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut, last December, a mere 7 months ago, is tasked with the delicate undertaking of striking that sensitive balance of honoring rather than exploiting. Although it seems impossible to do, Alan Jackson did it with “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” for the worst national tragedy in my lifetime. And while this may not turn out to have the same broad recognition as that untouchable musical moment, George Strait’s tribute to those who lost their lives in Newtown successfully does the same.

“I Believe” quietly displays a strong faith that expresses the solace felt by believing in a higher power that can help heal the most broken of hearts. Supported by gentle production, Strait tenderly sings of the lost “26 angels” with palpable reverence and hope. Strait’s voice is as solid as ever, including strong and mournful falsetto notes, which perfectly emotes the sincerity and compassion that a song of this magnitude requires. There are no lyrical or note-bending histrionics by Gentleman George here – just a tribute from a humble man conveying a simple sentiment of real heartbreak, buoyed by faith and hope.

Written by Dean Dillon, Bubba Strait & George Strait

Grade: A

Listen: “I Believe”

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