Articles by Leeann Ward

The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 28

June 6, 2011

Today’s category is…

A Song From Your Favorite Songwriter.

Here are the staff picks:

Leeann Ward: “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” – Darrell Scott

A modern masterpiece.

Dan Milliken: “Restless” – Robert Lee Castleman  (performed by Alison Krauss & Union Station)

No one writes individualist cud-chew better than Castleman, and no one sings it better than Krauss. Each new pairing of theirs is a gift to all over-thinkers with secret over-feeling streaks, those who revel in connection but resent constraint, who ask only for honesty because that’s all they themselves can promise sometimes.

Tara Seetharam: “Cowboy Take Me Away” – Marcus Hummon and Martie Seidel (performed by Dixie Chicks)

I don’t really have a favorite songwriter, but I guess Marcus Hummon is the closest thing. I won’t even try to speak more poignantly about this song than Dan did back when we counted down the greatest singles of the 90s; he nails its transcendental sparkle that makes it more than just another love song.

Kevin Coyne: “Don’t Let it Trouble Your Mind” – Dolly Parton

Writing great songs for more than forty years.  What’s amazing  isn’t so much how great she still is, but how great she’s been all along, as this early track demonstrates.

The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 24

June 2, 2011

Today’s category is…

A Great Song You Just Discovered.

Here are the staff picks:

Leeann Ward: “The Last Bus” – Zoe Muth and the Lost High Rollers

One of my favorite moments is when I put my iPod on shuffle and discover a song that I’ve never heard before and fall in love with it. Such an occasion occurred a few weeks ago. I’ve had this Zoe Muth album for quite some time, but as often happens, I bought the album and hadn’t gotten around to listening to it yet.

The song has my favorite kind of gentle instrumentation and Muth’s performance exudes the kind of melancholy that is easy to get wrapped up in, which is a testament to a well interpreted and well crafted song.

P.S. The whole album is highly worth checking out.

Dan Milliken: “Lost Horizons” – Gin Blossoms

I knew them as the band behind two of my favorite 90’s singles, “Found Out About You” and “Follow You Down,” but I’d never listened through one of their albums until I happened upon a used copy of New Miserable Experience a few weeks ago. “Lost Horizons” is the opening track, and it’s a killer marriage of depressive angst and jaunty power-pop: “I’ll drink enough of anything to make this world look new again / I’m drunk, drunk, drunk in the gardens and the graves.”

Tara Seetharam: “One and Only” – Adele

Love this album, love this song. The lyrics are simple and its sentiment isn’t groundbreaking, but its vocal nuances and gorgeous throwback arrangement make it an instant favorite for me. I can’t get enough of the fierce tenacity in Adele’s performance and how sweetly it contrasts with the song’s soothing vibe.

Kevin Coyne: “Racing the Angels” – Matraca Berg

From her exquisite new album The Dreaming Fields, this is the highlight among highlights.  A real heartbreaker, Berg is mourning her husband’s death alongside the death of the woman that she used to be.  Enjoy it by the songwriter now, and by a nineties artist with great taste on some future album.  My money’s on Yearwood.

 

The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 20

May 29, 2011

Today’s category is…

A Song You Used to Hate But Now You Don’t.

Here are the staff picks:

Leeann Ward: “What Was I Thinkin’” – Dierks Bentley

When this song was making its chart run, I didn’t like it at all. Apparently, my ears were clogged then. About three years ago, I suddenly realized that I loved it. How couldn’t I love it, especially with Randy Kohrs’ riveting slide guitar action?

Dan Milliken: Bass Down Low” – DEV featuring the Cataracs

When I first heard this recent hit, I thought it was the filler-iest of Top 40 filler. It may still actually be. But like Napoleon Dynamite gained comic value from the quoting craze it inspired, “Bass Down Low” has gained guilty-pleasure value for me from the way the hook sneaks into my head at times when I’m standing around doing nothing. Repetition works wonders.

Tara Seetharam: “Umbrella” – Rihanna featuring Jay-Z

I found it completely inane the first two or three times I heard it…and then, just like that, I couldn’t get enough. I still love the song to this day; there’s something strangely majestic about it.

Kevin Coyne: “Sloop John B” – The Beach Boys

My dad played this song on the jukebox incessantly, driving me crazy every time I heard it. Now it’s a song that I treasure, understanding how him being in the navy helped make it more relevant to him. Plus it’s catchy as all get out.

The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 17

May 25, 2011

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.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Don-Williams-Lord-I-Hope-This-Day-is-Good-150×150.jpg” alt=”” width=”150″ height=”150″ />Today’s category is…

A Song That Describes You.

Here are the staff picks:

Leeann Ward: “Lord, I Hope This Day is Good” – Don Williams

There might be a song that technically describes me better than this one, but this is the song that perfectly describes how I feel each morning before I start my day. I don’t know why, but I relate to it on a guttural level.

Dan Milliken: “Get Me Through December” – Natalie MacMaster with Alison Krauss

Her heart has grown cold, her love stored away. But she hungers to feel that love again, and wanders the world in search of things to rekindle it, even as she knows that some types of peace can only come from within. Now she’s anticipating another season of dragging herself through the doldrums, her feelings ever unsettled; but she still holds onto some kind of faith, some hope for tomorrow. All she wants is a good reboot, another chance to set her course a little righter. “Just get me through December,” she pleads, “so I can start again.”

Tara Seetharam: “If You Ever Have Forever in Mind” – Vince Gill

As most of you know by now, I connect with music via melody and vocal performance more so than via lyric. Though I’ve yet to identify with the story of this song, the first time I heard it, I remember thinking it immediately felt like “home” – like I had found an extension of myself in the song. it just…fits me.

Kevin Coyne: “Rocking Horse” – Sara Evans

That’s how I live my life. I’m not wired to do it any other way.

 

 

The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 13

May 21, 2011

Today’s category is…

A Leaving Song.

Here are the staff picks:

Leeann Ward: “She’s Crazy For Leavin’” – Rodney Crowell

For me, this song plays out like a movie scene in one of those wacky romantic comedies. The guy is over-the-top trying to convince his girl not to go, saying that “she’s crazy for leaving”, while everyone else at the bus stop pretty much knows he’s the crazy one and tells him to just let her go. I especially love the hook, “You can’t stop a woman when she’s out of control.” Few can write tongue in cheek like Crowell and Guy Clark, I tell ya.

Dan Milliken: “She’ll Remember” – Dwight Yoakam

The zany first minute never gets old for me.

Tara Seetharam: “Let Him Fly” – Patty Griffin

To me, one of the most beautiful songs ever written. It so perfectly captures the equally peaceful and equally crushing “beauty of just letting go.”

Kevin Coyne: “Consider Me Gone” – Reba McEntire

Smart, adult, and even-tempered, this record claims the moral high ground while still managing to get in a subtle dig or two.

The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 9

May 17, 2011

Today’s category is…

A Song That Makes You Want to Dance.

Here are the staff picks:

Leeann Ward: “Cotton Eye Joe” – Rednex

Just as I don’t sing, I also don’t do much dancing. A song that makes me want to dance, however, should also double as my guilty pleasure choice. Chalk it up to association with childhood memories.

Dan Milliken: “Twistin’” – Bruce Robison

Robison is best known for piercing ballads like “Travelin’ Soldier” and “Angry All the Time,” but he can rock a lighthearted uptempo with the best of them, too. “Twistin’” will have you shaking around till you’ve ‘bout ripped your pants and broken your bones, just like the groovy tune’s narrator.

Tara Seetharam: “LoveStoned/I Think She Knows” – Justin Timberlake

My favorite off his kickass Future Sex/Love Sounds album. He literally commands you to dance in the middle of the song – and how can you not?

Kevin Coyne: “Runaround Sue” – Dion

I don’t dance. Sorry. But this is the song that makes my mom get up and dance, so that will have to do.

 

Single Review: Billy Currington, “Love Done Gone”

May 17, 2011

Rarely has a breakup song sounded quite as cheery as Billy Currington’s new single, “Love Done Gone.”

Rather than lamenting a relationship that has fizzled out for no apparent reason beyond things simply changing, all typical dramatics are discarded for acceptance and even celebration.

He compares their dissolved love to the vivid imagery of “snow flakes when the weather warms up”, “Leaves on the trees when autumn comes”, “dogwood blossoms in a late spring rain”, “disappearing bubbles in a glass of champagne”, and a “red kite lost in a blue sky wind.”

The most engaging aspect of the song, however, is the jubilant background vocals that simultaneously imitate the loose Dixieland-like horns. It could all be considered gimmicky, and perhaps it is, but it’s so delightfully executed that one can’t help but be entertained rather than bemused. This coupled with Currington’s signature smiling vocals makes for a fresh take on a sure fire summer hit.

Now, we can only hope that the other party involved in this relationship feels as nonchalant about its dissolution as Currington does.

Written by Shawn Camp & Marv Green

Grade: A-

Listen: Love Done Gone


Single Review: Randy Houser, “In God’s Time”

May 14, 2011

Self-sufficient-life.com 150.jpg” alt=”” width=”150″ height=”150″ />I think I can officially call myself a Randy Houser fan now. After feeling lukewarm to apathetic about his glossy debut album, I was much more enthusiastic about his more organic, but vibrant, sophomore project, They Call Me Cadillac.

Even though that album was only released in October, it produced no hits for Houser. As a result, the album seems to have been abandoned in order to release the inspirational “In God’s Time”, the lead single for an undetermined third album.

The song conveys that the timing of the trajectory of our lives is not always in our control, but instead, the orchestration of God’s timing. The theme of the song is what one might automatically assume it to be by its straightforward title. In fact, its overt nature could easily cross the line to heavy handedness, as so many songs of its ilk tend to do.

Fortunately though, Houser interprets this song with a humble conviction that can only be reliably conveyed by a person who must viscerally know the message to be true.

To accompany Houser’s impassioned, yet graceful performance, the instrumentation for this track is wonderfully restrained. It begins with gentle acoustic guitar strums and manages to subtly build without the obvious swells of an annoying orchestra, but rather, a sweet steel guitar solo instead.

There are similarities to Brooks & Dunn’s “Believe”, but I don’t mind going out on a limb to suggest that, despite Houser’s smaller status, it is a stronger performance and composition when all factors are considered. I can’t predict how “In God’s Time” will do on country radio, but I can venture a guess that it will be a serious contender for 2011 end-of-the year lists.

Written by Randy Houser, David Lee Murphy & Shane Minor

Grade: A

Listen: In God’s Time

 

More: Self-sufficient-life.com

The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 6

May 14, 2011

Today’s category is…

A Song That Reminds You of Somewhere.

Here are the staff picks:

Leeann Ward: “American Pie” – Don McLean

This song and the album from which it comes reminds me of my childhood living room. My dad was almost as much of a music fan as me, but my mom was much more limited in the music that she could tolerate without considering it needless noise. Perhaps having so many children does that to a mother.

However, she never complained when this album was played, even at reasonable maximum volume. So, whenever I hear this song, I associate it with my childhood home, as part of its soundtrack.

Tara Seetharam: “As Long as You Love Me” – Backstreet Boys

I lived in Scotland when I was 12 for about a year, during which I may or may not have been mildly obsessed with the Backstreet Boys. This song –a favorite at my very first set of school dances– reminds me of the treasure trove of experiences I had that year.

Kevin Coyne: “Silent House” – Dixie Chicks

I associate Taking the Long Way with all the major life changes of my late twenties, as that album had so many songs that I was able to relate to because of the upheavals around me.  “Silent House” will always be associated with my childhood home, and how it moved from being a place where memories were created to a place that they were left behind.

 

The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 1

May 9, 2011

Inspired by a recent trend on Facebook, the staff of Country Universe is launching our tweaked version of The 30 Day Song Challenge.

Every day, the staff will share our picks in a different category.  We hope that all of our readers will do the same in the comments!

We’re not limiting ourselves to the country genre. All of us are primarily country fans, but our tastes run wider and deeper than that.

The category for Day 1 is…

Your Favorite Song

Staff Picks

Leeann Ward: “One More Year” – Kacey Chambers & Shane Nicholson

It’s nearly impossible to choose a definitive favorite song, but I can pretty reasonably settle on “One More Year” as one that I haven’t tired of in three years despite my husband’s penchant for playing certain songs repeatedly until I can hardly stand even a great song after a certain saturation point. Such is not the case with “One More Year.” I’m still impressed by its understated devastation every time I hear it.

Dan Milliken: “Days Go By” – Keith Urban

The first time I heard it, on a fuzzy radio station in the background, it sounded like “Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me” redux. Within my first proper listens, it had me dancing around my dining room. “Days Go By” takes a sad truth – that time is constantly slipping away from us – and twists it into a joyous, mandolin-clanging celebration of life and the time we do have. Carpe some diem, y’all.

Tara Seetharam: “Bless the Broken Road” – Carrie Underwood

It’s hard to find words that speak to the personal connection I’ve formed with this song, so I’ll let my favorite line sum up its lyrical poignancy: “Now I’m just rolling home into my lover’s arms” is as best a description of the ease of true love as I’ve ever heard. As I said in my very first Country Universe post, I’ll take this song in any form by any artist (literally – I have over ten versions on my iPod), but if I had to choose, the conviction in Underwood’s acoustic version is second to none.

Kevin John Coyne: “Hung Up” - Madonna

No matter how much I like a song, I always go through periods where I’m tired of hearing it, and will skip it from time to time when it pops up on shuffle. That’s true about every song I love except this one, which I never tire of. I don’t know if it’s the way the ABBA-borrowed hook fades in and out, or if it’s the insanely catchy chorus that she sings nine times and it’s still not enough.  It’s the perfect pop song by the perfect pop artist and nothing else sounds as good in comparison, even from her own deep catalog of ear candy hits.


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