Articles by Sam Gazdziak

A Tale of Two Tributes: Alabama

October 19, 2013 // 8 Comments


Various Artists
Alabama & Friends


To recognize the impact that Alabama has had on modern country music, you could consider their millions of albums sold, their hundreds of awards, their many #1 songs or their induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005. You could also look at how the boys from Fort Payne, Ala. have the distinction of bringing something entirely new into country music.

Album Review: Blake Shelton, Based On a True Story…

April 8, 2013 // 16 Comments


Blake Shelton
Based On a True Story…


Bear in mind that Blake Shelton isn’t just another country singer.  He is the reigning Male Vocalist of the Year for both the ACM and CMA Awards, as well as the CMA Entertainer of the Year.  Due to his position as a judge on “The Voice,” he is one of the most recognizable country stars around.  Therefore, his new album Based on a True Story… isn’t just another album release.  It’s an event.  It’s a highly anticipated occasion.  So how does Shelton kick off this record?

Single Review: Carrie Underwood, "Blown Away"

July 5, 2012 // 49 Comments

Four albums into her career, Carrie Underwood’s career growth has been fairly stunning.

It’s hard to imagine that the talent-show winner who sang “Jesus Take the Wheel” would morph into a fully fledged pop superstar with speaker-rattling pop-rock songs like “Good Girl” and “Blown Away.”

While the evolution has been fascinating to watch, the problem is that someone who was thought of as the next female country superstar has effectively left country music behind and moved on to bigger things, and it’s a loss for the genre.

Twelve Songs of Christmas: Day Nine

December 23, 2011 // 1 Comment

Song #9: We Three Kings

Leeann’s Pick: George Strait

From Strait’s strongest and best Christmas album, his acoustic country version of “We Three Kings” is both beautifully arranged and reverently sung.

Twelve Songs of Christmas: Day Seven

December 21, 2011 // 3 Comments

Song #7: I’ll Be Home For Christmas

Leeann’s Pick: Dwight Yoakam

To be honest, this isn’t actually one of my favorite Christmas songs. Dwight Yoakam’s rhythmic version, however, is just funky enough for me to focus without getting bored.

Twelve Songs of Christmas: Day Five

December 19, 2011 // 2 Comments

Song #5: Away in a Manger

Leeann’s Pick: Kelly Willis and Wylie Gustafson

A search of my iTunes indicates that I like many versions of this song, but the one that stands out the most to me is from a compilation called Christmas Trail by Wylie Gustafson and Kelly Willis. The mix of rootsy production, Willis’ twang and Gustafson’s Orbison-like harmony is impossible to resist.

Twelve Songs of Christmas: Day Three

December 17, 2011 // 2 Comments

Song #3: Jingle Bells

Leeann’s Pick: Raul Malo

This fiery version does what this song is meant to do; it puts me in a festive mood. I love the jaunty, jazzy production and Malo leans into the song as intensely as he does any song that he sings.

Twelve Songs of Christmas: Day One

December 15, 2011 // 8 Comments

Along with all the other traditions that come with Christmas time – watching your favorite TV specials, getting together with family on Christmas Day, wondering how you ever lived without a pre-lit Christmas tree – one of the best ones involves breaking out the collection of Christmas music.

As a kid, it meant that the Bing Crosby and The Chipmunks Christmas albums make their way out of the buffet draw and take up a month-long residence on my mom’s stereo. Now, it means flipping over to my Christmas songs playlist on iTunes, where Patty Loveless, Dwight Yoakam and The Chieftains all are a part of the family’s Christmas soundtrack.

For the Love of Holly: The CU Interview with Paul Burch

October 11, 2011 // 5 Comments

Though his career lasted about two years and ended tragically more than 50 years ago, Buddy Holly continues to impact and influence the music world. Part of it is his mystique: unlike many of his contemporaries, Holly never grew old, never had a scandal derail his career and never found himself wasting away on some oldies circuit. He’s the eternally young, energetic, slightly geeky-looking rock & roller with the hiccup in his voice and a Fender Stratocaster in his hands.

Mystique only goes so far, though. Holly left behind a strong collection of songs that have aged extremely well – mainly because they’re constantly being reinvented. His songs have been covered by hundreds of singers, across every music genre imaginable. Just this year alone, in commemoration of his 75th birthday, Buddy Holly tribute albums have featured both of the surviving Beatles, Lyle Lovett, Florence + The Machine, My Morning Jacket, Cee Lo Green and Justin Townes Earle.

Add to that mix Words of Love: Songs of Buddy Holly by Nashville’s Paul Burch. Much like the way Holly’s music has a timeless quality, Burch’s combination of classic country, blues and rock & roll has its roots in the 1950s and ’60s but never sounds dated. Beginning with 1998’s Pan-American Flash through 2009’s Still Your Man, Burch has released a series of critically acclaimed albums and recorded with luminaries such as Ralph Stanley and Mark Knopfler.

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