Best of 2008

The First Annual Country Universe Readers’ Choice Awards

January 24, 2009 // 27 Comments

Carrie Underwood is the top winner of the inaugural Country Universe Reader’s Choice Awards, earning first place in all four of the races in which she was eligible. In addition to being named Artist of the Year and Female Vocalist, her #1 hit “Just a Dream” won for Single and Music Video. Also popular with readers this past year were: – Sugarland, who won Vocal Duo/Group by the widest margin of any of the winners, and placed second for Artist and Album.  Additionally, lead singer Jennifer Nettles placed second for Songwriter. – Jamey Johnson, who won for Songwriter, and placed second in the Male Vocalist race.  His hit “In Color” came in third in both the Single and Music Video races, and he also placed third in the Artist race. – Brad Paisley, who won easily for Male Vocalist and came in second for Music Video with “Waitin’ on a Read More

Discussion: Favorite Country Music Moments of 2008

December 31, 2008 // 9 Comments

Expanding on Blake’s discussion last night, let’s end 2008 with a look back on our favorite country music happenings in 2008. My personal favorite was this year’s stunning Country Music Hall of Fame inductee list.    Gaining long overdue entry were Tom T. Hall, Emmylou Harris and The Statler Brothers,  all of whom I’d been hoping to gain entry since the early days of Country Universe. Speaking of Country Universe, it’s hard to believe that at this time last year, I was still the only writer.    The contributions of Leeann, Blake, Dan and Lynn have transformed this site into something far beyond its humble origins.    My goal is to be the worst writer on my own site, and they helped me achieve that goal in record time! What were your favorite country music moments of 2008?

Kevin J. Coyne’s Top Ten Albums of 2008

December 28, 2008 // 19 Comments

This is my fifth such list in as many years, and I have to say that I was mostly underwhelmed by the albums of 2008.  If it wasn’t for the contributions of the other writers, who made me aware of some fine albums I might have otherwise missed, it would’ve been difficult to compile a list at all.  That being said, there were at least ten albums from 2008 that I will be listening to in 2009 and beyond. #10 Jim Lauderdale & The Dream Players, Honey Songs No matter how much honey you put in the mix, the ragged words and vocals of Jim Lauderdale will cut through.  The glorious contrast between Lauderdale and his sonic surroundings make for a fascinating listen. #9 Joey + Rory, The Life of a Song It’s rare for any act to make a debut album without compromise, let alone one that hails from Read More

Kevin J. Coyne’s Top Singles of 2008

December 28, 2008 // 14 Comments

Gone are the days where this would just be called the Country Universe’s Top Singles of 2008.   The collective tastes of our writers makes for more distinguished lists, but thankfully, there’s still a place for my personal favorites.   Here are the twenty singles of 2008 that I enjoyed the most. #20: Reba McEntire & Kenny Chesney, “Every Other Weekend” A welcome return to domestic themes, which have often provided McEntire with her best work.   This plays out the like the epilogue to “Somebody Should Leave.” #19: Sara Evans, “Low” Triumph in the face of adversity, as the surrounding negative energy is rejected in favor of a positive and determined move toward the future.  Plus, it’s a little bluegrassy, which just sounds cool. #18: Keith Urban, “You Look Good in My Shirt” Even Conway Twitty wasn’t so good at slipping in mature themes so skillfully.    There are children across the country Read More

Leeann Ward’s Top Ten Albums of 2008

December 27, 2008 // 7 Comments

#10 The SteelDrivers, The SteelDrivers Chris Stapleton’s voice just blows me away. As Lee Ann Womack has recently observed, he sings like a real man. He takes Travis Tritt’s soulfulness to a whole new level. With incredible harmonies and terrific songs not limited to “Blue Side of the Mountain” and “Drinkin’ Dark Whiskey”, this is a strong project that certainly stood out in 2008. #9 Jason Boland & The Stragglers, Comal County Blue I love Boland’s folk-tinged country voice, which sings these memorable fiddle laden melodies to great affect. While the lyrics can be abstract at times, they still manage to feel meaningful. I’ve come to realize that what ultimately appeals to me about this album is the fact that it reminds me of good nineties country music, which is the era that drew me to this genre in the first place. #8 Darrell Scott, Modern Hymns My admiration for Read More

Leeann Ward’s Top Singles of 2008

December 27, 2008 // 12 Comments

Here are my favorite singles of 2008. As Dan has done, I lifted the entries that I had already written from our collective list for this article. #20: Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, “Please Read The Letter” The album from which this song comes seems like an unlikely collaboration. It, however, somehow works as one of the best albums of the decade and any song from it would make my top twenty singles list this year. #19: Hank Williams III, “Six Pack of Beer” Hank Williams III is known for relishing a rebel persona and this attitude is often reflected in his music. More often than not, his songs contain observations wrapped in harsh lyrics that cause me to wince, but his production and voice, which are both more comparable to Hank Sr. than Hank III’s father, still draws me to his music, nonetheless. This song, however, is simply pure Read More

Top Ten Albums of 2008

December 22, 2008 // 24 Comments

In a year where excellent mainstream country albums were few and far between, there were still many wonderful projects waiting to be discovered by listeners willing to look for them.    Among all releases, mainstream and alternative, traditional and contemporary, folk and Americana, the Country Universe staff deems these ten the best. #10 Jim Lauderdale & The Dream Players, Honey Songs Widgets You could forgive Jim Lauderdale if he showed signs of wear on Honey Songs, his fourth release in a span of 18 months. Instead, he’s produced yet another fresh package, this time by cherry-picking the best parts of rock ‘n’ roll’s roots and throwing ’em into his ever-sharp traditional songwriting blender. His tunes have never been more perfectly framed, either, which you can attribute to the aptly-named “Dream Players,” a droolworthy backing line-up consisting of guitarist James Burton and drummer Ron Tutt (both Elvis Presley vets), pianist Glen Read More

Lynn’s Favorite Songs of 2008

December 22, 2008 // 10 Comments

Country Universe has presented you with its top 40 singles of 2008, but as you know, singles rarely scratch the surface of a great album. Over the course of the past year, while listening to various albums, I made note of songs that stuck out for one reason or another. Although this isn’t a comprehensive list by any means, here are some of my favorite songs of 2008: #1 “She Left Me For Jesus” (Hayes Carll, Trouble in Mind) Honestly, when is the last time you heard a song this slyly clever? This laugh-out-loud engaging? But not just anyone could pull off this song. Carll’s slow laughing drawl is absolutely perfect and he nails every punch line. He not only gets the joke, he assumes you do as well. Carll readily acknowledges that this song isn’t for everyone, but in my book, it’s an instant classic. #2 “Red River Shore” Read More

Best Country Singles of 2008, Part 4: #10-#1

December 19, 2008 // 37 Comments

Our top ten singles of the year represent the very best of what country music is and what country music can be. With a combination of rising stars and veteran artists, it’s clear that the genre has worthy guardians waiting in the wings, even as the current keepers of the flame show no signs of fading away. #10 Ashton Shepherd, “Takin’ Off This Pain” I cheated a bit by throwing this one into the mix, since it was technically released last fall. But as it wasn’t on the site’s 2007 singles countdown and didn’t even peak until this past May, I’m going to take this opportunity to opine, quite simply, that this single paints the best kind of picture of everything contemporary country in the 2000’s can be. It’s not pure traditionalism, as some have suggested – there’s a lot more modern drive than old-school shuffle at work here – Read More

Discussion: Best Music Videos of 2008

December 18, 2008 // 16 Comments

Music videos feel like a dying art form in country music, if only because so few videos are played on CMT and the life cycle of a single often stretches past six months.   But there have been a few good ones this year.  Three of my favorites: Patty Loveless, “Crazy Arms” There’s something haunting about the darkened room in which this forlorn ballad is being sung.    Loveless is no stranger to lonely rooms doubling as video sets, with “You Don’t Seem to Miss Me” and “You Don’t Even Know Who I Am” taking a similar approach.   But it’s never been more effective, perhaps because it sets such a perfect tone for the song itself. Brad Paisley featuring Andy Griffith, “Waitin’ on a Woman” This won CMA Music Video of the year, and deservedly so.  I was somewhat tepid on the song before seeing the video.  I don’t remember ever listening Read More

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