Category Archives: Conversations

It’s Mother’s Day!

Feel free to mention, discuss or link to some of your favorite mom-related songs, or just any songs that remind you of a special mother or grandmother (since no one really knows when National Grandparents Day is anyway [except me now, via Wikipedia - it's the first Sunday after Labor Day. Woo!]).

Here are a few of mine:

Doc Watson, “Mama Don’t Allow No Music”

Performed by the most awesomely disobedient instrumental ensemble ever (though Watson probably overdubbed half of the instruments himself).

Iris DeMent with Matraca Berg, “Mama’s Opry”

This mama is significantly more tolerant of music.

Taylor Swift, “The Best Day”

The favorite potshot of many who dislike Taylor Swift is that she’s a spoiled, talentless rich kid who probably doesn’t even write her own songs. If that’s the case, someone managed one heck of a cover-up with this song, which captures with humble gratitude and a distinctly young perspective the little, unextravagant ways a mother can inspire and restore her children.

And of course:

Jamie O’Neal, “Somebody’s Hero”



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Don’t Bore Us – Get To the Chorus!

The best title ever for a hits package.

Also, the first thing that popped up in my head when I was thinking about this discussion topic.

Some songs have choruses so good that they don’t even need the rest of the song to make them worth listening to.

In the case of “Let That Pony Run,” the Pam Tillis hit about a newly divorced mother, you can lift the chorus out of the song completely and it still makes sense. Pretty rare for a story song:

You do what you gotta do,
And you know what you know.

You hang on ’til you can’t hang on,
Then you learn to let go.

And you get what you need sometimes,
When it’s all said and done.

You do what you gotta do,
Then you let that pony run.

How’s that for a great life philosophy?

What are your favorite choruses? Can they stand up on their own?

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The Funniest Country Music Videos?

Donna Hughes over at The Boot has done a rundown of what she considers the ten funniest country music videos of all-time.

It’s an interesting list. I think the Luke Bryan clip is funny, but so many of her choices rely on stunt casting.  I think she left off a few great ones.

Here are a few of my favorites that didn’t make the list:

Alan Jackson, “That’d Be Alright”

The fourth wall is completely disregarded here, in a meta send-up of country music videos as an art form that even pokes fun at Jackson’s own CMA nomination for Music Video.

Junior Brown, “My Wife Thinks You’re Dead”

This actually won the CMA award for Music Video in 1996.

Shania Twain, “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!”

So many people missed the humor in Twain’s work. This gender role reversal video is brilliant, managing to satirize the blatant sexism in the classic Robert Palmer clip while also paying tongue-in-cheek homage to it.

Matraca Berg & Friends, “Back in the Saddle”

There’s more talent in the back of that paddy wagon than country radio has seen in more than a decade.

Thompson Brothers Band, “Back on the Farm”

Because there aren’t enough talking animals in country music videos.

What are your favorite funny country videos?

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Rollin’ With the Flowchart

I’m trying to cut back on my hyperbole, so I’ll understate matters and call this only one of the most awesomely coolest things ever:

Which Country Song Best Describes Your Life?

Creator Madlynn Priester e-mailed me and requested I shared the link, which I have done, but only after starting at the thing in wonder and awe for a good ten minutes.

According to the chart, the song that best describes my life is Reba McEntire’s “Turn on the Radio.”

Hey, there weren’t too many directions to go in when you answer “yes” to, “Are you happy?”  It’s a country flow chart, after all.

What song best describes your life, according to the chart?

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New Year’s Resolutions

We’re in that wonderful period of time where we convince ourselves that all of our 2010 coulda woulda shouldas will be transformed into 2011′s totally gonnas.

In that spirit, I submit the following blogger resolutions:

1. Daily posts, come rain, snow, or sleet sloth, indifference, or better things to do.

2. Start 100 Greatest Men.  Rankings done, but oh boy, is it a lot of writing!

3. Write about the nineties, eighties, and seventies so much that readers think we’ve gone back in time.

4. Continue being diplomatic to the almost-stars of yesteryear, until they mess with Ben Foster.

5. Take being the weakest writer on my own staff as motivation to do better! I’m gunnin’ for all y’all in 2011.

What are your New Year’s Resolutions for 2011?

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Best of 2011?

End-of-year lists abound, and we still have another on the way. But what about the best albums of 2011?

We’re in that super cool period of anticipation, where we wonder what the albums we know about will sound like, and hope that the albums that we don’t know about will be from artists who we can’t get enough of.

Right now, the announced albums that I’m most pumped for are the 2-CD live album from Todd Snider and the new studio album from Alison Krauss, both scheduled for release in early 2011.

Among the unannounced, I’m pining for new studio albums from Dwight Yoakam and Shania Twain. Feels like a lifetime since either had a proper album of new material.

If we’re getting into pipe dreams, I’ll add a new Dixie Chicks set into the mix.

What albums are you hoping for in 2011?

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Music Memories: Christmas Morning

My earliest Christmas memory is 1985.  I was six years old, still believed in Santa Claus, and like my older sister, I was on the receiving end of plenty of gifts that I never would’ve thought to ask for.

This particular Christmas, I had asked for a cassette of Soul Kiss, of all things. I had seen a video on HBO of a song from the album, and somehow my parents were able to figure out how to get that specific tape, which I hadn’t asked for by title. So it was in my stocking. No big deal.

Then my Dad did something strange. He insisted my sister and I go back to our rooms and get dressed for the day. We were annoyed, as Christmas means pajamas until church, but after getting gifts, you don’t want to seem ungrateful.

I heard my sister scream first, all the way from her room on the top of the stairs. Somewhere along the way, Dad had sneaked into her room and set up a television. I ran up and screamed along with her, probably thinking that now we could watch TV in there together. I doubt that’s what she was thinking.

So I go and get dressed, and come back out into the living room. Everybody’s staring at me with anticipation.  I’m flummoxed.  “Did you see what was in your room?”   I went back in. Somehow I’d missed a brand new stereo system that was right on the nightstand.  Two tape decks and a record player. What could be better?

Looking back at that Christmas, I realize how those two gifts shaped the interests of my sister and me.  She remains a steadfast television buff, and still watches it in her bedroom all of the time.  For me, two trademarks of my personality were firmly established: my love for listening to music, and my complete obliviousness to my surroundings.

What are your Christmas morning music memories?

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The Year’s Best and Worst Singles?

Pretty soon, a deluge of best and worst lists will overwhelm digital media, and we’ll proudly do our best to add to it!

In the meantime, what do you think is the best country single of 2010?  How about the worst?

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Discussion: Best Albums of 2010

It’s hard to believe, but we’re dangerously close to the end of 2010!

For record labels, this means that most of the major albums have been released for the year. Therefore, for Country Universe, this means that we’re preparing to begin the daunting process of compiling our Best of the Year lists, which includes best singles and albums of the year.

Being aware of all of the year’s single releases is a fairly simple task, however, as you might imagine, catching all of the albums for the year is much more of a challenge.

We greatly value, not to mention learn a lot from your input and recommendations. So, we would love to know some of your favorite albums of the year, as we still have time for consideration and deliberation.

So, what are some of your favorite albums of 2010? Any suggestions, as long as they’re somewhere in the country music tent (or universe), are welcome, but we’d especially love to hear about albums that may have flown under our radars.

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Premium Label

September has a lot of album releases that I’m really enjoying or looking forward to. In fact, it’s the most lucrative month for music for my taste in quite some time.

Last Tuesday (September 7), Rounder Records released The SteelDrivers’ second album, Reckless (which is pretty spectacular, by the way) and this week, they will be releasing Robert Plant’s follow up to his 2007 collaborative album with Alison Krauss, also on Rounder. From the streaming preview that can be heard on NPR’s website until release day, the album is a wonderfully rootsy project helmed by Plant and Buddy Miller and includes guitar work from Darrell Scott. October will also finally see the release of Joe Diffie’s bluegrass album on the label.

When one learns that an album will be released through Rounder Records (which has recently been sold to Concord Music Group), it’s pretty much automatically expected that the project will be quality. Whether it’s The SteelDrivers, Robert Plant, Joe Diffie, John Mellancamp, Alison Krauss or Willie Nelson, it’s reasonable to assume certain aspects of a Rounder release, including that the album may even stray from a typical artist release to be more rootsy in approach, as is the case with the recent Willie Nelson and John Mellancamp albums, along with the upcoming Diffie project. More often than not, I can count on Rounder Records to please my musical sensibilities, even with unexpected artists, since I never expected that Robert Plant would be recording some of my favorite roots music.

As much as I love and count on Rounder Records to produce great music, my absolute favorite record company is Sugar Hill Records (owned by Vanguard Records). Incidentally, Joey+Rory will be releasing their anticipated second album through Sugar Hill on Tuesday (September 14). Additionally, Marty Stuart’s recent release, the excellent Ghost Train, was released through them as well. Other artist who have been associated with Sugar Hill include, but are not limited to: Nickel Creek, Ricky Skaggs, Guy Clark, Dolly Parton, Darrell Scott, Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson, The Duhks, Sarah Jarosz, and the list goes on. As with Rounder Records, many artists seem to release albums with Sugar Hill as a deviation from the music for which they are most popularly associated, as is the case with Dolly Parton, Ricky Skaggs, and even Rodney Crowell, who released his venerable The Houston Kid on the label.

Right now, it seems that my favorite record labels aren’t in the business of releasing music that we hear on mainstream country radio, though Joey+Rory are attempting to crack through. While I don’t have the inside knowledge to say that it doesn’t exist, we don’t hear about the red tape and politics that is ever present with major companies like, lets say, the infamous Curb Records, which has produced some rather publicly disgruntled artists, most notably Tim McGraw and the two Living Hank Williamses.

But when I was a kid, MCA Records was the label that seemed like the powerhouse record company for country music to me. Some of my favorite artists were on that label, including Trisha Yearwood, George Strait, Reba McEntire and, of course, Vince Gill. I admired the country roster of Arista as well, which included Alan Jackson, Diamond Rio, Radney Foster, and Blackhawk.

Along with reminding you about some good releases that have recently been released and will soon be available, this is the very long and self-indulgent way of getting to the question of:

What is the record label that you most admire and can count on to release your favorite music?

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