Category Archives: Conversations

A Bountiful Harvest

This fall, there seems to be as many new albums from significant country artists as I can remember.  Just look at Roughstock’s indispensable Fall 2010 Releases list.

New releases are on the way from no less than eight past CMA Entertainer of the Year nominees and winners, along with current top sellers Zac Brown Band, Billy Currington, Jamey Johnson, and Montgomery Gentry.

So head on over to see that list, then come back to answer this question:

What Fall 2010 CD Release are you most excited for?

For me, it’s no contest. I can’t wait to hear Sugarland’s The Incredible Machine.  Their last studio set, Love On the Inside, is my favorite mainstream country album of the past five years, and I still haven’t gotten tired of the covers they included in their stopgap set Live On the Inside.

Plus, “Stuck Like Glue” is my favorite lead single from any of their albums so far, no small feat given my deep affection for “Want To.”  Given that a new Dixie Chicks album comes along about as quickly as a Senator goes up for re-election, I need a fix of music from a really great country band, stat.

30 Comments

Filed under Conversations

Discussion: Worst Album Titles?

We don’t do as many discussions as we used to at CU, and it’s possible that we already did this one. But seeing the title of this week’s #1 country album, I couldn’t resist:

Jerrod Niemann, Judge Jerrod & The Hung Jury

I’d call it juvenile, but I don’t think I would’ve laughed as a kid, either. But I’m sure some people found it funny.

Here are a few others that make me wince:

Pam Tillis, Above and Beyond the Doll of Cutey

I. Don’t. Get. It.  “(You Just Want to Be) Weird”, indeed.

Cross Canadian Ragweed, Soul Gravy

Oh, yeah? But where are the lumps? Ha ha!  Oh, no…

Patty Loveless, Mountain Soul II

Though it would go from worst to first if she’d called it  Mountain Soul II: Bluegrass Boogaloo.

Carlene Carter, Blue Nun

Why is the nun so sad? Or choking? Or a smurf?

Those are some of my favorite bad album titles. What are some of yours?

31 Comments

Filed under Conversations

iPod Check: Playing Favorites

It’s been a long time since we’ve done one of these!

I think that the strongest feature of the iPod is the ability to create playlists.  I currently have over 16,000 songs, so playing it on pure shuffle is interesting but not likely to result in hearing a string of my favorite songs.

I have dozens of playlists, but the one that I visit the most is called “Repeat.” It’s an ever-shifting playlist of songs that I don’t tire of.  Currently, there are 131 songs on the list.

I’m sharing the first ten that play on shuffle from the list. Share your favorite playlist and ten of its tracks in the comments!

Ten Tracks from “Repeat”:

  • Miranda Lambert, “Kerosene”
  • Nickel Creek, “Helena”
  • Roxette, “Spending My Time”
  • Pam Tillis, “When You Walk in the Room”
  • John Conlee, “Rose Colored Glasses”
  • Madonna, “Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You”
  • Clint Black, “Burn One Down”
  • Dixie Chicks, “Bitter End”
  • Patty Loveless, “Keep Your Distance”
  • Cyndi Lauper, “Time After Time”


18 Comments

Filed under Conversations

The Saddest Country Songs

The Boot has published another  list that’s got me thinking. This time, it’s Top 10 Sad Love Songs in Country Music.  Again, the title is a bit strange, as the list includes the Suzy Bogguss hit “Letting Go”, which is about a mother watching her daughter go off to college, but there’s no rule that a love song has to be about romantic love, I guess.

Predictably and justifiably, the list is topped by “He Stopped Loving Her Today”, a George Jones classic that tops many a classic country list, including one of our own.  There’s also a pretty high body count – four outright deaths and one by implication.  Country songs sure do like to kill people off, don’t they?

So what are the saddest country songs ever? My first instinct was to mention “Where’ve You Been”, but that Kathy Mattea classic has a ray of hope. It’s really about a perfect relationship meeting its natural end.

For real, heartbreaking sadness, all hope must be vanquished, with only regret remaining. Bonus points if somebody dies.  Here are two that I think are tragic, one with death and one without:

Dixie Chicks/Patty Griffin, “Top of the World”

A man realizes after his death that he did nothing but hurt the woman he loved, and now it’s too late to go back and change it:

John Conlee, “Backside of Thirty”

Something similar, though the man is still alive. He had everything he ever wanted – a beautiful wife and son – and somehow messed it up. He’s now living alone in an apartment, drinking away his rent money, “back on the bottom with no will to climb.”

What do you think are the saddest country songs ever?

64 Comments

Filed under Conversations

Words to Live By

Earlier this week, Tara Seetharam posted about songs that resonate for reasons beyond the lyrics.  This got me thinking about something close to the opposite: What about songs that stand out because of a particular lyric, a line that takes on a life of its own beyond the song?

I first heard “Too Many Memories” on the Patty Loveless album Long Stretch of Lonesome. It was later recorded by Hal Ketchum.  It’s a good song, no doubt, but the kicker that ends the second verse has grown into words to live by for me:

What makes you grow old is replacing hope with regret.

I’ve used that quote countless times, and as I get older, it gets ever more true.

Is this just me, or do any of you also have lines from songs that are words to live by?

13 Comments

Filed under Conversations

Discussion: Music and Lyrics

During the Academy Awards show last Sunday, a montage of movie clips honoring the late John Hughes featured a great quote from The Breakfast Club: “When you grow up, your heart dies.” In one line, teenage angst collided beautifully with a universal fear.

In comparison, no lyric in Lady Antebellum’s “American Honey” was written with even half the poignancy or acute understanding of the human spirit; I still haven’t read a reasonable explanation of the song’s odd metaphor. And yet, to me, there’s something about the song that resonates with the same raw, trapped-by-the-certainty-of-time desperation as Allison Reynolds’ tearful proclamation, albeit built on nostalgia rather than fear. Like the movie clip, the song makes me feel.

“American Honey” begs the same question I’ve asked myself since I started writing for Country Universe: why am I able to form such strong emotional connections to songs that are lyrically weak? I’m still exploring the answer, but I do know this: while to many people, country music is about naked truth, to me, it’s always been more so about naked emotion. My favorite country songs and artists have a specific, potent way of capturing sentiment and presenting it deeply, tangibly and honestly – and it isn’t always through a story. “American Honey” would be a far better song if its character were fleshed out, but I’m just as gripped by the coupling of its sweet, wistful melody with Hillary Scott’s convincing performance.

The song has an extra layer of believability for me because Scott and I are the same age – in that awkward, early 20s era of life where you’re just old enough to feel the gravity of adulthood, but young enough to feel like you can reach back and touch your childhood. In the nearly two years since I graduated from college, time has flown by faster than I’ve ever known it to, so much so that thinking about it sometimes takes my breath away. Scott’s delivery on “I just want to go back in time” mirrors that exact feeling.

I firmly believe that if a piece of music moves you, it has value. What songs with subpar lyrics have struck an emotional chord with you, and why?

10 Comments

Filed under Conversations

Why Can’t I Buy This?

During the nineties boom, there was a mad rush to get the catalog of older country artists available on CD.  For older country albums, this wasn’t always the best approach.  Many of these discs had only ten tracks, so even with a handful of bonus songs, the entire running time could still be under 40 minutes. Some labels took the smart approach of pairing two albums to one disc, but for the most part, it was landmark albums or lengthy compilation discs.

The digital age has finally made it both practical and affordable to get those old albums. Vintage sets are now available from legends like Merle Haggard and Glen Campbell, and even not quite legends like Jeannie C. Riley. But there are still some glaring omissions that need to become more readily available.

Topping my wish list is Evangeline by Emmylou Harris.  Some tracks were included on her box sets, but the bulk of this album, the last one by Harris to gold, remains unavailable. Given that among those tracks is “I Don’t Have to Crawl” and “Oh Atlanta”, it’s really time to get a move on.

What albums would you like to be reissued, either as a CD or digital download?

9 Comments

Filed under Conversations

Seriously?

As my first visit to Nashville in four years draws to a close, I’ve been immersing myself in the tackier elements of country music history. As we prepare for our visit to the wax museum (Game On!), I’m thinking about some of the most hilariously overwrought moments that classic country has to offer.

Is it Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton’s “I Get Lonesome By Myself”, with a plot line that should lead to child endangerment charges by the first verse?

How about the horrific cautionary tale “Drunken Driver” by Ferlin Husky?

Or, if you’ll just hand me my crayons, I’ll write down the reasons why the mental home classic “I Don’t Remember Loving You” is John Conlee at his best:

What are your favorite over-the-top country classics? Share in the comments. Remember, if you want to embed a video from YouTube, you need only add a “v” after the http at the beginning of the url. (i.e., httpv://www.youtube.com…)

6 Comments

Filed under Conversations

Happy Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day. Here’s one of my favorite lesser known love songs courtesy of Guy Clark and Emmylou Harris. What are some of your less familiar favorites?


14 Comments

Filed under Conversations, Great Songs

Armchair A&R

Gilbert O’Sullivan spent six weeks at #1 in 1972 with “Alone Again (Naturally)”, a song that is so sad it should’ve been a country song a long time ago:

There’s only one artist that could improve on this, and that’s Alison Krauss.  She’d be a perfect fit for a song that starts with a man being stood up at his own wedding, ends with him mourning both of his parents, and finds him doubting God’s mercy, God’s very existence.

I’m sure we’ve discussed this before, but it’s been a while:

What classic pop song would you like to hear covered by a country artist?

20 Comments

Filed under Conversations