Archive for the ‘Discussion’ Category

Iconic Songs of the Last Decade

Friday, March 6th, 2009

I was listening to The Band’s album Music From Big Pink earlier this week, and something struck me about the song “The Weight.” Trust me, you know the song. It goes a little like this: “I pulled into Nazareth / Was feelin’ about half past dead / I just need some place / where I can lay my head.”  Ring a bell yet? No? Try this:

In the song, The Band, originally consisting of Robbie Robertson, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson, Rick Danko and Levon Helm, draws from a familiar cast of characters and American mythology to tell a universal story set in the town of Nazareth, PA. First released in 1968, “The Weight” only reached #63 on the U.S. charts, but has since achieved iconic status. It has become an American standard in a way few songs have accomplished. Indeed, Rolling Stone lists it as the 41st greatest song of all time. 

Further cementing its iconic status, check out a very small sample of the artists  – across genres, of all ages – who have covered the song:

  • Van Morrison
  • Bob Dylan
  • The Black Crowes
  • Little Feat
  • Grateful Dead
  • Travis
  • Old Crow Medicine Show
  • Gillian Welch
  • The Staple Singers
  • Joan Osborne
  • John Denver
  • Deana Carter
  • Weezer
  • Lee Ann Womack
  • Cross Canadian Ragweed
  • Diana Ross, the Temptations and the Supremes
  • The Allman Brothers Band
  • The Marshall Tucker Band
  • Panic at the Disco
  • Aaron Pritchett

Songs with enduring power like “The Weight” are few and far between, and seem to be even more so nowadays. So tonight’s discussion asks:

What songs of the past decade have enduring power? What songs will we be listening to and hear covers of in the next 50 years?

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Country Songs by Non-Country Artists

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

amigoNeil Young is a rock icon, but he is also known for a lot of folk influenced music. However, while recently listening to his 1992 folky album, Harvest Moon, I was amused to hear a song that is pretty much a country song. “Old King” is a silly ditty that is accompanied by rootsy instrumentation, including a prominent banjo. Furthermore, it’s about man’s best friend, which is a staple for a good stereotypical country song.


 Without being snarky about current mainstream radio (just this one time!), what country sounding songs have you heard on albums by artists that aren’t typically considered country?

Play Something Country

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

kathy-matteaLater this month, I’ll be seeing Kathy Mattea in concert. I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen her live more often than anybody else – at least six times, going back to the Summer of 1994.

One of the things that I like about her is that she mixes up the set list. There is a very small group of songs that she always plays: “Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses”, “Where’ve You Been”, “Love at the Five & Dime”, and “Come From the Heart.” Nearly every show includes “Mary, Did You Know” and “Walking Away a Winner” as well.

But the rest of the concert is a balanced mix of the best cuts from her current album, other hits from the past, and an unorthodox cover or two. I keep going back because she keeps it fresh.

Still, if I had my way, I’d get to hear “Love Travels” and “God Ain’t No Stained Glass Window” every time out. But no matter how good the performer is, and how much they mix it up, you never get to hear all of the songs that you want to hear.

Which leads to tonight’s discussion topic:

If you could choose the set list for one of your favorite artists, what would it look like?

You can make the list as short or as long as you like, so long as the artist wouldn’t pass out from exhaustion halfway through!

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Random Question about Kellie Pickler

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

Entertainment Weekly included a song from Kellie Pickler among its selections for the Ultimate American Idol playlist.

The title of the song – “Rocks Instead of Rice” -  caught my attention. Take a listen:

Here’s my question. Which of the following two songs does Pickler’s track rip off more:

Dolly Parton’s “I Don’t Want to Throw Rice”

or

Lee Ann Womack’s “I’ll Think of a Reason Later”

I side with Parton, though that reference to her thoughts not being Christian sounds pretty darn similar to the chorus from Womack’s hit.

While we’re on the subject, which song is the best of the three?

I am not ashamed.

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

“Pride attaches undue importance to the superiority of one’s status in the eyes of others; And shame is fear of humiliation at one’s inferior status in the estimation of others. When one sets his heart on being highly esteemed, and achieves such rating, then he is automatically involved in fear of losing his status.”

- Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher

shame

This week’s iPod challenge requires you to check your shame at the door. Too often, there is embarrassment associated with our favorite music. We worry about the cool factor.

When I started Country Universe, I was determined to write honestly about what I like and dislike, regardless of how it might affect my credibility in the eyes of others. But I often keep mum about the guiltiest of my guilty pleasures.

So with this iPod check, I’m hitting shuffle and listing the first twenty songs that I’d normally be too embarrassed to share. Just to keep it fully honest, I’m using my “Favorites” playlist, the 3,000 or so songs that I truly enjoy, so you know these aren’t songs that I like. They’re songs that I love:

  1. Kellie Pickler, “Best Days of Your Life”
  2. Grease 2, “Back to School Again”
  3. Mr. Mister, “Broken Wings”
  4. N*SYNC, “Pop”
  5. Paula Cole, “I Don’t Want to Wait”
  6. Alabama, “Love in the First Degree”
  7. Guns ‘n Roses, “November Rain”
  8. Blondie, “Rapture”
  9. Billy Ray Cyrus, “In the Heart of a Woman”
  10. Neil Diamond, “Yesterday’s Songs”
  11. Sinead O’Connor, “Nothing Compares 2 U”
  12. Doug Stone, “Little Houses”
  13. Trick Daddy, “Nann…”
  14. They Might Be Giants, “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)”
  15. Dexy’s Midnight Runners, “Come On Eileen”
  16. TLC, “No Scrubs”
  17. Arrested Development, “Tennessee” (A game of horseshoes!)
  18. Michael Bolton, “How Can We Be Lovers”
  19. Olivia Newton-John, “Have You Never Been Mellow”
  20. Shakespear’s Sister, “I Don’t Care”

Cast off your shame and share your own list in the comments!

Rarities and Outtakes

Friday, February 27th, 2009

granada-spainA couple of summers ago, I picked up the 3-disc The Essential Bruce Springsteen album in an El Corte Ingles in Granada, Spain.  I was road-tripping it around the country and needed some good tunes. But somehow, the third disc completely escaped my notice until a few weeks ago.  It turned out to be comprised of a number of previously unreleased songs recorded over a long and fruitful career.  After popping it in, I gleefully discovered a couple of new fantastic, classic Boss songs.

I experienced the same excitement earlier this week when I picked up Springsteen’s 18 Tracks while browsing in Barnes & Noble. That album similarly includes rarities, B-tracks and outtakes. (How did I ever miss “The Promise,” which is apparently a continuation of “Thunder Road”?) I felt like a kid who had just gotten herself locked overnight in a candy store.

Although few artists are as prolific as Springsteen, many artists have a lot of work floating around out there that has not made it onto a studio album.  Much of that work is either pre-fame or covers, found on random bootlegs or videos, but every once in awhile you can find a previously unheard original that simply never made it onto a studio album.  The best part, for fans, is that these tracks come with zero expectations and a big payoff.  It’s simply an opportunity to acquire a more all-encompassing view of a favorite and to achieve new insight into them as artists.

What are your favorite non-(studio) album tracks by your favorite artists?

(If you are attaching a YouTube video, you simply have to place a “v” after “http” so it looks like “httpv://” when posting the URL)

Into the Circle: The Country Music Hall of Fame Changes Criteria

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

halloffamelogoThe Country Music Association, mere weeks after inducting its 2009 class, has announced a change in the Hall of Fame criteria. Per the CMA website:

Three inductees will continue to be announced as new members of the Country Music Hall of Fame annually, each selected from a different category.  Beginning in 2010, the categories will be renamed and defined as follows:

  • Veterans Era – This category will be for professionals that have been in the industry longer than 25 years. It combines the former “Career Achieved National Prominence Between World War II and 1975″ (which was voted on annually) and “Career Achieved National Prominence Prior to World War II” (which was voted on every third year in rotation) categories into one.
  • Modern Era – This category will be for professionals that have been in the industry at least 20 years, but no more than 25 years, and takes the place of the former annual “Career Achieved National Prominence Between 1975-Present” slot.
  • Rotating Categories – The third slot will continue to be a rotating category, with each group in the spotlight every third year. The Recording and/or Touring Musician and Non Performer slots will remain, joined by a new Songwriter category.

The Modern Era category seems far too limiting, especially given the numerous artists and industry insiders that are fully deserving of this honor. The change does present Randy Travis, Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson the opportunity to be inducted within the next two to three years, but also leaves legends such as Connie Smith, Jean Shepard and the Oak Ridge Boys to “compete” with newer acts such as Reba McEntire and Hank Williams, Jr. for one solitary spot each year.

Eventually, all of those artists appear to be locks for the Hall of Fame, but, as My Kind of Country alluded to earlier in the week, very few artists in modern-day country music will truly be remembered. Here’s a list of ten contemporary artists who could make the Hall of Fame one day. Although their careers aren’t complete, they have the potential to be lauded for their talent in the coming years. Sound off in the comments with your opinions on who is in, who is out and who could still make a case for induction. Feel free to add any other artists you’d deem worthy. This is not my judgment of who should/should not be included, but a random listing of ten artists who could at least present interesting cases in, say, 2020.  Feedback it up. (For a glance at near-future candidates, see Six Pack: Hall of Fame Inductees. Barbara Mandrell, Roy Clark and Charlie McCoy are the 2009 honorees.)

  • Clint Black
  • Rosanne Cash
  • Faith Hill
  • Kathy Mattea
  • Martina McBride
  • Tim McGraw
  • Kenny Rogers
  • Pam Tillis
  • Shania Twain
  • Dwight Yoakam

Say What?-Kristian Bush of Sugarland

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

sugarland27_v_e1Entertainment Weekly writer Whitney Pastorek shares exclusive new touring information about her favorite country act, Sugarland. Kristian Bush says about the tour,

 “You may see Jennifer Nettles play the piano or a bass guitar. I love throwing down the challenge to all the other country musicians. Sometimes you have to choose the fork in the road: the entertainer, or the musician. You go down one road long enough, and you end up Alison Krauss and Union Station. And you go down the other road, and you end up Kenny Chesney. Not to say that Alison isn’t a great entertainer or Kenny isn’t a great musician, but a lot of times that was traditionally the choice you had to make. We’re gonna challenge it, and say, ‘We wonder if you can do both.’”

Thoughts?

Perfect Producer/Artist Pairs

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

recording-studio_500x375Last week, I berated producers that I could count on to produce bland, generic albums that I inevitably would not enjoy. As promised, I’ll be more positive this week.

As previously noted, producers play a very integral part in the outcome of the albums that we hear. Good producers will put aside their egos and create music that compliments their artists’ strengths.

I’ve noticed that much of the work from producers that I like tend to be the result of producer/artist pairings. For example, as discussed in the comment thread of last week’s discussion, I’m not always crazy about Tony Brown’s production choices. However, he helped to create the bulk of the music of my favorite artist, Vince Gill. In fact, he’s the one who saved Gill’s career from being destined to obscurity. Interestingly though, Brown took over Vince’s career from Emory Gordy Jr., who admittedly did not do his best work with Gill. Gordy, however, went on to create some wonderful music with Patty Loveless.

To go even a step further, I specifically mentioned that I did not like Dann Huff as a producer in my discussion last week. Our Dan Milliken, however, noted that he thought that Huff has done good work with Keith Urban, which is a point with which I actually cannot disagree.

So, it seems that many of my favorite producers have come from famous producer/artist pairings. Some people just click. Therefore, all of this leads to:

Who are your favorite producer/artist duos?

If you’re looking for a bigger challenge, tell us who your favorite producer in general happens to be.

Some of my favorite producer/artist collaborators include, but are not limited to:

  • Vince Gill & Tony Brown
  • The Judds & Brent Maher
  • Randy Travis & Kyle Lehning
  • Dwight Yoakam & Pete Anderson
  • Patty Loveless & Emory Gordy Jr.
  • Trisha Yearwood & Garth Fundis

That’s on My iPod?!?

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

ipodMaybe it’s just because I have so many songs on my iPod to begin with, but I’m often surprised when I put my iPod on shuffle. Songs pop up that I didn’t know I owned, along with others that I’d completely forgotten about.

You know the drill. You buy the album because you like the lead single, listen to it once, then you go back to the old stuff you always listen to. At least that’s what I do. I won’t even get into the albums that are sent to me for potential review.

So I thought this would be a fun iPod Check:

Put your mp3 player on Shuffle, and type the first ten songs that you either forgot you owned or didn’t know you owned at all.

Here’s my list:

  1. Shelby Lynne, “Track 12″
  2. Johnny Cash, “Slow Rider”
  3. Frank Sinatra, “Fly Me to the Moon”
  4. Sylvia, “Snapshot”
  5. Leonard Cohen, “Suzanne”
  6. Little Anthony and the Imperials, “Goin’ Out of My Head”
  7. Loretta Lynn, “Jackson Ain’t a Very Big Town”
  8. Foster & Allen, “Sweet Offaly Lady”
  9. Cat Stevens, “Lady D’Arbanville”
  10. Doug Stone, “Come in Out of the Pain”

I’m pretty sure I picked up Doug Stone’s hits collection in a bargain bin for road trip amusements. I totally forgot about buying the Sinatra classic.

What are your finds?

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