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

February 26, 2009 // 76 Comments

The 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 Read More

Say What?-Kristian Bush of Sugarland

February 26, 2009 // 28 Comments

Entertainment 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

February 25, 2009 // 17 Comments

Last 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 Read More

That’s on My iPod?!?

February 23, 2009 // 19 Comments

Maybe 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: Shelby Lynne, “Track 12” Johnny Cash, “Slow Rider” Frank Sinatra, “Fly Me to the Moon” Sylvia, “Snapshot” Leonard Read More

Shania Twain, “What a Way to Wanna Be!”

February 22, 2009 // 1 Comment

I was inspired to recommend Shania Twain’s “What a Way to Wanna Be!” after seeing this new Dove commercial: httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hibyAJOSW8U The track comes from her excellent fourth album Up!, which was released in three different mixes. Entertainment Weekly writer Chris Willman wrote my favorite line to ever appear in an album review when he described the set as “Abba Gold without all the melancholy.” But that isn’t to say the album doesn’t deal with some substantive issues, despite Twain’s trademark optimism remaining dominant. She deconstructs the desire in women to be physically perfect and challenges them to reject the pressure that society places upon them to meet impossible standards of beauty. She sings, “We like to buy, we like to spend, to keep up with the latest trends. But we don’t get no satisfaction living like a slave to fashion. No more thinking for yourself. Just get it off a Read More

Country Role Models

February 20, 2009 // 18 Comments

The most recent edition of Rolling Stone features precocious teenage country superstar Taylor Swift on its cover, and also contains a eight-page spread covering her “very pink, very perfect life.” As we have come to expect from Swift, the interview is wonderfully candid and refreshingly young and honest. However, (perhaps given Kenny Chesney’s recent Playboy interview) one thing stood out: Swift’s desire to maintain, and in fact, reinforce, her goody-goody image. According to the interview, Swift is constantly worried about saying something that could be construed as offense to her fans. In defending her stance on not getting caught up in the shenanigans of young Hollywood, she goes so far as to say: “When you lose someone’s trust, it’s lost, and there are a lot of people out there who are counting on me right now.” That’s a lot to carry on her slender shoulders: the expectations of all of her young fans. But I Read More

Discussion: Greatest Country Songs

February 19, 2009 // 30 Comments

Boys like me and Nick Hornby love lists. (I mean, Nick Hornby and I. Whatever.) Hornby, the author of A Long Way Down, How to Be Good and, most famously, High Fidelity, is known for his staunch organizational skills. The narrator in High Fidelity, Rob Fleming (John Cusack for all you moviegoers), is obsessed with creating lists on almost any occasion. He counts down his top five ex-girlfriends, his top five favorite films and his top five dream jobs—the only stable aspect of a life that’s filled with business troubles (the record store he owns sees little traffic) and romantic entanglements (he’s a commitment-phobe who struggles with his past). CMT introduced its 100 Greatest Country Songs list in 2003, and it’s awfully fun to debate the inclusion (and the rankings) of many entries. Since I’m in the process of establishing my own list of best country albums, songs, men, women, Read More

Flavorless Producers

February 18, 2009 // 16 Comments

While on the surface, music revolves around artists and the songs they sing, it’s the music producers who are ultimately essential to the finished product that we all hear and critique. Most producers have a hand in the vocals, the instrumentation and even the song selections that we hear on our favorite or not so favorite albums. Often times, when I hear that certain producers are going to produce upcoming projects, I automatically get an idea of what the project will sound like based on that particular producer’s previous works. For instance, when I hear that Dann Huff is to produce an album, I fairly or unfairly assume that the album will be slick pop-country that will include a lot of needless eighties influenced electric guitar solos. Similarly, whenever Scott Hendricks is connected to an album, I’m even more sure that I won’t be impressed by the finished product that Read More

Themed Albums

February 13, 2009 // 7 Comments

Kathy Mattea’s brilliant album released last year, Coal, reminded me of how much I love themed albums.  There is something unique and special about an album that addresses a single topic from varied angles or transports the listener on a purposeful ride.  It’s not just a random collection of singles with little to coalesce them together.  Rather, like great movies, themed albums demand that you listen from the first note to the last, lest you miss something important in between. Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger is one of the most famous themed albums in country music history.  The entire album is based on the conceptual story of a preacher who shoots his cheating wife and her lover before going on the run. However, the theme doesn’t have to be as concrete as the one in Red Headed Stranger or as narrow as the one in Coal, which endeavors to shine Read More

Kenny Chesney’s Denials Lead to Discomfort

February 11, 2009 // 42 Comments

In the upcoming March issue of Playboy Magazine, Kenny Chesney forcefully denies old rumors that he’s gay. He, however, forgoes tact and tries to assure us that he’s straight by proving that he’s a womanizer instead. In response to suggestions that he’s gay, Chesney quips, “I think people need to live their lives the way they want to, but I’m pretty confident in the fact that I love girls (laughs). I’ve got a long line of girls who could testify that I am not gay.” As if that wasn’t already too much information, when asked if he had reached 100 women yet, he flagrantly boasts that he probably reached 100 women in 2001, “Man, I was over 100 several years ago. There were years when I had a better summer than A-Rod, buddy. You know? I got on the boards quite often…My first five years on the road were intense because I Read More

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