England swings, or at least it did back in Roger Miller’s day. Nowadays, England is more likely to line dance, which helped an album from one of Nashville’s top singer-songwriters become a hit – almost 20 years after it was released.
To back up a bit: in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, country music was in a creative boom era, and James House was one of the reasons. His two albums on MCA Records (James House, Hard Times for An Honest Man) and one for Epic (Days Gone By) are all top-quality affairs that featured his distinctive voice and excellent songwriting chops. While he only had one Top 10 hit — “This Is Me Missing You” — he garnered airplay with several singles. House’s real success, though, came as a songwriter, as he penned hits for the likes of Dwight Yoakam, Martina McBride and other artists.
Those three albums really deserved a wider audience, and even today, they are well worth acquiring should you ever stumble across a copy. Days Gone By, though, ended up enjoying a renaissance in England last year, where it spawned three hit singles and coaxed House back into the recording studio for a new album and an overseas tour. Not bad for an album that was released in 1995.
Jamie O’Neal’s time in the mainstream country spotlight was short, but memorable. She kicked off her career with back-to-back number one hits “There Is No Arizona” and “When I Think About Angels,” which powered her 2000 debut album Shiver to gold certification. However, subsequent single releases stalled at radio and her planned follow-up album was shelved, eventually leading to the end of her deal with Mercury Records. A tenure at Capitol produced the 2005 album Brave and another pair of hits with “Trying to Find Atlantis” and “Somebody’s Hero,” but history eventually repeated itself with further unsuccessful singles and never-released albums.
Now Jamie O’Neal is embarking on a new chapter as the head of her own Momentum record label, free of major label constraints and of the need to depend on radio play. Her fans’ wait for new music is finally over as she preps to release her first new album in nearly a decade with Eternal, due out May 27, on which she covers a selection of classic tunes that helped shape her into the artist she eventually became. I recently had the chance to sit down with Jamie O’Neal to talk about these exciting new career developments.
Lynn Anderson was born the daughter of songwriters Casey and Liz Anderson, and went on to become one of country music’s brightest stars in the 60’s and 70’s. Over the course of sixteen years, she amassed an impressive string of eighteen Top 10 country hits including chart-toppers such as “You’re My Man,” “How Can I Unlove You,” “Keep Me In Mind,” “What a Man My Man Is,” and most notably the Grammy-winning platinum-selling crossover smash “Rose Garden.”
Country music singer-songwriter Zane Williams had his first taste of mainstream success in 2006 when Jason Michael Carroll took his song “Hurry Home” into the Top 20. Having already made inroads in the regional country market of his home state of Texas, the Abilene native is currently attempting to break through to a national audience with his fourth album Overnight Success. Amid preparations to embark on his first nationwide radio tour (in an RV with his wife and two children along for the ride), Williams found the time to call Country Universe to chat about his current single and album.
Independent country artist Amber Hayes released her first EP C’mon in the summer of 2010, and has since been covering all media ground, building up a solid fan following without the support of a major label. She had already added “theater performer” to her resume back in 2008, when she was cast as Kathy in the Conway Twitty musical. The year 2012 brought about the release of her second EP Any Day Is a Good Day, as well as her screen debut in the film Cowgirls ‘n Angels. Amber Hayes recently spoke with Country Universe to discuss her accomplishments over the past year.
In 2007, Katie Armiger released her first album at just 15-years-old after winning a local singing competition in Texas. Since then, she’s had quiet but solid success in the industry, earning four Billboard-charting singles and touring with major artists such as Brad Paisley, Little Big Town, Jason Aldean and Ronnie Dunn.
Last year, Country Weekly’s readers voted 21-year-old Armiger the “Hottest Bachelorette” for the second consecutive year, just before she appeared on ABC’s dubious reality television show, “The Bachelor Pad.” Ironic events, considering the fellow Sugar Land native has built her image on independence and empowerment, themes she captures pithily on her first Top 40 hit, “Better in a Black Dress.”
Though his career lasted about two years and ended tragically more than 50 years ago, Buddy Holly continues to impact and influence the music world. Part of it is his mystique: unlike many of his contemporaries, Holly never grew old, never had a scandal derail his career and never found himself wasting away on some oldies circuit. He’s the eternally young, energetic, slightly geeky-looking rock & roller with the hiccup in his voice and a Fender Stratocaster in his hands.
Mystique only goes so far, though. Holly left behind a strong collection of songs that have aged extremely well – mainly because they’re constantly being reinvented. His songs have been covered by hundreds of singers, across every music genre imaginable. Just this year alone, in commemoration of his 75th birthday, Buddy Holly tribute albums have featured both of the surviving Beatles, Lyle Lovett, Florence + The Machine, My Morning Jacket, Cee Lo Green and Justin Townes Earle.
Add to that mix Words of Love: Songs of Buddy Holly by Nashville’s Paul Burch. Much like the way Holly’s music has a timeless quality, Burch’s combination of classic country, blues and rock & roll has its roots in the 1950s and ’60s but never sounds dated. Beginning with 1998’s Pan-American Flash through 2009’s Still Your Man, Burch has released a series of critically acclaimed albums and recorded with luminaries such as Ralph Stanley and Mark Knopfler.
Katie Cook has been a staple on Country Music Television since 2002, hosting various series and specials such as CMT Most Wanted Live, the MWL concert series, MWL Star, MWL Stacked and the popular weekly entertainment magazine show, CMT Insider.
But her experience with country music is actually three-fold: along with being embedded in the industry as a television host and interviewer, she’s also the daughter of Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Roger Cook, and she’s both a singer and songwriter herself – she released an album in 2000 as part of a band called Reno and continues to hone her songwriting skills. Cook took some time to share with Country Universe her opinions on the state of country music, the evolution of CMT and her recent White House visit, among other topics.
Three weeks ago, I had a chance to chat with one of my favorite new acts, Joey +Rory. It has been over a year since their break through on CMT’s Can You Duet and several months since the release of their album The Life of A Song. So, Country Universe thought it would be a perfect time to catch up with them to see what’s been happening since the whirlwind of their recent success.
Not surprisingly, it was a pleasure to speak with them. They were very honest and down to earth. Along with telling us how they’re handling their new found fame, they didn’t shy away from expressing their feelings on current country music, songwriting and what they are and are not listening to these days.