Miscellaneous Musings

You Can’t Play Two Women Back to Back

May 30, 2015 // 18 Comments

How could you ever tell them apart? Thank goodness we have the diversity and variety of male voices in country music to keep things fresh. With deep gratitude to country music programmers for knowing what we really want.   Thanks to your leadership, the genre is so much richer with talent today than it was in 1993.

Ain’t Nothing Wrong with the Radio? (Or, When Nash ICON Came to Town)

November 23, 2014 // 12 Comments

I more or less gave up on radio about fifteen years ago, after I purchased my first iPod. Like most right-minded people, I’d rather listen to the music I know I love than resort to enduring whatever songs have managed to squeeze onto Clear Channel’s narrow playlists in hopes of hearing something good. I’ve always been aggressive in seeking out new music on my own, so I’ve never been dependent upon radio for making new discoveries; when I listen to the radio now, I mostly tune into the local “classic country” station that plays only singles from the 70s through the early 00s. Recently, however, I discovered that a radio station in my area had switched over to Cumulus Media’s much-ballyhooed new Nash ICON format, which is supposed to emphasize country artists from the 80s and 90s and to provide a platform for the new music by those artists who Read More

Song Talk: Music that Moves Me

July 12, 2014 // 10 Comments

My local Public Radio station has a wonderful series called Music that Moves Me, which was conceived and originally produced by the inimitable Suzanne Nance who has now (sadly for us, but happily for her) moved on to bigger things in a big Chicago market. For this series, people across Maine submitted touching or funny stories about how a particular song or specific music has moved them in their lives. As a result, this series inspired me to make a playlist of songs that move me whenever I hear them. The songs that move me the most are those that promote sensitivity and kindness in the world or in me. Here are just a few of the songs that move me. What are some of yours and why? Sarah Jarosz, “Ring Them Bells” Jarosz beautifully interprets this Bob Dylan Chestnut with the help of Vince Gill. There’s just something in Read More

Hall Worthy: 2014 Edition

May 11, 2014 // 12 Comments

halloffamelogoEight years ago, we posted our second edition of Hall Worthy, a list of significant country music figures who we felt were most deserving of being in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Since then, a lot has changed. First and foremost, more than half of the list is now in the Hall of Fame (or, at least, headed there later this year.) An additional entry, Wanda Jackson, is now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

A bigger change came in 2009, when new categories were introduced to ensure that two artist inductees would be represented from different eras: The Modern Era (20-44 years of national prominence), and the Veterans Era (45+ years of national prominence.) There are also three more categories that rotate, meaning one from each category gets in every third year: Non-Performer, Songwriter, and Recording and/or Touring Musician.

Finally, since that list was published, our readership has grown tremendously and is incredibly well-versed on country music, past and present. So in this new and now annual edition of Hall Worthy, we are going to run down the list of the most successful artists that are eligible but have yet to make it into the Hall of Fame, in the order of “Hall Worthiness.”

The Modern Era:


Alan Jackson

Scoring his first hit in 1990 with “Here in the Real World”, Alan Jackson is the most successful country artist that isn’t currently in the Hall of Fame. His storied career has included 25 #1 hits and 49 visits to the top ten. He’s won a slew of awards over the years, including many for his songwriting. He is the most traditionalist of all of the nineties superstars, but has managed to stay relevant regardless of how pop the genre went over the past quarter century, selling more than forty million albums in the U.S. alone. He should be the next inductee for the Modern Era.

We Need to Have a Little Talk about Randy Travis

July 12, 2013 // 21 Comments

Randy TravisIn a year that has already brought the deaths of immortal talents like George Jones, Slim Whitman, Patti Page, and Jack Greene, not to mention the untimely loss of Mindy McCready, it is understandable that the recent news regarding Randy Travis is having the country music fans collectively holding their breath with nervousness and dread.

There is something distinctly different about how I am processing the news about Randy Travis. The thought of losing him is inextricably linked with a feeling that we’d be losing an essential core of the country music that I fell in love with more than two decades ago. Now, I remember Randy Travis from when I was a child. What little kid wouldn’t be in love with a catchy song like “Forever and Ever, Amen”?

The Day the Music (Chart) Died

October 11, 2012 // 129 Comments

So, Billboard decided to completely change its chart methodology today:

Billboard unveils new methodology today for the long-standing Hot Country Songs, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Hot Latin Songs charts. Each receive a major consumer-influenced face-lift, as digital download sales (tracked by Nielsen SoundScan) and streaming data (tracked by Nielsen BDS from such services as Spotify, Muve, Slacker, Rhapsody, Rdio and Xbox Music, among others) will now be factored into the 50-position rankings, along with existing radio airplay data monitored by Nielsen BDS. The makeovers will enable these charts to match the methodology applied to Billboard’s signature all-genre songs ranking, the Billboard Hot 100.

On the surface, this seems like a good idea. After all, the country singles chart included both sales and airplay data for decades, until switching to airplay-only in 1989. Declining availability of retail singles made this change necessary.

Donna Summer: The Country Connection

May 17, 2012 // 9 Comments

Donna Summer, disco legend, passed away today at the age of 63.

Much like my earlier post on Whitney Houston’s untimely passing, writing about Summer’s death isn’t completely foreign to our topic of country music.

Whereas Dolly Parton wrote a #1 pop hit by Whitney Houston, Donna Summer wrote a #1 country hit for Dolly Parton.

Getting to know you

January 6, 2012 // 13 Comments

Nearly three years ago, writing-starved and delirious at 1 in the morning, I sent Kevin a rambling e-mail asking if he’d consider having me write a few guest posts here at Country Universe. He graciously took me in as a staff writer, and I’ve since had the privilege of sharing my passion for country music –wacky and irrational though it may be– with all of you.

But this blog hasn’t just scratched my writing itch and strengthened my relationship with the genre; it’s introduced me to a family of writers who I can’t quite imagine my life without. Dan once wrote that blogs aren’t about regular people posing as high-and-mighty critics, but about word-of-mouth. They’re the internet equivalent of a trusted friend.

Deep Down in 2011

November 28, 2011 // 43 Comments

Lately, I’ve been playing “Deep Down” on a loop, and it got me thinking…

What if one of the big female artists of 2011 were the first to release this song?

If Carrie Underwood recorded it in 2011, the song would be praised as one of the best she’s ever recorded, but she’d be criticized for over-singing and over-producing it.

Pop Goes Country – A Cover Song Report Card

November 15, 2011 // 40 Comments

Cover songs can be a hot topic at just about any given time. We recently got to hear a somewhat underwhelming OneRepublic cover by Faith Hill, which Kevin recently reviewed. Other recent attempts include Sara Evans’ pop-country reworking of Rod Stewart’s “My Heart Can’t Tell You No,” as well as last year’s polarizing Beyoncé cover by Reba McEntire.

Since cover songs are so much fun to talk about, I thought I’d weigh in on a few well-known cover songs from the past few years – the good ones, as well as a few that we would rather forget. My criteria is simple: A good cover song should bring something new to the table, and the song should be treated in a way that is well-suited to the artist as well as the genre. This list focuses specifically on country covers of non-country songs.

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