Archive for the ‘News’ Category

In Memoriam: Kitty Wells, 1919-2012

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Just a few weeks shy of her 93rd birthday, the Queen of Country Music has passed away.

Kitty Wells was the first female ordering viagra to canada country superstar, and for many years, the only consistent female hit-maker.

She also started a long tradition of controversial female records being banned at country radio.  Her answer song to “The Wild Side of Life” spent six weeks at #1 in 1952, and her name would forever be associated with “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.”  Indeed, the record made such a big impact that many don’t even know it was an answer song in the first place.

Her other big classic was “Making Believe”, which spent an astonishing 15 weeks at #2 in 1955.

Wells’ trailblazing career landed her at #9 on Country Universe’s 100 Greatest Women feature back in 2007.  You can read her entry here.

Rest in Peace, Miss Kitty Wells.




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Thank You, Chris Neal

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

The country music community has lost a true beacon this week with the passing of Chris Neal, a superlative journalist and ally to independent blogs like ours.

As a ten-year staff writer for Country Weekly and a contributor to the Village Voice, Nashville Scene, Performing SongwriterThe 9513, and other publications, Chris helped set the standard for modern country music commentary, combining clear-eyed observations with his trademark acerbic wit. In a decade of confounding change for the genre’s industry and sound, he was a fearless voice of reason, equally comfortable celebrating country’s evolution and – no other word will do – “facepalming” over its less endearing developments. His recent work as Senior Editor of M Music & Musicians has only broadened his impact, delivering on his passion for all varieties of good music.

Of course, for many of us, Chris will be just as remembered for his lively presence across the web – including, blessedly, this blog. Who can forget how he would casually out-snark an entire comment thread of overheated 9513-ers? Who can forget the pure joy of his first batches of “country haiku”? Who can forget his pets?

But he wasn’t just a fun “internet friend,” either. Perhaps most enduringly, he was a mentor, an accomplished professional who used his platform again, and again, and again to help shine a light on writers he deemed deserving. It’s because of Chris Neal that many of us have the confidence and the audience to write about country music in this small way we do; and it’s because of his remarkable example that many of us keep trying in the first place.

We’ll miss you so much, friend. Thank you.


Category News

Donna Summer: The Country Connection

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

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.

“Starting Over Again” is anything but a disco number.  It's a tender tale of a middle-aged couple divorcing after their children are grown:

Reba McEntire also covered the song in 1995, taking it back to the top twenty:

Summer co-wrote many of her classic hits, including “Love to Love You Baby”, “Dim All the Lights”, “I Feel Love”, “Bad Girls”, and “She Works Hard for the Money.” But my favorite of her compositions is “On the Radio”, which I actually heard first by Emmylou Harris as a straight-up heartbreaking ballad:

Needless to say, I was taken aback by the disco beat when I finally heard Summer's original version.

I haven't been writing much lately, but I couldn't let the passing of this timeless talent go by without comment.  Like Houston before her, she was a great singer who went too soon, and country music's legacy was just a little bit richer for her passing through.


Country Music Hall of Fame Welcomes Garth Brooks, Connie Smith, and Hargus “Pig” Robbins

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Garth Brooks, Connie Smith, and keyboardist Hargus “Pig” Robbins will join the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2012.

Brooks is the top-selling country music artist in history.  At fifty, he is one of the youngest living inductees ever.

Smith is the fifth female artist to be inducted since 2008, when Emmylou Harris ended a nine year drought for female inductees.

Since playing on the George Jones classic “White Lightning” in 1957, Robbins has recorded with countless legends of country and rock music, including Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Alan Jackson, and Bob Dylan.

What’s your take on the 2012 inductees?  More importantly, who deserves to join them in 2013?

We’ll run a list of our picks for the next round. Share your suggestions in the comments!

Whitney Houston: 1963-2012

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

On the eve of the Grammy Awards, music lost one of its greatest voices, as Whitney Houston died at age 48.

Her only tangential connection to country was a big one.  Her cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”  is one of the most successful singles in history, spending 14 weeks at #1 and pushing its parent album, The Bodyguard soundtrack, to sales of 44 million worldwide.

When Michael Jackson died in 2009, it was the first time it felt like we lost an icon of our generation.  But Jackson hit the charts with his brothers in 1969.

Whitney Houston was all eighties.  Everyone my age can remember the first time they heard her sing, back when “Greatest Love of All” and “How Will I Know” dominated the airwaves.  There was no matching that voice.

In the years that followed, many superstars would surface who could hit the big notes like Whitney, but not one of them came even close to doing it with her soul and her style.   She’s best known for her eighties pop classics and soundtrack hits from the nineties, but her best work was her underrated studio albums from the latter decade.

For those of you ready to delve into her catalog, don’t overlook 1990′s I’m Your Baby Tonight, which featured the stunning “All The Man That I Need”, the funky title track, and the should’ve been smash “My Name is Not Susan.”   Her best studio album, 1998′s My Love is Your Love, includes the classic title track, the Grammy-winning “It’s Not Right but it’s Okay”, and the tabloid-countering “In My Business.”

Watching the Super Bowl Half Time Show this year, I was again struck by how the eighties icons are surviving the test of time.   Madonna’s still at the top of her game, as are U2 and Bon Jovi.   Prince and Bruce Springsteen aren’t getting a lot of love for their new music, but are still amazing live and are still making excellent music.

But Michael Jackson’s gone, and now Whitney Houston is, too.  There was something so unique about the eighties that produced these larger than life stars.  I don’t know that the various mediums will ever be aligned well enough to create stars that big again.   We’re always going to have ladies with big, booming voices, but there will never be another who makes our collective jaws drop like Whitney Houston did.

So Hey…Feel Like Prejudging The Loretta Lynn Tribute Album?

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Info about the forthcoming RCA-helmed tribute to Lo-Lynn has been trickling out for a month or something, and now, thanks to our resourceful friends around the mighty internets, we have access to the track list and audio of the first single. Let’s gripe! (more…)

Hank Cochran: 1935-2010

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Rest in Peace, Hank Cochran.

Enjoy some of the legendary songwriter’s greatest hits:

Patsy Cline, “I Fall to Pieces”

Eddy Arnold, “Make the World Go Away”

Patsy Cline, “She’s Got You”

George Strait, “Ocean Front Property”

Jeannie Seely, “Don’t Touch Me”

Ray Price, “Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me”

Merle Haggard, “It’s Not Love (But It’s Not Bad)”

Vern Gosdin, “Is it Raining at Your House”

Jimmy Dean: 1928-2010

Monday, June 14th, 2010

Rest in peace, Jimmy Dean.

News coverage:  Jimmy Dean dies at 81.

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Category News

Meet Exciting Singles Now Courtesy of CU Favorite Paul Burch

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Acclaimed Nashville artist Paul Burch, whose recent Still Your Man landed at #13 on our Best Country Albums of 2009 list, is taking an innovative approach to distributing new music this year. The Asides/Besides project he launched earlier this month will hook fans (or hip, curious newbies) up with twenty singles released steadily throughout the year, with varying affordable price packages to accommodate varying levels of Paul Burch appreciation.

The official lowdown:

On March 1st Paul Burch & WPA Ballclub began the streaming and sale of an A side/B side single every month throughout the rest of the year. For a one-time fee of only $5 fans can join the Paul Burch Record Club which allows them to subscribe to the entire year-long series. For $10, in addition to receiving all 20 tracks in mp3 form, Paul Burch Record Club members will receive, at the end of the year, a CD of the singles with custom artwork. An additional $15 level will get fans all the mp3s, a CD at the end of the year, and a personalized thank-you note from Paul!

To subscribe to Asides/Besides or sample some of Burch’s fine wares, visit


Category News

BTW, eMusic Is Kind of Awesome Again

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

There was considerable grumbling among eMusic’s 400,000-ish subscribers last year when the formerly indie-centric music download service enacted a dramatic increase in monthly user subscription fees in exchange for posting a few good chunks of the Sony catalogue. Thankfully, the service endured the backlash long enough to strike up another major-label deal, this time with Warner Music Group (and no additional price hike – so far).

The deal is a huge treat that helps ease the burn of the increased price, bringing with it classic catalogue work from the likes of Emmylou Harris, Dwight Yoakam, Randy Travis, Gram Parsons, Neil Young, Travis Tritt, Eddie Rabbitt, Linda Ronstadt, Jerry Jeff Walker and more. That’s in addition to the Dolly Parton, George Jones, Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette, Willie Nelson, Sons of the Pioneers and others already brought in by Sony and other labels. With per-track costs averaging at about $.45 depending on your monthly plan, the newly rejuvenated service could prove quite enticing to catalogue fans who like to cherry-pick. Let’s hope deals with Universal Music Group and EMI are forthcoming.

eMusic’s blog post on the expansion can be found here. For more information, see the site itself.


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