Archive for the ‘News’ Category

ACM Top New Artist Winners

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

header_acm-awards1The winners have been announced for three of the Top New Artist categories at this year’s ACM Awards:

  • Top New Male Vocalist: Jake Owen
  • Top New Female Vocalist: Julianne Hough
  • Top New Vocal Duo or Group: Zac Brown Band

Jake Owen’s victory is something of an upset, as he was nominated against James Otto and Jamey Johnson, two men who received multiple Grammy nominations. Johnson still has a shot at some ACM awards this year, as he’s nominated in three other categories: Single, Song and Album of the Year. Owen is nominated for Vocal Event for his part in Sugarland’s multi-artist “Life in a Northern Town.”

Julianne Hough was chosen over Sarah Buxton and Ashton Shepherd, while Zac Brown Band won over the Eli Young Band and the Lost Trailers.

Owen, Hough and Zac Brown Band will compete for the Top New Artist award during the three-hour telecast on Sunday, April 5. We’ll be live-blogging, of course. Look for our predictions and personal picks later this week.

Texas Country

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

texasStuck in my car stereo over the last couple of weeks has been a CD loaded with tunes from some of my favorite Texas-affiliated artists.  I’m a big fan of the singer-songwriter, old school and raggedy rock styles of country music, and Texas excels at all three. So any time I need a break from the current “Nashville sound,” I like to check in with Texas and see what they’re up to. Invariably, it’s more colorful and interesting.

I can’ t call myself an expert on Texas country by any stretch of the imagination and my education is nowhere remotely near complete (hint: feel free to recommend), but I do sense that it’s a style of music, or perhaps a musical sensibility, that is extremely important to maintain.  Texas artists exude a certain spirit of creativity and sense of individuality that is sorely lacking elsewhere in country music.  And in my opinion, great music and great artists only flourish in settings where both of those are encouraged.

Here’s a sampling of the songs I’m currently listening to:

  • “Dallas,” Jimmie Dale Gilmore
  • “Snowin’ on Raton,” Townes Van Zandt
  • “West Texas Waltz,” Joe Ely
  • “Greenville,” Lucinda Williams
  • “Tortured Tangled Hearts,” Dixie Chicks
  • “Transcendental Blues (Live in Austin),” Steve Earle
  • “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” Willie Nelson
  • “Treat Me Like a Saturday Night,” The Flatlanders
  • “Bourbon Legend,” Jason Boland & The Stragglers
  • “Jesus Was a Capricorn,” Kris Kristofferson
  • “Angry All The Time,” Bruce Robison & Kelly Willis
  • “What I Deserve,” Kelly Willis
  • “Old Five and Dimers,” Billie Joe Shaver
  • “Heartbreaker’s Hall of Fame,” Sunny Sweeney
  • “Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line,” Waylon Jennings

What are some of your favorite Texas country tunes?

In Memoriam: Dan Seals

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

dan-sealsSuccessful country singer Dan Seals has passed away at the age of 61.  Seals had a long run at the top of the country charts after a pop career as one half of England Dan and John Ford Coley. After the duo scored a huge hit with “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight,” Seals returned to his country roots.

Although he had a string of country hits, he is most remembered for his two award-winning chart-toppers.    In 1986, he won two CMA awards: Single of the Year for “Bop”, and Vocal Duo of the Year for “Meet Me in Montana”, his collaboration with Marie Osmond.

Seals is survived by his wife and his four children. Share your memories and tributes to his music in the commments.

Idol Opry Night: Live Blog

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

idolCountry Universe continues its annual tradition of live-blogging country night on American Idol.


9:55 Kind of boring night overall. I liked Anoop the most. Not too much stood out for me.

9:52 When I reviewed “So Small”, I think that I mentioned it would sound better stripped down. No surprise I liked the first half of this performance more.

9:51 Interesting that only the men took on Carrie this year. Probably a good move on the women’s part, as none of them could go toe to toe with her.

9:46 Ten down, one to go.

9:45 Again, I feel they’re just pushing certain people.

9:43 This is the second time tonight – the first being Adam Lambert – that I feel I’m watching a parody of Idol.

9:41 “Walking After Midnight” is the first song that I actually associate with the Opry that’s been performed tonight.

9:33 I’ll say it before Randy does. This sounds current. It’s also easily the best of the night.

9:31 I remember Fantasia nailing “Always on My Mind.” He’s got his work cut out for him. Love his name, though.

9:25 The show seems rigged this year.

9:24 Why do they keep suggesting songs that you can scream all the way through? That would sound terrible.

9:23 Jesus, take the mic.

9:21 This guy wants to be Color Me Badd on the verses and Linkin Park on the chorus. He can’t pull off either of them.

9:17 Seriously. “Jesus, Take the Wheel?”

9:13 That didn’t sound like Dolly Parton, but I guess Simon’s aware of the version she modeled hers after.

9:11 “Jolene” is a simple song in its original version. That’s what makes it so easy to put a new spin on it without making dramatic changes. I liked her performance of this.

9:10 This is the Mindy Smith version.


Chris Willman Joins The Huffington Post

Friday, March 13th, 2009

rednecksOne of country music’s finest journalist has a new outlet for his talents. Chris Willman has written for Entertainment Weekly for many years and he also wrote the essential book Rednecks and Bluenecks, which explored the history of politics in country music.

He’s now joined The Huffington Post, and the online format allows him to write exponentially longer essays. His first explicitly country article is up now, and it’s a fascinating read: Jamey Johnson and John Rich Help Country Radio Get Real.

One of Willman’s gifts as a writer is his ability to get artists to speak more deeply and more candidly about their craft. Thus, even an interview with an artist like John Rich, who I generally find insufferable, is still interesting. The article closes with tidbits about upcoming Tim McGraw and Brad Paisley songs, too.

The Huffington Post isn’t for everybody, so thankfully I can link directly to Chris Willman’s index page, avoiding the tabloid politics entirely. Since the man wrote my favorite line ever in a music review*, I’ll be checking it regularly for updates.

* His 2002 Shania Twain review -”Up! is like Abba Gold without all the melancholy.”

Thanks to CU reader Dudley for the link.

Randy Travis and Carrie Underwood head to American Idol

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

randy-travis-and-carrie-underwoodNext Tuesday will be “Grand Ole Opry” week on American Idol, and they’re bringing out the big guns. The guest mentor will be country music legend Randy Travis, who will also perform on the show. This year’s homecoming theme will also continue, as Carrie Underwood returns to perform.

This is the latest in a string of connections between Travis and Underwood. In addition to Travis inviting Underwood to join the Opry, she is currently moving quickly up the charts with a cover of “I Told You So”, a #1 hit both performed and penned by Travis.

Warner Bros. will release I Told You So, a 2-cd collection of Randy Travis hits, later this month.

LeAnn Rimes Takes “What I Cannot Change” to No. 1

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

You read that right. This week, the highly praised and Grammy-nominated LeAnn Rimes single “What I Cannot Change” finally reached #1 – on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play chart.

While the song’s admirers most certainly would have preferred it to be a #1 country single, at least the song’s being heard somewhere. Rimes is the first country artist in the chart’s history to score a #1 single. She breaks Reba McEntire’s 13-year hold on the highest charting country remix in the chart’s history.  McEntire scored a #2 hit with a cover of The Supremes classic “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.”

Perhaps Johnny Cash will be the next country star to top the chart.

Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts and Taylor Swift among Music’s Biggest Moneymakers

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

moneyOnly three country acts are among the past year’s top moneymakers in music:

If anyone had any doubt that touring is where the money is in the music business, a quick look at the top Moneymakers for 2008 should hammer the point home.

Regardless of genre, retail sales or radio play, each of the 20 acts on Billboard’s Moneymakers list toured in 2008. (Taylor Swift mostly opened for Brad Paisley but doesn’t get credit for that revenue). For almost all of them, touring generated the most revenue. And in a year when recorded-music sales declined yet again, many earned more at the box office than ever before.

1. Madonna: $242,176,466
2. Bon Jovi: $157,177,766
3. Bruce Springsteen: $156,327,964
4. The Police: $109,976,894
5. Celine Dion: $99,171,237
6. Kenny Chesney: $90,823,990
7. Neil Diamond: $82,174,000
8. Rascal Flatts: $63,522,160
9. Jonas Brothers: $62,638,814
10. Coldplay: $62,175,555
11. The Eagles: $61,132,213
12. Lil Wayne: $57,441,334
13. AC/DC: $56,505,296
14. Michael Buble: $50,257,364
15. Miley Cyrus: $48,920,806
16. Taylor Swift: $45,588,730
17. Journey: $44,787,328
18. Billy Joel: $44,581,010
19. Mary J. Blige: $43,472,850
20. Kanye West: $42,552,402

The top five Moneymakers are also the five acts that earned the most on tour, and in the same order, according to Billboard Boxscore. Eight of the top 10 Moneymakers are in the Boxscore top 10.

I’m not surprised to see touring becoming increasingly significant as a moneymaker, but I am curious to see if any of our readers actually caught one of the shows above. I went to one, but I would’ve enjoyed seeing a few others.  Just not any of the country acts.

ACM Album of the Year Criteria Amended

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

jameyjohnson-02-bigA Peter Cooper article in today’s edition of the Tennessean:

The album of the year nominees are … as yet unannounced. That’s because the Academy re-thought its prerequisite that album contenders sell at least 300,000 copies. Several of last year’s most acclaimed country albums, including Jamey Johnson’s That Lonesome Song, did not meet the sales requirement, and ACM officials held a board meeting, waved the prerequisite and mandated a re-vote. Results of the re-vote will be announced in March.

Album rule was outdated

Romeo said it became clear during the voting process that the sales requirement in the album category had become antiquated due to changes in the way people consume music. The ACM normally uses an initial vote to take the field of album nominees down to 20, from which five finalists will be chosen. But only nine albums this year survived the 300,000 minimum.

“Does this mean country music isn’t doing business?” Romeo asked rhetorically. “No. But it means that the kind of business we’re doing is changing. It may not be albums anymore; it may be singles downloads and ring tones.”

There had been ongoing discussion and dissention centering around the ACM’s album category rules, with many holding up That Lonesome Song as a case in point. Though it has not been a slam-dunk sales success, the album helped Johnson to two Grammy nominations, and it was Music Row’s most critically acclaimed album of 2008. Thus, Johnson’s record company argued, the album would appear to merit consideration.

“We want to be inclusive and fair, and I think this change shows that if we feel something’s not right, we’re not afraid to change it,” Romeo said.

The Academy of Country Music membership clearly made the right decision. In the last two years, the academy has shown a willingness to look beyond the charts in the Single of the Year category. Miranda Lambert’s “Famous in a Small Town,” which peaked at No. 14 in November 2007, was a losing nominee in last year’s race; this year, two No. 1 singles (“Waitin’ on a Woman” and “You’re Gonna Miss This”) are matched with Lambert’s “Gunpowder and Lead” (No. 7), Jamey Johnson’s “In Color” (No. 10) and Heidi Newfield’s “Johnny & June” (No. 11). The Album of the Year category should recognize the most essential album released during the year, and a little technicality shouldn’t squash an album’s chance of being nominated. With the current buzz building around his career, expect Johnson to be celebrating a gold record sometime in 2009.


Category News

44th Annual ACM Awards Nominations Announcement

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009


The Academy of Country Music announced nominees for their 44th annual awards ceremony this morning at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. Julianne Hough, Kellie Pickler, Leann Rimes and Jessica Simpson were on hand to present this year’s nominees. More analysis to follow.

Entertainer of the Year

  • Kenny Chesney
  • Brad Paisley
  • George Strait
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Keith Urban



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