Category Archives: Open Thread

Saturday Discussion Thread: Favorite Songwriters

Earlier today, a new feature was introduced at Country Universe.  Songwriter Series will take an in-depth look at the tunesmiths that craft so much of the music that we love to listen to.  While some of our best songwriters are also established and successful recording artists, most of them stay behind the scenes, and their work becomes famous when married with a singing voice other than their own.

Leeann wrote an excellent piece about Darrell Scott today, who has penned big hits for Sara Evans, Dixie Chicks and Travis Tritt, among others.   There are so many other great writers out there.   Who do you think is the best writer right now in country music?  Are there any writers that you'd like to see featured here?



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Friday Open Thread: First Country Concert

Gotta say, without shame, that my first concert was Roxette at the Beacon Theater in New York City.  I won tickets in seventh grade.    I still think they’re cool, and it was a great show.

But my first country concert was later that year, the summer before I entered eighth grade.   It was in an outdoor venue in New Jersey, the name of which escapes me.  But I remember the lineup vividly: Clint Black, Billy Dean and Aaron Tippin.

My dad was a huge Clint Black fan, and he was touring to support his The Hard Way album.  I remember there was a stage set involving tumbling boulders.  Anyway, it was a great show.  All three acts were fantastic.

What was your first concert?  How about your first country concert?


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Thursday Open Thread: Recommend a Track

I'm thinking of making this the regular Thursday open thread, so let's see how it goes!

Pick one track – either an album cut or a relatively unknown single – that you think is truly fantastic.  Tell us why you picked it and what album it came from, so we can go download it ourselves!

My choice this week:

George Strait, “I Met a Friend of Yours Today” – from the 1996 album Lead On

I can't believe th

is wasn't a single, though that album produced four great ones anyway.   Strait comes home from work, and tells his wife he's lost his appetite, but he wouldn't mind her fixing him a drink.  “Oh by the way,” he mentions, “I met a friend of yours today.”  He stopped by a bar on the other side of town, and heard a man talking about her, and it was obvious “he knew you well.”   Strait's nuanced vocal builds layers of anger, shame and hurt on a foundation of betrayal and disappointment.   It's a classic performance.

What track do you recommend?



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Wednesday Discussion: CMA Entertainer, 2008

Kenny Chesney. Keith Urban. Alan Jackson. Tim McGraw. Dixie Chicks. Shania Twain. Garth Brooks.

Those are the seven acts that have been deemed worthy of CMA’s Entertainer of the Year trophy in the past ten years.

It’s their most prestigious award, the one that caps off the night, and while the ACM has always put a high premium on big ticket sales, the CMA has honored some acts in this category who elevate the industry with their talent. Vince Gill’s two wins are the best representation of this trend. The Urban and Jackson victories are the most recent.

So when I pick the five acts that I’d like to see nominated, I’m choosing those who are firing on all cylinders right now: commercial success, artistic achievement and representation of the genre as a whole. Ideally, the entertainer of the year should be an ambassador of the format, and I think that the following five acts have that perfect combination of integrity and visibility this year.

Kenny Chesney
Three-time winner and reigning champion. The past year brought a handful of strong singles, most notably “Don’t Blink” and “Better as a Memory.” There isn’t anybody else on the scene who’s selling tickets like him. There’s no denying he’s the king of the road, and he’s held that title for a longer stretch than any artist since Garth Brooks.

Brad Paisley
Another great year at radio is nothing new for Paisley, who has been a mainstay on the dial for almost a decade. But as a ticket draw, he’s brought it to a new level, headlining major venues across the country. He’s widely seen as an artist as well, with that credibility only being heightened by his instrumental prowess. Earlier this year, he won his first Grammy, and it was for his instrumental work, which will also be highlighted on his upcoming CD Play.

George Strait
He’s been so consistently good for so long, it’s easy to overlook when he kicks things into a higher gear. It’s as if his Hall of Fame induction rejuvenated him, and he’s been making better music because of it. He sells tons of tickets whenever he decides to play, and his new album has been a top seller.

The only duos in history to be nominated for this award are the Judds and Brooks & Dunn. This year, Sugarland should become the third. Their live show is notoriously awesome, they’ve posted huge numbers at radio and retail, and the critical reception for their new album has been overwhelmingly positive.

Carrie Underwood
The airplay stats, record and ticket sales speak for themselves, but her impact is larger than those already impressive numbers. She is the genre’s best ambassador right now to the world outside of country music. She maintains the interest of her younger fanbase without pandering to it, and crafts music that is still appealing to adults.  She’s as much in her element paying tribute to Eddy Arnold as she is covering a George Michael social justice anthem. She doesn’t just deserve to be the first female solo artist to be nominated in eight years; she deserves to win.


Filed under CMA Awards, Discussion, Open Thread

Tuesday Open Thread: Movie Musical Moment

Not exactly country, but this is my favorite unconventional use of music in a movie. Ever.

That's probably not much of a topic to go on, but hey, it's an open thread. Take the conversation in any direction you want!



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Monday Open Thread: Taylor Swift “Box Set”

From CMT:

Taylor Swift will release her next album, Fearless, on Nov. 11 on Big Machine Records, the label announced Friday (Aug. 8). Swift wrote or co-wrote all 13 songs…

In addition, Swift will launch a new Web site,, on Aug. 22, where the album will be available for pre-sale. A limited-edition box set edition, featuring a CD, leather bracelet, T-shirt, picture book and decal, will also be available. The first 10,000 fans to purchase the boxed set and upload their photos will have their pictures included in a mosaic image in the album artwork and on the CD.

I’m at a loss for words, so I’ll just borrow some from Paul Krassner:

For years, reality has been nipping at the heels of satire. Now, it’s finally caught up.

This is an open thread. Tell us what’s on your mind.


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Sunday Discussion: CMA Album, 2008

I'm sure the actual category will be some mishmash of major artist releases from the eligibility period. A little Carrie here, a little Chesney there, with a dose of Strait and Flatts for good measure. Underwood's album is decent, as was Strait's, but these are my five favorite albums from the eligibility period (July 1, 2007-June 30, 2008.) Do they have a prayer of being nominated? Who knows. Even the long shots have been nominated when they were core radio acts, so maybe fate will be kind.

Kathy Mattea, Coal
I suspect that when 2008's Best of Lists are compiled, this album is going to be featured prominently on them. The album works as both entertainment and historical record, and is essential listening for those with even a passing interest in Mattea, mountain music, the working class and coal mining.

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Raising Sand
If there was a more interestin

g album or surprising success story this past year, I can't think of one. The lead singers of Led Zeppelin and Union Station combined to make a roots album that honors the history of both rock and country music without being limited by the past.

LeAnn Rimes, Family
She wrote an entire album for the first time, and instead of it being a hubris-laden disaster, it was her best album to date. She's a better interpreter of her own material than she is of others, which is no small feat, given the impressive vocal performances she has under her belt.

Josh Turner, Everything is Fine
He's got a set of material worthy of his rich baritone on this, his third album. The singles have only hinted at the good stuff here.

Trisha Yearwood, Heaven, Heartache, and the Power of Love
All of Yearwood's albums have been of high quality, but this one is excellent even by her lofty standards. It's her strongest set overall since 2000's Real Live Woman.



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Saturday Discussion: Most Recent Purchase

I don't spend much on music these days, but I try to catch good deals

at used record stores and such.  Last weekend, I picked up Dierks Bentley's Modern Day Drifter for $3.99.   I'm diggin' it.

What's the last music purchase you've made?



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Friday Discussion: CMA Single, 2008

So what should this year's Single nominees be at the CMA awards? To be eligible, the song must have been released between July 1, 2007 and June 30, 2008. This category's a bit of a free-for-all, don't ya think? Regardless, I have five favorites, and I can't wait to hear yours!

Trace Adkins, “You're Gonna Miss This”
In a year that was light on big hits, Adkins connected with this one, giving himself a massive hit that removed the unpleasant aftertaste of “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” that many people still had. I'm not one of those people, mind you, and I liked that song more than this one, but this guy's way overdue for some acknowledgment.

Alan Jackson, “Small Town Southern Man”
I love a good autobiographical h

it, particularly one about parents. Alan Jackson's tribute to his father is soft-spoken in its reverence, making it fully believable and in turn, quietly powerful.

Miranda Lambert, “Gunpowder & Lead”
Her best and biggest single to date, I still can't believe it was her top ten breakthrough. The message to the industry: just release the best songs and trust the audience to respond. (See also: Sugarland, “Stay”)

Brad Paisley, “Letter to Me”
I think it's the most sincere thing he's ever written, and it features his best vocal performance in recent memory. They love nominating him for fluff, but this was one of the best singles of the past year and it deserves recognition.

Sugarland, “Stay”
What turned their second album into a smash was this stripped-down ballad, and it's already been honored by the ACM in this category. It's a career record and worthy of the nod. Hopefully, they'll be back again in 2009 for “Very Last Country Song.”



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Wednesday Discussion: CMA Female Vocalist, 2008

Following up on last night's discussion on who should be nominated for Male Vocalist this year at the CMA's, it seems logical to talk about the female vocalists next. There was a time when this was the most competitive race at the annual awards. We're nowhere near that nineties peak again, but there are good cases to be made for those who aren't among my personal top five, which are:

Alison Krauss
Everybody knows that the two women who have sold the most records in the past two years are Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift. Perhaps less widely known is that Alison Krauss is in third, thanks to the enduring popularity of her hits collection and duet album with Robert Plant. Oh, and she's done it without radio and with CMT running reality shows all day. Her appeal is far broader than country, but claiming her as one of their own makes country music look a lot better than it really is.

Miranda Lambert
Here's the woman I'll be rooting for this fall. Along with Underwood, she's a mortal lock for a nomination. The ACM honored her with Album earlier this year, but that set wasn't released during the eligibility period for this year's CMA's. Lambe

rt strikes a balance between artistic merit and commercial success better than any other woman in the game right now.

Reba McEntire
It was a race between her and Dolly Parton for my fifth slot here, two women who have maintained relevance longer than most country stars in history, male or female. Parton made the better album of the two, and is the only woman in country right now who has a serious presence internationally. But McEntire had her biggest album in a decade and she happened to do her best singing on it in about as long.

Carrie Underwood
I don't think I'll be rooting for her to win this year, since she already has two of them, but I wouldn't complain, either. Much like Trisha Yearwood, my reaction to Carrie Underwood being nominated for a vocalist will always be, “She's a damn good vocalist.” I think her singing was much stronger on her second album and she keeps wowing me when I least expect it. This year alone brought live covers of Eddy Arnold and George Michael, and they were both awesome.

Trisha Yearwood
This past year, Yearwood politely reminded all of us that she's still the best female singer we've got, and her taste in material is peerless. I think that for as long as Yearwood is actively recording, you might as well pre-print the ballots with her name on it, and ask the voters for four more nominees.

Which five women do you want to see nominated for Female Vocalist this year?



Filed under Discussion, Open Thread