Category Archives: Site News

Two Too Awesome to Remain in One Universe

2010 brought two big steps for Country Universe writers Dan Milliken and Tara Seetharam!

Dan’s musings on country music have recently been published at CMT.com. Check out his awesome rundown of this year’s reissues: The Greatest Greatest Hits of 2010.  He also contributed to features on Toby Keith and Tim McGraw, selecting “Who’s That Man” as a prime Keith cut, and “Just to See You Smile” as prime McGraw.

Meanwhile, Tara has launched her own blog – TaraSeetharam.com – which features her musings on pop culture and has me secretly wishing to do guest posts on the non-country artists who populate my iPod.

Both writers are so amazing that expanded horizons are inevitable. We’re proud to have recognized their talent early on!

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Catching Up

Daylight Savings Time means one more hour to kill surfing the internet. It’s as good a time as any to catch up on the CMA Awards, your favorite artists, and reviews you might have missed!

Just follow the links below to our archival pages, all of which have just been completely updated:

CMA Awards

Read about every nominee and winner in all major categories since the awards began in 1967, starting with a rundown of this year’s nominees in each category.

Artist Pages

Read all features and reviews from every artist that has ever been written about on Country Universe, along with a listing of all of their industry awards and RIAA-certified albums and singles.

Reviews

Our archives include every single, album, concert, music video, and DVD review we’ve ever published, listed alphabetically by artist.

Just want to see what we’ve written lately? Look back in reverse chronological order:

More new posts are on the way, including our annual rundown of Picks & Predictions for the CMA Awards and the return of Starter Kits, Favorite Songs by Favorite Artists, and Yesterday’s Songs. Stay tuned!

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Movin’ On Up

We’re proud to note that our very own Dan Milliken has been published by CMT.com for the first time.

Check out his write-up of the Toby Keith classic, “Who’s That Man”:

The impossible question of divorce is how to divide lives that have become so intricately knitted together. As Keith demonstrates in this dark, brooding song, no answer to that question comes without its toll. The narrator of “Who’s That Man” has lost every staple of his former life in the collapse of his marriage, and as if that weren’t bad enough, someone else is filling his shoes without any apparent hitch.

Of course, this is an awesome and impressive new platform for Dan’s writing, but let’s be honest. Just like Country Universe got a hell of a lot better once he joined us, CMT can only be elevated by his trademark wit and undeniable talent.

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We’ll Drink to That

Today is the 21st birthday of our very own Dan Milliken, who can now indulge in one of country music’s favorite past times without breaking the law.

In honor of this occasion, we’ve decided to dedicate some of our favorite songs on that subject to the birthday guy.

Leeann:

I don’t drink, but I do love me a good drinking song. In fact, I love so many drinking songs that it’s impossible for me to narrow it down to just one favorite. So, I decided to put my iPod on shuffle and discuss/recommend the first one that popped up, which happens to be “I Drink”, recorded by both Blake Shelton and Bill Chambers and co-written and also recorded by Americana favorite, Mary Gauthier.

If people know “I Drink”, it’s likely due to Blake Shelton’s version from Barn and Grill. It’s a good version, but I prefer the versions from Bill Chambers and/or Mary Gauthier, because they provide the grittiness and moroseness that properly conveys the quiet resignation that the song requires. Therefore, this one’s not a party anthem.

From a grown child’s perspective, the act of drinking is passed down like a tradition. Just as “fish swim, birds fly, daddy’s yell, mama’s cry, old men sit and think”, the grown child proclaims, “I drink.” And that’s just that.

Kevin:

I’m going to go all meta and recommend two songs that are as much about getting older as they are about drinking. Kenny Chesney’s “Beer in Mexico”, which has him pondering why he’s not happy with where is in his life so far. And Rodney Crowell’s “Song For the Life”, which finds him not drinking as much as he used to, perhaps because he’s very happy with where he is in his life so far!

Recommend your favorite drinking song for Dan in the comments. Oh, and wish him a happy birthday too, if you like!

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Filed under Miscellaneous Musings, Site News

Nashville Scene Critics’ Poll Features Outstanding Commentary By Local Writer

The results are in for the Tenth Annual Nashville Scene Country Music Critics’ Poll. This year’s survey was created with the input of 77 nationally recognized country music critics, but there’s one that I’m sure you’ll agree is tremendously cooler and more insightful than the rest – our very own Dan Milliken.  Here’s just a sampling of his commentary, more of which can be read here:

One of the fascinating patterns of mainstream country in 2009 was that, as the sound moved further and further away from country music as we traditionally know it, the lyrics tried and harder and harder to pick up the slack. Seemingly every other song shipped to radio these days is about the singer’s inherent “country-ness,” either explicitly (“She’s Country,” “That’s How Country Boys Roll,” “I’m a Little More Country Than That”) or implicitly (“Small Town U.S.A.,” “Bonfire,” “Backwoods,” “Whistlin’ Dixie”). There’s a palpable self-consciousness to the trend, as though songwriters, labels and artists know they’re stamping out a large part of the genre’s core identity, but really, really hope you won’t notice.

It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: We’re proud of you, Dan. Great work!

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Check Out Our Artist Pages

It’s been a long time coming, but our Artist Pages are finally up and running!

It’s a project I started with Blake Boldt at the end of 2008. We were looking for a new way to archive the site’s content, along with providing additional information that wasn’t currently included on the site.

There is an Artist Page for every single act that has been the subject of a feature, interview, or review throughout the past five years. As of this posting, there are 317 artist profiles. Also included are Industry Honors (Hall of Fame inductions, Grammys, CMAs and ACMs) and complete RIAA Certifications for albums and singles for each artist.

Just like all of our other pages, these Artist Pages will be updated whenever new content is posted. Enjoy!

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Introducing Tara Seetharam

It is my distinct honor and pleasure to introduce the newest writer for Country Universe, Tara Seetharam. As you’ll soon discover, we are quite blessed to have her. On behalf of the Country Universe staff, please join me in welcoming Tara! – Kevin J. Coyne

Hi all! It is such a thrill to step foot into this community of talented and well-versed writers. I am humbled and can’t thank the staff enough for graciously taking me in.

I graduated about a year ago from the University of Texas with a degree in journalism, and I am currently living in Houston and working in corporate communications. Writing and music are two of my greatest joys in life, so the opportunity to use this site as a medium to interlace the two is an absolute blessing.

When I tell people that I live and breathe country music, I’m almost always met with surprise. Some are better at hiding it than others, but I typically receive an inquisitive stare, a “Really?” or a confused smile. It leads to about 20 seconds of awkwardness, with me trying to sum up my passion for the genre in an eloquent explanation, and generally failing. Because quite frankly, how do you prove to a near stranger that yes, an Indian-American can love country music from the depths of her soul?

I suppose I’m not the typical Indian-American. Both my parents are of Indian descent, but while my dad moved to the U.S. as a teenager, my mom moved here as a young child – making my sister and I “second-and-a-half” generation Indian-Americans. My mom was a country fan herself growing up in the U.S., and she in turn filled our home with all sorts of country music when I was a child. I have the sweetest memories of the two of us singing along to The Judds’ Why Not Me album on repeat, day after day. My mom never made me feel like it was anything but normal to adore country music from the inside out. She never made me feel like my skin color had to match the skin color of the country artists I idolized. And why should it?

You see, to me, as much as country music seems to be about traditionalism, it’s more so about universal truths – about love and family, heartache and despair, faith and persistence. You don’t necessarily have to relate to the story to relate to the raw emotion of a country song. The best country songs are sung with such conviction and such honesty that you just get it. The most poignant country songs stop me dead in my tracks every time I hear them, because I can’t seem to disconnect my emotions from the songs.

And to be honest, I couldn’t feel out of place in country music even if I tried, as there are few things in this world that are more intrinsic to me. I remember the first time I heard Vince Gill’s “If You Ever Have Forever in Mind,” thinking that it immediately felt like “home”. Like I had found an extension of myself in the song. It sounds melodramatic, but it’s so true, and it is this very intimate, personal quality of country music that keeps me coming back for more.

My taste in country music ranges from traditional to mainstream, from George Jones and Johnny Cash to Lady Antebellum and Keith Urban. I have a deep respect for the country greats, but I have a particular soft spot for artists who can skillfully walk the balance beam between traditional and mainstream, like the older (but never forgotten!) Dixie Chicks.

And I even enjoy many of the genre-stretching contemporary artists who haven’t quite mastered this balancing act. I’m in the minority of people who see the fusion of old and new in the country music industry as intriguing and, well…fabulous. Artistic integrity comes in many forms, and I firmly believe that it can even come in the form of commercially successful artists.

Because if there’s anything I’ve learned from the inquisitive stares, “Really?”s and confused smiles I receive on occasion, it’s that, in this world so rich with contradiction, you have to learn to scrap assumptions. It’s so important to savor every piece of music by searching not for its definition but for its unique contribution, or you’ll prevent yourself from catching moments of artistic brilliance (Reba McEntire’s 2007 collaboration with Justin Timberlake? Stunning.).

This goes all ways, of course, but what I think I have an ear for, and what I hope to bring to this site, are the “gems” of mainstream country music. I’m going to humbly strive to bring a fresh perspective, one that you might not always agree with, but that comes from a place of sincerity.

Which brings me to my greatest hope for my journey with Country Universe – that I stay true to who I am. I spent much of my college career feeling that I needed to think a certain way in order to fit the music journalist mold, but I can’t pretend to be someone I’m not. I don’t hate country radio. I appreciate pop culture. I’m an award show junkie. And I’ll tell you right now, with no shame, that my favorite song is “Bless the Broken Road” (I’ll take it in any form, by any artist). I want to offer this site unapologetic authenticity, because that’s what good country music never fails to offer me.

So with that said, a huge, heartfelt thank you goes out once again to Kevin and the staff for welcoming me with open arms. More than anything, and I can’t stress this enough, I am looking forward to learning from this astute community of writers and readers. To steal liberally from Ms. Carrie Underwood: “It is my belief that country music makes the world a better place.” And ain’t that the truth?

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Join CU @ Twitter

twitter-logoJoin CU @ Twitter if UR looking for updates and recommendations!

Thanks to Lynn, Country Universe is now on Twitter and we’d like to invite all of our readers to join us there for quick and easy updates. You can follow Country Universe at Twitter to learn about what

reviews we are writing, find out what grades our latest single or album reviews received, or just to receive links to our latest blog entries.

If you are fans of the Country Universe mini-feature Recommend a Track, stop by for our Twitter specific content, which will include updates of what Country Universe writers are listening to along with track and album recommendations.

https://twitter.com/CountryUniverse

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William Ward joins Country Universe

I am proud to announce a new staff member at Country Universe!

William Ward has been a regular contributor to discussions on this site since his wife and CU editor Leeann Ward became a lead writer in early 2008. He is joining Country Universe in a special capacity. As Online Marketing and Publicity Director, he will be primarily responsible for promoting and publicizing Country Universe through various online outlets, including social networking sites.

Please join me in welcoming William Ward to Country Universe. Here is his bio:

William Ward is an Orientation and Mobility Specialist for the Maine Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired. He has earned a Bachelor’s of Arts in English and a Bachelor’s of Liberal Studies in Cultural Studies from the University of Maine, Presque Isle; he also completed a Master’s of Arts in Orientation and Mobility from Western Michigan University. William became Online Marketing and Publicity Director at Country Universe in March 2009.

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New Site Launching Wednesday, March 18

The good people at Brady Mills Graphics have redesigned Country Universe, and the new site will be launching the morning of Wednesday, March 18.

Things may get a little wonky as the kinks are worked out, so bear with us. The end result will be more than worth it!

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