Archive for the ‘Worth Reading’ Category

Book Giveaway: Gerry House’s Country Music Broke My Brain: A Behind-the-Microphone Peek at Nashville’s Famous & Fabulous Stars

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Country Music Broke My Brain

UPDATE: Contest closed. Congratulations to winner John!

Three of my all-time favorite things: books, country music, and books about country music. If you’re anything like me, we have the perfect giveaway for you.

In Gerry House’s new book Country Music Broke My Brain: A Behind-the-Microphone Peek at Nashville’s Famous & Fabulous Stars, one of country music’s most beloved radio personalities shares a collection of never-aired and never-before-published conversations with a variety of country music superstars and legends, including Johnny Cash, Reba McEntire, Brad Paisley, and many others.

Country Universe is pleased to offer a copy of this book to give away to one of our readers. To enter, leave a comment below before 12:00 p.m. CST on Saturday March 15. A winner will be chosen via random number generator and notified via email, so be sure to include a valid email address. One entry is allowed per IP address.

Worth Reading: The Launch of Engine 145

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Hark! I have exciting news for those of us who have been feeling a great void ever since the disbandment of The 9513! While we will continue to miss the esteemed country music blog, with Brady & Brody Vercher’s blessings, Engine 145 has just been launched to sort of take its place, or at least complement what The 9513 had begun.

Aside from its undeniably cool name, the even more awesome thing is that Engine 145 will be run by accomplished and respected country music critic, Juli Thanki, who just so happens to be one of my personal favorite country music writers. She will be joined by several of our old favorites from The 9513 as well.

I don’t know about all of you, but ever since The 9513 ceased operation, I have felt like I’ve had to work way too hard to discover good country music. I kept telling myself, “It shouldn’t be this hard.” And alas, it won’t be any longer. While our bank accounts might be a little emptier again, I’m unshakably excited to welcome Engine 145 to the blogosphere. I hope all of you will too.

The Funniest Country Music Videos?

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

Donna Hughes over at The Boot has done a rundown of what she considers the ten funniest country music videos of all-time.

It’s an interesting list. I think the Luke Bryan clip is funny, but so many of her choices rely on stunt casting.  I think she left off a few great ones.

Here are a few of my favorites that didn’t make the list:

Alan Jackson, “That’d Be Alright”

The fourth wall is completely disregarded here, in a meta send-up of country music videos as an art form that even pokes fun at Jackson’s own CMA nomination for Music Video.

Junior Brown, “My Wife Thinks You’re Dead”

This actually won the CMA award for Music Video in 1996.

Shania Twain, “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!”

So many people missed the humor in Twain’s work. This gender role reversal video is brilliant, managing to satirize the blatant sexism in the classic Robert Palmer clip while also paying tongue-in-cheek homage to it.

Matraca Berg & Friends, “Back in the Saddle”

There’s more talent in the back of that paddy wagon than country radio has seen in more than a decade.

Thompson Brothers Band, “Back on the Farm”

Because there aren’t enough talking animals in country music videos.

What are your favorite funny country videos?

Worth Reading: Paul W. Dennis @ The 9513

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

Long time readers will remember that back in 2006, Country Universe benefited from the contributions of Paul W. Dennis. I'm happy to report that he's now writing a feature for The 9513 called Forgotten Artists. The buy generic cialis online

/”>first one is on Johnny Darrell. Paul is a walking encyclopedia of country music history, as many of you already know from his comments on the country music blogs. I look forward to reading more entries in this new series!


First Round of 2007 Best-of Lists: The 9513, Rolling Stone

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

‘Tis the season.  With just about every 2007 release already in the marketplace, best-of lists have begun to roll in.  Who doesn’t love these things?

True to their organized form, The 9513 has their Top Ten Country Albums of 2007 list up already, when I haven’t even started mine yet.  Way to make me feel lazy, guys!

They pick some good albums, including some that I haven’t heard.   Trisha Yearwood can be found at #1:

1. Heaven, Heartache, And The Power Of Love, Trisha Yearwood

With Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love, Mrs. Garth Brooks reasserted herself as a country powerhouse, delivering a string of captivating vocal performances over a core of wonderfully crafted, musically diverse songs. While most of her female contemporaries tried to find their niche market (and thus, their niche musical approach) in 2007, Yearwood’s 10th studio album shattered expectations by successfully drawing from many of the genre’s root influences. Western, Blues, Americana, this album brought them all together under the big-tent of country music, and the result was a rich, textured album that will be remembered and listened to for years to come. — Jim Malec

After checking out their consensus list, be sure to read the individual lists of each staff writer.   Matt C’s list is a wonder, given that every album on it that I’ve heard is a contender for my year-end list.   Now I have to listen to those I haven’t heard to make sure I’m not missing something great!

Also out now is the Rolling Stone annual list of the year’s best songs.   There are three country entries, with Miranda Lambert the highest at #28:

28 “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”
Miranda Lambert

The title cut from the best country album of the year, this single found Lambert pushing the role of the rowdy Nashville lass to new extremes. Over bar-band stomp, Lambert narrates a rage-fueled encounter with her ex’s new girl, and both her big chorus and slice-of-life story are long on raucous energy and entertainment value.

Also acknowledged are tracks by Lucinda Williams  and Robert Plant & Alison Krauss.  Essentially, just tracks from the country albums that you’d expect Rolling Stone to have a clue about.

Brent’s Back! & Other Great Happenings in the World of Country Music Blogging

Saturday, July 14th, 2007

How happy I was today to click on one of my favorite bookmarks, and find a shiny new post! Yes, friends, Brent Hecht has returned from a too-long sabbatical, and Liberal Country Fan is back in business, with a preview of Garth & Trisha’s Live Earth performance of “We Shall Be Free.”

Brent let me do some guest blogging on his site last year, and I have to say that if he hadn’t done so, Country Universe would never have grown into the blog that it is today. He’s also a genuinely nice guy, able to remain above the fray when his beliefs are attacked. When I couldn’t keep my cool as the Halfway to Hazard groupies descended on the site earlier this year, I admire his ability to remain good-natured as he writes about country music from an angle that provokes hostility and derision from some of the people who don’t share his values or world view. He doesn’t censor his comment threads, even when he’s personally attacked, and that’s not an easy thing to do!

While one blog returns from an extended absence, others have been going strong, becoming essential daily reads. I suspect I’m not the only one who now gets most of their country music news from The 9513. Their daily news roundups are indispensable, and the addition of single reviews and even academic analysis have made it the most well-rounded country music website out there, and I’m not just saying that because I won a cool t-shirt!

I’m also loving the continuing saga of Linda at Still is Still Moving, as she keeps track of Willie Nelson. How awesome that she got to hang out with Willie on his tour bus, and that he checks her site every day so he knows where he’s been? One of the best things about blogging is that you can write about what you love the most, and that enthusiasm is contagious. Every time I check out Linda’s site, I end up listening to some Willie Nelson that day. I wish fans of other artists would follow her lead and create blogs like hers. She’s the gold standard!

I have to send a big shout-out to City Girl, Country Girl (a.k.a. Caitlyn), who has kicked her blog in to a higher gear, launching a mySpace page as she celebrates the 30k milestone. Check out her insightful post on the media fascination with veteran country stars like Porter Wagoner and Charlie Louvin. I’ve noticed the “indie kids love country oldies” phenomenon myself, and given her proximity to the Big Apple, she’s seen it in full force. She’s also succeeded in making me feel old because I don’t have a mySpace page for Country Universe!

Finally, I know I’ve raved about Twang Nation before, but I’m gonna do it again. Baron Lane is funny as hell, so if you’re going to check out his site, don’t drink while reading. You’ll have to replace your keyboard. I didn’t even bother reviewing the new Ryan Adams CD, because I couldn’t top this:

This is most mainstream release Ryan Adams has ever done. That not to say it’s mainstream, we are still talking about the guy that channeled Beck and posted dozens of faux hip-hop and punk tracks like “Awww S—, Look Who Got a Web Site”

Is he brilliant or nuts? Who cares?

This guy uses naked ladies instead of stars for his album ratings, and finds YouTube videos of Porter Wagoner praising prostitution as a talent worth celebrating. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

All this good stuff, and you can see why I don’t care very much that CMT now has an “official” blog. Chet Flippo ain’t got nothin’ on these guys and gals!

Worth Reading: April 27, 2007

Friday, April 27th, 2007

Here’s what’s been catching my attention today:

Album Reviews

City Girl, Country Girl has high praise for the new John Prine & Mac Wiseman release Standard Songs For Average People:

The sound of the album is refreshing. The traditional country instruments — dobro, mandolin, fiddle, guitars of all varieties — are allowed to shine without the over-processed, overwhelming production values that mar much of modern country music. (Though the cover art depicts Prine and Wiseman playing guitar, the liner notes indicate that they both play guitar on only “Old Rugged Cross” and Prine plays guitar on “Don’t Be Ashamed of Your Age.”) The background vocals on “Saginaw Michigan” and “Old Cape Cod” create a retro, polished feel like the women who sang the call letters for 1940s radio stations.

Meanwhile, Entertainment Weekly friggin’ loves the new Miranda Lambert, and slips in a subtle dig at Taylor Swift while praising the project:

Crisp-voiced Texan Miranda Lambert’s breakout single, 2005′s ”Kerosene,” gave her a homicidal rep that she embraces on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, her second CD. In ”Gunpowder & Lead,” she waits with a shotgun for her abusive man; the title track has her toting a pistol to confront her ex’s new flame. But fear not, gun-control advocates: The nonviolent side of small-town yearnings is here too (love the lazy back-roads hum of ”Desperation”). And even if her fiery temper’s not for everyone, she never stoops to teardrops-on-my-guitar banalities. A-

And I love seeing the praise roll in for Rhinestoned, the Pam Tillis album that earned five stars from me last week. Nashville Scene is the latest to send up the hosannas:

Pam Tillis’ Rhinestoned sounds well-mannered upon first listening, but reveals itself as a series of meditations on time and innocence, and as a sumptuous recasting of the country-rock of Gram Parsons and The Gosdin Brothers. It’s a brilliantly sequenced set of songs that looks at success from the vantage point of someone who has seen through all the deception and emerged with a functioning sense of humor.

Politics, Anyone?

Via The 9513, here’s the latest Chet Flippo column, which details how presidential politics are spilling over to country music:

This week, candidate John Edwards’ campaign announced that a new country CD will be sent out to anyone who donates $50 or more to his campaign. The CD, Moneyland, includes a number of country artists. Here’s his campaign message about it:

“If you chip in $50 or more, you’ll receive a free advance copy of the not-yet-released CD Moneyland. Moneyland tells the story of the plight of rural America, through a collection of recordings, both old and new, from legendary country and bluegrass recording artists, including: The Del McCoury Band, Merle Haggard, [Gillian] Welch, Marty Stuart, Emmylou Harris, Bruce Hornsby & the Fairfield Four, Mac Wiseman, Patty Loveless and more.”

I’m not a huge Edwards fan – he’s a bit heavy on Crest White Strips smiles and light on actual substantive experience for me. But he’s got a hell of a mix CD.

Haggard’s playing both sides of the fence though, as he’s also pushing Hillary in a song by the same name:


Worth Reading: April 23, 2007

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

Too much good stuff out there to wait.   Here’s what’s caught my eye around the net today:

Slant Praise for Dale Watson, Twang Nation Joins CMT Awards Backlash

One week after awarding four stars to Pam Tillis for Rhinestoned,  Slant writer Jonathan Keefe is similarly enthused for the new Dale Watson album:

From The Cradle To The Grave is an album of remarkable depth and complexity (that is, with the exception of the atonal “Hollywood Hillbilly,” a shout-out to Johnny Knoxville), tackling issues of spiritual and intellectual resonance. And, with only one of its 10 songs exceeding three minutes, it’s also an incredibly dense record (Watson puts more into a single line than most Music Row acts put into a whole career’s worth of albums), making it just that much more forceful a gut-punch.

I’ll be checking that album out tomorrow on his recommendation. Keefe also slips in a jab at the CMT Music Awards last week, calling it a “vile, hateful spectacle.”   That’s tame compared to Baron Lane’s take – CMT Music Awards: Still Blows -  over at alt-country haven Twang Nation:

There was a moment of true grace and emotion on the program, but it had nothing to do with the three-ring pyrotechnic circus of bland performances by Toby Keith and Rascal Flatts. It was when Rosanne Cash presented Kris Kristofferson the Johnny Cash Visionary Award. Kritofferson was visibly moved, gracious and his amazing life and legacy was briefly detailed before he accepted. It was a brief moment of sincerity in an otherwise facile showcase of mediocrity.

While you’re checking out the archives of that awesome blog, take note of his recent review of the new Elizabeth Cook album, Balls – as in, “Sometimes it takes balls to be a woman” -  and his opinion of  Shut Up and Sing, a documentary about three Texas women with some pretty big balls of their own.

More Reviews at The 9513, iCF Music

The 9513 has chimed in with a review of Bucky Covington’s debut CD – Brady gives it three stars -  and a fascinating write-up of Dale Watson’s show at the Broken Spoke which is as much a celebration of the artist as it is the venue.

The spotlight turns to Waylon Payne over at iCF music, where “Her” from Payne’s 2004 album Drifter is discussed in depth.    The format at that site has inspired a new feature here called Choice Cuts, which will spotlight album tracks from older albums.    I’ll refrain from pimping a Pam Tillis cut until iCF covers her first!


Worth Reading: April 21, 2007

Saturday, April 21st, 2007

584945_books_2.jpgWorth Reading:
April 21, 2007

There are some interesting stories, reviews and opinion pieces floating around the ‘net this week, many of which deal with what’s been talked about on Country Universe in recent days.

CMT Music Awards

The CMT Music Awards that I live-blogged on Monday were apparently not only despised by me. Check out this Tennessean piece that Roger flagged in the comments of the Idol live blog. Some highlights:

To Jeff Foxworthy: You might be a lousy host for the CMT Music Awards if …

• You launched into a needlessly exclusionary rant near the end of an otherwise decent awards show Monday night, telling viewers that country music is only for people who don’t question wars and regularly attend church.

• You gratuitously — and humorlessly — piled on to a heap of worn-out jabs against the Dixie Chicks as well as a down-on-his-luck Opry veteran, just the thing to rile up an auditorium partly filled with college students who have never heard of Stonewall Jackson.

I think the writer nails it when he adds, “He Wasn’t Just Not Funny”:

Award shows have had, of course, lots of hosts who are just not funny. But Foxworthy went from simply lacking humor to something bordering on a bizarre burst of defensiveness or anger.

Here’s a snippet of his introduction to an inspiring Martina McBride performance that ended the show: “You can call us rednecks if you want. We’re not offended, ’cause we know what we’re all about. We get up and go to work, we get up and go to church, and we get up and go to war when necessary.” Um … OK … were you responding to somebody in particular or just the paranoid voices in your head?

Brody at The 9513 thinks this writer is being too sensitive and recommends a “thicker skin”, but I agree with everything that the Tennessean writer said. Foxworthy showed a lack of respect for the genre’s heritage and some of its biggest artists, conveniently those who happened to not be in the audience. I’ve been a fan of this genre for seventeen years, and this new era of nastiness is beneath contempt. My advice: go back and study Vince Gill’s CMA hosting gigs before attempting to be funny. Only the most juvenile and ignorant comedian needs to attack to get a laugh.



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