The upper half of our albums list reflects the revitalization of country music in 2015, courtesy of mostly younger artists with fresh perspectives in their lyrics and arrangements. There is still a legend or two in the mix, but if this year has proven anything, it’s that the genre’s future is in good hands.
Since making her debut with 1997’s Alabama Song, Allison Moorer has been one of country music’s most consistent albums artists. The singer-songwriter has three unqualified masterpieces to her credit— the flawless stone-country heartbreak cycle of The Hardest Part, the politically charged The Duel, and the somber, heady Southern Gothic of Crows. Despite having those triumphs— and other excellent albums like Alabama Song and Good Fortune— to her credit, Moorer’s latest effort, Down to Believing, is perhaps the finest album of her career because it finds Moorer challenging both her singing and her songwriting voices to plumb truly difficult emotional depths.
Here are my favorite singles of 2008. As Dan has done, I lifted the entries that I had already written from our collective list for this article. #20: Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, “Please Read The Letter” The album from which this song comes seems like an unlikely collaboration. It, however, somehow works as one of the best albums of the decade and any song from it would make my top twenty singles list this year. #19: Hank Williams III, “Six Pack of Beer” Hank Williams III is known for relishing a rebel persona and this attitude is often reflected in his music. More often than not, his songs contain observations wrapped in harsh lyrics that cause me to wince, but his production and voice, which are both more comparable to Hank Sr. than Hank III’s father, still draws me to his music, nonetheless. This song, however, is simply pure Read More
Three talented ladies unveil a batch of remakes that recharge their creative batteries Recording a covers album can be a daunting task; only a singer with a clear artistic vision is worthy of the adventure. Even then, the risks involved often outweigh the rewards. But this year, a trio of country’s finest singers proved that such an exercise can be a liberating, and ultimately, satisfying experience. Sleepless Nights, Patty Loveless’ fourteen-track collection that culls from the traditional country catalog of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s,outclasses much of the original material issued by Music Row this year. But its humble beginnings found Loveless in one of the worst slumps of a career spanning three decades. Loveless spent most of the ’90s scooping up industry awards and selling gold and platinum. Her success was particularly gratifying for Music Row; she was a critical darling who, with the help of husband/producer Emory Gordy, Read More
Happy holidays! Singles: 1. “In Color,” Jamey Johnson 2. “Waitin’ on a Woman,” Brad Paisley 3. “This Is Me You’re Talking To,” Trisha Yearwood 4. “She Left Me for Jesus,” Hayes Carll 5. “What I Cannot Change,” Leann Rimes 6. “Last Call,” Lee Ann Womack 7. “Anything Goes,” Randy Houser 8. “Dig Two Graves,” Randy Travis 9. “Please Read the Letter,” Alison Krauss & Robert Plant 10. “Fine Line,” Little Big Town 11. “Mockingbird,” Allison Moorer 12. “Crazy Arms,” Patty Loveless 13. “This Town Needs a Bar,” Jeremy McComb 14. “Just Got Started Loving You,” James Otto 15. “Takin’ off This Pain,” Ashton Shepherd 16. “Gold,” Emmylou Harris 17. “Every Other Weekend,” Reba McEntire & Skip Ewing 18. “You Look Good In My Shirt,” Keith Urban 19. “More Like Her,” Miranda Lambert 20. “Love Don’t Live Here,” Lady Antebellum
Starting today, the Country Universe staff will be revealing our Top 40 Singles of 2008. This list has been compiled through a combination of four individual Top 20 lists by Leeann, Blake, Dan and myself, wherein a certain number of “points” was delegated to a single each time it was mentioned on one of the lists. The final list reflects the total number of points that each single received between the four lists. Those lists will be revealed along with other individual writer content next week as part of our continuing coverage of the Best of 2008. #40 Trisha Yearwood, “They Call it Falling For a Reason” This song really sounds like it could fit perfectly with Yearwood’s music of the ‘90s. The production is both modest and interesting at the same time. Furthermore, the lyrics are light without seeming inane. As we will lament about many singles on this Read More
Allison Moorer Mockingbird Allison Moorer’s latest album is an exercise in splendid restraint. Excepting the title track, a Moorer original, Mockingbird is a collection of songs written and performed by the women who serve as her musical idols. Moorer shows an overt dedication to honoring the timeless rhymes of her sistren, drawing inspiration from a diversity of musical styles that she whips into an intoxicating cocktail. Mockingbird experiences a hiccup early, when Moorer chooses two fine songs marred by bland production. The cover of the Cash family classic “Ring of Fire” is presented as a ballad, with a fraction of the intensity that charged the original, and Patti Smith’s “Dancing Barefoot” suffers from its brittle, progressive rock arrangement.
100 Greatest Women #74 Shelby Lynne She was only eighteen years old when she scored a major label record deal, but Shelby Lynne had already had enough life experience to be a convincing singer of harrowing, heartbreaking country songs. Born Shelby Lynn Moorer in 1968, she grew up in a musical family. Her father was a bandleader and her mother often sang harmony with him on stage. On some nights, Shelby and her little sister Allison would join them on the stage. However, her dad struggled with alcoholism, and it fueled his explosive violence at home. When Shelby was only seventeen years old, her father demanded to speak to her mother in the driveway of their home. He then fatally shot her, then turned the gun on himself. The shocking tragedy left Shelby alone to support herself and younger sister, so she turned to something she knew how to do Read More
Steve Earle is well known for his controversially liberal political and social ideologies in the predominantly conservative country music genre. As a result, his political views too often overshadow his talent and creativity. On “Days Aren’t Long Enough”, however, all of his activism is put aside for a moment for the sake of love. Earle invites his wife, Allison Moorer, to join him on this ballad about how days aren’t long enough to focus on undeniable love. It is a beautifully executed ballad with Earle’s and Moorer’s voices blending perfectly to create a romantic tribute to love. Whoever listens to this song can tell that they’re not taking this relationship for granted. It is nice to hear Steve Earle’s softer side accompanied by a gentle production on this song that sounds like it could have been a classic in another time. Written by Steve Earle & Allison Moorer Grade: A Read More
100 Greatest Women #96 Allison Moorer One of the definitive female artists of Americana music. Allison Moorer was the second musical artist to emerge from her family, with an older sister who goes by the name Shelby Lynne preceding her in the industry by about a decade. Moorer signed with MCA in the mid-nineties, and began to carve out an unconventional path to success. Her first single, “A Soft Place to Fall”, was placed in the movie The Horse Whisperer. Moorer found herself launching her career with a song in a major motion picture, and while radio never warmed to it (or any of her other singles), she scored an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song and performed it on the 1999 telecast.