Ashley Monroe

Single Review: Blake Shelton & Ashley Monroe, “Lonely Tonight”

February 24, 2015 // 9 Comments

“Lonely Tonight” Blake Shelton & Ashley Monroe Written by Brent Anderson and Ryan Hurd It’s billed as a duet, but it’s about as much as an equal pairing as Eddie Rabbitt and Crystal Gayle back in the day.  Monroe essentially plays a harmony role, singing an answer line from time to time. Not the best use of her talent, though it seems the only way to get her on the radio is in a feature spot, which is better than nothing.   “Lonely Tonight” is a decent spin on the classic “just one more night” theme.

Starter Kit: Jason Isbell

February 17, 2015 // 9 Comments

In early February, Zac Brown Band kicked off a brief cycle of Twitter Outrage when they performed a cover of Jason Isbell’s “Dress Blues,” which they are rumored to have cut for their upcoming album, during a high-profile ESPN gig. Some of Isbell’s devoted fans were livid that a mainstream country performer had covered Isbell’s song, insisting that it should be Isbell with the multi-platinum stats and sold-out arena tours. There’s something to that line of thinking, of course: Were commercial music a strict meritocracy, then Isbell would be an international superstar on the strengths of his one-of-a-kind songwriting and intuitive, soulful singing. Isbell, to his credit, responded to the uproar with a level-headed and fundamentally correct statement about how people who clamor for more substance in mainstream country shouldn’t be attacking artists who are interested in cutting songs like “Dress Blues.”

2015 ACM Awards: Nominations & Analysis

January 31, 2015 // 14 Comments

The third most prestigious country music industry award nominations – but the most important ones handed out in the spring – have been announced.  Here’s a rundown of all the major categories, along with some back-of-the-envelope analysis: Entertainer Jason Aldean Garth Brooks Luke Bryan Florida Georgia Line Miranda Lambert Who’s In: Jason Aldean, Garth Brooks, Florida Georgia Line Who’s Out: Blake Shelton, George Strait, Taylor Swift Last year’s winner, George Strait, didn’t get a return invitation, but Garth Brooks, who has won this award six times before, returns to the competition.  Much like Strait’s farewell tour was a reminder of his extensive popularity, Garth’s ability to sell out several dates per city overshadows the lukewarm reception to his new material at radio and retail.   Taylor Swift’s exit is directly tied to her cutting ties with the genre. Jason Aldean’s return makes logical sense, but it’s quite the mystery to see Read More

Country Universe’s Best Albums of 2013, Part Two: #20-#1

December 31, 2013 // 9 Comments

2013 turned out to be a banner year for new music, full of powerful songwriting, inspired collaborations, and truly cohesive albums that would rank among the best releases in any given year. Many of this year’s top twenty would’ve ranked much higher in other years, and many of us writers couldn’t even include all the works we deeply enjoyed this year on our personal lists, making our collective list worthy of the heartiest endorsement we could ever give.

Here’s to a great 2013, and a greedy wish that 2014 will be just as wonderful on the music front. As always, share your thoughts and personal favorites in the comments.

Charlie Worsham Rubberband

Charlie Worsham

Individual rankings: #7 – Tara; #12 – Leeann

Like Chris Young two years ago, Worsham’s voice is a commodity that instantly elevates the new artist to an orbit above the male radio regulars. His is warm and cleanly expressive, lending itself best to songs that nurture his upper register, like the jaunty “Want Me Too,” haunting “Someone Like You” or those invigorating opening bars of “Could It Be.” If only life imitated “Nashville” and its fictional stars’ uncomplicated brand of pop country, Worsham might just be the next Luke Bryan and “Rubberband” –the album’s finely produced, genre-bending title track– his next big hit. – Tara Seetharam

Recommended Tracks: “Rubberband,” “Someone Like You,” “Young to See,” “Could it Be”

Country Universe’s Best Singles of 2013, Part One: #40-#21

December 30, 2013 // 13 Comments

For the second year in a row, our seven writers – Kevin Coyne, Leeann Ward, Dan Milliken, Tara Seetharam, Ben Foster, Jonathan Keefe, and Sam Gazdziak – individually listed our twenty favorite albums and singles of the year. It’s a diverse crop of singles, some of which dominated country radio, while others were primarily heard in the Americana, bluegrass, and alternative country worlds. Today, we present the first half of our singles list, with the conclusion to follow tomorrow. Share your favorites in the comments!

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“Someone Somewhere Tonight”
Kellie Pickler

Individual rankings: #16 – Ben; #19 – Tara

A sweeping power ballad anchored by an intimate chorus and Pickler’s pleading sincerity. – Tara Seetharam

Single Review: Pistol Annies, "Hush Hush"

March 21, 2013 // 3 Comments

Pistol-Annies-hush-hushOn first listen, the Pistol Annies’ new single “Hush Hush” immediately stands out as being their hardest rocking release to date.  It sounds more like something one might expect to hear on one of Miranda Lambert’s solo albums than the Annies’ traditional-leaning debut.  It seems the Annies are getting a harder radio push this time around – definitely a good thing since country radio has been largely in want of a good girl group for the past ten years.

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