Some of my favorite albums are tribute albums, because I enjoy hearing artists cover or reinterpret songs that I know and love. Country music artists have participated in a wide range of tribute albums and these are five of my very favorites. What are some of your favorites? Here’s my list: Steve Earle, Townes Various Artists, Bob Wills Tribute Various Artists, Keith Whitley: A Tribute Album Various Artists, Common Thread: Songs of the Eagles Asleep at the Wheel & Various Artists, A Tribute to Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys
Asleep at the Wheel
It’s an old saying that Ray Benson most certainly would agree with: “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.”
The First Song You Remember Liking.
Here are the staff picks:
Tara Seetharam: “She’s Not Cryin’ Anymore” – Billy Ray Cyrus
Cyrus released “Achy Breaky Heart” when I was seven years old, and I fell for it. The upside? My mom bought me his Some Gave All cassette tape, and I fell in love with “She’s Not Cryin’ Anymore.” It was the first song in my life to grip me with emotion, which would later come to define my bond with music.
The ACM Awards has traditionally been overshadowed by the CMA Awards, despite its longer existence. This is for several reasons. First, the ACM originally existed to emphasize the West Coast country music scene, whereas the CMA Awards represented Nashville from the start. The ACM has also been more commercially-oriented from the beginning, as the history of this category proves. Eighteen of the last twenty winners in this ACM category are multi-platinum sellers, and the organization allowed greatest hits albums to compete for more than a decade.
Still, the ACM category has bragging rights of its own. Critically-acclaimed albums like Storms of Life, Trio, Killin’ Time and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend won at the ACMs but were overlooked by the CMAs. Additionally, women have also been far more successful at this ceremony. Only five women have ever won the CMA Album trophy, and one of them was Sissy Spacek! At the ACMs, women have dominated the category for the past three years, and the category has honored everyone from Loretta Lynn and Donna Fargo to K.T. Oslin and Shania Twain.
A special note about ACM flashbacks. Like the Grammys, the ACMs issue their award for a given year the following year, so the awards for 2009, for example, are given out in 2010. For the purposes of the flashbacks, Country Universe notes the year the award is presented. While the ACM first presented awards in 1966, the Album category wasn’t introduced until 1968.
As with other flashbacks, we begin with a look at this year’s nominees:
- Lady Antebellum, Lady Antebellum
- Miranda Lambert, Revolution
- Brad Paisley, American Saturday Night
- Carrie Underwood, Play On
- Zac Brown Band, The Foundation
Three previous winners – Miranda Lambert, Brad Paisley, and Carrie Underwood – compete against the debut albums of two hot bands. Lady Antebellum and Zac Brown Band each picked up a Grammy this year and are well represented on the rest of the ACM ballot. This is a very competitive race. Even the sales-friendly nature of the ACMs doesn’t help much here, as four of these albums are platinum and Lambert’s just went gold.
- Jamey Johnson, That Lonesome Song
- Montgomery Gentry, Back When I Knew It All
- George Strait, Troubadour
- Taylor Swift, Fearless
- Carrie Underwood, Carnival Ride
Taylor Swift became the third consecutive female artist to win in this category, a feat that would’ve seemed unthinkable earlier in the middle part of the decade, when country radio all but exiled women from radio.
Even in Grammy’s darkest hours, CU brings its picking powers!
– Superhero television show about our blog from the 50’s.
Share your own picks and predictions in the comments, and be sure to check back for our live blog! The awards telecast starts at 8 pm Eastern, and I imagine there will be some red carpet action in the hour prior.
- Beyonce, “Halo” – Kevin
- Black Eyed Peas, “I Gotta Feeling”
- Kings of Leon, “Use Somebody” – Tara
- Lady GaGa, “Poker Face” – Dan
- Taylor Swift, “You Belong with Me”
- Beyonce, “Halo”
- Black Eyed Peas, “I Gotta Feeling”
- Kings of Leon, “Use Somebody” – Kevin, Dan, Tara
- Lady GaGa, “Poker Face”
- Taylor Swift, “You Belong with Me”
Kevin: Am I wrong for preferring Eric Cartman’s rendition of “Poker Face” over the original? This is a pretty lightweight slate of contenders. I really like “Halo”, but I suspect Kings of Leon will win, simply because it’s the only rock song in a lineup of pop hits.
Dan: “Poker Face” just feels very representative of popular music in 2009. I wouldn’t whine if it got passed over so that “Bad Romance” could take this award next year, though.
Tara: I would’ve pulled for “Single Ladies” in a heartbeat had it been submitted, but “Use Somebody” is just as deserving of this award. It’s a fantastic song even outside the context of its moment in pop culture, and it’s the kind of larger-than-life song that the voters have picked to win in the past.
Round 2 – FIGHT!
World: meet Underwood. She’s fiercely compassionate and endearingly idealistic (the riveting “Change”). She holds her beliefs with a firm but quiet conviction (“Temporary Home”). She’s as comfortable and convincing at tearing down a wrong-doer (the Dixie Chicks-esque “Songs Like This”) as she is nursing an irreparable heartache, whether it’s in the form of a haunting country standard (“Someday When I Stop Loving You”) or a rich pop ballad (“What Can I Say?”). And she’s one of the most gifted vocalists of this generation, possessing an instrument that, when colored and layered with emotion as she’s aptly learned to do on Play On, can have bone-chilling effects.
Like it or leave it, Play On is the most authentic encapsulation of Underwood’s artistry and persona to date, and serves as an exciting glimpse at how far a little growth can carry her. The best is yet to come, but in the meantime, the “good” is pretty damn good. – Tara Seetharam
As most people know by now, Sara Watkins is the female member of the now-disbanded (hopefully temporarily) New Grass trio, Nickel Creek. While Nickel Creek was difficult to classify in a certain genre (not bluegrass, not country), they were embraced by bluegrass and country music fans alike. Each member of the popular trio has released intriguing projects outside of Nickel Creek, but Watkins’ album has assumed the most decidedly country direction of them all. As a result, we are treated to a sublime album thanks to Watkins’ sweet voice and a set of impressively solid songs. – Leeann Ward
Taylor Swift, “You Belong with Me”
Teen-pop perfection, bursting with personality and unshakable hooks. – Dan Milliken
Keith Urban, “‘Til Summer Comes Around”
There’s nothing quite as lonely as a carnival that has shut down, except for being alone at a carnival, surrounded by everyone but the love who has left you behind. – Kevin Coyne
Lady Antebellum, “I Run to You”
Sheer passion and pulsing energy from start to finish. – Tara Seetharam
The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 5
Bruce Robison, Country Sunshine
One of modern country’s little-known heroes, Robison has built a career on simple songs of unusually strong focus, voice and insight. His strongest collection of this decade mainly explores love at its point of disenchantment, with characters sitting at various fallouts pondering who’s to blame, who used who, or why the feelings aren’t requited. Not so much Sunshine, then, but quite a bit of Country. – Dan Milliken
Recommended Tracks: “Friendless Marriage”, “What Would Willie Do”, “Tonight”
Rascal Flatts, Feels Like Today
The group has yet to hit the nail on the “Rascal Flatts” head again like they did with this country-pop album – a collection of powerful, melody-driven songs on which Gary LeVox manages to tastefully reign in his tenor. When paired with the right material, the Flatts boys can emote like it’s nobody’s business, resulting in soaring, genuine performances. – Tara Seetharam
Be sure to check out Amazon’s digital store for their fifty albums for $5 for the month of September. While the choices are a little light on the country music this month, two out of the three country offerings more than make up for the disparity. First, Gloriana’s debut album is replete with slick harmonies and even slicker production. The album has been met with some mixed reviews, but most agree that they are a very talented group of people if not too polished. Trisha Yearwood’s 2007 album , received unanimous critical praise. Her first album with the then new Big Machine Records, after departing from powerhouse MCA Records, is one of her strongest albums to date. Singles like the title track and “This Is Me You’re Talking To” landed high on various end-of-the year lists in their respective release years. Moreover, non-singles such as the pretty “Let the Wind Chase You” Read More
It’s time for an album sales update, our first since May 23. Brad Paisley is off to a strong start with American Saturday Night, selling 130k in its first week. That’s about 70k less than his previous two studio albums – Time Well Wasted and 5th Gear – opened with, but not a terrible drop-off, considering the state of the music market.
Meanwhile, the new studio albums by Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban are slowing down considerably, now being outpaced on a weekly basis by 2008 releases by Taylor Swift, Zac Brown Band, Darius Rucker and Lady Antebellum.
Among younger acts with a new album in 2009, the most impressive sales are coming from Jason Aldean, while 2008 releases from Kellie Pickler, Billy Currington, and Randy Houser are showing new signs of life.
Biggest disappointments? It’s hard not to look in the direction of Martina McBride, who has barely cleared the 100k mark on her new studio set. Lee Ann Womack’s 2008 set just made it over that mark, too. Then again, one only needs to have sold 455 copies to make the chart this week, with the anchor position going to Wynonna with that total. Her covers album Sing – Chapter 1 has sold 41k to date.
Here are the latest totals for albums released over the past three years that are still charting:
- Rascal Flatts, Unstoppable – 842,000
- Keith Urban, Defying Gravity – 452,000
- Jason Aldean, Wide Open – 384,000
- Kenny Chesney, Greatest Hits II – 281,000
- Dierks Bentley, Feel That Fire – 219,000
- Martina McBride, Shine – 104,000
- John Rich, Son of a Preacher Man – 103,000
- Eric Church, Carolina – 94,000
- Rodney Atkins, It’s America – 88,000
- Jake Owen, Easy Does It – 81,000