Tag Archives: Bruce Springsteen

The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 5: #60-#51

    The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 5

    bruce robison country sunshine

    #60
    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 from 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”

    59 Rascal

    #59
    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 –particularly deep-rooted love songs like “Bless The Broken Road” –, the Flatts boys can emote like it’s nobody’s business, resulting in soaring, passionate performances. – Tara Seetharam

    Recommended Tracks: “Where You Are”, “Bless The Broken Road”, “Oklahoma-Texas Line”

    58 Keith

    #58
    Keith Urban, Love, Pain & the whole crazy thing

    Urban’s creativity peaked with this ambitious set, with arrangements as revelatory as his lyrics. As an album, it’s a cohesive work of art, yet it still managed to produce his strongest collection of singles that work just as well outside of their home. – Kevin Coyne

    Recommended Tracks: “I Told You So”, “Stupid Boy”, “Got it Right This Time”

    57 Willie

    #57
    Willie Nelson and Asleep at the Wheel, Willie and The Wheel

    Willie Nelson teamed up with Western swing giants Asleep at the Wheal to create a project filled with warm treatments of Western swing standards. While Nelson sounds very much alive on this album, his trademark phrasing perfectly captures a relaxed, yet proficient, vibe. In order to be as prolific as Nelson tends to be, it’s common for him to minimally prepare for his recordings. It’s been reported that this was not the case for this album, however. Instead, he studied and practiced these songs until he felt comfortable enough to really do them justice. His extra effort is clearly evident as a result. – Leeann Ward

    Recommended Tracks: “Hesitation Blues”, “I Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None…”, “Right or Wrong”

    56 Brad

    #56
    Brad Paisley, American Saturday Night

    I’m drawn to albums that can flawlessly blend contemporary and traditional country music, and Paisley’s eighth album is a remarkable example in all senses. It’s a surprisingly revealing, carefully-written album that’s engaging yet lighthearted, and it embraces social consciousness as effectively as it does Paisley-seasoned humor. He’s not the first to do so, but Paisley certainly furthers the case that you can successfully look both forwards and backwards on the same album. – TS

    Recommended Tracks: “Welcome To The Future”, “Everybody’s Here”, “You Do The Math”

    ryan heartbreaker

    #55
    Ryan Adams, Heartbreaker

    Adams had already released some exemplary work with Whiskeytown by the time the Aughts rolled around, but it was his classic solo debut that cemented him as alt-country’s “It” Boy. With the aural looseness of folk and the shrewd scrutiny of classic country, Heartbreaker plays like the very encapsulation of despair, each track exposing a cathartic new layer of its creator’s weary, self-mocking psyche. It would all be insufferably bleak if it didn’t sound so strangely healing. – DM

    Recommended Tracks: “AMY”, “Oh My Sweet Carolina”, “Come Pick Me Up”

    54 Bruce

    #54
    Bruce Springsteen, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions

    Recorded in Springsteen’s living room, The Seeger Sessions is a project that celebrates the songs of activist and folk singer, Pete Seeger. For this unique recording, Springsteen temporarily breaks away from his rock E Street Band and forms the more organic, big band style Sessions Band, which includes horns, banjo, guitar, percussion, piano, B3 organ, Harmonica, violin and upright bass. The result is a delightful album that sounds like a well executed jam session rather than a stuffy studio affair. – LW

    Recommended Tracks: “Old Dan Tucker”, “O Mary Don’t You Weep for Me”, “Pay Me My Money Down”

    53 Lady

    #53
    Lady Antebellum, Lady Antebellum

    There isn’t anyone in country music quite like this vibrant trio, whose debut is a heartfelt, organic mainstream country album with undertones of 70’s-esque R&B. There’s a beautiful imperfection to the pairing of Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott’s equally soulful voices, and they’ve got a particular knack for writing melodies that are as interesting as they are expressive. Lady Antebellum is both a skillful showcase of these strengths and an exciting glimpse at the group’s potential in country music. – TS

    Recommended Tracks: “All We’d Ever Need”, “Love’s Lookin’ Good On You”, “I Run To You”

    52 Alan

    #52
    Alan Jackson, Like Red On a Rose

    Who would think that the combination of bluegrass legend Alison Krauss and traditional country legend Alan Jackson would result in an album like this? With Krauss as producer, Jackson became the consummate crooner, singing with such depth and nuance that it was like hearing a completely different singer. – KC

    Recommended Tracks: “Like Red On a Rose”, “Nobody Said That it Would Be Easy”, “The Firefly’s Song”

    51 Brad

    #51
    Brad Paisley, Time Well Wasted

    Brad Paisley’s fourth album continues the more aggressively muscular sound that its predecessor, Mud on the Tires had already wisely adopted. As is typical for a Paisley album his sharp wit shows up throughout the disc in the form of sly observations to which people can easily relate. However, he strays from the humor at times in order to deliver some of the most beloved songs of his career, including “Waitin’ on A Woman” and “When I Get Where I’m Going.” – LW

    Recommended Tracks: “Rainin’ You”, “Easy Money”, “Time Well Wasted”

    – – –

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    Rosanne Cash featuring Bruce Springsteen, “Sea of Heartbreak”

    rosanne-cash_12Rosanne Cash previews her collection of classic popular songs with a spin on the Don Gibson classic “Sea of Heartbreak.” The impact of Cash’s music usually depends on her incisive songwriting, but she’s had success in the past with well-chosen covers.

    Her take on “Sea of Heartbreak” works because of her restrained delivery, with the light and floaty arrangement suggesting that these are calm waters. The undercurrent of grief reveals itself through the guest appearance of Bruce Springsteen. His ragged vocal provides a strong contrast to Cash’s sweet delivery.

    The resulting record turns a song that all of us have heard countless times before into something new. That’s always the challenge that needs to be met when covering a standard, so this is a promising preview of Cash’s upcoming set.

    Written by Hal David and Paul Hampton

    Grade: A-

    Listen: Sea of Heartbreak

    10 Comments

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    Albums You Hate By Artists You Love

    broken-recordAlbums you hate by artists you love. Okay, so those are some strong words. But, as recently evidenced by the comments given in response to Kevin’s review of Martina McBride’s new album, Shine, even our favorite artists put out occasional stinkers.  Those so-called stinkers may be universally acknowledged as such or just a reflection of our personal tastes, but, regardless of how they got there, they are most notable for the dust they acquire on our back shelves or their unapologetic dumping from our iPods.

    Here at Country Universe, we try to be honest about the material, even if the artist involved is one of our favorites.  It is definitely more painful to write a bad review about an artist you love, but unearned praise is the worst kind.

    Therefore, I have no compunction about stating that despite the praise George Strait’s recent album, Troubadour, has received, it’s no longer on my iPod. And while generally I’m a Toby Keith fan, I felt Honkytonk University was a waste of money.  Similarly, although Bruce Springsteen is one of my favorite artists ever and has put out two of my favorite albums of all time (Nebraska and Live in Dublin, both of which give me permission to write about him on a country music blog), I’m not afraid to admit that his recent Working on a Dream is a complete stinker, and Magic not among his best.

    Now it’s your turn.

    What are some albums you hate by artists you love?

    37 Comments

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    Rarities and Outtakes

    granada-spainA couple of summers ago, I picked up the 3-disc The Essential Bruce Springsteen album in an El Corte Ingles in Granada, Spain.  I was road-tripping it around the country and needed some good tunes. But somehow, the third disc completely escaped my notice until a few weeks ago.  It turned out to be comprised of a number of previously unreleased songs recorded over a long and fruitful career.  After popping it in, I gleefully discovered a couple of new fantastic, classic Boss songs.

    I experienced the same excitement earlier this week when I picked up Springsteen’s 18 Tracks while browsing in Barnes & Noble. That album similarly includes rarities, B-tracks and outtakes. (How did I ever miss “The Promise,” which is apparently a continuation of “Thunder Road”?) I felt like a kid who had just gotten herself locked overnight in a candy store.

    Although few artists are as prolific as Springsteen, many artists have a lot of work floating around out there that has not made it onto a studio album.  Much of that work is either pre-fame or covers, found on random bootlegs or videos, but every once in awhile you can find a previously unheard original that simply never made it onto a studio album.  The best part, for fans, is that these tracks come with zero expectations and a big payoff.  It’s simply an opportunity to acquire a more all-encompassing view of a favorite and to achieve new insight into them as artists.

    What are your favorite non-(studio) album tracks by your favorite artists?

    (If you are attaching a YouTube video, you simply have to place a “v” after “http” so it looks like “httpv://” when posting the URL)

    httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhN-iQQhSaA

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    Themed Albums

    kathy-mattea-coalKathy Mattea’s brilliant album released last year, Coal, reminded me of how much I love themed albums.  There is something unique and special about an album that addresses a single topic from varied angles or transports the listener on a purposeful ride.  It’s not just a random collection of singles with little to coalesce them together.  Rather, like great movies, themed albums demand that you listen from the first note to the last, lest you miss something important in between.

    Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger is one of the most famous themed albums in country music history.  The entire album is based on the conceptual story of a preacher who shoots his cheating wife and her lover before going on the run. However, the theme doesn’t have to be as concrete as the one in Red Headed Stranger or as narrow as the one in Coal, which endeavors to shine a light on the coal-mining industry, to be included in this category. It can be as amorphous as “love” or “heartache.”

    Just for fun, I culled through my musical catalog (and all 5 million or so country songs about love, heartache and partying on Friday night) and put together my own themed album very loosely titled: America 2009:

    • Filthy Rich (Big Kenny, John Rich, Bill McDavid, Freddy Powers, Sonny Thockmorton)
    • Workingman’s Blues #2 (Bob Dylan)
    • If We Make It Through December (Merle Haggard)
    • Dirt (Chris Knight)
    • What’s A Simple Man To Do? (Steve Earle)
    • The Ballad of Salvador & Isabelle (Dave Quanbury)
    • If You Don’t Love Jesus (Billy Joe Shaver)
    • Ellis Unit One (Steve Earle)
    • Dress Blues (Jason Isbell)
    • It’s a Different World Now (Rodney Crowell)
    • Everybody Knows (Gary Louris, Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines, Emily Robison)
    • Up to the Mountain (Patty Griffin)
    • Reason to Believe (Bruce Springsteen)

    If you were to create your own themed album, what would it look like?

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    Discussion: Music Pricing

    I caught this Kid Rock quote in the current Entertainment Weekly:

    Like the Beatles, AC/DC, and Garth Brooks, Rock eschews today’s most popular digital-music portal, though he happily admits to owning major stock in Apple itself. ”I just don’t like being told what to do,” he explains. ”I don’t have a beef with Apple, or iTunes, or any of them. I do have a beef with that it seems kind of socialist of them to charge the same price for every song. What if every car cost $4,000, you know what I mean? A song from my neighbor’s garage band is not the same value as Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run.’ I just want to decide how my product gets sold with the people who sell it.”’

    What do you think about music pricing?  Is the 99 cent song/$9.99 album model of iTunes too inflexible?  Would you pay more for your favorite artists, or buy more music if it was priced less?  Discuss.

    14 Comments

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