Carrie Underwood

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

2014 Grammy Nominees

December 7, 2013 // 14 Comments

The nominations for the 56th Annual Grammy Awards have been announced. Taylor Swift has the top nomination connected to country music, earning her second nomination for Album of the Year. She took home the award four years ago for Fearless.

Here are the general category nominees, along with all country and country-related categories:

Taylor Swift RedAlbum of the Year

  • Sara Bareilles, The Blessed Unrest
  • Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
  • Kendrick Lamar, good kid m.A.A.d. city
  • Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, The Heist
  • Taylor Swift, Red

If Taylor Swift wins, she will be the first country-related artist in history to win the category twice with individual projects. Alison Krauss also has two victories, one for her collaboration with Robert Plant (Raising Sand, 2009), and another for her contributions to the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack (2002.) The award has only been won by country artists in two other years: Glen Campbell for By the Time I Get to Phoenix (1968), and the Dixie Chicks for Taking the Long Way (2007).

CMA Live Blog 2013

November 6, 2013 // 111 Comments

47th CMA AwardsThe festivities begin at 8 PM EST.  Refresh for updates and check for winners above the fold:


Entertainer: George Strait

Male Vocalist: Blake Shelton

Female Vocalist: Miranda Lambert

Vocal Group: Little Big Town

Album: Blake Shelton, Based On a True Story…

New Artist: Kacey Musgraves

Vocal Duo: Florida Georgia Line

Song: “I Drive Your Truck” – Jessi Alexander, Connie Harrington, and Jimmy Yeary

Single: “Cruise” – Florida Georgia Line

Music Video:  “Highway Don’t Care” – Tim McGraw with Taylor Swift and Keith Urban; director: Shane Drake

Musical Event: “Highway Don’t Care” – Tim McGraw with Taylor Swift and Keith Urban

2013 CMA Awards: Staff Picks & Predictions

November 2, 2013 // 35 Comments

They’re as hope-dangling and ridiculous as they’ve ever been, those Country Music Association voters, and the CU staff has picked and predicted their 2013 awards below. Let us know what you think, and check back for our live blog on Wednesday at 7 p.m. CST!

CUEntertainer of the Year

Should Win:

  • Jason Aldean
  • Luke Bryan
  • Blake Shelton
  • George Strait
  • Taylor Swift

Will Win:

  • Jason Aldean
  • Luke Bryan
  • Blake Shelton – Dan, Ben, Jonathan, Kevin, Tara
  • George Strait
  • Taylor Swift

Single Review: Carrie Underwood, “See You Again”

August 6, 2013 // 21 Comments

carrie see you againYou’d be forgiven if Carrie Underwood’s current hit left you a little underwhelmed. After the one-two murderoo of “Blown Away” and “Two Black Cadillacs,” the releases that announced Underwood’s ascension from superstar singer to potentially cool artist, the Narnia-inspired “See You Again” may feel like a retreat back to simpler days. Actually, with its mechanical piano, bloated chorus production, and vague celestial imagery, it almost sounds like a descendant of “Inside Your Heaven,” Underwood’s sappy American Idol single. Uh oh!

Single Review: Kelly Clarkson, “Tie it Up”

July 24, 2013 // 24 Comments

Kelly Clarkson Tie it UpThere’s such an obvious trend of genre-hopping between pop, rock, and country right now that I can totally understand the enthusiasm surrounding Kelly Clarkson dabbling with a switch to country music.

After all, if we’re going to have pop and rock stars crossing over anyway, we might as well get one of the best ones, right? She’s got a strong knowledge of and affinity for, at the very least, the past two generations of country music. Her pipes are pretty darn good, too. I prefer the purity of Carrie Underwood’s voice, but there are many who feel the first Idol is still the best.

Grammy Pre-Telecast Winners

February 10, 2013 // 0 Comments

55th Grammy Awards

Grammy Pre-Telecast Winners

Here are the winners in country and country-related categories, including all-genre categories that include a country-related nominee:

Best Long Form Music Video: Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros & Old Crow Medicine Show, Big Easy Express

Song Written for Visual Media: T Bone Burnett, Taylor Swift, John Paul White & Joy Williams, “Safe and Sound”

Americana Album: Bonnie Raitt, Slipstream

Bluegrass Album: Steep Canyon Rangers, Nobody Knows You

Folk Album: Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer & Chris Thile, The Goat Rodeo Sessions

Country Duo/Group Vocal Performance: Little Big Town, “Pontoon”

Country Song: Josh Kear & Chris Tompkins, “Blown Away”


Album Review: Katie Armiger, Fall Into Me

January 17, 2013 // 4 Comments

katie armiger fall into me

Katie Armiger
Fall Into Me


By now, Katie Armiger’s country music career comprises six years, four studio albums, and still zero bona fide radio hits.  Her label Cold River Records has nonetheless stuck with her since 2007, with her previous outing, 2010’s Confessions of a Nice Girl, producing her first chart singles in the #55 “Kiss Me Now” and the #42 “Best Song Ever.”  Her new album Fall Into Me has yet to reverse her fortunes at radio – Lead single “Better In a Black Dress” topped out at #42 on Billboard Country Airplay – but it no doubt contains more than enough tasteful, likeable pop-country material to keep current fans interested.

CU's Top Albums of 2012

January 2, 2013 // 39 Comments

As reflected by the title of our web site, our choices for Top 40 Albums of 2012 span the farthest reaches of the country music universe.  In previous years, the Country Universe staff has counted down twenty albums and forty singles, but this year our album picks included such a wide variety that we were able to stretch our Top Albums countdown to a full forty slots.  What did we miss?  That’s where you, our readers, come in.  Please join in the discussion, and share which albums you had in heavy rotation over the past year.


The Garden of Love – Songs of William Blake

Martha Redbone Roots Project

CU's Top Singles of 2012

December 29, 2012 // 47 Comments

2012Something you probably already know about us here at Country Universe:  We love country music.  A lot.  While truly great country music has become scarce on country radio, we are fortunate to live in an age in which modern technology has made great music more accessible than ever, regardless of whether Top 40 radio dares touch it.

At the close of each year we separate the grain from the chaff, and share the music we discovered over the past year that made us glad that we stuck with our genre of choice.  We at Country Universe have put our heads together to create the following lists of favorite singles and albums of 2012.

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