Despite the Grammys and even the ACM’s demonstrating more consistent taste over the past few years, the CMA’s remain the most significant industry awards that honor country music. This year’s slate of nominees gives the organization an opportunity to build on the credibility of last year’s George Strait victory. His win for Entertainer saved a dismal show in its closing minutes. Here’s our take on this year’s contenders: Entertainer of the Year Should Win: Luke Bryan Miranda Lambert Blake Shelton George Strait – Kevin, Jonathan, Tara, Ben Keith Urban Will Win: Luke Bryan Miranda Lambert Blake Shelton George Strait – Jonathan, Kevin, Tara, Ben Keith Urban Kevin: I’d settle for a Miranda Lambert victory, as she had an amazing year. But my first choice is George Strait, who deserves a fourth trophy for that record-breaking final concert. The rest of these nominees have either won before or still seem to Read More
“Something in the Water” Carrie Underwood Written by Chris DeStefano, Brett James, and Carrie Underwood If anybody’s going to sing a song about the power of the water to cleanse your soul, it should be Carrie Underwood. Her voice and her presence on record are enough to wash country listeners’ ears clean from all the dreck we’re being assaulted with these days. Underwood previews her upcoming hits collection by revisiting a theme that she’s explored before, but with a wisdom and maturity that can only come from life experience. “Something in the Water” shifts the transformative experience of “Jesus, Take the Wheel” into the first person, a sign, along with her co-writing credit, of how much more personal ownership she now takes over her work. So as great as that first hit was, it’s the new release that throbs with urgency and intensity, moving the spiritual experience from something philosophical Read More
This year’s CMA nominees are the best in years, with multiple nominations for Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves, and Brandy Clark. Country radio may still be shunning women, but their embrace by CMA voters suggests that the industry knows who is really leading the way in the genre these days. Entertainer of the Year Luke Bryan Miranda Lambert Blake Shelton George Strait Keith Urban Who’s In: Miranda Lambert, Keith Urban Who’s Out: Jason Aldean, Taylor Swift George Strait, a surprise winner last year, is nominated again in a year that includes his record-shattering final concert. Miranda Lambert’s domination of this year’s nominations extends to the big category, where she competes for the first time since 2010.
In 2008, I was finishing up my degree in journalism and trying to understand what it meant to be a professional writer. I wanted to write about music, but the divide between fan and critic felt, at times, insurmountable. That fall, I stumbled onto Country Universe through this post, and it changed my perspective. As both a writer and leader, Kevin was thoughtful, rational and personally invested in the country music genre. He showed a deep respect for the genre’s history, but wrote about new artists with tolerance and curiosity. Best of all, he held readers and writers alike to the highest standards of decency. It’s for that reason that this post shines. Kevin’s ability to take a stand while cultivating constructive dialogue is unmatched. He cut through the divisive hype around Carrie Underwood –an artist who is as special to me now as she was back then—and underlined the Read More
Miranda Lambert Platinum Miranda Lambert’s life experience has caught up with her talent. Platinum is a confident, intelligent record that weaves the themes of nostalgia, femininity, and celebrity together over sixteen tracks. It’s a cohesive set, with lead single “Automatic” making much more sense in the context of the full album. It’s also remarkably, defiantly country, which shows more of a rock-and-roll attitude these days than rocking out does.
It’s easy to forget just how talented Carlene Carter is. In the last eighteen years, she’s only given us two albums to remind us. But with a career that stretches back to her 1978 eponymous debut album, all the way through her excellent new release, Carter Girl, she has been a consistently excellent entertainer and songwriter. In addition to her latest release, her albums Musical Shapes (1980), I Fell in Love (1990), and Little Love Letters (1993) are all among the best country albums of their time. Those three sets factor heavily into this list, but there are plenty of great moments on most of her other studio albums, too. Her first four sets tend to fade in and out of print, but they’re worth snapping up when available. It’s been more than five years since I’ve done a Favorite Songs by Favorite Artists post. For the uninitiated, my rubric Read More
No word for a while yet on whether the album will sell a million copies, but as far as the single goes, it lives up to the promise of the two singers more than it does to its title.
And they’re back: The 2014 ACM Awards air live on Sunday at 7 p.m. CST, hosted by Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan. They’re sure to be enraging or amusing, depending on your bro-country meter. In the meantime, we’ve picked and predicted the awards below – chime in with your thoughts!
Entertainer of the Year
- Luke Bryan
- Miranda Lambert
- Blake Shelton
- George Strait – KJC, TS, BF
- Taylor Swift
- Luke Bryan – KJC, TS, BF, JK
- Miranda Lambert
- Blake Shelton
- George Strait
- Taylor Swift
For the second year, Country Universe is publishing a 40-deep list of the year’s best albums. Part One includes releases from talented newcomers, genre legends, and quite a few entries from the outskirts of country music. As usual, that’s where most of the cool stuff can be found.
Country Universe will close out our year with the conclusion of this list tomorrow. As always, share your thoughts and opinions in the comments!
Individual rankings: #12 – Jonathan
The EP format doesn’t leave much margin for error, but with a knack for unconventional imagery and a style that blends vintage SoCal rock with authentic honky-tonk, Dan Grimm ensures that every track on his freewheeling, endlessly likable Ventucky is a standout. – Jonathan Keefe
Recommended Tracks: “Skeletor,” “300 Beers”
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!
“Someone Somewhere Tonight”
Individual rankings: #16 – Ben; #19 – Tara
A sweeping power ballad anchored by an intimate chorus and Pickler’s pleading sincerity. – Tara Seetharam