Tag Archives: Crystal Shawanda

Kevin J. Coyne’s Top Singles of 2008

Gone are the days where this would just be called the Country Universe’s Top Singles of 2008.   The collective tastes of our writers makes for more distinguished lists, but thankfully, there’s still a place for my personal favorites.   Here are the twenty singles of 2008 that I enjoyed the most.

#20: Reba McEntire & Kenny Chesney, “Every Other Weekend”

A welcome return to domestic themes, which have often provided McEntire with her best work.   This plays out the like the epilogue to “Somebody Should Leave.”

sara-evans#19: Sara Evans, “Low”

Triumph in the face of adversity, as the surrounding negative energy is rejected in favor of a positive and determined move toward the future.  Plus, it’s a little bluegrassy, which just sounds cool.

#18: Keith Urban, “You Look Good in My Shirt”

Even Conway Twitty wasn’t so good at slipping in mature themes so skillfully.    There are children across the country bopping along to this one without a clue about how she ended up wearing that shirt.

#17: Josh Turner featuring Trisha Yearwood, “Another Try”

Turner’s unsure vocal reveals emotion for a moment, then pulls back, then reveals a little bit of it again.   He’s hoping for one more chance, but it doesn’t sound like he’s convinced himself that he’ll truly “hang on for dear life” next time.

#16: Tim McGraw, “Let it Go”

Letting go of the past doesn’t mean that you forget your mistakes.    Rather, you resolve to learn from them without letting them dictate your future.

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Best Country Singles of 2008, Part 2: #30-#21

The list continues today with the next ten entries, a collection of hits, could’ve been hits and should’ve been hits. Adventurous radio programmers, take note.

#little-big-town-place30

Little Big Town, “Fine Line”

There’s a fine line between imitation and tribute, and Little Big Town lands on the proper side of the balance.  Karen Fairchild steps forward on this flashback to ’70s SoCal country-rock, and her biting, expressive performance matches perfectly with an admonishment of a distant lover. Very fine, indeed.  – BB

willie-nelson-moment#29

Willie Nelson, “You Don’t Think I’m Funny Anymore”

This ridiculous but fun single just sounds like a Willie Nelson song. While it’s a 2008 single, it sounds as though it could have been recorded at the height of Nelson’s career. Moreover, Willie’s voice sounds as strong as ever here.  – LW

raconteurs-single-art#28

The Raconteurs with Ricky Skaggs & Ashley Monroe, “Old Enough”

A thrilling, organic collaboration that sounds cooler and more convincing with each listen. It probably hasn’t gotten enough exposure to be remembered several years down the line, but it’s one of 2008′s most compelling arguments for the uncanning of country music.  – DM

eddy-arnold-seven#27

Eddy Arnold, “To Life”

A glorious swan song from an incomparable talent.    When it charted shortly after his death, Arnold became the only artist in history to hit the country singles chart in seven different decades. – KJC

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Crystal Shawanda, “My Roots Are Showing”

It’s been a while since I’ve heard a mainstream country single that really surprised me. This one does. The song combines the basic theme of Shania Twain’s “Any Man of Mine” with the bluesy rollick of Tanya Tucker’s “It’s a Little Too Late,” and the result is a swaggering little sass-fest that sounds like nothing else on the radio right now.

There are hitches: the central image of exposed “roots” proves too frivolous to carry the song along the whole way, and as interesting a vocalist as Shawanda is, she sounds a little green behind the mic here, like she’s not yet sure how to harness her massive voice on record.

But the funny thing about this single is how it almost seems to be less about the song itself and more about the message conveyed through the combination of sound, style, performance and sentiment. It’s like Shawanda and RCA are daring the same radio programmers who embraced “You Can Let Go” to take up their swords for an artist who isn’t afraid to show her true colors and sing outside the box – and that’s pretty friggin’ cool.

Written by Whitney Duncan, Christi Dannemiller, & Robin Lee Bruce

Grade: B

Listen: My Roots Are Showing

Buy: My Roots Are Showing

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The Coping Power of Music

Back in February of this year, I reviewed “You Can Let Go”, a single by a new artist named Crystal Shawanda.   The song hit home for me, having lost my father to cancer only a year earlier.   I tried to keep a professional distance, and only alluded to this in my review:

I knew where “You Can Let Go” was going to end up by the third verse, but I was still choked up by it, as the songwriters painted an achingly accurate portrait. I won’t give away the lyrics here, but if you’ve witnessed this in your own life, you’ll know that the way they describe it is exactly what it’s really like.

Ever since that review was published, there’s been a consistent trend in its comment thread.  Every few days, another reader shares their own personal story about losing their father, and expresses how the song has brought them some comfort.   It’s easy to overlook the power that music can have, and songs like “You Can Let Go” can be dismissed as cloying or manipulative because they deal with such heavy emotions. But the reality is that once you’ve actually lived through an experience like the one in this song, it helps you deal with the devastating emotions that go along with it.

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A Conversation with Patty Loveless

After a three year absence from the country music scene, a revived Patty Loveless has arrived with a brand new album featuring her versions of country classics called Sleepless Nights. An appropriate title, considering Loveless has endured the death of her mother, mother-in-law and the illness of her brother during that stretch of inactivity.

But these hard times have moved Loveless to give some of the most heart-rending performances of her career, and in a phone interview from her home in Cartersville, Georgia, she tells Country Universe about her doubts of returning to the music business, her dreams for the next phase of her career and her desire to spread the gospel of traditional country music.

Since 2005’s Dreaming My Dreams, you’ve kept a rather low profile except for a few guest appearances. Give us a glimpse of your life in the last three years and why this was the right time for an album of classics.

I was mostly trying to get used to being a resident of Georgia. Since I first came to Nashville when I was 14, we’d drive back and forth to Nashville all the time for a few years. And of course, when I was 19, I moved to North Carolina. And then I came back to do a country record, that was in ’85. And now it’s been over twenty years. So I’ve been driving a lot. And I like to drive. I do. But now I’m settled in Georgia, and I was just getting used to being in Georgia and living there.  Plus, with everything with my family, I believed it was time for a break.  It was necessary to take a sabbatical, but I’m happy to be back in front of the fans, and I hope this album really influences people.

Of course, during the time I was also singing on other artist’s records. I did the Bob Seger record, and we sang “The Answer’s in the Question.”  I really enjoyed it. And of course, I believe it was last December we cut the George Strait one, “House of Cash,” and I sang on the new Kathy Mattea album…

And with Vince Gill on These Days.

Yes. I loved going in the studio with him.

This new album, Sleepless Nights, is drinking and cheating, loss and loneliness—is part of you simply drawn to these deep songs? And how do they resonate with you differently now?

I wear my feelings on my sleeve. I put a lot of pain into my songs. Music is my healing.

In the last couple years, I didn’t have the energy or the heart (to record). I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to make another record. I knew I would always somehow continue to sing in some way, but I didn’t know when. I just needed time. After everything that happened with my mother, and my mother-in-law’s passing as well, I felt like I was burned out.  Of course, I was there for the last week of my mother’s life, and she was surrounded by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and of course her children.

Fortunate considering you were on the road so often.  A blessing.

Yes, a real blessing. I was still trying to help, you know, women tend to be the caregivers. I had brothers who were having a hard time of it. I have two sisters as well, and for some reason we held strong. And Roger, who was really the one who encouraged and pushed me into the country music limelight, having a stroke, it was tough. I was afraid that something would go wrong due to all the stress.

Also, your career was in a holding pattern.

I felt like my heart had broken. The problems with the recall on the record didn’t help.  And then of course, I parted ways with Sony Epic, so I just needed time to heal. (Editor’s note: A number of copies of Loveless’  last Epic release Dreamin’ My Dreams, released in 2005, were created with anti-theft software installed that prevented consumers from downloading the album to their personal playing devices.)

You must have been frustrated that you were trying to stay relevant in your career by allowing for this technology only for it to fail, at least in your case.

Yes, it was just one last thing that caused me to question everything.  It was disappointing.

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Crystal Shawanda, Dawn of a New Day

Crystal Shawanda
Dawn of a New Day

Crystal Shawanda, a 27-year-old singer-songwriter from Ontario, Canada has established herself as a promising new voice with her first album Dawn of a New Day, a step in the right direction as she challenges for her own place in today’s country music. The album is diverse in its sounds and themes, and echoes her experience as a young woman born on an Indian reservation and trying to make a name and gain fame in Nashville. For the most part, she thrives in this collection of songs.

The common thread throughout the album is an appreciation of the past and a certain strength of character through adversity, and Shawanda’s voice ranges from sassy and spirited to wonderfully delicate. The first single, “You Can Let Go,” is a story song that, although predictable in terms of the storyline, is rich with emotion and is an effective introduction of Shawanda, formerly a featured singer at Nashville’s hallowed honky tonk, Tootsie’s. The depth of a father-daughter relationship is married with the lessons learned in letting go. She sells it, but this paint-by-numbers ballad only hints at her potential, as does “What Do I Have to Do?,” another power ballad that tries a little too hard to make its point.

Shawanda settles into this rut at times, tempering some of the originality that is her calling card. She both succeeds (“Tender Side”) and stumbles (“Try”) in showing her strength in the face of vulnerability. Shawanda is much more powerful when tackling stronger, more attitude-driven material, in the form of both soulful ballads and uptempo tunes. The high points are the feisty numbers that dot the album, from the lustful “I Need a Man” to the engaging “Evolution,” an autobiographical piece that rips and roars with grace and grit. Two other stellar tracks are “My Roots are Showing” and the title track, empowering songs with impressive vocal power by the newcomer.

Shawanda’s love for classic country music is apparent with her avowed adoration to Loretta Lynn, her namechecking of Patsy Cline, and her inclusion of the Hank Williams standard, “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” She covers the classic tune admirably, and would do well to continue the tradition of these legends, artists who followed their muse without much consideration for Nashville rules. Although Dawn of a New Day sometimes makes those commercial concessions, it is a satisfying piece of work that will likely be the first of many successes for the talented Shawanda.

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Crystal Shawanda, “You Can Let Go”

You don’t hear country voices like this that much anymore. It seems like most women to come down the pike over the past few years have been belting divas are growling redneck girls. Newcomer Crystal Shawanda has a gritty voice that cracks at just the right moments, and she never gets in the way of the song, which is a common rookie mistake.

As for the song itself, I’ll just say that even a casual country fan will realize where this is going after the first verse finds a five year-old girl saying “You can let go, Daddy”, as she’s riding her bike for the first time. But a choice was made to go for small, revealing details over big, sappy sentiments, and Shawanda’s heartfelt performance, unaffected and sincere, is a perfect match for such an understated song.

I knew where “You Can Let Go” was going to end up by the third verse, but I was still choked up by it, as the songwriters painted an achingly accurate portrait. I won’t give away the lyrics here, but if you’ve witnessed this in your own life, you’ll know that the way they describe it is exactly what it’s really like.

Written by Cory Batten, Kent Blazy & Rory Lee Feek

Grade: A

Listen: You Can Let Go

Buy: You Can Let Go

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