Tag Archives: Darius Rucker

44th Annual ACM Awards Projections

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On Wednesday, February 11, the Academy of Country Music will unveil the nominees for their 44th annual awards ceremony. Last year, the usual suspects prevailed. Brad and Carrie repeated in the Vocalist categories, Brooks & Dunn claimed their 14th Vocal Duo prize and Kenny Chesney earned his fourth consecutive Entertainer of the Year award. As a prelude to the nominations announcement, here’s my projected slate for this year’s ceremony. (Favorites are in bold.)

Entertainer of the Year

  • Kenny Chesney
  • Brad Paisley
  • Sugarland
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Keith Urban

Prognosis: The “no girls allowed” edict will likely be lifted.  Underwood is the genre’s most prominent ambassador, and Sugarland’s rise to the high ranks has both commercial and critical support.

Note of interest: “The winner shall be determined by a combination of votes from the membership of the ACM and viewer voting.”

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Academy of Country Music Nominations Due February 11

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The nominations for this year’s Academy of Country Music Awards will be announced on Wednesday, February 11, and Country Universe will have a preview next week. As announced yesterday, the blond brigade of Julianne Hough, Leann Rimes, Jessica Simpson and Kellie Pickler will read the nominations from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

From the Academy of Country Music website:

The Academy of Country Music, Dick Clark productions and Great American Country (GAC) announced today that for the first time ever, the three newcomer categories for the Academy of Country Music Awards—Top New Female Vocalist, Top New Male Vocalist and Top New Vocal Duo or Group—will be opened up to interactive fan voting through GACTV.com. The 44th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards will be broadcast LIVE from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas Sunday, April 5, 2009 at 8:00 PM live ET/delayed PT on the CBS Television Network.

Fan voting for these three categories will begin at GACTV.com on Friday, February 13, and will close on Thursday, March 5. The winner in each of the three categories will be announced March 9, and will move on to compete in a brand new Academy of Country Music Awards category, Top New Artist. Voting for the Top New Artist category will begin on March 16, and will close on April 5, with the winner being announced live during the 44th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards.

The official website is cryptic regarding the validity of voting procedures. Under the Best New Artist categories, the Board of Directors state that winners will be determined by a vote of members and/or viewer voting, so the Academy could possibly have a hand in the voting in case inconsistencies arise.

The Academy’s voting criteria was called into question last year when the Entertainer of the Year award was a fan-voted affair, and today’s announcement continues the questionable practice of allowing the general public to voice their opinions for one of the industry’s highest honors. This year, the rules do explicitly state that Entertainer of the Year will be awarded based on both membership vote and fan participation.

Critics’ fave Jamey Johnson also suffers from the academy’s shortsighted criteria.  Due to an absolutely archaic rule, Jamey Johnson’s That Lonesome Song (current sales: 270k at 26 weeks) is ineligible for the Album of the Year category.

The Album must have attained minimum sales of 300,000 units and/or maintained an average of 20,000 unit sales per week since release as reflected by SoundScan during the qualification period. Any album commercially released prior to the preceding calendar year, but achieving its highest charted position in any accepted country music industry publication chart and greatest commercial success during the calendar year, is eligible unless it has appeared on a final ACM ballot in this category.

Conceivably, Johnson can be nominated for Album of the Year next year. By that time, That Lonesome Song will have sold over 300,000 copies and could sneak above its current chart peak in 2009  (it debuted at No.6 in August and now rests at No. 7 on the weekly chart). Understood? With record sales dwindling due to the economy and the current technological shift within the music industry, the criteria must be changed. Unless the rule is amended, only ten albums are eligible (the latest releases from Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, Toby Keith, Lady Antebellum, James Otto, Darius Rucker, Sugarland, George Strait, Taylor Swift and Zac Brown Band). This is a small pool from which to determine the genre’s best album of the year. The current slate of criteria for the ACM only serves to dilute a meaningful country music milestone and forgo artistic value in favor of commercial prowess and internet savvy.

Fun fact: In its final week of eligibility for last year’s ACM Awards, Miranda Lambert’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend sold 7,894 copies for a total of 304,999 since its May 1, 2007 debut. Lambert’s sophomore set went on to best platinum-selling albums from Kenny Chesney, Rodney Atkins, Taylor Swift and Brad Paisley to claim the ACM award for Album of the Year. As of February 7, 2009, the album has sold 679,391 copies and remains the second-oldest album on the Country Albums chart (Taylor Swift’s Taylor Swift).

 

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Discussion: SoundScan Sound Off

salesIn this era of rampant piracy and economic recession, things aren’t looking good for the music industry.   We don’t post too often about the business side of the music business here, as we tend to keep the focus on the music.   But the reality is that these numbers matter.  If Little Big Town’s second Equity album had performed as well as the first, the label might still be in business.

It’s not all doom and gloom, as many artists go on to make their best music once they leave major labels.   But this Christmas, you can guarantee that some artists and record executives will be bracing for the New Year, while others are embracing it.

Here’s a look at some totals for albums released in 2008, ranked by total sales (rounded to the nearest thousand):

  1. Taylor Swift, Fearless – 1,519,000
  2. Sugarland, Love on the Inside – 1,179,000
  3. George Strait, Troubadour – 693,000
  4. Alan Jackson, Good Time – 628,000
  5. Toby Keith, 35 Biggest Hits – 530,000
  6. Kenny Chesney, Lucky Old Sun – 479,000
  7. Faith Hill, Joy to the World – 341,000
  8. Lady Antebellum, Lady Antebellum – 337,000
  9. James Otto, Sunset Man – 332,000
  10. Rascal Flatts, Greatest Hits Volume 1 – 330,000
  11. Darius Rucker, Learn to Live – 284,000
  12. Julianne Hough, Julianne Hough – 260,000
  13. Toby Keith, That Don’t Make Me a Bad Guy – 224,000
  14. Jewel, Perfectly Clear – 203,000
  15. Dierks Bentley, Greatest Hits: Every Mile a Memory -  195,000
  16. Jamey Johnson, That Lonesome Song – 183,000
  17. Heidi Newfield, What Am I Waiting For – 162,000
  18. Jessica Simpson, Do You Know – 153,000
  19. Brad Paisley, Play – 137,000
  20. Kellie Pickler, Kellie Pickler – 129,000
  21. Montgomery Gentry, Back When I Knew it All – 127,000
  22. Tim McGraw, Greatest Hits Vol. 3 – 127,000
  23. Emmylou Harris, All I Intended to Be – 119,000
  24. Zac Brown Band, Foundation – 118,000
  25. Randy Travis, Around the Bend – 89,000
  26. Ashton Shepherd, Sounds So Good - 84,000
  27. Jimmy Wayne, Do You Believe Me Now – 81,000
  28. Trace Adkins, X – 72,000
  29. Billy Currington, Little Bit of Everything – 65,000
  30. Blake Shelton, Startin’ Fires – 60,000
  31. Hank III, Damn Right Rebel Proud – 47,000
  32. Lee Ann Womack, Call Me Crazy – 45,000
  33. Joey + Rory, Life of a Song – 44,000
  34. Patty Loveless, Sleepless Nights – 38,000
  35. Craig Morgan, Greatest Hits – 34,000
  36. Craig Morgan, That’s Why – 31,000
  37. Randy Owen, One on One – 22,000
  38. Randy Houser, Anything Goes – 17,000

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Discussion: Country Universe Giveaway/Darius Rucker, Learn to Live

While a number of artists from different musical genres entered into the country rodeo this past year, no Nashville newcomer was more successful than Hootie & the Blowfish frontman, Darius Rucker. His debut country disc, Learn to Live, topped the country album charts in its first week of release, in large part due to its lead single, the #1 smash, “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It.”

Country Universe is offering a free copy of Learn to Live to our loyal readers. To be considered, leave a comment and tell us your favorite #1 country song of 2008.

Billboard #1 country songs in 2008:

Taylor Swift – “Our Song”
Brad Paisley – “Letter To Me”
Rodney Atkins – “Cleaning This Gun (Come On In Boy)”
Carrie Underwood – “All-American Girl”
Alan Jackson – “Small Town Southern Man”
Trace Adkins – “You’re Gonna Miss This”
George Strait – “I Saw God Today”
James Otto – “Just Got Started Loving You”
Brad Paisley – “I’m Still A Guy”
Carrie Underwood – “Last Name”
Kenny Chesney – “Better As A Memory”
Montgomery Gentry – “Back When I Knew It All”
Blake Shelton – “Home”
Alan Jackson – “Good Time”
Sugarland – “All I Want To Do”
Taylor Swift – “Should’ve Said No”
Keith Urban – “You Look Good In My Shirt”
Jimmy Wayne – “Do You Believe Me Now?”
Brad Paisley – “Waitin’ On A Woman”
Jimmy Wayne – “Do You Believe Me Now?”
Darius Rucker – “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It”
Kenny Chesney – “Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven”
Toby Keith – “She Never Cried In Front Of Me”
Carrie Underwood – “Just A Dream”
Taylor Swift – “Love Story”

Entries will be considered until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, November 23. Best of luck!

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CMA Awards Review

Last night, the CMA stamped its approval on the leading contemporary country stars of today.  Congratulations to Kevin for commandeering the most popular live blog in Country Universe history.  Here is a series of highlights (according to me) from an otherwise staid ceremony:

Best performance: “More Like Her,” Miranda Lambert; “Just a Dream,” Carrie Underwood.  With understated brilliance, Lambert shifted gears by offering her Texas twang on the stripped-down ballad, while Underwood hit all the glory notes on her dramatic tearjerker with style and grace. Often pitted as rivals and polar opposites, the two proved that country music holds plenty of room for these two prodigious talents. Although Underwood ended Lambert’s faint hopes of claiming the Female Vocalist prize, bet on Lambert winning her fair share of CMAs in the near future.

Sound off: Repeatedly an issue, the Sommet Center’s sound system had problems again this year.  Also, Nashville is a town of songwriters, but L.A. is a town of scriptwriters, and some intelligent, humorous ones would be welcome at next year’s ceremony.

Nashville’s full of musicians, too: Let’s tip our hats to first-time CMA award winner, Musician of the Year, Mac McAnally.

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5 Questions with Adam Gregory

At only twenty-three years old, Adam Gregory has been performing for ten years in his native Canada. After arriving in Nashville in 2007, he signed a recording contract with Midas Records, who then reformed last year under indie powerhouse Big Machine Records. Earlier this year, Gregory reached the Top 40 with his first single, “Crazy Days,” and last month he released his second single, “What It Takes.” His yet-untitled debut album in the United States is slated for release in Spring 2009. Gregory called Country Universe earlier this week to provide a glimpse into the life and career of the Nashville newcomer.

Who is Adam Gregory as an artist? And which artists have inspired this direction?

I consider myself as just a guy who sticks to his roots and follows his own path and tries to find meaning in every song. I’ve co-written a lot of songs on the album, so I hope to put my own imprint and give it that extra attention because it’s coming from me and who I am. We think it’s a refreshing sound. We have something new to offer. It’s not a country twang. It’s more of a modern-day sounding music. But I grew up listening to Vince Gill. He’s such a great singer, and so humble. And of course, Garth Brooks and George Strait. He (Strait) has maintained a personal life and family and still had a great career. That’s what I aspire to do.

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Darius Rucker, “It Won’t Be Like This For Long”

Darius Rucker has an everyman’s voice that is tailor made for singalong choruses, which is one of the reasons those early Hootie singles were so infectious.  It’s also one of the reasons his transition to country music has been so smooth.   Unlike Jon Bon Jovi, who still sounds like a rocker,  and Jewel, who still sounds like a coffeehouse folkie, Rucker’s vocals are more adaptable simply because they’re not as distinctive.

This isn’t a criticism of his singing.   It’s a main selling point of it.  “It Won’t Be Like This For Long” is as representative of contemporary country music as anything out there right now, and Rucker’s vocal on the track has as much to do with that as the song’s instrumentation.    As he’s singing about savoring the moments of a young child’s development, he sounds just country enough to fit in on the radio dial between Alan Jackson and Keith Urban, without giving off the impression that he’s intentionally trying to fit in.

The end result is a pleasant single by a solid vocalist who has already picked up on the key lesson that many country singers never learn: don’t get in the way of the song.    This allows the song itself to rise and fall on its own merits.  As a sweeter spin on “You’re Gonna Miss This”, it has enough charm and attention to detail to make it a notch or two above the standard domestic mini-movie crowd of songs that have become their subgenre in modern country music.

Written by Chris DuBois, Ashley Gorey & Darius Rucker

Grade: B+

Listen: It Won’t Be Like This For Long

Buy: It Won’t Be Like This For Long

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Darius Rucker, Learn to Live

Darius Rucker
Learn to Live

On his first country single, “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It,” Darius Rucker delivers an honest, heartfelt performance of a pensive ballad about love lost and the mark that it usually leaves. Rucker has attracted the attention of the country radio audience with that single, and it’s helped boost the profile of his first full country album, Learn to Live, a release that owns a variety of country music’s common topics and musical techniques. It’s that first single, though, where he sounds most natural and comfortable. The overall impression of the rest of the album; however, is how jolting it sounds for Rucker to reach into these twelve country songs and not stamp them with his own identity.

After an extended run as the lead singer of ‘90s pop-rock band Hootie & the Blowfish, Rucker has followed his muse, as influenced by his South Carolina upbringing and its strong helping of country radio. His connections within the industry have led to an all-star cast of talent on Learn to Live that lends a certain amount of creativity (and country credibility to boot). For example, on “All I Want,” a co-write with producer Frank Rogers, Rucker gives us one of the truly memorable hooks in recent memory, telling a soon-to-be-ex, “All I want you to leave me is alone.” It sounds like a song right out of the Brad Paisley catalog, no doubt a tribute to Paisley’s guitar playing on the track. But it highlights the one true problem with the album. Rucker appears to be trying a number of different styles, but never settles on one that is distinguishing. For such a tremendously arresting voice, he never establishes the sense of self that marks truly great country albums.

The other dilemma is that the songs never meet the standard of the rest of the album’s ingredients. Rogers does well to stay out of the way of Rucker’s performance, and Rucker in turn delivers with his coarse vocals. But he’s too reliant on radio-friendly, sentimental songs that never dig very deep at all. He manages to add a touch of poignancy to “It Won’t Be Like This for Long,” a ballad inspired by his two daughters, but the song never quite matches up with his skill set. The title track is similar in tone, and preaches the value in a life fully lived that eventually brings the narrator to a moment of clarity. And on “If I Had Wings,” Rucker is joined by the heart-rending harmonies of Alison Krauss and Vince Gill. These songs aren’t inherently bad (although they do toe the line of sentimentality), but they seem to provide the listener some dissonance when approaching Rucker as an artist. His ringing baritone deserves better (and less conventional) country songs. Songs brimming with heartache and loss are lacking, and at times the songs of love and devotion here fall flat. Instead he plays it safe with paint-by-number, maudlin ballads that never really tap into his talent.

Two songs about the concept of time miss for different reasons. “I Hope They Get To Me In Time” is distinctive in its storytelling, it’s just that the story is overly sentimental and just a little odd, as it tells of man’s life flashing before his eyes in the immediate aftermath of a car accident. And “While I Still Got the Time” (with a chorus almost completely lifted from the Kathy Mattea hit “Come from the Heart”) is ultimately cliché-ridden. Rucker’s reckless-weather voice is much better used on stronger material such as “Drinkin’ And Dialin”, a humorous ode to the late-night habit, or “Be Wary of a Woman,” a nod to the needs of freedom that are so quickly swept away in the face of life-changing love.

It’s that notable singing ability that was always going to carry this set above the mediocre, but Rucker’s earnest slant on this set of tunes is disconcerting when compared with his rich, resonant vocals. Learn to Live is well-produced and well-sung, but too many of the songs fail to fit the artist behind them.

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Review: Darius Rucker, “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It”

The first country release from Darius Rucker, the former lead singer of popular ’90s pop-rock outfit Hootie & the Blowfish, recently reached the Top Ten on the Billboard singles chart. It’s the lead single of his forthcoming album Learn to Live and its popularity sends a clear message that country fans appear to be embracing Rucker in his attempt at a solo career.

And with good reason. “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It” is led by the powerful pipes of Rucker and provides a very mature, adult response to regret and remorse than is often found in country music. Yes, he has made a number of mistakes due to foolish pride, but he is aware enough to realize that those choices cannot be undone. It’s a responsible approach to heartache, and helps the listener to better sympathize with his inner struggle.

The production may not be remarkable, and the lyric is not groundbreaking, but it’s a real, honest, down-to-earth story with a roots-deep vocal performance.

Grade: B+

Listen: Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It

Buy: Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It

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