The third most prestigious country music industry award nominations – but the most important ones handed out in the spring – have been announced. Here’s a rundown of all the major categories, along with some back-of-the-envelope analysis: Entertainer Jason Aldean Garth Brooks Luke Bryan Florida Georgia Line Miranda Lambert Who’s In: Jason Aldean, Garth Brooks, Florida Georgia Line Who’s Out: Blake Shelton, George Strait, Taylor Swift Last year’s winner, George Strait, didn’t get a return invitation, but Garth Brooks, who has won this award six times before, returns to the competition. Much like Strait’s farewell tour was a reminder of his extensive popularity, Garth’s ability to sell out several dates per city overshadows the lukewarm reception to his new material at radio and retail. Taylor Swift’s exit is directly tied to her cutting ties with the genre. Jason Aldean’s return makes logical sense, but it’s quite the mystery to see Read More
As 2014 comes to a close, the Country Universe staff has been collectively impressed by the number of quality albums that were released this year. How many of those albums, however, will we still be listening to in twenty years? We have that benefit of hindsight for the year 1994, and we’ve compiled our twenty favorite studio sets from that year. At their time of release, some of our favorites were comeback albums from veteran artists, some were from current artists reaching new artistic and commercial peaks, and some were debut sets from artists that went on to become mainstays on country radio or in the Americana music scene that was just coming together twenty years ago. What they all have in common is that each and every one of them still sounds great today, and they collectively show the wide breadth that the country music landscape was transforming into Read More
Our Best of 1994 Singles List kicks off today with the bottom quarter of our top forty. The list was compiled by weighing each individual writer’s choices, with preference given to songs that appeared on multiple lists. Each writer’s individual ranking is listed under the songwriter credits. Bonus retro fun: Check out those cassette singles covers! #40 “Livin’ on Love” Alan Jackson Written by Alan Jackson SG #14 | JK #23 | BF #37 Country music has, historically, given voice to those disenfranchised by poverty, validating and finding the value in the struggles of economic hardship. What elevates the appropriately bare-bones narrative of “Livin’ on Love” is the warmth and real sense of empathy in Jackson’s performance. – Jonathan Keefe
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
Tim McGraw Sundown Heaven Town Tim McGraw returning to form is the musical equivalent of reconnecting with an old friend, where spending a little time with them suddenly reminds you why you were such good friends in the first place. Sundown Heaven Town is McGraw’s strongest album in ten years, his best since 2004’s award-winning Live Like You Were Dying, which I still consider his strongest collection to date. In the years since that collection, he’s been chasing trends more than setting them. Each album had its strong moments, but always fewer than the previous one. His simple formula – find a great song, sing it with enthusiasm, and keep the clutter in check – got lost along the way. It’s not a coincidence that all of his recent awards attention have been for collaborations, usually with artists who hit the scene well after him. He’s been chasing trends, not 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.
100 Greatest Men: The Complete List Lefty Frizzell just may be the most influential vocalist in country music history. His signature honky-tonk style has been the foundational template for several generations of traditional country vocalists, smoothing out the twangy edges just enough to please the ears of mainstream audiences without compromising its hillbilly roots. Frizzell was born in Texas, but moved to Arkansas at a young age. He earned the nickname Lefty in a schoolyard fight at the age of fourteen, and it followed him from that point on. Though he was singing on the radio in his teens and performing locally, run-ins with the law sidelined his music career in the mid-forties.
100 Greatest Men: The Complete List Country music has undergone drastic changes in the three decades that George Strait has been a recording artist. While everything was changing all around him, he became the most consistently successful country artist in history by staying the same. Strait was raised on a family farm in Texas, and as a teenager, he played in a rock and roll band. When he joined the Army, he was stationed in Hawaii, and it was there that he began playing country music for the first time. When he returned to Texas, he studied agriculture by day, and played gigs with his new band, Ace in the Hole, at night.
100 Greatest Men: The Complete List With a sweeping career that spanned six decades, Eddy Arnold was a pivotal force in country music as it grew from a regionally popular musical style into a genre popular throughout the country. Arnold was raised on a Tennessee farm, and as he developed his musical talent, he would play local barn dances when he wasn’t working in the fields. Like many artists of his time, he first gained popularity on local radio stations, eventually moving to Memphis, where his radio work brought him widespread acclaim.
100 Greatest Men: The Complete List He started out as a pop teen idol, but Conway Twitty’s powerful vocals and smart taste in material made him one of country music’s longest reigning superstars. Twitty was born in Mississippi and raised in Arkansas, a background that exposed him to gospel and blues music, as well as country music. By age ten, he was playing in his own country band, but his attention was set on being a professional baseball player. Unfortunately, as soon as he was offered a contract by the Philadelphia Phillies, he was drafted into the army.