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The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 8: #60-#41

December 22, 2009 Dan Milliken 21

The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 8: #60-#41

“Long Trip Alone”
Dierks Bentley
Peak: #10

In a perfect world, this would be this decade’s wedding standard. – Kevin Coyne

“Your Man”
Josh Turner
Peak: #1

Lush baritone against an effortlessly charismatic, enticing invitation to let Turner be “your man.” How can you resist? – Tara Seetharam

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The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 4: #140-#121

December 16, 2009 Dan Milliken 27

The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 4: #140-#121

140 Bon Jovi Nice Day

“Who Says You Can’t Go Home”
Bon Jovi featuring Jennifer Nettles
Peak: #1

Packed as country music has been lately with rocked-up little singalongs, perhaps it was only natural that one of the leading bands in rocked-up little singalongs should cross over for a bit to show everybody how it’s done. It was newcomer Nettles, though, who stole this show, driving Bon Jovi’s ditty home with an infectiously joyful performance. – Dan Milliken

139 Johnny Cash V

“God’s Gonna Cut You Down”
Johnny Cash
Peak: Did not chart

The arrangement is cool enough, but it’s Cash’s stoic, slicing vocal performance that makes his version of this song so memorable. – Tara Seetharam

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2009 Christmas Singles Extravaganza!

December 8, 2009 Leeann Ward 24

TreeInstead of bombarding our readers with a million Christmas posts, we thought it would be more efficient to gather a bunch of 2009’s Christmas singles and provide a quick rundown in one post. So, in no particular order, here are my thoughts on this year’s Christmas singles.

Carter Twins, “Let It Snow” (Listen)

This brother duo treats this lightweight classic with an unimaginative contemporary production. It does not bring anything interesting to the table and is, mercifully, an all in all forgettable track.

Carters Chord, “O Come, O Come Emanuel” (Listen), & “Santa Baby” (Listen)

It’s a shame that the most talented act (besides Keith himself, of course) on Toby Keith’s Show Dog label has not gained any traction in the last couple of years. It seems that, so far, the only way Carters Chord will be heard is through digital downloads, as their very good 2008 studio album was only released in digital form. Likewise, they have just released a 2-song Christmas EP that contains a pretty version of “O Come, O Come Emanuel” and a sassy interpretation of “Santa Baby.” Both tracks are well produced with prominent dobro and acoustic guitar in the mixes. “Santa Baby” is less whimsical and more assertive than the original version. “O Come O Come Emanuel” is well sung with beautiful sister harmonies and very few vocal gymnastics.

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The Worst Singles of the Decade, Part 4: #20-#11

October 31, 2009 Kevin John Coyne 60

homer_the_screamTime’s running short. If your personal least favorite wasn’t in Part 1, Part 2 , or Part 3, perhaps it will turn up now.

The Worst Singles of the Decade, Part 4: #20-#11

The Lost Trailers, “Holler Back”

If your response to hearing “Holler Back” is to brag that you’ve got a holler back in the woods, I suggest that you and your music stay there.

Trailer Choir, “Rockin’ the Beer Gut”

I appreciate the sincerity, but it can’t overcome the fact that he’s rockin’ the Autotune and singin’ the most ridiculous lyric of the year.

Bucky Covington, “A Different World”

Bucky and I are roughly the same age, and I know for a fact that we grew up with seat belts, video games, and remote controls. What’s next, Taylor Swift singing about growing up without the internet?

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The Worst Singles of the Decade, Part 3: #30-#21

October 30, 2009 Kevin John Coyne 30

It Stinks!After Part 1 and Part 2 , we’re wading further into the sea of mediocrity.

The Worst Singles of the Decade, Part 3: #30-#21

Terri Clark, “Dirty Girl”

Double entendres are a lot more enjoyable when the naughty meaning is the real one.

Jamey Johnson, “The Dollar”

Real kids don’t talk like this.

Garth Brooks & Trisha Yearwood, “Love Will Always Win”

This treacly ballad is the nadir of Trisha’s career and one “It’s Midnight Cinderella” away from being Garth’s as well.

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Women of the Decade

October 18, 2009 Kevin John Coyne 16

reba-mcentireCountry Universe contributor and reader Cory DeStein flagged this rundown from Billboard regarding women on the charts this decade:

PERFECT 10: On Country Songs, Carrie Underwood ropes her 10th top 10, as “Cowboy Casanova” climbs 11-8. With the advance, Underwood now stands alone in first-place for most top 10s on the chart among solo women this decade.

Here are the solo females with the most top 10s on Country Songs since 2000:

10, Carrie Underwood
9, Faith Hill
9, Martina McBride
8, Taylor Swift
7, Sara Evans
7, Reba McEntire
6, Jo Dee Messina
5, LeAnn Rimes
5, Gretchen Wilson
4, Shania Twain

Notably, the artist who led the category among women last decade did so with almost three times as many top 10s. Reba McEntire ranked first among solo women in the ’90s with 27 top 10s on Country Songs. Trisha Yearwood placed second with 18 between 1990 and 1999, and Faith Hill, Patty Loveless and Tanya Tucker each posted 14 in that span.

The decline in fortune for women at radio this decade is even more pronounced when you compare the above top ten to the previous decade:

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Review: Gretchen Wilson, “Work Hard, Play Harder”

October 12, 2009 Leeann Ward 17

Gretchen WilsonThere’s no doubt that Gretchen Wilson is very talented. She proved it with her smash debut song, “Redneck Woman”, which was a catchy rave up that joyously celebrated the less fine things in life. It easily struck a chord with a lot of people, due to its universal appeal (even men could champion the message) and its loud, but fresh, production. Wilson is also equipped with a voice that can sing a tender country ballad as adeptly as a country rocker like “Redneck Woman.” Unfortunately, radio has historically cast her as the party anthem, redneck woman and she has found it nearly impossible to escape the narrow typecast as a result.

As part of her relatively rapid decline in favor with radio, her major record deal resulted in the most recent casualty, which, in turn, has freed her to form her own record label. Interestingly, however, it seems that the move has not mentally freed her to make fresh sounding music. While “Redneck Woman” may have seemed fresh in 2004, it is categorically old news by now.

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A Conversation with Katie Cook

August 21, 2009 Tara Seetharam 7

KCookKatie Cook has been a staple on Country Music Television since 2002, hosting various series and specials such as CMT Most Wanted Live, the MWL concert series, MWL Star, MWL Stacked and the popular weekly entertainment magazine show, CMT Insider.

But her experience with country music is actually three-fold: along with being embedded in the industry as a television host and interviewer, she’s also the daughter of Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Roger Cook, and she’s both a singer and songwriter herself – she released an album in 2000 as part of a band called Reno and continues to hone her songwriting skills. Cook took some time to share with Country Universe her opinions on the state of country music, the evolution of CMT and her recent White House visit, among other topics.

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Favorite Songs by Favorite Songwriters: Matraca Berg

June 21, 2009 Kevin John Coyne 33

For a good stretch in the nineties, women were the dominant creative force in country music. Songwriter Matraca Berg was an indispensable component of that dominance, penning many of the biggest hits and best-loved tracks by signature acts like Trisha Yearwood, Patty Loveless, and Martina McBride.

It’s no surprise that this list of Favorite Songs written by Matraca Berg is almost completely composed of female artists. So distinguished is Berg’s catalog that worthy cuts by the Dixie Chicks, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Gretchen Wilson just missed the list. Even Berg herself is only present with one performance, despite releasing several outstanding recordings in her own right.

But the beauty of these lists is that these are my own favorite songs, so I don’t have to force anything on to the list just to make it more well-rounded. Add your own favorites in the comments, and read Matraca’s 100 Greatest Women profile to learn more about this stunning songwriter.

“Wild Angels” – Martina McBride
Wild Angels, 1995

This was meant to be the title cut of an album that Berg never released. Instead, the cut went to Martina McBride. It was McBride’s first #1 single, and listening to it today, it sounds remarkably rough around the edges for an artist who’d eventually become an AC radio staple.

“Fool, I’m a Woman” – Sara Evans
No Place That Far, 1998

Berg’s writing can be effortlessly snarky, as evidenced by this breezy Sara Evans track that was a minor hit in 1999. “Did I say that I’d never leave you behind?” she queries. “Well, just keep treating me unkind. ‘Cause fool, I’m a woman, and I’m bound to change my mind.”

“When a Love Song Sings the Blues” – Trisha Yearwood
Real Live Woman, 2000

Trisha Yearwood is Berg’s finest vessel, the only voice elegant enough to equal Berg’s words. This melancholy closer to Yearwood’s excellent Real Live Woman set finds the protagonist seeking solace in a dusty old piano, playing “Faded Love” and “Born to Lose” so she doesn’t have to cry alone.

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