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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.

#25
“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.

#24
“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.”

#23
“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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Justin Moore, “Small Town USA”

February 20, 2009 Dan Milliken 19

What can you say when the song title tells you upfront how generic the song itself is going to be? I mean, the thing practically reviews itself, doesn’t it? Seriously, though, the problem here isn’t

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Grammy Flashback: Best Country Album

January 17, 2009 Kevin John Coyne 23

A look back at the previous winners and nominees of the Best Country Album Grammy, updated to include the 2009 contenders. The Grammys have been doing better in the country categories since they reintroduced the

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Matraca Berg

November 16, 2008 Guest Contributor 0

When women became the dominant creative force in country music during the mid-nineties, it wasn’t just on the strength of their vocal talents, but also because of their excellent choice of material. No single songwriter

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