How strong a year for country music was 1993? Well, if our Best Albums list revealed how many great artists were overlooked, our Best Singles list reveals why there is so little room at the inn. Out of the forty singles ranked among our best, all but five reached the top twenty of the Billboard country singles chart. Ten of them made it all the way to #1, and another nine of them stopped at #2. Country radio in 1993 was good. Our list kicks off today with the first ten entries of the top forty. We’ll reveal ten more every day until we get to the top of the list on Tuesday. Under each entry, you’ll see each single’s peak position on the Billboard chart and the individual ranking for each writer who included it on their own top forty list. #40 “On the Road” Lee Roy Parnell Written Read More
Of course, it’s not just the Americana acts that can’t get radio play these days. Even top-selling albums by Scotty McCreery and Alison Krauss & Union Station weren’t embraced.
Country Universe editors and contributors each submitted a list of their ten favorite albums of 2011. 31 different albums were included on our lists, and over the next two days, we’ll share with you our collective top twenty.
Top Twenty Albums of 2011, Part One: #20-#11
Beat the Devil and Carry a Rail
His tenure with the Punch Brothers and his winning of the first annual “Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass” in 2010 both earned Noam Pikelny the clout to release Beat the Devil and Carry a Rail, his second solo album and first since 2004. Joined by an all-star roster of fellow pickers, Pikelny’s mostly instrumental set is a showcase both for its lead artist’s extraordinary technical skills and for the banjo’s wide-ranging potential. – Jonathan Keefe
Long Line of Heartaches
Connie Smith is hailed by many as the best vocalist in country music history, and that distinction is clearly warranted. When it comes to tone, phrasing, and vocal power, the woman has no equal. In listening to Long Line of Heartaches, her first album of new material since 1998, it would be a great understatement to say that she is still in fine voice. Her voice may have picked up a few rough edges over the years, but she still posses more than enough vocal chops to blow today’s hitmakers out of the water.
The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 6: #100-81
Alison Krauss & Union Station
A shimmering moment of infatuation. Krauss is entangled in thoughts of her beloved, torn between the exhilaration of liking someone so intensely and the ache of not actually having the person. – Dan Milliken
I’m Holdin’ On to Love (To Save My Life)
A terribly catchy slice of country-pop that, true to Twain, doesn’t sacrifice authenticity for appeal – Twain simply embodies the snappy energy that pulses through the song. – Tara Seetharam
Reba McEntire already has 56 top ten hits to her credit, and her new single, “Strange”, just entered the chart at #39, a career-high entry for the legendary singer. She’s been a presence on the country charts for 23 years, has more gold and platinum albums than any female country artist, and she’s a multimedia star, finding great success on Broadway and in television and film.
But for those who know her best as a sitcom star or Kelly Clarkson’s and Kenny Chesney’s duet partner, trying to tackle her catalog is a daunting task. This Starter Kit will get you going, as it includes ten of her most essential tracks. Those of you looking to learn more about McEntire are highly recommended to check out the excellent My Kind of Country blog, which gives frequent and always high-quality coverage of McEntire’s music, past and present.
“Somebody Should Leave” from the 1984 album My Kind of Country
Even though she was won her first CMA award for Female Vocalist before this album was released, My Kind of Country is widely credited as being the first truly great Reba McEntire album. She exerted creative control for the first time, and instantly became one of the genre’s most significant new traditionalists.
This Harlan Howard classic is achingly, heartbreakingly beautiful, a description that fits most of McEntire’s best work. Here, a couple is aware that it’s time to part ways, but aren’t sure how to go about it, so worried are they for their children: “If it was only you and me, goodbye might come more easily. But what about those babies down the hall?”
Harlan Howard is in country music history. When interviewed about his #1 hit for the Judds (“Why Not Me”), he made an interesting statement about the need for repeating certain titles throughout a song: “Why Not Me” wasn’t a great title. To get a really good record, you’ve gotta write a hell of a song when you’re dealing with a title that average. The only thing I know to do with songs like “Why Not Me” and “Busted” – which I never thought was a good title – is to put the title in there often so that people remember it. The weaker the title, the more you gotta hear it.” “Why Not Me” earned the Judds the Country Duo/Group Grammy and the CMA award for Single of the Year. “Busted” was hit for both Johnny Cash with the Carter Family in the sixties and John Conlee in the eighties. Read More
“I like to give artists a song they have to sing the rest of their lives. Songwriting is both my living and my pleasure, so I’m a happy man.” ~ Harlan Howard The dean of country music songwriters, Harlan Howard paved the way for all future practitioners of his craft, lending an authenticity and eloquence to the music that will last for the ages. Through five decades of classic songs, Howard put his indelible stamp on the country music industry through sheer genius and, like many fellow artists and songwriters, rose through the ranks with country music as a constant love through a hardscrabble life. Born and raised in a Michigan farm town, Howard, an orphan, was first drawn to country music by his weekly appointments with the Grand Ole Opry radio shows on Nashville’s WSM radio. This love affair with the music continued when he traveled to Nashville on Read More