Country music is well represented in the major categories – numerically, at least – and the overall nominee list proves once again that NARAS voters have the widest, most diverse, and yes, best taste of all industry award voters.
Here are this year’s nominees in the big four and all country and country-related categories. It’s worth noting that because Miranda Lambert won Best Country Album last year for Platinum, nothing from that set was eligible in any of the Country categories.
The year of Chris Stapleton rolls on unabated. The reigning CMA Male Vocalist of the Year– which is still an amazing thing to type!– figures prominently in the country music news this week. But there are plenty of other things besides The Beard Of Truth And Justice worth discussing, including the release of some interesting album reissues from genre legends, some say-what-now commentary from radio insiders, and a just-awesome shotgun rider gig by Carrie Underwood!
If this year’s singles list leaves you with a familiar feeling, it’s not your imagination. For the first time in Country Universe history, an artist has topped the year end list for two years in a row, and there are plenty of repeat appearances from CU favorites. But there are some fresh faces too, including some promising new singer-songwriters and inspired collaborations from artists we already liked an awful lot by themselves.
As always, share your thoughts and personal favorites in the comments!
“Hangin’ Up My Heart”
Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell
Individual rankings: #3 – Leeann; #20 – Kevin
What a way for Emmylou and Rodney to kick off their much anticipated duet project! The bouncy tune shows the power duo in fine form both in voice and spunk and signals what will turn out to be one of the finest albums of the year. – Leeann Ward
The countdown continues to continue. Scroll down to the bottom to hear samples of each song and to share your comments!
Top 40 Singles of 2011, Part Three: #20-#11
Joey + Rory
Individual Rankings: #6 – Sam; #15 – Leeann; #17 – Ben
Joey Feek is not a woman to be trifled with. Blow off a day with her to go fishing with your buddies, and be prepared for a holdout that would make the recent NBA lockout look like a bathroom break. Along with a steel guitar-centric, pure country sound, the song’s humor doesn’t wear thin after repeated listenings. (Are you paying attention, Brad “Camouflage” Paisley?) – Sam Gazdziak
Our annual list concludes with a look at our ten favorite albums of 2011.
Check out Part One to see #11-#20, and look for our countdown of the year’s best singles tomorrow.
Top Twenty Albums of 2011, Part One: #10-#1
Lady & Gentlemen
On the surface, Lady & Gentleman is a concept album, flying in the face of a genre whose gender bias sometimes feels like the elephant in the room. But as with the best concept albums, it’s not the concept that carries it. With her most thoughtful, vocally mature performances to date, Rimes herself is the heartbeat of the set, deftly navigating the songs with a blend of reverence and fearlessness.
And she has plenty of room to shine: rather than trying to rebirth a collection of classics, Rimes and her team tastefully reinvigorate the songs with production risks (“Swingin’”), lyrical twists (“Good Hearted Women”) and the occasional overhaul (“When I Call Your Name”). The result is an album that stands neither as a tribute nor as a statement, but as a unique body of work that earns its merits all on its own. – Tara Seetharam
Happy holidays! Singles: 1. “In Color,” Jamey Johnson 2. “Waitin’ on a Woman,” Brad Paisley 3. “This Is Me You’re Talking To,” Trisha Yearwood 4. “She Left Me for Jesus,” Hayes Carll 5. “What I Cannot Change,” Leann Rimes 6. “Last Call,” Lee Ann Womack 7. “Anything Goes,” Randy Houser 8. “Dig Two Graves,” Randy Travis 9. “Please Read the Letter,” Alison Krauss & Robert Plant 10. “Fine Line,” Little Big Town 11. “Mockingbird,” Allison Moorer 12. “Crazy Arms,” Patty Loveless 13. “This Town Needs a Bar,” Jeremy McComb 14. “Just Got Started Loving You,” James Otto 15. “Takin’ off This Pain,” Ashton Shepherd 16. “Gold,” Emmylou Harris 17. “Every Other Weekend,” Reba McEntire & Skip Ewing 18. “You Look Good In My Shirt,” Keith Urban 19. “More Like Her,” Miranda Lambert 20. “Love Don’t Live Here,” Lady Antebellum
Let’s do this, y’all. You’ll recognize some of these write-ups from our collective list, but others weren’t posted there or were cut down for that list. This is my “Director’s Cut” version, you might say – or maybe the “UNRATED!!” version, depending on your taste in films. In any case, here are my favorite 20 things designated as country music singles in 2008 (that I picked up on, anyhoo): #20 Elizabeth Cook, “Sunday Morning” Cook mines an abstract Velvet Underground song and halfway convinces you it was always meant to be a quiet country reflection. The production and vocal are a bit too buoyant to fully convey the song’s weariness, but they do flesh out its gentle message of hope, and that’s not too bad, either. #19 Hank Williams III, “Six Pack of Beer” Silly and shallow it may be, but III’s turbo-campy lament of hard times + booze was Read More