Now that our final lists of the 40 Best Singles of 2015 and 20 Best Albums of 2015 are posted and open for discussion, we have decided to post each of our seven writers’ individual ballots for the year-end countdowns, so we can give at least a bit of attention to even more great music from the past year.
We can thank the shortsighted radio consultant Keith Hill for one thing: drawing attention to the women of country music in a year where so many of them are making outstanding music. As their mainstream counterparts cycle through a series of one-note styles and themes, female country artists are putting out diverse and decidedly more progressive music, even as they draw influence from previous generations. That they do so while supporting each other makes it all the more impressive.
A tender love ballad is always nice, but it’s sometimes those weird love songs that make you laugh or even creep you out a little (I’m looking at you Sara Watkins and Fiona Apple!) that are most memorable. What are some of your favorite quirky love songs? Mac Davis, “Most of All” Kasey Chambers, “The Stupid Things I Do” Sara Watkins & Fiona Apple, “You’re the One I Love” Vince Gill & Dolly Parton, “Pretty Flowers” John Prine & Iris Dement, “In Spite of Ourselves”
Some of the most interesting country covers are ones where the artist doing the cover is of a different gender than the artist that recorded the original. What are your five favorite “gender swap” covers? Here’s my list: Merle Haggard & Willie Nelson, “Pancho & Lefty” (Original Artist: Emmylou Harris) Sammi Smith, “Help Me Make it Through the Night” (Kris Kristofferson) Patty Loveless, “When the Fallen Angels Fly” (Billy Joe Shaver) Merle Haggard, “No Time to Cry” (Iris Dement) Reba McEntire, “Ring on Her Finger, Time on Her Hands” (Lee Greenwood)
Reader Buddy Noel suggested a Daily Top Five of “Songs DJ’s used for bathroom runs”, citing “El Paso” by Marty Robbins as an example. What are your five favorite long songs? Here’s my list: Iris Dement, “No Time to Cry” Dixie Chicks, “Top of the World” Alison Krauss, “Jacob’s Dream” Alan Jackson, “Blue Ridge Mountain Song” Kathy Mattea, “There Were Roses” Weird that all five songs involve death, with a total body count of seven between them. Characters in a country song should get very nervous when their track passes the four minute mark.
Country Universe writer and editor Jonathan Keefe has contributed to an awesome new project called Kicking the Canon. Put together by In Review Online, Kicking the Canon attempts to expand on what has traditionally been considered the definitive music and films of eras gone by. Keefe’s take on Trisha Yearwood’s landmark 1992 set, Hearts in Armor has gone live: Her self-titled debut may have spawned four top-ten singles, but it was on Hearts in Armor that Trisha Yearwood properly announced herself as one of the finest country artists of her generation. Informed by the end of her first marriage, the album explores both the subtle and the dramatic ways that a relationship can dissolve, and it allows Yearwood to lay bare hard-earned truths that lesser vocalists might have left hidden. And that’s just the beginning! You can read the whole thing here. The only other country album featured so far 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
How Country Feels
Randy Houser impressed the critics with 2010’s They Call Me Cadillac, but country radio yawned, and neither of the album’s two singles cracked the Top 30. Houser’s Stoney Creek Records debut thus comes across as a mea culpa of sorts, as Houser shrugs his shoulders in defeat, and gets ready to do some good old-fashioned pandering.
Even long-time readers of Country Universe could be forgiven for getting to #2 on our Top Country Albums of 2012 list and wondering, “Who on earth is Iris DeMent?”
Iris DeMent came out of nowhere in 1992 with a stunning debut album, Infamous Angel, that received rapturous critical acclaim. The general consensus was that it heralded the arrival of a new singer-songwriter for the ages.
Two years later, My Life only strengthened that sentiment, and DeMent was widely seen as a critical voice in what would eventually become known as the Americana music genre.