Tag Archives: James Otto

Best Country Singles of 2008, Part 4: #10-#1

Our top ten singles of the year represent the very best of what country music is and what country music can be. With a combination of rising stars and veteran artists, it’s clear that the genre has worthy guardians waiting in the wings, even as the current keepers of the flame show no signs of fading away.

ashton-shepherd-sounds#10

Ashton Shepherd, “Takin’ Off This Pain”

I cheated a bit by throwing this one into the mix, since it was technically released last fall. But as it wasn’t on the site’s 2007 singles countdown and didn’t even peak until this past May, I’m going to take this opportunity to opine, quite simply, that this single paints the best kind of picture of everything contemporary country in the 2000’s can be. It’s not pure traditionalism, as some have suggested – there’s a lot more modern drive than old-school shuffle at work here – but few major-label artists this decade have updated the spirit of classic country more loyally or convincingly than Shepherd has with this debut. Even if you take away the whopping voice, you’ve got clear, focused storytelling with palpable personality and an unusually clever hook. Loretta Lynn is smiling to herself somewhere.  – DM

james-otto-sunset#9

James Otto, “Just Got Started Lovin’ You”

James Otto has one of the most soulful voices in country music, comparable to Travis Tritt. In “Just Got Started Lovin’ You” he uses his vocal range to irresistible affect. While it’s often compared to Gary Allan’s “Nothin’ On But The Radio” and Josh Turner’s “Your Man”, this is a song that could have easily been delivered by Conway Twitty, as it’s in the grand tradition of steamy tracks like “You’ve Never Been This Far Before” and “I’d Love to Lay You Down.” -  LW

brad-paisley-time#8

Brad Paisley, “Waitin’ on a Woman”

Donn Sampson and Wynn Varble penned this moving piece, one centered around the (mostly correct) notion that the fairer sex exercises greater, ahem, patience than their male counterparts. A newlywed husband on a shopping trip with his young bride meets an elderly man at the local mall.  Soon, he’s listening to the advice of the sage, one who sees the waiting as one of life’s sweet, simple pleasures. The corresponding video clip, featuring iconic television actor Andy Griffith, added gravitas to an already-compelling lyric that ponders mortality and the everlasting love in a healthy marriage. – BB

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Discussion: SoundScan Sound Off

salesIn this era of rampant piracy and economic recession, things aren’t looking good for the music industry.   We don’t post too often about the business side of the music business here, as we tend to keep the focus on the music.   But the reality is that these numbers matter.  If Little Big Town’s second Equity album had performed as well as the first, the label might still be in business.

It’s not all doom and gloom, as many artists go on to make their best music once they leave major labels.   But this Christmas, you can guarantee that some artists and record executives will be bracing for the New Year, while others are embracing it.

Here’s a look at some totals for albums released in 2008, ranked by total sales (rounded to the nearest thousand):

  1. Taylor Swift, Fearless – 1,519,000
  2. Sugarland, Love on the Inside – 1,179,000
  3. George Strait, Troubadour – 693,000
  4. Alan Jackson, Good Time – 628,000
  5. Toby Keith, 35 Biggest Hits – 530,000
  6. Kenny Chesney, Lucky Old Sun – 479,000
  7. Faith Hill, Joy to the World – 341,000
  8. Lady Antebellum, Lady Antebellum – 337,000
  9. James Otto, Sunset Man – 332,000
  10. Rascal Flatts, Greatest Hits Volume 1 – 330,000
  11. Darius Rucker, Learn to Live – 284,000
  12. Julianne Hough, Julianne Hough – 260,000
  13. Toby Keith, That Don’t Make Me a Bad Guy – 224,000
  14. Jewel, Perfectly Clear – 203,000
  15. Dierks Bentley, Greatest Hits: Every Mile a Memory -  195,000
  16. Jamey Johnson, That Lonesome Song – 183,000
  17. Heidi Newfield, What Am I Waiting For – 162,000
  18. Jessica Simpson, Do You Know – 153,000
  19. Brad Paisley, Play – 137,000
  20. Kellie Pickler, Kellie Pickler – 129,000
  21. Montgomery Gentry, Back When I Knew it All – 127,000
  22. Tim McGraw, Greatest Hits Vol. 3 – 127,000
  23. Emmylou Harris, All I Intended to Be – 119,000
  24. Zac Brown Band, Foundation – 118,000
  25. Randy Travis, Around the Bend – 89,000
  26. Ashton Shepherd, Sounds So Good - 84,000
  27. Jimmy Wayne, Do You Believe Me Now – 81,000
  28. Trace Adkins, X – 72,000
  29. Billy Currington, Little Bit of Everything – 65,000
  30. Blake Shelton, Startin’ Fires – 60,000
  31. Hank III, Damn Right Rebel Proud – 47,000
  32. Lee Ann Womack, Call Me Crazy – 45,000
  33. Joey + Rory, Life of a Song – 44,000
  34. Patty Loveless, Sleepless Nights – 38,000
  35. Craig Morgan, Greatest Hits – 34,000
  36. Craig Morgan, That’s Why – 31,000
  37. Randy Owen, One on One – 22,000
  38. Randy Houser, Anything Goes – 17,000

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Discussion: Billboard’s 2008 Year-End Charts

Earlier this week, Billboard announced the year-end charts in all musical genres. Billboard’s chart year runs from the first week of December (2007) to the last week of November (2008), and the country albums list provides an interesting commentary on the current state of the genre.  Below is the list of the 25 best-selling country albums of the year.

1. Long Road Out Of Eden, Eagles
2. Taylor Swift, Taylor Swift
3. Carnival Ride, Carrie Underwood
4. The Ultimate Hits, Garth Brooks
5. Still Feels Good, Rascal Flatts
6. Love On The Inside, Sugarland
7. Enjoy The Ride, Sugarland
8. Raising Sand, Robert Plant / Alison Krauss
9. Just Who I Am: Poets & Pirates, Kenny Chesney
10. Reba Duets, Reba McEntire
11. Greatest Hits, Keith Urban
12. Troubadour, George Strait
13. Fearless, Taylor Swift
14. Good Time, Alan Jackson
15. American Man: Greatest Hits Volume II, Trace Adkins
16. 22 More Hits, George Strait
17. 5th Gear, Brad Paisley
18. 35 Biggest Hits, Toby Keith
19. Some Hearts, Carrie Underwood
20. Everything Is Fine, Josh Turner
21. Lucky Old Sun, Kenny Chesney
22. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Miranda Lambert
23. Sunset Man, James Otto
24. Living Hard, Gary Allan
25. Lady Antebellum, Lady Antebellum

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Grammy Grace and Gratitude

Eschewing the “I never wanted it one anyway” posing of one of his most prominent peers, Kenny Chesney is loudly proclaiming his joy in getting a Grammy nomination:

“I’m not gonna say that I gave up or didn’t care about it,” Kenny says. “This is an award given by your peers in all genres of music … the people who make it. You get to a point where you realize you can’t force it or get them to listen if they’re not there, because that’s not how this works, and you just have to accept that. But that said, I’m really honored to finally be nominated.”

GAC has some other reactions, including my favorite:

Randy Travis: “It has been almost 25 years since I released my first album, and this is the first time I have been nominated for Best Country Album. I spent years going through songs with my longtime producer Kyle Lehning for ["Around The Bend"], and my career has really come full circle with this release. To be able to go and record this album was amazing, and now to be nominated for it is more than I could ask for.”

Check out the article for reactions by James Otto, Trisha Yearwood, and more.

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Discussion: Country Universe Giveaway/Darius Rucker, Learn to Live

While a number of artists from different musical genres entered into the country rodeo this past year, no Nashville newcomer was more successful than Hootie & the Blowfish frontman, Darius Rucker. His debut country disc, Learn to Live, topped the country album charts in its first week of release, in large part due to its lead single, the #1 smash, “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It.”

Country Universe is offering a free copy of Learn to Live to our loyal readers. To be considered, leave a comment and tell us your favorite #1 country song of 2008.

Billboard #1 country songs in 2008:

Taylor Swift – “Our Song”
Brad Paisley – “Letter To Me”
Rodney Atkins – “Cleaning This Gun (Come On In Boy)”
Carrie Underwood – “All-American Girl”
Alan Jackson – “Small Town Southern Man”
Trace Adkins – “You’re Gonna Miss This”
George Strait – “I Saw God Today”
James Otto – “Just Got Started Loving You”
Brad Paisley – “I’m Still A Guy”
Carrie Underwood – “Last Name”
Kenny Chesney – “Better As A Memory”
Montgomery Gentry – “Back When I Knew It All”
Blake Shelton – “Home”
Alan Jackson – “Good Time”
Sugarland – “All I Want To Do”
Taylor Swift – “Should’ve Said No”
Keith Urban – “You Look Good In My Shirt”
Jimmy Wayne – “Do You Believe Me Now?”
Brad Paisley – “Waitin’ On A Woman”
Jimmy Wayne – “Do You Believe Me Now?”
Darius Rucker – “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It”
Kenny Chesney – “Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven”
Toby Keith – “She Never Cried In Front Of Me”
Carrie Underwood – “Just A Dream”
Taylor Swift – “Love Story”

Entries will be considered until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, November 23. Best of luck!

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2008 CMA Awards Live Blog

2008 CMA Winners

Entertainer: Kenny Chesney

Male Vocalist: Brad Paisley

Female Vocalist: Carrie Underwood

Album: George Strait, Troubadour

Vocal Duo: Sugarland

New Artist: Lady Antebellum

Vocal Group: Rascal Flatts

Song: Jennifer Nettles, “Stay”

Single: George Strait, “I Saw God Today”

Music Video: Brad Paisley feat. Andy Griffith, “Waiting on a Woman”

Musical Event: Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, “Gone Gone Gone”

Musician: Mac McAnally

_______

Predict the Winners:

Kevin – 8

Leeann – 7

Blake – 7

Dan – 7

______

Live Blog:

11:03 Thanks again for another great night.  See ya at the Grammys!

11:02ish To Blake and Dan:  A Song For You.

11:02 Blake: Down with our dictator!

11:02 Dan: Kevin sucks.

10:57 If I was a petty man, I’d be gloating about out-predicting all of my co-writers at Country Universe.  Wait a minute.   I am a petty man.   I won! Yes! I won!  This country universe is mine.   Y’all just live in it.  Suckers.  (Except for you Leeann.  You didn’t get all up in my grill, talking smack before the throwdown.  You’re cool.)

10:56 ENTERTAINER – Kenny Chesney

10:54 Standing O for Shania.  Good God, she’s beautiful.   Welcome home.

10:50 So the only artist I see live who charges Eagles prices is Madonna, and I have to say that if she just stood there and growled, I’d feel ripped off.  Come on, guys.  Slap on some heels.  Throw in some synchronized dancing.  Jump some rope.  Rub up against something.   You’re supposed to be legends.

10:49 Dan: Once again, a washed up rock act gives us one of the better performances of the night. I like the Eagles, but that’s sad.

10:48 You know it’s bad when you’re hoping that Shania’s the surprise guest because you want to see some real country stars.

10:46 Paisley’s right about that.  The Eagles have a lot more to do with country music today than most seventies country stars.

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Country Universe Staff: 2008 CMA Predictions

This afternoon, the Country Universe staff is following up last night’s personal picks with our actual predictions about who will win tonight. Check back tonight at show time to join the live blog and mock us for our defective divinations. Less

than four hours until showtime!

Entertainer
  • Kenny Chesney- Kevin, Leeann, Blake
  • Brad Paisley – Dan
  • George Strait
  • Sugarland
  • Keith Urban

Kevin: BMG has to throw their weight behind either Chesney or Paisley. My hunch is they’ll back Chesney for Entertainer and Paisley for Male Vocalist.
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Leeann:
It’s been Chesney all this time and not much has changed to make me think it won’t be Kenny again this year.
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Blake:
Chesney remained steady on the concert trail and earned three #1 singles in the past year. This would be his fourth win, tying Garth Brooks for the most ever in the Entertainer lineup.
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Dan:
It seems somewhat foolish to bet against a Chesney repeat, but I just have a nagging feeling that the favor will be thrown in Paisley’s direction this year by voters looking to honor someone new.
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Country Universe Staff: 2008 CMA Personal Picks

As we gear up for tomorrow night’s CMA Awards Show, the staff of Country Universe share our personal picks in all categories.   Check back tomorrow for our predictions in each category.  Our third annual Live Blog will commence at the beginning of the show.

Entertainer

  • Kenny Chesney- Blake
  • Brad Paisley – Leeann, Lynn
  • George Strait
  • Sugarland – Kevin, Dan
  • Keith Urban

Kevin: The only act in the running this year who has shown artistic, commercial and live performance growth is Sugarland, and they’ve grown by leaps and bounds.  In a race with four other acts who have long since settled into their styles, they’re the only ones who are still charting new territory.

Leeann: While Paisley may not use explosions or other fancy tricks to entertain his crowds, much like Vince Gill, he keeps them mesmerized with his comedy, graphic creations, incredible guitar prowess and a catalog of engaging songs – in other words, natural talent.

Blake: Kenny Chesney is the most significant touring act in country music and a genre-crossing ambassador for both fans and fly-by-night followers.

Dan: They can’t claim Chesney’s utter domination of the road, but Sugarland have been consistent sellers in a time where the very idea of selling well feels antiquated. They’re probably the best mainstream ambassadors for the genre right now, too, with musical output that challenges commercial conventions (see “Stay”), at least sort of acknowledges country music’s traditions (again, see “Stay”), and draws creatively from other genres (see the Beyoncé duet, the high-profile covers of Dream Academy and Matt Nathanson, the mish-mashy new album).

Lynn: With natural talent, charm, good humor, humility, skills and grace, Paisley is my pick for Entertainer of the Year.  He’s an asset to the genre, and manages to keep one foot in traditional country even as he branches out.  Although he’s not as big of a touring act as Chesney, he’s still a huge draw, and despite all the gimmicks and gadgets in his concert, true to the genre, he keeps the music at the heart of his show.

Male Vocalist

  • Kenny Chesney
  • Alan Jackson – Leeann
  • Brad Paisley - Blake
  • George Strait – Kevin, Dan, Lynn
  • Keith Urban
Leeann: With Paisley as my close second choice, Jackson has the clear, smooth voice that ultimately gets my vote.  Like the man, his voice is simple but it is able to expertly capture each emotion that is needed for each song that he sings.  Moreover, every note that he sings comes with incredible ease.

Blake:
His attempts at humor miss the mark occasionally, and his vocal range compares little to the great voices of the genre, but Paisley, with his tremendous guitar playing and stellar songwriting executes well enough to win a second consecutive Male Vocalist honor.

Dan:
They all kind of put me to sleep this year, but George did it with the strongest set of songs. Paisley will probably repeat, but I say “Strait ’08.”
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Lynn: This is a tough category for me this year. I’m a fan of Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley and George Strait, but none of them really impressed me with their musical output. I’m going with Strait for keeping it country.
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Kevin: All of these men have been repeatedly honored by the CMA.  Collectively, they have 54 awards and 240 nominations to date.  It’s been a decade since Strait took this one home, and he’s put out better music this year than both Jackson and Urban, the only other vocalists here that are in his league.
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Female Vocalist

  • Alison Krauss
  • Miranda Lambert – Kevin, Leeann, Blake (tie), Dan, Lynn
  • Martina McBride
  • Taylor Swift
  • Carrie Underwood – Blake (tie)
Blake: Underwood’s powerful pipes and positive contribution to the image of the genre deserve props.  Likewise to Lambert’s intelligent songwriting, fearless stage attitude and feisty vocal firepower.

Dan:
We’re all pretty big fans of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend here, so…yeah.

Lynn:
Except for Swift, vocally this category is a toss-up, and could be decided solely on personal preference. However, if one considers the strength of material as well, this award goes to Miranda Lambert, hands down.

Kevin:
Alison Krauss and Carrie Underwood are both worthy of the honor, but Miranda Lambert deserves it the most. She made the best music.
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Leeann: Miranda has proven that she can sing a rocker with the necessary grit and energy to appropriate drive her up-tempo songs, but she has also demonstrated a lesser known ability to be able to sing with vulnerability and sensitivity when called upon to do so.  Out of the female singers on this list, Lambert has the most interesting voice.
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CMA Flashback: Horizon Award (New Artist)

For a look back at the other major categories, visit our CMA Awards page.

2010

  • Luke Bryan
  • Easton Corbin
  • Jerrod Neimann
  • Chris Young
  • Zac Brown Band

Usually there isn’t this much turnover in this race unless most of last year’s nominees are ineligible.  This year, only one of the four eligible nominees from last year – Zac Brown Band – earns a nomination.  With their massive success and their multiple nominations, they’ve got an excellent shot at winning. Then again, Easton Corbin is elsewhere on the ballot, too. It could be a horse race.
2009

  • Randy Houser
  • Jamey Johnson
  • Jake Owen
  • Darius Rucker
  • Zac Brown Band

Thirteen years after winning the Best New Artist Grammy as part of Hootie & The Blowfish, Darius Rucker won the country music equivalent, adding an exclamation point to the most successful pop-to-country crossover in a generation.

lady-antebellum2008

  • Jason Aldean
  • Rodney Atkins
  • Lady Antebellum
  • James Otto
  • Kellie Pickler

The industry favorites Lady Antebellum became the fourth band in history to win this award, following Rascal Flatts, Dixie Chicks and Sawyer Brown.

2007

  • Jason Aldean
  • Rodney Atkins
  • Little Big Town
  • Kellie Pickler
  • Taylor Swift

In the year since winning the Horizon Award, Swift has solidified her position as the genre’s most successful rising star.  While her debut album hasn’t reached the sales heights of the first discs by previous winners Carire Underwood and Gretchen Wilson, Swift is still one of the genre’s only significant sellers.

2006

  • Miranda Lambert
  • Little Big Town
  • Sugarland
  • Josh Turner
  • Carrie Underwood

I had a sneaking suspicion that Josh Turner was going to take this home, but as I’ve said before, Carrie’s got the best pipes since Trisha Yearwood. That she’ was acknowledged for that at such an early stage of her career is pretty amazing. Somehow I think the thrill of winning Horizon was short-lived, as winning Female Vocalist the same night left that memory in the dust.

2005

  • Dierks Bentley
  • Big & Rich
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Julie Roberts
  • Sugarland

Four of these five were nominees again the following year, and all in categories besides just Horizon, though Lambert got another shot at that as well. I think Big & Rich and Sugarland are making the most interesting music, and they’re moving more units than Bentley, though he’s no slouch himself. The CMA showed good judgment this year.

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Discussion: Vote for Your CMA Picks

Seems appropriate for Election Day.  Vote for your favorites and share your thoughts in the comments.  Be sure to click “more” so you can see all of the categories.

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