Tag Archives: Jennifer Nettles

Album Review: Kristian Bush, Southern Gravity

Kristian Bush Southern Gravity

Kristian Bush
Southern Gravity

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Although there is already a long list of great albums that have been released this year, Southern Gravity, Kristian Bush’s first solo album apart from Sugarland, just may end up being the most pleasant surprise of 2015.

First of all, lets address some of the elephants in the room. Frankly, the biggest surprise of the album is the discovery that Kristian Bush can actually sing. Without the long shadow of the Powerhouse Jennifer Nettles, Bush has a chance to find his literal and figurative voice and it’s a good one.

Additionally, whether it was deserved or not, Bush had developed the reputation of being the intense, mysterious half of Sugarland. So, another surprise is that the album is relaxed and accessible and avoids drowning in over thinking or overproduction. With that said, the final surprise is that the album is more country than we had heard from Sugarland in quite some time.

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Album Review: Reba McEntire, Love Somebody

Reba McEntire Love Somebody

Reba McEntire
Love Somebody

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This is the strongest album Reba McEntire has released in more than twenty years.

Listening to Love Somebody is hearing a legend of the genre rediscover her own voice. She’s always been an excellent singer, but after making her name as both a heartbreak queen and the common folk’s Everywoman, she had tremendous difficulty navigating the post-Shania Twain landscape of female empowerment anthems.

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The Best Albums of 2014

2014 was a banner year for country music albums.   In addition to the predictably solid entries from the Americana, folk, and bluegrass scenes, some excellent albums also surfaced from the unlikeliest of sources: mainstream, radio-friendly contemporary country artists!

Here are our twenty favorite albums from 2014.   Fingers crossed that 2015 is as good or better than this year has been.

Jennifer Nettles That Girl

#20
Jennifer Nettles
That Girl

KJC #8 | LW #16

A confident, intelligent solo project that washes away all of the bitter taste left by Sugarland’s preceding studio album, The Incredible Machine.  Nettles manages to remind us what was so appealing about the trio-turned-duo in the first place, while also staking out her own musical territory that has room for independence anthems alongside wry, humorous commentary on society and, of course, palpably vulnerable heartbreak numbers.  – Kevin John Coyne

Recommended Tracks: “Me Without You”, “Know You Wanna Know”, “Jealousy”

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The Best Singles of 2014, Part 1: #40-#21

fiddle3.jpgDoes failure to reach a consensus indicate a year that lacked quality, or a year that had enough interesting singles that subjective taste is enough to prevent a consensus?

This was the dilemma faced by the Country Universe staff as we compiled our Best Singles of 2014 feature.   We followed our usual routine.  Each writer submitted their list of the twenty best singles of the year, and our numbers guru Jonathan Keefe used his time-test algorithm to produce a collective ranking.

But this year, there was only one single that appeared on four out of five lists.  The rest: three or less.  Rather than shorten the list to showcase only those songs chosen by multiple writers, we decided to stick to the usual forty slots, and let quite a few songs embraced only by one writer to have their place in the sun.

The result is probably the most diverse singles list we’ve ever published, and provides a great counterpoint to our upcoming albums list, which showed far more consensus than any previous albums list has.

Today, we start with the lower half of our top forty singles.  Look for the upper half tomorrow, and our albums list on Wednesday.

Parker Millsap Parker Millsap

#40
“Truck Stop Gospel”
Parker Millsap

JK #12

Raspy-voiced newcomer Parker Millsap takes it to church on one of the year’s best-drawn character sketches, adopting the persona of a truck driver whose cab doubles as his pulpit. – Jonathan Keefe

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Single Review: Kristian Bush, “Trailer Hitch”

Kristian Bush Trailer Hitch

“Trailer Hitch”
Kristian Bush

Written by Brandon Bush, Kristian Bush, and Tim Owen

It’s not entirely without precedent.  When Diana Ross left the Supremes, their first single without her did better than her first solo release.  Ringo Starr managed to score two #1 pop hits before John Lennon reached the top as a solo act.  Peter Gabriel was supposed to be the indispensable talent of Genesis, but they did better when they gave Phil Collins the mic.  Even country acts like Highway 101 and Restless Heart have seen the same phenomenon occur.

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Single Review: Lionel Richie featuring Shania Twain, “Endless Love”

Lionel Richie’s new country duets project, set for a March 27 release, sounds like the kind of thing that could either go very right (Jennifer Nettles, “Hello”) or very wrong (Rascal Flatts “Dancing On the Ceiling,” anyone?).  We get a taste of the new project with this re-working of Richie’s classic pop duet with Diana Ross, “Endless Love,” sung this time as a duet with Shania Twain.

First, the bad news:  It’s too long.  The first three minutes sound lovely, but the song reaches an overdramatic climax that goes on longer than it should.  Also, the pop-flavored backbeat sounds a bit gaudy – You get over it after a few listens, but the single would be better without it.  Still, the biggest problem is swelling production that attempts to lend drama to the performance, but instead beats the listener over the head with needless distraction.  The production problems are mostly confined to the final minute of the song, but they still lessen the song’s impact instead of adding to it.

Now the good news:  Though filling the shoes of Diana Ross is certainly no easy task, Twain acquits herself more than adequately.  Richie for his part still sounds great, but ultimately the star is Twain.  Twain’s performance is colored with a deep sense of longing, recalling the finest love ballads of her own hitmaking heyday, such as “Forever and For Always,” with the two voices melding together beautifully on the harmonies.

The song had so much going in its favor.  It’s extremely irritating that it’s bogged down by production that gets so stupidly loud and over-the-top.  It would have been better if the production had stayed completely out of the way, and given the two vocalists more room to sell the song with their fanstastic performances.  Overall, this is still an enjoyable duet, but considering they spend the latter part of the song just shouting to be heard, it does fall a degree short of reaching its full potential.

Written by Lionel Richie

Grade:  B-

Listen:  Endless Love

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Dear Country Music: Disco Edition

Dear Jennifer Nettles,

This nonsense has to stop.

Regards,

Kevin

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGK5tNLq0ZY

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Single Review: Joanna Smith, “Georgia Mud”

Is there anyone left in Nashville with a functioning memory of country music?

Trisha Yearwood put out “Georgia Rain” in 2005.  This is almost the same song.  The theme, storyline, geography, and even the weather are all identical.

The only differences?  It’s not written as well or sung as well.  Not even close.

Helpful hint to all aspiring female singers: Don’t get in the ring with Trisha Yearwood.  The very best female vocalists on radio today – Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Jennifer Nettles –   they shouldn’t get in the ring with Trisha Yearwood, unless they really are on the top of their game.

“Georgia Rain” isn’t even Trisha Yearwood at the top of her game. It’s one of her less notable singles.  But wow, does it wipe the floor with Joanna Smith and her “Georgia Mud.”

Then again, if I’m the only one who even remembers “Georgia Rain”, Smith has nothing to worry about. With the tasteful arrangement that is identifiably country, she might even be hailed as a visionary.  At least it’s not a rock record, right?

Grade: C

Listen: Georgia Mud

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The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 4: #140-#121

The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 4: #140-#121

140 Bon Jovi Nice Day

#140
“Who Says You Can’t Go Home”
Bon Jovi featuring Jennifer Nettles
2005
Peak: #1

Packed as country music has been lately with rocked-up little singalongs, perhaps it was only natural that one of the leading bands in rocked-up little singalongs should cross over for a bit to show everybody how it’s done. It was newcomer Nettles, though, who stole this show, driving Bon Jovi’s ditty home with an infectiously joyful performance. – Dan Milliken

139 Johnny Cash V

#139
“God’s Gonna Cut You Down”
Johnny Cash
2006
Peak: Did not chart

The arrangement is cool enough, but it’s Cash’s stoic, slicing vocal performance that makes his version of this song so memorable. – Tara Seetharam Continue reading

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The First Annual Country Universe Readers’ Choice Awards

carrie-underwoodCarrie Underwood is the top winner of the inaugural Country Universe Reader’s Choice Awards, earning first place in all four of the races in which she was eligible. In addition to being named Artist of the Year and Female Vocalist, her #1 hit “Just a Dream” won for Single and Music Video.

Also popular with readers this past year were:

Sugarland, who won Vocal Duo/Group by the widest margin of any of the winners, and placed second for Artist and Album.  Additionally, lead singer Jennifer Nettles placed second for Songwriter.

Jamey Johnson, who won for Songwriter, and placed second in the Male Vocalist race.  His hit “In Color” came in third in both the Single and Music Video races, and he also placed third in the Artist race.

– Brad Paisley, who won easily for Male Vocalist and came in second for Music Video with “Waitin’ on a Woman.”

Patty Loveless, who topped both Sugarland and Lee Ann Womack to finish first in the Album race.

Among up-and-comers, Lady Antebellum and Joey+ Rory proved most popular, finishing first and second in the Rising Star race and second and third in the Vocal Duo/Group Race.  Lee Ann Womack and Trisha Yearwood also did well, with both women placing behind Underwood in the Female Vocalist race. Yearwood’s hit “This is Me You’re Talking To” placed second for Single, and Womack’s Call Me Crazy finished third behind Loveless and Sugarland for Album. And with wide disagreement in the Songwriter race beyond Johnson and Nettles, the red-hot Taylor Swift makes her only appearance on the list, placing third.

Our five winners of the Album Giveaway each received an Amazon Mp3 Gift Certificate for the cost of the album they chose from the various top ten lists of our writers.  The winners, and the albums they selected:

  • Araceli Pinto Corrales – Lee Ann Womack, Call Me Crazy
  • Andrew Lacy – Patty Loveless, Sleepless Nights
  • Zachary Jodlowski – Joey + Rory, The Life of a Song
  • Michael Kattman – Reckless Kelly, Bulletproof
  • Laura Britton – Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson, Rattlin’ Bones

Thanks to all of you who voted, and everyone else for your loyal readership!  Read on for the winners, along with the editors’ choices in each category. Percentages reflect the total amount of points received, with the maximum possible percentage of 50%, which would require a first-place vote on every ballot.

If you didn’t submit a ballot this time around, share your preferences in the comments!

The First Annual Country Universe

Readers’ Choice Awards


carrie-underwood

Artist of the Year

Readers’ Choice:
1. Carrie Underwood (22%)
2. Sugarland (19%)
3. Jamey Johnson (14%)

Editors’ Choice:
1. Jamey Johnson
2. Brad Paisley
3. Carrie Underwood

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