John Michael Montgomery

Album Review: Scotty McCreery, Clear as Day

October 25, 2011 // 14 Comments

Scotty McCreery

Clear as Day

In listening to American Idol winner Scotty McCreery’s debut album, it becomes all too clear that either McCreery is being carefully reared by the unabashedly commercial-minded execs of 19 Entertainment… or that he simply enjoys playing follow-the-leader. The former is most likely, but almost every track on Clear as Day sounds like an emulation of the style of one of country radio’s favorite hitmakers. We get to hear Scotty McCreery play Montgomery Gentry. We get to hear Scotty McCreery play Kenny Chesney. But there are precious few moments in which it sounds like Scotty McCreery is being Scotty McCreery.

Single Review: Scotty McCreery, “I Love You This Big”

May 26, 2011 // 29 Comments

Any review of this single anywhere is like begging for site traffic from impassioned fans/haters. I don’t do nearly enough favors for Country Universe most of the time, though – so allow me to greet you down on my knees, Scottyfolk.

A preface: I didn’t watch this past season of American Idol, so this single is basically my first exposure to its winner, and I feel no sour grapes that he beat out So-And-So or What’s-Her-Face, and I don’t care about his adorable TV backstory or any of that. The only metric I’m using is whether “I Love You This Big” sounds like something I’d want to hear on the radio between “Teenage Daughters” and “Amen.”

Classic Country Singles: Randy Travis, “Three Wooden Crosses”

April 17, 2011 // 8 Comments

Three Wooden Crosses
Randy Travis

Written by Doug Johnson and Kim Williams

During the first decade of the twenty-first century, the antiseptic depictions of faith that have dominated contemporary Christian music began to seep in to country music.

This perception created records both good (“Jesus, Take the Wheel”) and bad (“The Little Girl”), but most of them were bland, adding going to church on Sunday or praying as just one of the token traits of southern life, no more or less significant than the fried chicken or football game that followed the morning services.

Single Review: Easton Corbin, “I Can’t Love You Back”

October 31, 2010 // 5 Comments

Any song that starts with a guitar melody so eerily reminiscent of Rosanne Cash’s “Blue Moon With Heartache” is going to reel me in right away. Throw in an understated production that recalls early Alan Jackson, and the fact that Corbin is an actual country singer instead of just a country personality, and things get even better.

The song is beautiful. Really, really beautiful. Like so many great country ballads, someone who’s been left alone because a relationship failed can relate to it just as well as someone who has been left alone because they’re a widow. On the verses, Corbin sounds so good that he could’ve sent this to radio in 1992 and stood tall among the Mark Chesnutts and Collin Rayes of that time.

400 Greatest Singles of the Nineties: #125-#101

August 12, 2010 // 24 Comments

Johnny Cash may have been too dark for country radio back in 1994, but his morbid single lives on alongside debut singles, seventies covers, and a whole lot of Mary Chapin Carpenter.

400 Greatest Singles of the Nineties: #125-#101

Faith Hill
1999 | Peak: #1


Sure, the melody of the chorus sounds just like “It Matters to Me.” But “Breathe” took the country power ballad to new heights, becoming Hill’s signature hit in the process. – Kevin Coyne

Life’s a Dance
John Michael Montgomery
1992 | Peak: #4


It’s the catchy fiddle riff that’s so memorable about John Michael Montgomery’s debut, number one, single. He is known for being a balladeer, but this one is an up-tempo motivational song. – Leeann Ward

400 Greatest Singles of the Nineties: #225-#201

July 28, 2010 // 17 Comments

As we reach the halfway point of the countdown, seventies stars like Tanya Tucker and Don Williams prove just as relevant to the decade as newbies like Terri Clark and and Clay Walker. But it’s eighties original George Strait that dominates this section with three additional entries.

400 Greatest Singles of the Nineties: #225-#201

Passionate Kisses
Mary Chapin Carpenter
1992 | Peak: #4


A lightweight wish list/love ditty that somehow seems to tap into a deep well of truth. Credit Carpenter’s soulful vocal, which digs in and finds the cohesive character written between the song’s separate cute lines. – Dan Milliken

Black Coffee
Lacy J. Dalton
1990 | Peak: #15


The electric guitar line sounds cribbed from The Police’s “Every Breath You Take”, but the sentiment couldn’t be much more different. Dalton is tense all over, as bad omens seem to stack on top of each other while she waits in anticipation of one big let-down. – DM

400 Greatest Singles of the Nineties: #300-#276

July 17, 2010 // 20 Comments

The list continues with appearances from artists who first surfaced in the eighties and continued to thrive into the nineties, like Reba McEntire and Patty Loveless, along with new stars from the nineties who would find greater success in the next decade, like Toby Keith and Brad Paisley.

400 Greatest Singles of the Nineties: #300-#276

Does He Love You
Reba McEntire with Linda Davis
1993 | Peak: #1


This two-female duet was a gamble at the time of its release, but it offers such a brilliant fusion of perspectives that it’s hard to imagine why. The song fleshes out the range of emotions that the two women are experiencing –from pain to longing to self-doubt– and culminates in one shared question that they’ll never know the answer to: “does he love you like he’s been loving me?” – Tara Seetharam

400 Greatest Singles of the Nineties: #350-326

July 11, 2010 // 24 Comments

A few should’ve been hits are mixed in with genuine smashes as the countdown continues.

400 Greatest Singles of the Nineties: #350-#326

How Do I Live
Trisha Yearwood
1997  |  Peak: #2

When Yearwood and LeAnn Rimes released dueling versions of this song in 1997, it was apparently a wake up call to country listeners: “Hey, wait a minute. Trisha Yearwood is an amazing singer!”  She elevates “How Do I Live” beyond its movie theme nature by adding layers of subtlety and nuance to the typical Diane Warren template. – Kevin Coyne

Boot Scootin’ Boogie
Brooks & Dunn
1992  |  Peak: #1

I don’t claim to have any real knowledge of what it’s like to spend a night at the liveliest of honky-tonks, but I’ll be darned if this song doesn’t make me feel like I do. Because “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” isn’t really about a specific place where people go, and it isn’t even about the boogie itself; it’s about the universal thrill of busting out of the work week, kicking back and dancing your troubles away. From start to finish, Brooks & Dunn’s performance is a twangy blast of exhilaration, and that’s a feeling we can all relate to – outlaws, in-laws, crooks and straights alike. – Tara Seetharam

400 Greatest Singles of the Nineties: #375-351

July 7, 2010 // 21 Comments

The second segment of our countdown includes the first appearances by Garth Brooks and Reba McEntire, two of the biggest-selling stars of the decade.

How Do I Get There
Deana Carter
1997 | Peak: #1

It’s always a gamble when friends decide to take their relationship to the next level. “How Do I Get There” explores the struggle of following one’s heart, even though it’s taking a big emotional risk to do so. – Leeann Ward

If I Could Make a Living
Clay Walker
1994 | Peak: #1

This song is either ridiculously cheesy or irresistibly cheesy depending on your taste, but there’s no denying Walker sells the heck out of it with charm and enthusiasm. – Tara Seetharam

How Very Nineties: George Jones & Friends, and other All Star Jams

June 13, 2010 // 11 Comments

New fans of country music in the nineties were hit over the head with the assertion that country music was one big family. Nothing demonstrated this mythos better than the all star jams that cropped up during the boom years.

There were some variants of this approach. A popular one found a veteran star teaming up with one or more of the boom artists to increase their chances of radio airplay. George Jones was big on this approach, with the most high profile attempt being “I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair.” Seventeen years later, it’s amazing to see how young everyone looks – even Jones himself!

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