Kenny Rogers

Reviews: Barry Manilow & Reba McEntire, “Islands in the Stream” and Dolly Parton, “Drives Me Crazy”

January 11, 2009 // 8 Comments

“Islands in the Stream” is a ridiculous song. The arrangement is tacky. The lyrics make absolutely no sense. It’s basically a big ol’ hunk of cheese, aged since 1983. So why did it work so well, and become such a memorable record that it was even named the greatest country duet of all-time by CMT? Simple. Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton sang it with enthusiasm, and the sheer force of their personalities saved the day. It’s still a fun record to listen to. Rogers is on top of his game, and Parton, always the perfect saleswoman, belts out the admittedly solid melody with gusto. It’s two stars at their zenith having a darn good time. Hence the problem with the recent remake by Barry Manilow and Reba McEntire. It’s a joyless affair, as they painstakingly recreate the original, never deviating from the source material. They treat it like a sacred Read More

iPod Check: They Call it Country

January 3, 2009 // 32 Comments

We’re making iPod Check a weekly discussion feature this year, with a bit of a different spin each week. This week, check out the “Country” genre on your music list and post the first ten songs that play. Here are my ten, out of 5,626 in total: 1. k.d. lang, “Pullin’ Back the Reins” 2. Johnny Cash, “I’m Going to Memphis” 3. Sugarland, “Already Gone” 4. Dolly Parton, “Don’t Let Me Cross Over” 5. Trisha Yearwood, “Nothin’ About You is Good For Me” 6. Carlene Carter, “Two Sides to Every Woman” 7. Johnny Cash, “Thirteen” 8. Kenny Rogers, “I Don’t Call Him Daddy” 9. Emmylou Harris, “Tennessee Waltz” 10. Loretta Lynn, “I Believe”

Buyer’s Guide: Dolly Parton

December 30, 2008 // 17 Comments

Building a music collection used to be a far more difficult thing, a dogged hunt through record stores and mail order catalogs, hoping to find what you were looking for.   The advent of the internet made things easier, but it wasn’t until music could be downloaded digitally that a deep music collection could be built with far less effort. However, all of this available music can be overwhelming, especially when you’re trying to get a handle on the catalog of an established artist.  Country Universe is here to help.   Our Buyer’s Guides will walk you through the music that is digitally available for a given artist, starting with the essential purchases for new listeners, and working through the entire digital catalog until even the completist fan will be sated.    You can also sample each album in its entirety, and purchase any song or album that you like through Amazon’s MP3 Read More

Discussion: Recommend a Track – Christmas Edition

December 19, 2008 // 19 Comments

I wrote last week about my affection for sad Christmas songs.   The only upbeat Christmas songs I usually like are the spiritual ones.   But good Lord, do I love this piece of fluff from Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton: httpv:// “With Bells On” is one of the only country Christmas songs that won’t make me change the radio station.   You can find it on Kenny & Dolly’s album Once Upon a Christmas. What Christmas track do you recommend tonight?

Various Artists, Ultimate Grammy Collection: Classic Country and Contemporary Country

December 13, 2008 // 1 Comment

Various Artists Ultimate Grammy Collection: Classic Country Contemporary Country Earlier this year, the Grammys celebrated their fiftieth anniversary with a series of compilations focusing on winners in different fields.  Two of the best entries in this series focused on country music.  With five decades of winners to choose from, it’s no surprise that Ultimate Grammy Collection: Classic Country and Ultimate Grammy Collection: Contemporary Country are solid collections. The Classic Country set is particularly strong, including a diverse selection of significant artists from the sixties and seventies.   Even better, most of them are represented with their signature tracks.    Roger Miller opens the set with “King of the Road”, easily his biggest hit.   Other superstars include Tammy Wynette (“Stand By Your Man”), Johnny Cash (“A Boy Named Sue”) and Waylon & Willie (“Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.”) As the collection moves on to the seventies and eighties, Read More

Favorite Songs by Favorite Artists: Dolly Parton

November 30, 2008 // 16 Comments

Dolly Parton Week kicks off today with the first of two Favorite Songs by Favorite Artists entries.  Mine will follow later in the week, along with Classic Country Singles, Retro Album Reviews, Six Packs, and an Ultimate Buyer’s Guide, all focusing on the legendary Hall of Famer. – Kevin There really isn’t anything that Dolly Parton can’t do. She has a voice like an angel, but is also capable of showboating with the best of them. She plays several instruments, has written more than her share of classic songs, is an actor, owns a popular amusement park and, most importantly, is involved in many philanthropic efforts. Starting with traditional annual viewings of A Smokey Mountain Christmas on the Disney Channel, Dolly Parton is one of those people that I loved before I even knew what music genres were, let alone country music in particular. So, while I was nervous about Read More

CMA Flashback: Male Vocalist

November 1, 2008 // 6 Comments

For a look back at the other major categories, visit our CMA Awards page. 2010 Dierks Bentley Brad Paisley Blake Shelton George Strait Keith Urban Bentley and Shelton have never won, but they’re up against Strait, who has won five times, and Paisley and Urban, who’ve won three times each.  With the balance of commercial and critical success not significantly different across the category, this race could bring the night’s biggest surprise. But whatever happens, kudos to Paisley for earning his tenth nomination, and Strait for earning his twenty-fifth! 2009 Kenny Chesney Brad Paisley Darius Rucker George Strait Keith Urban Just like in the Entertainer category, 80% of this race for the past three years had been Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, George Strait, and Keith Urban. This year, Darius Rucker took the fifth slot that was occupied by Alan Jackson in 2008 and Josh Turner in 2007.  Brad Paisley went Read More

Don Schlitz

October 11, 2008 // 4 Comments

Few songwriters in Nashville have reached the dizzying heights of Don Schlitz. His mantle full of awards and his prominence on the charts for the better part of three decades has made Schlitz an integral part of country music’s rich heritage of storytelling songs. Don Schlitz was born and raised in Durham, North Carolina. He briefly attended Duke University before moving to Nashville in 1973. After his arrival, Schlitz served as a computer operator at Vanderbilt University, but continued to write songs for five years before his big break.  With “The Gambler”, Schlitz’ career finally moved forward. The classic tale of a man learning how to “know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em” enraptured country music audiences upon its release in 1978. The story of a young man and a train-traveling sage earned the Grammy for Best Country Song in 1979 and received the CMA honor for Single Read More

Classic Country Singles: Kenny Rogers, “The Gambler”

August 26, 2008 // 3 Comments

The Gambler Kenny Rogers 1978 Written by Don Schlitz Although responsible for one of country music’s most famous lines (“You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em…”), Don Schlitz’s premier story song, “The Gambler” is far deeper than what first appears. The game of poker is disguised as a metaphor for life and shows that it’s not what cards one is dealt, but how the player handles those cards, that is truly the secret of life. Kenny Rogers’ gruff and gritty vocal tells the story of two travelers, one barely living and one barely alive. It’s a strong connection between a couple of strangers, and shows that we may not be so different at all. They travel on through the darkness, passengers at a crossroads, and the old man gives his secrets to survival because he’s “made a living reading other people’s faces.” The two Read More

100 Greatest Women, #1: Dolly Parton

July 1, 2008 // 60 Comments

100 Greatest Women #1 Dolly Parton She emerged from poverty in the Smoky Mountains, the first of her family to graduate high school. She dreamed of being a country music singer, but it was her songwriting that got her in the door. Over the course of more than forty years, she has successfully navigated countless styles of country music, ranging from bluegrass to Hollywood pop-country, remaining a popular and relevant recording artist through the countless sea changes that occurred in the industry around her. Dolly Parton’s story begins in the Appalachian mountains of eastern Tennessee, where she was the fourth of twelve children. She began writing songs before she had begun formal schooling, and would physically force her younger siblings to watch her performances. Her mother taught her the old mountain songs, with a penchant for those with tragic undertones. This was a big influence on Parton’s writing, particularly in Read More

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