Tag Archives: Lee Ann Womack

The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Conclusion: #20-#1

#20
“Not Ready to Make Nice”
Dixie Chicks
2006
Peak: #36

It’s easy to label this as a transitory response of a song, whose quality is stamped by context and time, but to do so is to undermine its carefully crafted layers of universal emotion. Anger is only the outer coating of the song – beneath it lies a tender-to-the-touch complex of feelings:  pain and disgust, confusion and resolve, stubbornness and defeat. “Not Ready to Make Nice” may always recall a certain unfortunate episode in country music history, but its theme – that sometimes there’s a price to pay for standing up for what you believe – is timeless. – Tara Seetharam

#19
“Probably Wouldn’t Be this Way”
LeAnn Rimes
2005
Peak: #3

A striking portrait of grief that alternates between phases of desolation, disillusionment and gratitude. Rimes’ interpretation of the lyrics is chillingly precise. – TS Continue reading

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The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 3: #160-#141

The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 3: #160-#141

lee-ann-womack-call-me-crazy

#160
“Last Call”
Lee Ann Womack
2008
Peak: #14

Womack’s second-best Aughts song about late-night temptations is still better than a lot of people’s first-best songs about anything. Even in avoiding her drunken ex’s advances, she sounds positively heartbroken, suggesting she’d gladly make the other decision if she didn’t know better. – Dan Milliken

159 Shania Up

#159
“She’s Not Just a Pretty Face”
Shania Twain
2003
Peak: #9

Her motivation for her music has always been escapism, but I love the personal touch she slips into this one. Her late mother is the one who she’s referring to when she sings “at night, she pumps gasoline.” – Kevin Coyne

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The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 2: #180-#161

The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 2: #180-#161

180 Flatts Melt

#180
“These Days”
Rascal Flatts
2002
Peak: #1

It’s the pairing of aching nostalgia and all the power that comes with a Flatts country-pop ballad that makes this song so potent. – Tara Seetharam

179 Ashton

#179
“Takin’ Off This Pain”
Ashton Shepherd
2007
Peak: #20

Like a wide-eyed hybrid of Loretta Lynn and Jennifer Nettles, Shepherd burst onto the scene snapping her newly ring-free fingers at the clueless sap not treating her right. Next Decade, please take note: you’ve got a star in waiting. – Dan Milliken Continue reading

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The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 9: #20-#11

The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 9

20 Nickel

#20
Nickel Creek, This Side

With Alison Krauss still in the producer’s chair, This Side begins to drift away from the more pure bluegrass feel of Nickel Creek’s debut album. Containing deliciously funky grooves and even tighter musicianship among the trio, Nickel Creek further proves their inimitable creativity and talent on their sophomore project that ultimately secures their popularity among progressive bluegrass fans and perhaps a few unsuspecting traditionalists along the way as well. – Leeann Ward

Recommended Tracks: “Spit on A Stranger”, “I Should’ve Known Better”, “This Side”, “Sabra Girl”

19 Leeann

#19
Lee Ann Womack, There’s More Where That Came From

It wasn’t quite the radical return to traditional country music that the album cover and subsequent marketing implied, but There’s More Where That Came From had more going for it than twin fiddles and steel, anyway: the strongest collection of songs that Womack had ever assembled. For those who went beyond the album’s one hit and two subsequent singles, the treasures were bountiful, including a cover of “Just Someone I Used to Know” hidden at the end of the disc. – Kevin Coyne

Recommended Tracks: “One’s a Couple”, “I May Hate Myself in the Morning”, “The Last Time”, “Stubborn (Psalm 151)”

18 Bill

#18
Bill Chambers, Sleeping With the Blues

Kasey Chambers’ father, Bill Chambers, shows that the talented apple doesn’t fall far from the proverbial tree. Chambers’ well worn gravel voice sounds as though he is personally all too familiar with the blues, which appropriately helps in service of the album’s general tone. Sleeping with the Blues is wonderfully produced with pure acoustic country instrumentation, which nicely supports this set of songs that contain straight up country music themes with a sly mix of wit and doom. – LW

Recommended Tracks: “I Drink”, “”Sleeping with the Blues”, “Big A** Garage Sale”, “Hold You in My Heart”

17 Caitlin

#17
Caitlin Cary & Thad Cockrell, Begonias

George and Tammy, Loretta and Conway, Dolly and Porter, Caitlin and Thad. Heresy? Perhaps. However, when Begonias was released in 2005, duet albums seemed like a thing of the past in country music. Caitlin Cary and Thad Cockrell, once neighbors in North Carolina, succeed in questioning that perception with their harmonies, songwriting, and natural chemistry by producing a timeless folk-country album that reminds us that great duets are not something that only exist as part of country music history. – William Ward

Recommended Tracks: “Something Less than Something More”, “Second Option”, “Conversations About a Friend”, “Waiting on June”

16 AKUS

#16
Alison Krauss & Union Station, Lonely Runs Both Ways

But just what are the two ways that lonely runs? Through the leaver (“Goodbye Is All We Have”) and the left (“Wouldn’t Be So Bad”)? Through the lovestruck (“If I Didn’t Know Any Better”) and the loved (“Crazy As Me”)? Or just through haunting traditional bluegrass (everything the fellas sing lead on here) as well as haunting grass-pop (everything with Krauss)? I say all of the above – and if Krauss and company are the ones running lonely around, I’ll follow them whichever way they decide to take it. – Dan Milliken

Recommended Tracks: “Restless”, “Crazy As Me”, “If I Didn’t Know Any Better”, “A Living Prayer”

15 Be Good

#15
The Be Good Tanyas, Blue Horse

It is true that The Be Good Tanyas are in the periphery of country music’s big tent, but their mellow sound is refreshingly organic. Their unconventional vocal style, delightful harmonies and accessible melodic hooks make this album a joy to hear. Particularly interesting is their meandering interpretation of “Oh Suzanna.” – LW

Recommended Tracks: “The Littlest Birds”, “Dog Song aka. Sleep Dog Lullaby”, “Oh Suzanna”, “Light Enough to Travel”

14 Dwight

#14
Dwight Yoakam, Blame the Vain

Fully self-producing for the first time, Yoakam returned to what he’s always does best: smart, simple heartbreak songs with no-frills production and minimal BS. Except on “She’ll Remember,” where the frills and BS are badly British-accented, bizarrely futuristic and fully awesome. He’s the kind of artist so consistent that it’s easy to take him for granted, but here he tried to one-up himself and damn near succeeded. – DM

Recommended Tracks: “Blame The Vain”, “Just Passin’ Time”, “She’ll Remember”, “The Last Heart In Line”

13 Shania

#13
Shania Twain, Up!

As distinctive and boundary-pushing as they were, Shania Twain’s first two mega-albums were a bit restrained, as if there was a “let’s not push this too far” voice in the back of her head. With Up!, she fully lets loose her creativity, spinning the same nineteen tracks in three different styles over three discs, with the American release featuring the country and pop editions. Rather than split the difference to please both audiences, she shamelessly panders to each one instead, stacking on the fiddle and steel more so than she ever did before on one disc, while venturing into pure Europop on the other. The winner in all of this is the listener, particularly the one who has a taste for both banjo and synthesizer, as Twain’s relentless zest for lyrical escapism finally has the music to match her infectious positivity. – KC

Recommended Tracks: “Nah!”, “Ka-Ching!”, “What a Way to Wanna Be!”, “I Ain’t Goin’ Down”

12 Chicks

#12
Dixie Chicks, Taking the Long Way

Somewhere between the Bush slam heard around the world and the five-Grammy victory seen around the world came this masterful, refreshingly real album, defined only by its own merits. A raw slice of the album deals with the incident that changed the Chicks’ career – and quite possibly the course of mainstream country music – reflecting a tenacity that’s wrapped in still-tender pain. But the same multi-faceted assuredness rings throughout the rest of Taking The Long Way, found in songs that dive deep, lyrically and sonically, into stories of struggle and doubt. With its bone-chilling depictions of life’s realities, the Chicks’ first fully-written album is a piece of art that pays a brilliant, ironic tribute to the heart of country music. – Tara Seetharam

Recommended Tracks: “Not Ready to Make Nice”, “Silent House”, “I Hope”, “So Hard”

11 Nickel

#11
Nickel Creek, Why Should the Fire Die?

While they have been nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album and won IMBA award for Instrumental Group of the Year, Nickel Creek have always insisted that they are not a bluegrass band. With Why Should the Fire Die?, Nickel Creek makes its strongest argument, taking on new producers, introducing more rock and pop influence, and generally going in their own direction. Still, and perhaps most importantly, they have maintained their ability to avoid all things formulaic while pushing beyond the boundaries of youthful talent. – WW

Recommended Tracks: “When in Rome”, “Can’t Complain”, “Anthony”, “Doubting Thomas”

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The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 6: #50-#41

The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 6

    50 Mattea

    #50
    Kathy Mattea, Right Out of Nowhere

    Kathy Mattea has rarely sounded more open and warm than on this set of innovative folk-tinged songs. Topics of peace, love, resignation and heartache are sensitively explored in songs both written by Mattea and other well-known names, including captivating interpretations of The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Me Shelter” and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Down on the Corner.” It’s a rich album with a decisively vibrant feel. – Leeann Ward

    Recommended Tracks: “Gimme Shelter”, “Down on the Corner”, “Give It Away”

    49 Cash

    #49
    Johnny Cash, American IV: The Man Comes Around

    American IV: The Man Comes Around was the last Cash album released in his lifetime; the bulk of its tracks are covers performed by the then ailing singer. Amazingly enough, the album seems almost biographical despite the limited material written by Cash. Still, American IV is not limited to “Hurt” (written by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails), as other well-interpreted covers and Cash’s own “The Man Comes Around” help cement the depth of the album. – William Ward

    Recommended Tracks: “The Man Comes Around”, “Hurt”, “Sam Hall”

    48 Johnson

    #48
    Jamey Johnson, That Lonesome Song

    The media hype machine had a field day with Johnson’s breakthrough sophomore album, showering it with the kind of superlatives usually reserved for miracle cures and immaculate conceptions (see also: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend). Most of the attention went to the album’s counterculturism within the increasingly safe and watered-down Music Row, with numerous nods to its Outlaw aesthetic and “cocaine and a whore” business. But That Lonesome Song‘s greatness was always more than contextual, and certainly more than attitudinal; this is an album with a genuine story to tell, filled with a slow-burning sorrow that pervades every track and doesn’t rest until the wife finally walks away and the husband resigns himself to playing seedy bars and trying to convince you he’s worthy of comparison to the greats. – Dan Milliken

    Recommended Tracks: “High Cost Of Living”, “Angel”, “Dreaming My Dreams With You”

    *Credit for linked parody cover: Farce the Music.

    47 Hill

    #47
    Faith Hill, Fireflies

    For all of the attention given to her power ballads and catchy pop numbers, Faith Hill has always included more offbeat material from lesser known songwriters. This album had some great power ballads and catchy pop numbers, but its heart and soul comes from the trio of Lori McKenna songs that make up its core. “Stealing Kisses” just might be Hill’s finest moment to date, and the other two McKenna songs – “If You Ask” and the title track – are nearly as good.  – Kevin Coyne

    Recommended Tracks: “Dearly Beloved”, “Stealing Kisses”, “Wish For You”

    46 Gill

    #46
    Vince Gill, Next Big Thing

    Gill dips into a wider range of styles and subjects on his first self-produced album, but it all seems to thoughtfully tie back to his classically sweet sound – a tricky thing to do in country music. Next Big Thing is mature, clever and vocally spot-on, and features some killer guest vocals from Emmylou Harris, Lee Ann Womack and others. – TS

    Recommended Tracks: “Without You”, “Two Hearts”, “These Broken Hearts”

    45 Underwood

    #45
    Carrie Underwood, Play On

    Easily one of the most versatile artists in country music, Underwood is capable of tackling almost any musical style, and she makes a solid case for this on her third album. The kicker, though, is that rather than signaling a lack of identity, each style feels like a natural extension of herself as an artist. She’s mournful on a haunting country standard in one breath, and commanding on a rock-charged up-tempo in the next – all without compromising her authenticity. Most significantly, Underwood finally digs a little deeper on Play On, marrying her extraordinary vocal proficiency with a higher level of tangible, sincere conviction than ever before. – TS

    Recommended Tracks: “Someday When I Stop Loving You”, “Songs Like This”, “What Can I Say”

    44 Crowell

    #44
    Rodney Crowell, The Outsider

    Crowell’s take on mid-decade politics avoids heavy-handedness, perhaps because what he’s appealing to is not so much partisanship as patriotism in its purest form: “Democracy won’t work if we’re asleep. That kind of freedom is a vigil you must keep.”  Bonus points for not one, but two guest turns from Emmylou Harris, the highlight being their stunning duet of Bob Dylan’s “Shelter From the Storm.” – KC

    Recommended Tracks: “Dancin’ Circles ‘Round the Sun (Epictetus Speaks)”, “Don’t Get Me Started”, “Shelter From the Storm”

    43 Little

    #43
    The Little Willies, The Little Willies

    Norah Jones pet country side project with four of her New York City friends, including former boyfriend bassist Lee Alexander, results inn an inextricably fun album named after Willie Nelson who is covered twice on the project (“Gotta Get Drunk” and “Night Life”). The productions, including jaunty piano and prominent bass, along with Jones’ atypically loose vocals, make this disc a thrilling listening experience. While The Little Willie’s self titled album is not tight in technical terms, the album is all the better for it. – LW

    Recommended Tracks: “Roll On”, “Gotta Get Drunk”, “Tennessee Stud”

    42 Yearwood

    #42
    Trisha Yearwood, Real Live Woman

    Upon its release, the artist declared that she’d finally made her dream album. It’s easy to understand why, as Real Live Woman is Trisha Yearwood’s most cohesive album to date. It has a warmth and depth that makes it more than just reminiscent of Linda Ronstadt’s classic L.A. country albums from the mid-seventies. It’s actually on par with them. – KC

    Recommended Tracks: “Where Are You Now”, “Try Me Again”, “When a Love Song Sings the Blues”

    41 Kristofferson

    #41
    Kris Kristofferson, Broken Freedom Song: Live From San Francisco

    For each unequivocal success like At Folsom Prison and Nirvana Unplugged, there are a dozen uninspired live albums that simply exist to capitalize on old material. Kris Kristofferson’s Broken Freedom Songs, with his extended introductions and banter, is an unequivocal success. Along with its friendly and almost conversational tone, Broken Freedom Songs focuses on unexpected compositions and makes a nice addition to other historically strong live albums. – WW

    Recommended Tracks: “The Circle”, “Here Comes that Rainbow Again”, “Moment of Forever”

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    The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 4: #70-#61

      The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 4

      70 Tillis

      #70
      Pam Tillis, It’s All Relative: Tillis Sings Tillis

      By the time she released a tribute to her father Mel, she’d become something of a legend in her own right. So it’s no surprise that she approached Mel’s stellar songwriting catalog as if she was recording any other studio album, taking the best of the bunch and making them her own. Bonus points for preserving the original fiddle breakdown from “Heart Over Mind” while making that classic shuffle a forlorn ballad, and a few more for hitting the archives of the Country Music Hall of Fame until she found a forgotten gem that should’ve been a hit back in the day (“Not Like it Was With You.”) – Kevin Coyne

      Recommended Tracks: “Mental Revenge”, “Detroit City”

      69 Dwight

      #69
      Dwight Yoakam, dwightyoakamacoustic.net

      Yoakam takes a new, inspired spin on the greatest hits album concept, presenting us with a hearty sampling (over 20 songs) of his catalog served acoustic style. It simply works for the country legend. He introduces some delightful new twists and turns to his old classics, and as it should go with acoustic music, the album is driven by unadulterated, raw vocals, coupled with honest storytelling – the purest form of country music. – Tara Seetharam

      Recommended Tracks: “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere”, “Things Change”

      68 Gillian

      #68
      Gillian Welch, Time (The Revelator)

      Time (The Revelator) is Gillian Welch and David Rawlings with much of their typical production stripped away. Accompanied by acoustic guitar and banjo, Gillian sings with emotions as much as she sings notes that create a surprisingly full sound. – William Ward

      Recommended Tracks: “I Want to Sing That Rock and Roll”, “Red Clay Halo”

      67 Reba

      #67
      Reba McEntire, Reba Duets

      That McEntire is able to smoothly and effortlessly wrap her voice around eleven other distinctive voices is a tribute to her sheer talent as an artist. With duet partners stretching from Justin Timberlake to Ronnie Dunn, McEntire presents a stunning, layered mix of sounds and styles, demonstrating that when gifted artists come together, no perceived boundaries can stop them from making good music. – TS

      Recommended Tracks: “The Only Promise That Remains”, “When You Love Someone Like That”

      law call me

      #66
      Lee Ann Womack, Call Me Crazy

      Very few country artists can express pain more poignantly than Womack, who taps into a place of tender desperation with her highly-acclaimed 2008 album. The stories are deep and reflective, the sorrow palpable, and the production adeptly sparse – a potent combination. – TS

      Recommended Tracks: “Solitary Thinkin'”, “Either Way”

      65 Nickel

      #65
      Nickel Creek, Nickel Creek

      Nickel Creek has been nominated for Best Bluegrass Album and Best Country Instrumental Performance Grammys and won Best Contemporary Folk Album, yet the group does not easily fit into any of those categories. Produced by Alison Krauss, Nickel Creek’s self-titled album is their most bluegrass-influenced album. – WW

      Recommended Tracks: “The Fox”, “The Hand Song”

      64 Watkins

      #64
      Sara Watkins, Sara Watkins

      Sara Watkins’ self-titled debut holds more than a few surprises, including more country influence than you will hear from any of her former Nickel Creek bandmates’ solo work. Produced by John Paul Jones, pedal steel is prominent on Jimmie Rodgers’ “Any Old Time,” performed as western swing, “All this Time,” and Tom Waits’ “Pony.” – WW

      Recommended Tracks: “All This Time”, “Give Me Jesus”

      63 Dierks

      #63
      Dierks Bentley, Modern Day Drifter

      Rife with accessible melodies, solid lyrics and a penchant for traditional sounds, Dierks Bentley’s sophomore project, Modern Day Drifter, confirmed the promise that was only hinted at on his first album. The title of the album rightly suggests that Bentley will explore the components of breaking the chains of domesticity, which include the freedom (“Lotta Leavin’ Left to Do”, “Modern Day Drifter”, “Domestic Light and Cold”, “the Cab of My Truck”) and the ultimate consequences (“Settle for a Slowdown”, “Down on Easy Street”). Nevertheless, Bentley does not stop with those themes. He also finds room for common themes as love and loss, as demonstrated in the pretty “Good Things Happen”, the smoldering “Come A Little Closer” and heartbreaking “Gonna Get There Someday.” – Leeann Ward

      Recommended Tracks:

      62 Todd

      #62
      Todd Snider, The Devil You Know

      An explosion of righteous anger over poverty with an undercurrent of joyous celebration of America’s underclass. You can never tell for sure if he sees himself as their advocate or their peer, but the songs are so powerful, it doesn’t really matter. – KC

      Recommended Tracks: “Just Like Old Times”, “The Devil You Know”

      61 Rodney

      #61
      Rodney Crowell, The Houston Kid

      After a string of somewhat underwhelming major-label releases in the 90’s, Rodney Crowell rebounded in a big way with this remarkably deep set on celebrated indie label Sugar Hill. Childhood joys and adult insights stand side-by-side in The Houston Kid, producing an emotionally rich and complicated survey of the album’s world. Such is the detail and soul of Crowell’s writing that every second comes across as autobiographical, even the ones that probably aren’t. – Dan Milliken

      Recommended Tracks: “The Rock Of My Soul”, “I Walk The Line (Revisited)”

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      100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 2: #90-#81

        The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 2

        90 Miranda

        #90
        Miranda Lambert, Kerosene

        On her first major-label album, Lambert reveals herself as a fiery, spirited artist with a lot to say, and a clever voice with which to speak. Her sharp songwriting skills, though a work in progress as we’d later learn, take her naturally from aggression to desolation and back again. But most notably, through Kerosene, Lambert got the traditionalists to pay a little more attention to mainstream country music and its more promising artists. – Tara Seetharam

        Recommended Tracks: “Kerosene”, “I Can’t Be Bothered”

        89 Kris

        #89
        Kris Kristofferson, This Old Road
        This Old Road has not have received as much mainstream attention as Kristofferson’s recent appearance in Ethan Hawke’s Rolling Stone article; an unfortunate fact, given it was the legendary writer’s first album of new material in 11 years. With This Old Road, Kristofferson shines a spotlight on the world much in the same his earlier writing shined a spotlight on himself. The result is an overtly political album with more depth than most modern attempts have been able to produce. – William Ward

        Recommended Tracks: “The Last Thing to Go”, “Pilgrim’s Progress”

        88 Guy

        #88
        Guy Clark, Workbench Songs

        The recordings  of the songs that Guy Clark, one of country music’s most respected modern songwriters, has written for the most popular artists in country music are typically polished by the best Nashville musicians and slick producers. But Clark’s own albums tend to be more organic, with spare instrumentation that somehow manages to avoid sounding anemic as a result. His well worn voice sings these eleven melodically and lyrically strong songs with warmth and the kind of emotion that easily captures the listener. It’s one of the best albums of his deep catalog that spans over thirty years. – Leeann Ward

        Recommended Tracks: “Walkin’ Man”, “Expose”

        87 Wynonna

        #87
        Wynonna, What the World Needs Now is Love

        It’s hard to believe that it’s been six years since Wynonna’s last proper studio album. This collection is easily one of her best, with effective covers like “I Want to Know What Love Is” and “Flies On the Butter”, along with socially conscious material that provokes thought instead of pandering to already held beliefs (“It All Comes Down to Love”). – Kevin Coyne

        Recommended Tracks: “Sometimes I Feel Like Elvis”, “Rescue Me”

        86 Lee Ann

        #86
        Lee Ann Womack, I Hope You Dance

        The massively successful title track powered this album to triple platinum, but it also overshadowed the excellent songs surrounding it. For those who explored the album beyond track two, there were some of Womack’s finest moments on record, as she had the good taste to plunder the catalogs of Bruce Robison (“Lonely Too”), Bobbie Cryner (“Stronger Than I Am”), Julie Miller (“I Know Why the River Runs”), and Rodney Crowell (“Ashes By Now”). – KC

        Recommended Tracks: “Lonely Too”, “Does My Ring Burn Your Finger”

        85 Chris

        #85
        Chris Thile, How to Grow a Woman From the Ground

        This is the first album from the band that would eventually become Punch Brothers. Garnering a Grammy Award Nomination in 2006, How to Grow a Woman From the Ground is a solid bluegrass album with classical sensibilities and extraordinary instrumentation. – WW

        Recommended Tracks: “Wayside (Back in Time)”, “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground”

        84 Ralph

        #84
        Ralph Stanley II, This One Is Two

        Hyperbole alert, but it’s hard to think of a more beautiful-sounding traditional country album from this decade, or one which more comfortably merges old school aesthetics with modern production polish. Stanley corralled a number of meaty story songs here, but it’s the combination of his warm baritone and the lush instrumentation that gives this gem its quiet strength. – Dan Milliken

        Recommended Tracks: “Cold Shoulder”, “They Say I’ll Never Go Home”

        83 Louvin

        #83
        Various Artists, Livin’ Lovin’ Losin': Songs of the Louvin Brothers

        Tribute albums too often feel redundant, as well-meaning artists deliver nice but forgettable imitations of classic records. Not so with the Louvins’, which sticks veteran and current artists alike on the Bros’ close harmonies and sees each intriguing combination (Pam Tillis and Johnny Cash? Why not!) triumph. I daresay it’s as good an introduction to the duo’s work as any compilation of their own recordings. – DM

        Recommended Tracks: “How’s the World Treating You?”, “Are You Teasing Me”

        82 Todd

        #82
        Todd Snider, The Excitement Plan

        Snider mostly avoids both political themes and complex arrangements on his latest record, emphasizing his greatest strength as a writer instead: his uncanny ability to make the most specifically personal have universal resonance. Listen out for a wonderful cameo from Loretta Lynn on “Don’t Tempt Me.” – KC

        Recommended Tracks: “Barefoot Champagne”, “Money, Compliments, Publicity (Song Number 10)”

        81 O'Connor

        #81
        Mark O’Connor, Thirty-Year Retrospective (Live)

        Mark O’Connor’s Thirty Year Retrospective is a double instrumental album of his live performance with Chris Thile, Bryan Sutton and Byron House.  The album covers a wide range of Mark O’Connor’s career, presenting a range of instrumental country, bluegrass, new grass and jazz with the detail and care often only applied to classical music. – WW

        Recommended Tracks: “Caprice No. 4 in D Major”, “Macedonia”

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        CMA Awards: Predictions and Personal Picks

        The CMA Awards are upon us again, and I must say that this is the most underwhelming lineup I’ve ever seen, and I started watching the show back in 1991. We’ll be back to live blog the festivities on Wednesday night. In the meantime, enjoy our personal picks in each category, along with who we think will actually win.

        brad-paisleyEntertainer of the Year

        Should Win:
        • Kenny Chesney
        • Brad Paisley – Leeann, Tara
        • George Strait
        • Taylor Swift – Kevin, Dan
        • Keith Urban
        Will Win:
        • Kenny Chesney
        • Brad Paisley – Kevin, Leeann, Tara
        • George Strait
        • Taylor Swift – Dan
        • Keith Urban

        Kevin: Much like the field finally cleared for him in the Male Vocalist race two years ago, I expect that this is Paisley’s year to win with his sixth nomination. I think Taylor Swift deserves to win, though. There’s no getting around the fact that she’s the biggest thing out there right now.

        Leeann: I won’t be shocked (or really even disappointed) if Taylor Swift picks it up, but I really feel it’s finally Brad’s year.

        Dan: Swift is the face of the genre right now, and she’s putting out better-written material than many of the veterans in this category. It looks like a race between her and Paisley, and I think she may actually get it.

        Tara: It wouldn’t be inappropriate for Swift to take this award, and I would much (understatement) prefer her to win this over the vocalist award. But to me, Paisley is the all-around entertainer, and I think it’s his year to be recognized.

        brad-paisleyMale Vocalist of the Year

        Should Win:
        • Kenny Chesney
        • Brad Paisley – Leeann, Tara
        • Darius Rucker
        • George Strait – Dan
        • Keith Urban – Kevin
        Will Win:
        • Kenny Chesney
        • Brad Paisley – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara
        • Darius Rucker
        • George Strait
        • Keith Urban

        Leeann: I have no doubt that Paisley will win again, as he  has had a strong year and the CMAs tend to prefer him for this award.  While I think Urban is technically a very worthy opponent, the combination of Paisley’s warm voice and stronger album makes me continue to root for him.  I’d also be just as happy if Strait won, however, and feel that his and Paisley’s albums were the strongest of the year.

        Dan: Looks like an easy Paisley win, but I’ll give Strait the nod for all-around strength this past year.

        Tara: I don’t anticipate that Paisley’s winning streak will be broken. I’m pulling for him on the strength of his material, but wouldn’t mind one bit if Urban took the award. Just please, CMAs, don’t give it to Rucker!

        Kevin: Paisley’s poised to pick up his third trophy, with his only real competition being five-time winner George Strait. I’d give a fourth trophy to previous winner Keith Urban over the rest of the field. He really sang rings around the rest of ‘em when comparing their latest albums.

        Carrie Underwood 09Female Vocalist of the Year

        Should Win:
        • Miranda Lambert - Leeann
        • Martina McBride
        • Reba McEntire
        • Taylor Swift
        • Carrie Underwood – Kevin, Dan, Tara
        Will Win:
        • Miranda Lambert
        • Martina McBride
        • Reba McEntire
        • Taylor Swift
        • Carrie Underwood – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara

        Dan: I tend to find Underwood boring, but I do think she released some of her better singles this past year. Swift just isn’t a strong enough vocalist to merit this prize, and I’d rather see Lambert win in a year where she has more momentum going, which could well be next year.

        Tara: It will no doubt spark controversy when Underwood takes her fourth trophy and joins the ranks of Reba McEntire and Martina McBride, and that’s another discussion all together – but looking at the nominees for this year, it’s clear she deserves to win. In terms of sheer vocal talent, few artists in the genre come close to her. I’d love to see Lambert take this award (and Underwood would too!), but like Dan, I don’t think it’s her time just yet.

        Kevin: I won’t believe a different winner in this race until I see it. I was underwhelmed by the latest albums from Lambert, McBride, McEntire, and Swift, and quite frankly, Underwood is the only lady of the five to put out more than one single this year that I actually really liked (“Just a Dream”, “I Told You So.”) I remain in her corner.

        Leeann: Carrie will deserve to win this award when she wins it this year.  I, however, still prefer Lambert’s voice and feel that her output (album) is the most interesting of the nominees.

        Sugarland JoeyVocal Duo of the Year

        Should Win:

        • Big & Rich
        • Brooks & Dunn
        • Joey + Rory
        • Montgomery Gentry
        • Sugarland – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara
        Will Win:
        • Big & Rich
        • Brooks & Dunn
        • Joey + Rory
        • Montgomery Gentry
        • Sugarland – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara

        Tara: Sugarland continues to excite me, and I think they deserve this award again.

        Kevin: I love Joey + Rory, but Sugarland have really been blowing me away lately.  I’d pick them for Entertainer if they’d been nominated.

        Leeann: I’d technically love for Joey + Rory to win, but I know full well that Sugarland is the duo that truly deserves to win based upon their impact this year.

        Dan: Sugarland. But I want to talk to whoever is picking their singles.

        lady-antebellum-and-a-chairVocal Group of the Year

        Should Win:

        • Eagles
        • Lady Antebellum – Tara
        • Little Big Town
        • Rascal Flatts
        • Zac Brown Band – Kevin, Leeann, Dan

        Will Win:

        • Eagles
        • Lady Antebellum – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara
        • Little Big Town
        • Rascal Flatts
        • Zac Brown Band

        Kevin: I find Zac Brown Band more interesting, and I think they have a real shot at winning this. I suspect Lady Antebellum has a bit more industry support, though, so I’ll give them the edge.

        Leeann: Lady A will win because they’ve got more industry support and popularity with radio, but the Zac Brown Band has certainly put out more interesting music and have a refreshingly unique sound that deserves to be rewarded.

        Dan: Pretty much what Kevin and Leeann said. “Chicken Fried” notwithstanding.

        Tara: It’s definitely a race between Zac Brown Band and Lady Antebellum, and I can understand why my co-bloggers are rooting for the former. But even if Lady Antebellum’s talent needs a little cultivating, their music strikes a very personal chord with me, and I’ll be thrilled when they take this award. Can you believe Rascal Flatts might actually walk away from an awards show empty-handed?

        zac-bbNew Artist of the Year

        Should Win:
        • Randy Houser
        • Jamey Johnson – Dan
        • Jake Owen
        • Darius Rucker
        • Zac Brown Band – Kevin, Leeann, Tara

        Will Win:

        • Randy Houser
        • Jamey Johnson – Kevin
        • Jake Owen
        • Darius Rucker – Dan, Leeann, Tara
        • Zac Brown Band

        Kevin: A weak lineup that speaks volumes about why country music is where it is today. I think Zac Brown Band should win. They’ve really been the real breakthrough act of the five. But I suspect in this battle of “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” co-writers, Jamey Johnson will emerge victorious.

        Leeann: While I’m tempted to root for Jamey Johnson, I think Zac Brown Band has a chance of keeping me intrigued over the next few years (even if they fall out of the mainstream), though I don’t think they’ve reached their potential  just yet.  I predict that Darius Rucker will actually win, however, as he’s been the most successful in the last year.

        Dan: Time will tell whether Johnson is able to remain a strong artistic force, but I’d say he has as good a chance as any of these five if he can keep from getting self-important. Rucker is the biggest star on the ballot, though, and I suspect he’ll squeak the win over Johnson and Zac Brown Band.

        Tara: Johnson and Zac Brown Band are both deserving recipients of this award, but I personally prefer the band’s music. With the commercial success Rucker’s seen in the past year, though, I think it’s his award to lose. Not too sure how I feel about that.  

        thatlonesomesongAlbum of the Year

        Should Win:

        • Jamey Johnson, That Lonesome Song – Leeann, Dan
        • Brad Paisley, American Saturday NightTara
        • Sugarland, Love on the InsideKevin
        • Taylor Swift, Fearless
        • Keith Urban, Defying Gravity
        Will Win:
        • Jamey Johnson, That Lonesome Song – Kevin, Dan, Tara
        • Brad Paisley, American Saturday Night
        • Sugarland, Love on the Inside
        • Taylor Swift, Fearless – Leeann
        • Keith Urban, Defying Gravity

        Leeann: While Johnson’s album hasn’t really stuck with me over the past year or so, I still think it’s the best album out of the bunch.  I think Swift will win, however, due to the volume of sales and hit singles.

        Dan: All of these albums have strengths, but That Lonesome Song is the only one that makes me optimistic about country music’s future. I expect it to triumph, though Swift’s has a great shot, too.

        Tara: Paisley’s album, to me, strikes that sweet balance of traditional and contemporary. I think it’s a strong, interesting and relevant album that epitomizes why Paisley is so deservingly successful. But Johnson will deserve this award when he takes it, and I recognize and appreciate his positive influence on mainstream country music.

        Kevin: I expected more nods overall for Jamey Johnson. I think that the eligibility period hurt him, with the project less fresh in voters’ minds. But the CMA values traditional country more than any other awards organization, so I expect him to win this. I enjoy the Sugarland album far more than any of the other four, so I’m rooting for that one.

        Jamey smile 2Single of the Year

        Should Win:

        • “Chicken Fried” – Zac Brown Band
        • “I Run to You” – Lady Antebellum
        • “In Color” – Jamey Johnson – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara
        • “People Are Crazy” – Billy Currington
        • “Then” – Brad Paisley
        Will Win:
        • “Chicken Fried” – Zac Brown Band
        • “I Run to You” – Lady Antebellum
        • “In Color” – Jamey Johnson – Kevin, Leeann, Tara
        • “People Are Crazy” – Billy Currington – Dan
        • “Then” – Brad Paisley

        Dan: I’ve just got a bad feeling about that Currington single. “I Run To You” does have some smokin’ production, but “In Color” is the only one of the five I can still stand.

        Tara: Ouch. I’m pleased that “I Run to You” is nominated as it’s a personal favorite, but I don’t think any song other than “In Color” is deserving of this award. Again…ouch.

        Kevin: This is the weakest lineup in the history of this category.

        Leeann: Johnson’s song feels old to me now, but it’s the best song in this underwhelming category, though I’m sure David Letterman disagrees.  While I like the production on “People Are Crazy” the best in this line-up, the hook (not to mention the frustratingly weak story development) is just lame.

        randy-travisSong of the Year

        Should Win:
        • “Chicken Fried” – Zac Brown & Wyatt Durette
        • “I Told You So” – Randy Travis – Kevin, Leeann, Tara
        • “In Color” – Jamey Johnson – Dan
        • “People Are Crazy” – Bobby Braddock & Troy Jones
        • “Then” – Chris Dubois, Ashley Gorley & Brad Paisley
        Will Win:
        • “Chicken Fried” – Zac Brown & Wyatt Durette
        • “I Told You So” – Randy Travis – Leeann
        • “In Color” – Jamey Johnson – Kevin, Dan, Tara
        • “People Are Crazy” – Bobby Braddock & Troy Jones
        • “Then” – Chris Dubois, Ashley Gorley & Brad Paisley

        Tara: I would absolutely love to see Travis take this award; Underwood’s success with the song proves that the best-written country songs are timeless. I think “In Color” has more pull, though.

        Kevin: I think Johnson will win, but kudos to Carrie Underwood for recognizing the value of the Randy Travis-penned gem and making it a hit all over again.

        Leeann: This is not one of my favorite Randy Travis songs, but for nostalgia’s sake, I’m rooting for him to win this one. I even think it has a chance of winning, since it was a hit song for one of today’s country music’s most popular artists. I think the Paisley composition is, by far, the weakest though.

        Dan: I like probable-winner “In Color” marginally more than “I Told You So.” Any of the other three winning would hurt me way down deep.

        randy-travis-and-carrie-underwoodMusical Event of the Year

        Should Win:

        • “Cowgirls Don’t Cry” – Brooks & Dunn featuring Reba McEntire
        • “Down the Road” – Kenny Chesney with Mac McAnally
        • “Everything But Quits” – Lee Ann Womack with George Strait
        • “I Told You So” – Carrie Underwood featuring Randy Travis – Kevin, Tara
        • “Old Enough” – The Raconteurs with Ricky Skaggs and Ashley Monroe – Leeann, Dan
        • “Start a Band” – Brad Paisley and Keith Urban
        Will Win:
        • “Cowgirls Don’t Cry” – Brooks & Dunn featuring Reba McEntire
        • “Down the Road” – Kenny Chesney with Mac McAnally
        • “Everything But Quits” – Lee Ann Womack with George Strait
        • “I Told You So” – Carrie Underwood featuring Randy Travis – Kevin, Dan, Tara
        • “Old Enough” – The Raconteurs with Ricky Skaggs and Ashley Monroe
        • “Start a Band” – Brad Paisley and Keith Urban – Leeann

        Kevin: Will the CMA really pass up the chance to give a trophy to Randy Travis for the first time in 21 years? I hope not.

        Leeann: Paisley’s and Urban’s collaboration was originally accidentally left off the ballot, but the superstar pairing is the most likely to win.  Conversely, I suspect that the inclusion of the collaboration with Ricky Skaggs and Ashley Monroe was likely an accident, but I’d still love to see this dark horse nomination win. It’s certainly the most interesting song of the category.  I might have gone for the Underwood/Travis pairing if Travis’ inclusion didn’t seem so random.  I liked Underwood’s original version better, as Vince Gill’s harmony seemed more natural.

        Dan: It’s totally between “I Told You So” and “Start A Band”, but I’m pulling for the underdog Raconteurs record, too. I like my collaborations a little spontaneous like that, and it’s always great to see outsiders included in the CMA fold.

        Tara: While I have a particular soft spot for “Down the Road,” which I thought was one of the best singles of 2008, it should come as no surprise that I’m pulling for the beautiful, rough-and-pure “I Told You So.” I think it will easily win.

        george_straitMusic Video of the Year

        Should Win:
        • “Boots On” – Randy Houser
        • “Love Story” – Taylor Swift
        • “People Are Crazy” – Billy Currington
        • “Start a Band” – Brad Paisley and Keith Urban
        • “Troubadour” – George Strait – Kevin, Dan, Tara
        Will Win:
        • “Boots On” – Randy Houser
        • “Love Story” – Taylor Swift – Kevin, Dan, Tara
        • “People Are Crazy” – Billy Currington
        • “Start a Band” – Brad Paisley and Keith Urban
        • “Troubadour” – George Strait

        Dan: I enjoy the Strait video most, but Swift’s is the flashiest, and that tends to win out.

        Tara: Strait’s video is poignant and tastefully done. I never understood the appeal of Swift’s Shakespearean video, but apparently a whole generation of country music fans does. My money’s on Swift.

        Kevin: I think the Swift fairytale will get the most votes, but the Strait clip hypnotizes me every time it’s on. Who knew a simple slide show could be so powerful and such a perfect fit for a song?

        paul-franklinMusician of the Year
        Should Win:
        • Eddie Bayers (drums)
        • Paul Franklin (steel guitar) – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara
        • Dan Huff (guitar)
        • Brent Mason (guitar)
        • Mac McAnally (guitar)

        Will Win:

        • Eddie Bayers (drums)
        • Paul Franklin (steel guitar)
        • Dan Huff (guitar)
        • Brent Mason (guitar)
        • Mac McAnally (guitar) – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara

        Dan: I should really start paying more attention to this kind of thing. But I know Paul Franklin’s been doing steel for everyone from Lyle Lovett to Rascal Flatts in the past year. Respek!

        Tara:
        Franklin’s the one I’m most familiar with, and I agree with Kevin and Dan that he deserves it. I’ll admit I’m not entirely sure how to gauge who’ll win this year, but I suppose I’d go with McAnally again.

        Kevin: I guess that McAnally will repeat his victory from last year. The other previous winners won quite a bit of time ago – Dann Huff in 2001 and 2004, Brent Mason in 1997 and 1998.  My sympathy goes to Eddie Bayers, who is nominated for the tenth time and has yet to win. I have no choice but to pull for Paul Frankin, though, who has lost this award sixteen times.  Here’s hoping that seventeen’s a charm!

        Leeann: Please don’t let it be Dann Huff! That’s all I ask.  Of course, I’m partial to the steel guitar, not to mention that it’s a shame that a steel guitar player has to work so hard to win a country music award.

        83 Comments

        Filed under CMA Awards

        Review: Lee Ann Womack, “There is a God”

        Lee Ann Womack“There is a God” is a thought that often crosses my mind when Lee Ann Womack is singing, so it’s somewhat appropriate that she’s released a song with that title.  Of course, Womack’s more effective when she’s singing about Saturday night than she is about Sunday morning, unless she’s hating herself in the morning after that Saturday night.

        I actually believe that the aesthetic explanation for the existence of God is a powerful one, which is the case that Womack makes here.  She’s just not making the case very well. That’s mostly because of the lyrics, but her tepid performance certainly does a good part of the damage, too. If ever there was a time to sing with some conviction, this was it.

        I also have to say that one line really rubbed me the wrong way and took this from a song that I could tolerate to one that made me too uncomfortable to listen to it again. At one point, she puts up as an example of God’s existence: “Hearing the doctor say, ‘I can’t explain it, but the cancer’s gone.'”  That’s a line I’ve never heard a doctor say, as the disease has claimed one family member of mine after another in recent years. To follow the song to its logical conclusion, I’d have to believe that there is a God, but He’s selective with his miracles. I believe the former but not the latter.

        Thankfully, the song wasn’t grabbing me before that line anyway. I’m sure this will be a big hit with a tie-in Hallmark book and all that, but I’ll sit this one out.  When she’s back to being a honky tonk angel, let me know.

        Grade: B-

        Listen: There is a God

        52 Comments

        Filed under Single Reviews

        Bargain Hunter: The Rodney Crowell Collection

        RC CollectionWhen Rodney Crowell had his gold-selling commercial breakthrough with the album Diamonds & Dirt, his previous label was quick to capitalize on his success. Usually, pre-hit cash-in CDs are little more than a curiosity, but Crowell’s is the exception.

        There is a smorgasbord of great material here, including early versions of songs that Crowell would see other artists have success with the same songs.

        Some of Crowell’s strongest compositions are here, such as:

        • “‘Til I Gain Control Again”, a #1 hit for Crystal Gayle that was recorded earlier by Emmylou Harris
        • “I Ain’t Living Long Like This”, a #1 hit for Waylon Jennings that was recorded earlier by Emmylou Harris
        • “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight”, a #1 hit for the Oak Ridge Boys that was recorded earlier by Emmylou Harris
        • “Ashes By Now”, a top five hit for Lee Ann Womack that was recorded earlier by Emmylou Harris
        • “I Don’t Have to Crawl”, a minor hit for Emmylou Harris that was later recorded by Rosanne Cash
        • “Shame on the Moon”, a top fifteen country hit for Bob Seeger
        • “Victim or a Fool”, a top forty hit for Crowell that was also recorded by Crystal Gayle
        • “Stars on the Water”, later covered by George Strait and Jimmy Buffett

        How good was this guy’s ear? Even the songs he didn’t write went on to become hits, with Ricky Skaggs taking “Heartbroke” to #1 and Juice Newton scoring a massive pop hit with “Queen of Hearts.”  The only thing missing here is “Elvira”, which Crowell also recorded first.

        This has always been a budget collection, but now it’s incredibly affordable – twelve tracks for $5.49.  Given that Warner is asking for $9.90 for the far inferior Pam Tillis Collection, which includes only ten tracks, this one’s a steal.

        3 Comments

        Filed under Bargain Hunter