Okay, I have an idea. Carrie Underwood should take another year or two to look for strong new material for her next proper studio album. In the meantime, she can release a 2-CD set of cover songs. The first disc: country hits of days gone by, in the same vein as “I Told You So.” The second disc: pop/rock power ballads. I’m not going to front. I’d probably listen to the second disc more. I don’t know what it is about American Idol that leads Underwood down this road so many times, but good Lord, it works. Every. Single. Time. “Alone” made her the front-runner when she was still on the show. “I’ll Stand By You” and “Praying For Time” were better than her current radio singles when they were released. And now, Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home.” She sings material like this so naturally that it’s easy to forget Read More
The following is a guest contribution from Country Universe reader Erik North. Sometimes you first find out about your favorite artists not necessarily from your peers but, strangely enough, from either your parents or your relatives. In the case of Linda Ronstadt, I found about her through my aunt, who had a copy of Linda’s 1978 album Living In The U.S.A. that I listened to when I was eight years old back in 1978. Since that time, I have been a very staunch fan of Linda’s, even on those occasions when her excursions into other musical arenas have driven others to distraction. As it is with Elvis or the Beatles, if you have to have Linda Ronstadt explained to you, you may never get it. Linda is not one of those who confines herself to any single genre; while that does tend to cause people a lot of problems, it’s in Read More
Revised and Updated for 2009 While the Grammys have honored country music from the very first ceremony in 1959, they did not begin honoring by gender until 1965, when the country categories were expanded along with the other genre categories. This is a look back at the Best Female Country Vocal Performance category. It was first awarded in 1965, an included single competing with albums until the Best Country Album category was added in 1995. When an album is nominated, it is in italics, and a single track is in quotation marks. I’ve often made the case that female artists were making the best music in the 1990s, and the Grammys did a great job nominating songs and albums that were ignored at the CMA and ACM awards, which is not surprising, given that those shows have so few categories that are actually for songs and albums. As usual, we Read More
A look back at the previous winners and nominees of the Best Country Album Grammy, updated to include the 2009 contenders. The Grammys have been doing better in the country categories since they reintroduced the Best Country Album category in 1995, which had only been in existence for two years in the 1960s. Prior to 1995, albums and singles were both eligible in the vocalist categories, so full albums would compete against single tracks in Best Male Country Vocal Performance, for example. Looking over the history of this fairly young category, you can see trends emerge, with certain acts clearly being favorites of NARAS. You see the same trend with the CMAs, just with different people. What is clear with the Grammys is that radio and retail success will only carry you so far. For awards that are supposed to be based on artistic merit, that’s how it should be. Read More
The following is a guest contribution from Country Universe reader Cory DeStein. Throughout my life I have attempted to share my taste in music with those around me. More often than not friends and family will show a interest then kindly move onto the next subject. Only one person in my life has shown me that genuine interest in everything I have ever done. I will never know if we really had that much in common, or if she was just that good at making me happy. That’s a secret I never want to know. Though we shared many interests in music, food, television and in life, there was one topic we both we both enjoyed: the music of Trisha Yearwood. Throughout the years, I had chances to meet Trisha backstage and at a book signing. Each time she kindly agreed to personalize a photo for my grandmother. During a Read More
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
Earlier this month, my friend and colleague Leeann Ward shared her favorite songs by Dolly Parton. I’m happy to now share mine. My respect for Parton as an artist knows no bounds. I don’t think there is another figure in country music that is visible in so many of the contours of the genre’s history. Given that I have a taste for country, pop, bluegrass, and damn fine songwriting, it was no small feat picking just twenty-five songs. This is just a sampling of her deep catalog, one that is long overdue to be fully reissued. Some of these tracks are hard to find, but most can be downloaded digitally or purchased on CDs, though you may need to scour compilations to find them. #25 “Those Were the Days” Those Were the Days, 2005 The title track from Parton’s third collection of cover songs is all bittersweet nostalgia, looking back Read More
Tonight’s Recommend a Track, “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind?”, has been recorded three times by its songwriter Dolly Parton. First, as a solo tune, it was the B-side to the 1982 version of “I Will Always Love You.” Then in 1990, it was cut as a duet with Randy Travis on his album Heroes and Friends. Tonight’s recommendation is the third recording of the song, this time with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris. Finally, the song is recorded in a pure country style, with Harris singing lead. It’s the best showcase for one of Parton’s best lyrics. What’s your recommendation tonight?
With more than a hundred chart hits to her name, including 25 #1 singles and 57 top tens, Dolly Parton is the most successful singles artist in country music history. But even before she was a hit on the radio as a singer, her songs had already been in heavy rotation. They were just sung by different artists. Throughout the past five decades, there have been countless versions of her songs recorded, so narrowing them down to six is no easy feat. It might be best to look at this list as an introduction, rather than a conclusion. Either way, these six cuts are essential listening. “The Last One to Touch Me”, Porter Wagoner from the 1971 album Simple as I Am Parton and Wagoner recorded quite a few of her songs together on their various duet albums, but Wagoner had a hit on his own with a Parton composition Read More
One of the landmarks of Dolly Parton’s career was the Trio album, her platinum-selling collaboration with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris. It was one of the few country albums in history to receive a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year, and it won every major industry award, including the ACM for Top Album. Just as compelling was Parton’s collaboration with Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette, which went gold despite zero support from country radio. After another collaboration with Ronstadt and Harris in the late nineties, there hasn’t been another collaboration of the sort from any major country artists. I think this concept needs to be updated for the 21st Century. My vote is for a Lorrie Morgan, Pam Tillis and Carlene Carter album that fulfills the promise of their headlining 1996 tour. Which three artists would you like to see put out a trio album?