A Conversation with Amber Hayes

January 24, 2013 Ben Foster 3






Amber Hayes

Independent country artist Amber Hayes released her first EP C’mon in the summer of 2010, and has since been covering all media ground, building up a solid fan following without the support of a major label.  She had already added “theater performer” to her resume back in 2008, when she was cast as Kathy in the Conway Twitty musical.  The year 2012 brought about the release of her second EP Any Day Is a Good Day, as well as her screen debut in the film Cowgirls ‘n Angels.  Amber Hayes recently spoke with Country Universe to discuss her accomplishments over the past year.

Album Review: Terri Clark, <i>Classic</i>

November 20, 2012 Ben Foster 9






A great covers record, no matter how sincere the artist’s intentions, must provide a satisfactory answer to one question: Why should we listen to this artist’s versions of these songs when the originals are still there for us to enjoy?






Album Review: Kellie Pickler, 100 Proof

January 24, 2012 Ben Foster 12







Kellie Pickler
100 Proof

From early on, it was announced that Pickler’s third album would more closely reflect the sound of the traditional country music that is closest to her heart, with Pickler claiming to have made the album “as country as I was allowed to make it.” The bouncy steel guitars chords of opening track “Where’s Tammy Wynette,” and opening lyrics “While I’m torn between killin’ him and lovin’ him/ He stays torn between neon lights and home” quickly announce that Pickler is not kidding.

Does that mean that the album is a retro effort? Not necessarily. Rather, Pickler and her producers Frank Liddell and Luke Wooten effectively craft a sound that gives a respectful nod to country music’s past while simultaneously making tasteful use of modern sounds. Thus, the album carries a strong traditionalist bent, but sounds vintage without sounding dated, demonstrating that it is indeed possible to create a fresh and modern contemporary country album while still maintaining a strong connection to the traditions of the past.






Album Review: The Little Willies, For the Good Times

January 10, 2012 Ben Foster 5






The Little Willies
For the Good Times

After having first formed in 2003, The Little Willies released their self-titled debut album in 2006, four years after pianist and vocalist Norah Jones had found success with her jazz and pop flavored solo album Come Away With Me.

Six years later, a second Little Willies album finally comes to light, following in the tradition of the first by featuring covers of country classics. For the Good Times finds The Little Willies covering classics songs by some of country music’s most revered (and most covered) artists, including nods to Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell, Loretta Lynn, and Dolly Parton, among others.






Veterans Day Six Pack

November 11, 2011 Kevin John Coyne 6






If history had played out the way Woodrow Wilson planned, we’d be celebrating the 92nd Armistice Day today. When first proclaimed a national holiday, Wilson declared the following:

To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.

If the Great War had been the last war, we wouldn’t be celebrating what is now known as Veterans Day. We also wouldn’t have an incredible legacy of songs about soldiers in the annals of country music.

Here are five classics that celebrate those who have served our country and the ones who love them, along with one tale that has a returned soldier that’s not being loved quite enough.






2011 CMA Awards: Staff Picks and Predictions

November 7, 2011 Ben Foster 28






It’s that time of year again! The time when we all dutifully tune in to the CMA Awards show, raise our eyebrows at the “What the heck are they doing here?” award presenters, and afterwards complain about how totally un-country the whole show was. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I can’t wait.

We’re pleased to share the Country Universe staff picks for this year’s CMA Awards, as well as our predictions of who the winners will be. This year we have some highly competitive categories in which predicting the winners is quite difficult, leading to some significantly divergent picks among our writing staff. Agree? Disagree? Join in the discussion in the comment thread below, and let us know.






Retro Single Review: Shania Twain, “Any Man of Mine”

July 29, 2011 Ben Foster 16






1995 | Peak: #1

By now, “Any Man of Mine” has become such a familiar Shania classic that it’s easy to take for granted what a bold artistic move it was at the time.

Though feminist viewpoints previously had surfaced in country music at times through the likes of Loretta Lynn and Kitty Wells, they were the exception rather than the rule in 1995. In the early to mid-nineties, it was more common for female artists like Reba to be topping the charts with sad songs that often cast the woman as the victim.






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