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Country Universe’s Best Singles of 2013, Part Two: #20-#1

December 31, 2013 Kevin John Coyne 13

If this year’s singles list leaves you with a familiar feeling, it’s not your imagination. For the first time in Country Universe history, an artist has topped the year end list for two years in a row, and there are plenty of repeat appearances from CU favorites. But there are some fresh faces too, including some promising new singer-songwriters and inspired collaborations from artists we already liked an awful lot by themselves.

As always, share your thoughts and personal favorites in the comments!

Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell's "Hanging Up My Heart" is popular on XPN2: Singer-Songwriter Radio.

#20
“Hangin’ Up My Heart”
Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell

Individual rankings: #3 – Leeann; #20 – Kevin

What a way for Emmylou and Rodney to kick off their much anticipated duet project! The bouncy tune shows the power duo in fine form both in voice and spunk and signals what will turn out to be one of the finest albums of the year. – Leeann Ward

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Country Universe’s Best Albums of 2013, Part One: #40-#21

December 30, 2013 Kevin John Coyne 9

For the second year, Country Universe is publishing a 40-deep list of the year’s best albums. Part One includes releases from talented newcomers, genre legends, and quite a few entries from the outskirts of country music. As usual, that’s where most of the cool stuff can be found.

Country Universe will close out our year with the conclusion of this list tomorrow. As always, share your thoughts and opinions in the comments!

Dan Grimm Ventucky

#40
Ventucky

Dan Grimm

Individual rankings: #12 – Jonathan

The EP format doesn’t leave much margin for error, but with a knack for unconventional imagery and a style that blends vintage SoCal rock with authentic honky-tonk, Dan Grimm ensures that every track on his freewheeling, endlessly likable Ventucky is a standout. – Jonathan Keefe

Recommended Tracks: “Skeletor,” “300 Beers”

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Single Review: Little Big Town, “Sober”

October 24, 2013 Ben Foster 9

Little Big Town SoberThe “Pontoon” phenomenon may have been primarily responsible for putting Little Big Town back on the map in such a big way, but it’s their new single “Sober” that deserves to be a career hit for the talented country quartet.

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Single Review: Hunter Hayes, "I Want Crazy"

May 11, 2013 Kevin John Coyne 7

Hunter Hayes I Want CrazyHunter Hayes just scored a decently big pop hit with “Wanted”, which was initially his first big country hit. Perhaps that’s why he’s taking a cue from the pop market, and re-releasing his first album in an expanded edition called (Encore) this summer.

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Single Review: Lori McKenna, "Salt"

April 18, 2013 Kevin John Coyne 7

Lori McKenna Salt“Hearts don’t fly, but they can run like hell when they have to.”

Lori McKenna’s greatest gift as a writer is her ability to weave brilliantly constructed metaphors together with remarkably specific and quite often mundane details of small town, working class life.

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iPod Check: Most Played Song by Twenty Country Artists

August 12, 2012 Kevin John Coyne 24

Since bringing back Recommend a Track proved so popular, I’m resurrecting another CU oldie but goodie: the iPod check.

I’ve only recently discovered the Most Played feature on iTunes, since it never had any relevance until iPods were large enough in memory to sync all of my music. So going back to early 2011, I have a lengthy list of the songs I’ve played the most.

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Top Twenty Albums of 2011, Part Two: #10-#1

December 31, 2011 Kevin John Coyne 4

Our annual list concludes with a look at our ten favorite albums of 2011.

Check out Part One to see #11-#20, and look for our countdown of the year’s best singles tomorrow.

Top Twenty Albums of 2011, Part One: #10-#1

#10
Lady & Gentlemen
LeAnn Rimes

On the surface, Lady & Gentleman is a concept album, flying in the face of a genre whose gender bias sometimes feels like the elephant in the room. But as with the best concept albums, it’s not the concept that carries it. With her most thoughtful, vocally mature performances to date, Rimes herself is the heartbeat of the set, deftly navigating the songs with a blend of reverence and fearlessness.

And she has plenty of room to shine: rather than trying to rebirth a collection of classics, Rimes and her team tastefully reinvigorate the songs with production risks (“Swingin’”), lyrical twists (“Good Hearted Women”) and the occasional overhaul (“When I Call Your Name”). The result is an album that stands neither as a tribute nor as a statement, but as a unique body of work that earns its merits all on its own. – Tara Seetharam

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