Mark Wills

Single Review: Hunter Hayes, “Invisible”

February 2, 2014 // 23 Comments

Hunter Hayes InvisibleHunter Hayes scored a killer Grammy performance slot to debut this song, which has all of the necessary components to become a career record.

Showing solidarity with the outcasts in high school halls is as timely as ever, and his youth helps him be the ideal vessel for the heartwarming message. There are moments which come perilously close to the maudlin, with shades of Billy Gilman’s “One Voice” or the Mark Wills hit, “Don’t Laugh at Me.” Thankfully, he’s sounding a lot more like a young Keith Urban than a young Bryan White, and the song is just vague enough that it can become a personal anthem for pretty much anyone who feels unnoticed or noticed in all the wrong ways.

Pop Goes Country – A Cover Song Report Card

November 15, 2011 // 40 Comments

Cover songs can be a hot topic at just about any given time. We recently got to hear a somewhat underwhelming OneRepublic cover by Faith Hill, which Kevin recently reviewed. Other recent attempts include Sara Evans’ pop-country reworking of Rod Stewart’s “My Heart Can’t Tell You No,” as well as last year’s polarizing Beyoncé cover by Reba McEntire.

Since cover songs are so much fun to talk about, I thought I’d weigh in on a few well-known cover songs from the past few years – the good ones, as well as a few that we would rather forget. My criteria is simple: A good cover song should bring something new to the table, and the song should be treated in a way that is well-suited to the artist as well as the genre. This list focuses specifically on country covers of non-country songs.

Searching for Gary Harrison

September 18, 2010 // 11 Comments

Written by Bob Losche (Music & More)

Google “Gary Harrison songwriter” and you won’t find a website or MySpace. There’s not even a Wikipedia article. Don’t know where he’s from, how he got into songwriting or what he likes to eat for dinner.

As far as I know, he has never made an album. When he co-writes a song, does he write the music or the lyrics or a little of both? Don’t know. He’s a Grammy nominated songwriter as co-writer of “Strawberry Wine”, the 1997 CMA Song of the Year, and has penned many BMI Award-Winning Songs. It appears that his first big hit was “Lying in Love with You”, written with Dean Dillon for Jim Ed Brown and Helen Cornelius. The duet went to #2 in 1979.

400 Greatest Singles of the Nineties: #375-351

July 7, 2010 // 21 Comments

The second segment of our countdown includes the first appearances by Garth Brooks and Reba McEntire, two of the biggest-selling stars of the decade.

How Do I Get There
Deana Carter
1997 | Peak: #1

It’s always a gamble when friends decide to take their relationship to the next level. “How Do I Get There” explores the struggle of following one’s heart, even though it’s taking a big emotional risk to do so. – Leeann Ward

If I Could Make a Living
Clay Walker
1994 | Peak: #1

This song is either ridiculously cheesy or irresistibly cheesy depending on your taste, but there’s no denying Walker sells the heck out of it with charm and enthusiasm. – Tara Seetharam

ACM Flashback: Single Record of the Year

April 3, 2010 // 11 Comments

As with the similar CMA category of Single of the Year, looking over the history of this category is the quickest way to get a snapshot of country music in a given year. There is a quite a bt of consensus among the two organizations here, and it is very rare for the winner at one show to not at least be nominated at the other. The winners list here would make a great 2-disc set of country classics, at least for those who don’t mind a little pop in their country. The ACM definitely has more of a taste for crossover than its CMA counterpart, and the organizations have only agreed on 17 singles in the past four decades and change.

As always, we start with a look at this year’s nominees and work our way back to 1968.


  • Zac Brown Band, “Toes”
  • Billy Currington, “People Are Crazy”
  • Lady Antebellum, “Need You Now”
  • Miranda Lambert, “White Liar”
  • David Nail, “Red Light”

There’s usually a “Huh?” nominee among the ACM list in recent years. This year, it’s David Nail. Good for him! Currington hasn’t won yet for this hit, even though he got himself a Grammy nomination for it. With Lady Antebellum reaching the upper ranks of the country and pop charts with “Need You Now”, my guess is that they’re the presumptive favorites. Then again, Miranda Lambert is a nominee for the third straight year, and she’s up for her biggest radio hit.


  • Trace Adkins, “You’re Gonna Miss This”
  • Jamey Johnson, “In Color”
  • Miranda Lambert, “Gunpowder & Lead”
  • Heidi Newfield, “Johnny and June”
  • Brad Paisley, “Waitin’ On a Woman”

Adkins has been a fairly regular fixture on country radio since 1996, but this was his first major industry award. He also won the ACM for Top New Male Vocalist in 1997.

The Worst Singles of the Decade, Part 1: #50-#41

October 21, 2009 // 61 Comments

Worst SinglesAs we begin our look back on the last ten years in country music, we’re starting with the bottom. Over the next few days, you’ll be reading about the worst that country music sent to radio in the 2000s, much of which they actually played.

But first, a disclaimer. This list makes no attempt to objectively list the worst singles of the decade. If that’s what I was going for here, I’d just post a collection of homemade tracks and twenty Rascal Flatts singles and call it a day. Instead, this list takes a broader view, including songs from accomplished artists that were just disappointing, copycat and fad-chasing numbers, and just plain old mediocre efforts.

This isn’t the type of thing we normally do, but I’m sure I’ll hear what I’m right about, what I’m wrong about, and what I forgot to include in the first place! Look for the best-of lists to follow as the year starts winding down.

The Worst Singles of the Decade, Part 1: #50-#41

Mark Wills, “19 Somethin'”

Pick a decade, man.

Toby Keith, “Who’s Your Daddy?”

The biggest casualty of Keith’s ascent to superstardom was his quality check. When your label lets you put out anything and radio goes ahead and plays it, the blame must be spread around for such silliness as this.

Halfway to Hazard, “Daisy”

In which a girl’s sole reasons for existing are to make a boy a man, lead him to God, and give him a child. After that, you can just kill her off in the final verse. This is why people hate country music.

Discussion: Different Approaches

November 23, 2008 // 8 Comments

Typically, I listen to the songs on my iPod via the various playlists I’ve created. However, the other day, for some reason, I listened to my iPod on shuffle. These were the first two songs my iPod played: Merle Haggard’s “Okie from Muskogee” and Todd Snider’s “Conservative, Christian, Right-Wing Republican, Straight White American Males.” No joke. Apparently, my iPod has a sense of humor. The “joke” got me thinking, however, about country songs that tackle similar subject matter from opposite points of view or take divergent approaches to the same theme. It’s fairly easy these days to find songs with a similar take on a subject matter, but finding differing takes is a little more difficult. Browsing through my iPod, I came up with a few additional pairs: Carrie Underwood’s “All American Girl” celebrates the success of the stereotypical all-American girl, while Terry Allen’s “The Great Joe Bob” celebrates the Read More

Mark Wills, “The Things We Forget”

September 27, 2008 // 6 Comments

Mark Wills’ album, Familiar Stranger, his first on the newly-formed Tenacity Records, is scheduled for release on October 28. His first single, “The Things We Forget,” finds him reminiscing about the rural life and its slower, simpler pleasures. Although a majority of Wills’ success occurred in the ’90s, he’s freshened up his sound to run with the radio-friendly artists. His voice is a little more comfortable with the verses, with just a hint of twang as he pangs for the simpler times of the past. He stretches just a little far in the chorus, but a more laidback arrangement would have suited his vocal style better. Yet, the song itself embraces the country way without pushing the easy, emotional buttons that most songs of a similar subject, even without much of a unique take on the matter. Grade: B- Listen: The Things We Forget