This week’s round-up is a bit light on Chris Stapleton news… if only because we already have a post about the Grammy nominations, where he scored a total of 4 nods, including the all-genre Album Of The Year award. But there are some terrific reissues out this week– Johnny Cash! Dolly Parton! Connie Smith!!!– some pop crossover bids to dissect, an honor for a genre legend, and country music’s second-most impressive beard. Onward!
Earlier this week, writer and friend-of-Country Universe C.M. Wilcox announced that he was shuttering his blog, Country California. The crew here have long been admirers of the sharp, insightful writing and wry humor that Country California brought to the country music blogosphere, and we all wish Chris the best in his new ventures.
This week in 1792, Kentucky became the fifteenth state to join the union. It’s also the state that two Country Universe writers – Jonathan Keefe and myself – call home. Kentucky is well known as the home of bluegrass music, but our state’s rich musical heritage spans multiple genres. A wide variety of music legends hail from the bluegrass state, while its unique natural beauty and varied culture has served as inspiration for many a songwriter. Jonathan and I have put our heads together for a Country Universe Top Five that covers two topics in one. I’ve chosen my top five favorite artists from Kentucky, while he has chosen his top five favorite songs about Kentucky. Since there are plenty of eligible inclusions for both topics, this leaves plenty of room for reader discussion, so be sure to share your own choices in the comments. Ben’s Top Five Artists from Kentucky: 1. Read More
The countdown concludes with our top twenty singles of 2014. Check out the first twenty entries here, and look for our countdown of the year’s twenty best albums tomorrow. #20 “The Devil is All Around” Shovels & Rope LW #5 | JK #13 The soulful husband-wife duo that comprises Shovels and Rope delivers a no holes barred analysis of trials and temptations, which boils down to the idea that the devil is all around, which means that one must do what he can to push against such a devastating force. – Leeann Ward
The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 8
Trisha Yearwood, Heaven, Heartache, and the Power of Love
The latest album from Trisha Yearwood was one of her best yet, with a surprisingly loose sound and quite a few more uptempo tracks than is the norm for this queen of the ballads. The best moments came from the pens of female songwriters, most notably the poignant “Dreaming Fields” penned by Matraca Berg. – Kevin Coyne
Recommended Tracks: “This Is Me You’re Talking To”, “Dreaming Fields”, “Sing You Back to Me”
Pam Tillis, Rhinestoned
On Rhinestoned, Pam Tillis demonstrates that she need not limit herself to covering her father’s songs in order to make a stellar traditional leaning album in her own right. The album, co-produced by Tillis, is consistent with accessible melodies, gentle, classic arrangements and impressively nuanced performances. While this is Tillis’ best album of the decade, it’s also possibly the best of her substantive career.
Recommended Tracks: “Something Burning Out”, Band in the Window”, “Life Has Sure Changed Us Around” (with John Anderson)
There’s something for everyone this month at Amazon. The ever-thoughtful editors there have marked down 50 prime MP3 albums to $5 apiece for the duration of May. Among their choices:
Kenny Rogers, The Gambler: Something of a concept album revolving around the iconic title track. It’s regarded as one of his best full albums.
Jamey Johnson, That Lonesome Song: Nashville’s critical favorite of 2008 if you don’t count Taylor Swift’s Fearless as “country.”
Neko Case, Middle Cyclone: A well-received rock-leaning outing from the alt-country favorite. Has a very weird and very cool album cover.