Norah Jones

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

December 31, 2013 // 9 Comments

2013 turned out to be a banner year for new music, full of powerful songwriting, inspired collaborations, and truly cohesive albums that would rank among the best releases in any given year. Many of this year’s top twenty would’ve ranked much higher in other years, and many of us writers couldn’t even include all the works we deeply enjoyed this year on our personal lists, making our collective list worthy of the heartiest endorsement we could ever give.

Here’s to a great 2013, and a greedy wish that 2014 will be just as wonderful on the music front. As always, share your thoughts and personal favorites in the comments.

Charlie Worsham Rubberband

Charlie Worsham

Individual rankings: #7 – Tara; #12 – Leeann

Like Chris Young two years ago, Worsham’s voice is a commodity that instantly elevates the new artist to an orbit above the male radio regulars. His is warm and cleanly expressive, lending itself best to songs that nurture his upper register, like the jaunty “Want Me Too,” haunting “Someone Like You” or those invigorating opening bars of “Could It Be.” If only life imitated “Nashville” and its fictional stars’ uncomplicated brand of pop country, Worsham might just be the next Luke Bryan and “Rubberband” –the album’s finely produced, genre-bending title track– his next big hit. – Tara Seetharam

Recommended Tracks: “Rubberband,” “Someone Like You,” “Young to See,” “Could it Be”

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

December 30, 2013 // 10 Comments

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


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”

Album Review: The Little Willies, For the Good Times

January 10, 2012 // 5 Comments

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.

The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 6: #50-#41

December 5, 2009 // 31 Comments

The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 6

50 Mattea

Kathy Mattea, Right Out of Nowhere

Kathy Mattea has rarely sounded more open and warm than on this set of innovative folk-tinged songs. Topics of peace, love, resignation and heartache are sensitively explored in songs both written by Mattea and other well-known names, including captivating interpretations of The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Me Shelter” and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Down on the Corner.” It’s a rich album with a decisively vibrant feel. – Leeann Ward

Recommended Tracks: “Gimme Shelter”, “Down on the Corner”, “Give It Away”

49 Cash

Johnny Cash, American IV: The Man Comes Around

American IV: The Man Comes Around was the last Cash album released in his lifetime; the bulk of its tracks are covers performed by the then ailing singer. Amazingly enough, the album seems almost biographical despite the limited material written by Cash. Still, American IV is not limited to “Hurt” (written by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails), as other well-interpreted covers and Cash’s own “The Man Comes Around” help cement the depth of the album. – William Ward

Six Pack: Dolly Parton, Songwriter

December 2, 2008 // 7 Comments

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

Favorite Songs by Favorite Artists: Dolly Parton

November 30, 2008 // 16 Comments

Dolly Parton Week kicks off today with the first of two Favorite Songs by Favorite Artists entries.  Mine will follow later in the week, along with Classic Country Singles, Retro Album Reviews, Six Packs, and an Ultimate Buyer’s Guide, all focusing on the legendary Hall of Famer. – Kevin There really isn’t anything that Dolly Parton can’t do. She has a voice like an angel, but is also capable of showboating with the best of them. She plays several instruments, has written more than her share of classic songs, is an actor, owns a popular amusement park and, most importantly, is involved in many philanthropic efforts. Starting with traditional annual viewings of A Smokey Mountain Christmas on the Disney Channel, Dolly Parton is one of those people that I loved before I even knew what music genres were, let alone country music in particular. So, while I was nervous about Read More