As if narrowing down your five favorite albums or your five favorite songs isn’t difficult enough, lets make things even more difficult by trying to narrow down our favorite song from our favorite albums. Don’t worry, however, if you can’t choose five. Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson, “One More Year” (Rattlin’ Bones) Shovels and Rope, “Birmingham” (Oh Be Joyful) Dixie Chicks, “Long Time Gone” (Home) Johnny Cash, “Cocaine Blues” (Folsom Prison Blues) Old Crow Medicine Show, “Wagon Wheel” (O.C.M.S.)
Old Crow Medicine Show
Actively writing single reviews again has me also looking at the radio charts again. What a bleak landscape of interchangeable singers and songs! I can’t remember things ever being this generic and bland. We flirted with it back in the Kellie Coffey days, but the bottom didn’t fall out. Today, is there even a bottom? An old friend of mine listened to country radio for the first time in presumably years and asked, “Am I crazy, or is everyone getting drunk on country radio?” He’s not crazy. What can we do to fix this? Today’s Top Five asks: What five songs would you immediately put in heavy rotation on country radio? They can already be singles, or could be unreleased songs that you think should be singles, but they should be current enough to be featured on an artist’s most recent album. Here’s my top five: Old Crow Medicine Show, Read More
Ralph Stanley & Friends Man of Constant Sorrow Perhaps the uninitiated may have “discovered” Ralph Stanley through his participation in the O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack, For those who have spent their lives appreciating the man and his music, Ralph Stanley is a certified living legend — not to mention one of the last remaining links to that first generation of bluegrass musicians who blazed the trail for newgrassers and traditionalists alike. Even though he threatened retirement not long ago, the 87-year-old singer is back with a new duets album, available through Cracker Barrel stores.
“One Hell of an Amen” Brantley Gilbert Written by Brian Davis, Mike Dekle, and Brantley Gilbert I actually feel kind of bad for Brantley Gilbert. His heart is totally in the right place. But the execution is absolutely horrendous. Attempting to tackle two different tragedies in one song – a fallen soldier and death by cancer – and fails to stumble upon any truth in either individual situation, let alone a compelling connection between the two.
Telecast Winners: Best Country Album: Miranda Lambert, Platinum Album of the Year: Beck, Morning Phase Best New Artist: Sam Smith Record of the Year: Sam Smith, “Stay With Me (Darkside Version)” Song of the Year: “Stay With Me” – James Napier, William Phillips & Sam Smith Pre-Telecast Winners: Best Country Solo Performance: Carrie Underwood, “Something in the Water” Best Country Duo/Group Performance: The Band Perry, “Gentle on My Mind” Best Country Song: “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” – Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond Best American Roots Performance: Rosanne Cash, “A Feather’s Not a Bird” Best American Roots Song: “A Feather’s Not a Bird” – Rosanne Cash and John Leventhal Best Americana Album: Rosanne Cash, The River & the Thread Best Folk Album: Old Crow Medicine Show, Remedy Best Bluegrass Album: The Earls of Leicester, The Earls of of Leicester Best Contemporary Instrumental Album: Chris Thile & Edgar Meyer, Bass & Mandolin Read More
Jon Pardi Write You a Song A surprisingly entertaining debut effort, Jon Pardi’s relentless enthusiasm infuses even mediocre material with enough energy to make it listenable. Of course, that’s the advantage of a debut album. Even if the material isn’t fresh, the artist is. So the real promise for Pardi’s future is his ability to write and record songs that are a cut above the average radio fare of the day. He does this on the best tracks of Write You a Song, most significantly on the title track, where a traveling musician leaves behind a one night stand in every town, but basically says, “Hey! When you hear that song of mine on the radio, I wrote it about you!”
2014 was a banner year for country music albums. In addition to the predictably solid entries from the Americana, folk, and bluegrass scenes, some excellent albums also surfaced from the unlikeliest of sources: mainstream, radio-friendly contemporary country artists! Here are our twenty favorite albums from 2014. Fingers crossed that 2015 is as good or better than this year has been. #20 Jennifer Nettles That Girl KJC #8 | LW #16 A confident, intelligent solo project that washes away all of the bitter taste left by Sugarland’s preceding studio album, The Incredible Machine. Nettles manages to remind us what was so appealing about the trio-turned-duo in the first place, while also staking out her own musical territory that has room for independence anthems alongside wry, humorous commentary on society and, of course, palpably vulnerable heartbreak numbers. – Kevin John Coyne Recommended Tracks: “Me Without You”, “Know You Wanna Know”, “Jealousy”
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
Does failure to reach a consensus indicate a year that lacked quality, or a year that had enough interesting singles that subjective taste is enough to prevent a consensus? This was the dilemma faced by the Country Universe staff as we compiled our Best Singles of 2014 feature. We followed our usual routine. Each writer submitted their list of the twenty best singles of the year, and our numbers guru Jonathan Keefe used his time-test algorithm to produce a collective ranking. But this year, there was only one single that appeared on four out of five lists. The rest: three or less. Rather than shorten the list to showcase only those songs chosen by multiple writers, we decided to stick to the usual forty slots, and let quite a few songs embraced only by one writer to have their place in the sun. The result is probably the most diverse Read More
For the second year in a row, our seven writers – Kevin Coyne, Leeann Ward, Dan Milliken, Tara Seetharam, Ben Foster, Jonathan Keefe, and Sam Gazdziak – individually listed our twenty favorite albums and singles of the year. It’s a diverse crop of singles, some of which dominated country radio, while others were primarily heard in the Americana, bluegrass, and alternative country worlds. Today, we present the first half of our singles list, with the conclusion to follow tomorrow. Share your favorites in the comments!
“Someone Somewhere Tonight”
Individual rankings: #16 – Ben; #19 – Tara
A sweeping power ballad anchored by an intimate chorus and Pickler’s pleading sincerity. – Tara Seetharam