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

December 30, 2013 Kevin John Coyne 10

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”

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

December 30, 2013 Kevin John Coyne 13

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!

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“Someone Somewhere Tonight”
Kellie Pickler

Individual rankings: #16 – Ben; #19 – Tara

A sweeping power ballad anchored by an intimate chorus and Pickler’s pleading sincerity. – Tara Seetharam

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Getting to Know Brandy Clark

October 20, 2013 Kevin John Coyne 4

Brandy ClarkAs a general rule, you can scan the credits of any new country album and assume that if Brandy Clark is a writer on one of the songs, it’s the best song on the album. As Clark readies the release of 12 Stories, her debut album as an artist, it’s a great time for fans of that remarkable set to get caught up on Clark’s work to date.

Believe the hype. Clark really is as good as everyone is saying she is. Possibly even better, as these twenty tracks suggest. Scroll down to the bottom, and you can listen to snippets from all of them as you read along.

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CU Archives: Linda Ronstadt

August 25, 2013 Ben Foster 16

linda-ronstadtWe at Country Universe were very saddened to hear of Linda Ronstadt’s recent announcement that she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease eight months ago, and that the disease has resulted in the total loss of her ability to sing.

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Album Review: Pam Tillis & Lorrie Morgan, Dos Divas

August 8, 2013 Ben Foster 6


Pam Tillis & Lorrie Morgan
Dos Divas


If you have a soft spot for the great country artists of the nineties – particularly the generation of mature, articulate women who ruled the genre for much of the decade – the announcement of a duets album between Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan was likely a tremendous cause for excitement.  With both ladies being second-generation country stars, Opry members, touring partners, and great friends, a studio collaboration would seem a natural progression, and the lofty potential is obvious.

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Single Review: Danielle Bradbery, “The Heart of Dixie”

August 7, 2013 Ben Foster 12

Danielle-Bradbery-The-Heart-of-DixieThe debut single from The Voice Season 4 winner Danielle Bradbery has one of best productions you’re likely to hear on terrestrial country radio, heavy on the sweet sounds of fiddle and mandolin.  “The Heart of Dixie” also boasts an effective melody which rises and dips in a manner most fitting for a story about a woman leaving an unsatisfying life and finding newfound freedom on the open road.  And while the interpretive abilities of an artist still in her teens are often limited (see early LeAnn Rimes as an example), Bradbery at least sounds genuinely engaged in the story she’s telling.

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Single Review: Chris Young, "Aw Naw"

May 11, 2013 Kevin John Coyne 8

Chris Young Aw NawIt’s hard not to root for Chris Young. He can really sing and his music would sound identifiably country if it was released twenty years ago, making it sound like Hank Williams in comparison to what’s passing for it these days.

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