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!
Country music is well represented in the major categories – numerically, at least – and the overall nominee list proves once again that NARAS voters have the widest, most diverse, and yes, best taste of all industry award voters.
Here are this year’s nominees in the big four and all country and country-related categories. It’s worth noting that because Miranda Lambert won Best Country Album last year for Platinum, nothing from that set was eligible in any of the Country categories.
We can thank the shortsighted radio consultant Keith Hill for one thing: drawing attention to the women of country music in a year where so many of them are making outstanding music. As their mainstream counterparts cycle through a series of one-note styles and themes, female country artists are putting out diverse and decidedly more progressive music, even as they draw influence from previous generations. That they do so while supporting each other makes it all the more impressive.
It would be futile of us to ignore the recent sad news of Miranda Lambert’s and Blake Shelton’s divorce announcement, since it is a reality. We, however, have no desire to participate in the speculation or sensationalism of the news. Instead, it seems most appropriate to put some focus back on the music right about now. It’s no secret that Miranda Lambert is one of the few mainstream country artists that I enjoy anymore. As I contemplated this FSBFA, I wondered if she would have 25 songs that would warrant such a feature on her, since she’s only released five albums so far. It turns out that, as is the case with every FSBFA feature, not only are there 25 Lambert songs that I love, the 25 slots felt limited, as I had to leave many songs off the list. So, here are 25 of my favorite Lambert songs in Read More
Every album tries to starts off strong, but it’s usually the second track that convinces you to keep listening to the rest. What do you think are the best second tracks on albums? Here’s my list: “Straight Tequila Night”, John Anderson (Seminole Wind) “Blown Away”, Carrie Underwood (Blown Away) “Dry Town”, Miranda Lambert (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) “Guitars, Cadillacs”, Dwight Yoakam (Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.) “Let Him Fly”, Patty Griffin (Living With Ghosts)
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”
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.
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”
A Leaving Song.
Here are the staff picks:
Leeann Ward: “She’s Crazy For Leavin'” – Rodney Crowell
For me, this song plays out like a movie scene in one of those wacky romantic comedies. The guy is over-the-top trying to convince his girl not to go, saying that “she’s crazy for leaving”, while everyone else at the bus stop pretty much knows he’s the crazy one and tells him to just let her go. I especially love the hook, “You can’t stop a woman when she’s out of control.” Few can write tongue in cheek like Crowell and Guy Clark, I tell ya.
Male Country Vocal Performance: Keith Urban, “‘Til Summer Comes Around”
Country Duo/Group Vocal Performance: Lady Antebellum, “Need You Now”
Country Song: Dave Haywood, Josh Kear, Charles Kelley & Hillary Scott, “Need You Now”
Country Collaboration with Vocals: Zac Brown Band featuring Alan Jackson, “As She’s Walking Away”
Country Instrumental Performance: Marty Stuart, “Hummingbyrd”
Bluegrass Album: Patty Loveless, Mountain Soul II
Americana Album: Mavis Staples, You Are Not Alone
Traditional Folk Album: Carolina Chocolate Drops, Genuine Negro Jig
Contemporary Folk Album: Ray LaMontagne And The Pariah Dogs, God Willin’ & The Creek Don’t Rise
Southern/Country/Gospel Bluegrass Album: Diamond Rio, The Reason
Traditional Gospel Album: Patty Griffin, Downtown Church