The last few weeks have been full of discussions, debates and even steps and leaps toward major social changes. Songs that most easily hit my sweet spot are songs with thoughtful social commentary. Happily, even with its stereotypes of drinking, cheating and, now, tailgating, country music has not been shy about commenting on social issues. Here are five of my favorite songs with social commentary. What are some of yours? Radney Foster, “Not in My House” Waylon Jennings, “America” Gail Davies, “Unwed Fathers” Peter Cooper, “715 (For Hank Aaron)” Dolly Parton, “Just Because I’m a Woman”
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!
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”
Countless albums were released in 2010, in mainstream country music, Americana, bluegrass, and all the other loosely associated sub-genres that make up the country universe. Of those albums, our writers particularly enjoyed the following twenty. All four writers submitted top ten lists for th year, and amazingly enough, there were exactly twenty different albums among them. So if you’re wondering if your favorite album just missed the list…it didn’t. But we’d love to hear why we were wrong in the comments.
Enjoy part one now, and look for the top ten on Friday.
Tomorrow’s hits today, should the current crop of hitmakers want something as good on the radio as “Long Time Gone” or “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive”, or just want to have an album cut for the ages like “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive.” Scott’s a singer’s songwriter, delivering his songs with enough personality to elevate them above demos but leaving enough room for improvisation, so that any singer can put their own spin on it.
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)
#10 The SteelDrivers, The SteelDrivers Chris Stapleton’s voice just blows me away. As Lee Ann Womack has recently observed, he sings like a real man. He takes Travis Tritt’s soulfulness to a whole new level. With incredible harmonies and terrific songs not limited to “Blue Side of the Mountain” and “Drinkin’ Dark Whiskey”, this is a strong project that certainly stood out in 2008. #9 Jason Boland & The Stragglers, Comal County Blue I love Boland’s folk-tinged country voice, which sings these memorable fiddle laden melodies to great affect. While the lyrics can be abstract at times, they still manage to feel meaningful. I’ve come to realize that what ultimately appeals to me about this album is the fact that it reminds me of good nineties country music, which is the era that drew me to this genre in the first place. #8 Darrell Scott, Modern Hymns My admiration for Read More
Happy holidays, everybody! I’m back with my personal top ten albums of the year, a list that took a stupid-long time to put together but is very nice to have done. All I would say as a note is that I like all of these albums very much and don’t think the rankings should be scrutinized to death, because my tastes certainly change frequently enough. Okay, you get it. Let’s do this. Va-VOOM! #10 Dailey and Vincent, Dailey and Vincent I typically lean progressive in my bluegrass tastes, but there’s simply no arguing with this dynamic twosome, whose debut finds them ripping into a straight-ahead traditional style with such crazy-polished singing, playing and writing that they practically become the new standard. Excellent. #9 Kathy Mattea, Coal Confession: I wasn’t quite sure how to take this one. Although I like Kathy Mattea’s voice and generally love concept albums, I had trouble Read More
In a year where excellent mainstream country albums were few and far between, there were still many wonderful projects waiting to be discovered by listeners willing to look for them. Among all releases, mainstream and alternative, traditional and contemporary, folk and Americana, the Country Universe staff deems these ten the best. #10 Jim Lauderdale & The Dream Players, Honey Songs Amazon.com Widgets You could forgive Jim Lauderdale if he showed signs of wear on Honey Songs, his fourth release in a span of 18 months. Instead, he’s produced yet another fresh package, this time by cherry-picking the best parts of rock ‘n’ roll’s roots and throwing ’em into his ever-sharp traditional songwriting blender. His tunes have never been more perfectly framed, either, which you can attribute to the aptly-named “Dream Players,” a droolworthy backing line-up consisting of guitarist James Burton and drummer Ron Tutt (both Elvis Presley vets), pianist Glen Read More