Posts Tagged ‘Rascal Flatts’

The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 5: #120-#101

Friday, December 18th, 2009

The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 5: #120-#101

120 Keith Urban Be Here

“Tonight I Wanna Cry”
Keith Urban
Peak: #2

A chillingly frank portrait of loneliness, awkward reference to “All By Myself” notwithstanding. Few mainstream vocalists today could pull off something this intense. – Dan Milliken

119 Loretta Van Lear Rose

“Portland, Oregon”
Loretta Lynn with Jack White
Peak: Did not chart

If you can take a healthy dose of dirty rock ‘n’ roll in your country, this is one of the coolest-sounding records of the decade, a classic one-night-stand duet. That it’s a very cross-generational pairing singing it would be creepy if not for the goofy smiles shining through Lynn’s and White’s performances. – DM (more…)

The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 2: #180-#161

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 2: #180-#161

180 Flatts Melt

“These Days”
Rascal Flatts
Peak: #1

It’s the pairing of aching nostalgia and all the power that comes with a Flatts country-pop ballad that makes this song so potent. – Tara Seetharam

179 Ashton

“Takin’ Off This Pain”
Ashton Shepherd
Peak: #20

Like a wide-eyed hybrid of Loretta Lynn and Jennifer Nettles, Shepherd burst onto the scene snapping her newly ring-free fingers at the clueless sap not treating her right. Next Decade, please take note: you’ve got a star in waiting. – Dan Milliken (more…)

The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 5: #60-#51

Friday, December 4th, 2009

    The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 5

    bruce robison country sunshine

    Bruce Robison, Country Sunshine

    One of modern country’s little-known heroes, Robison has built a career on simple songs of unusually strong focus, voice and insight. His strongest collection from this decade mainly explores love at its point of disenchantment, with characters sitting at various fallouts pondering who’s to blame, who used who, or why the feelings aren’t requited. Not so much Sunshine, then, but quite a bit of Country. – Dan Milliken

    Recommended Tracks: “Friendless Marriage”, “What Would Willie Do”, “Tonight”

    59 Rascal

    Rascal Flatts, Feels Like Today

    The group has yet to hit the nail on the “Rascal Flatts” head again like they did with this country-pop album – a collection of powerful, melody-driven songs on which Gary LeVox manages to tastefully reign in his tenor. When paired with the right material –particularly deep-rooted love songs like “Bless The Broken Road” –, the Flatts boys can emote like it’s nobody’s business, resulting in soaring, passionate performances. – Tara Seetharam

    Recommended Tracks: “Where You Are”, “Bless The Broken Road”, “Oklahoma-Texas Line”

    58 Keith

    Keith Urban, Love, Pain & the whole crazy thing

    Urban’s creativity peaked with this ambitious set, with arrangements as revelatory as his lyrics. As an album, it’s a cohesive work of art, yet it still managed to produce his strongest collection of singles that work just as well outside of their home. – Kevin Coyne

    Recommended Tracks: “I Told You So”, “Stupid Boy”, “Got it Right This Time”

    57 Willie

    Willie Nelson and Asleep at the Wheel, Willie and The Wheel

    Willie Nelson teamed up with Western swing giants Asleep at the Wheal to create a project filled with warm treatments of Western swing standards. While Nelson sounds very much alive on this album, his trademark phrasing perfectly captures a relaxed, yet proficient, vibe. In order to be as prolific as Nelson tends to be, it’s common for him to minimally prepare for his recordings. It’s been reported that this was not the case for this album, however. Instead, he studied and practiced these songs until he felt comfortable enough to really do them justice. His extra effort is clearly evident as a result. – Leeann Ward

    Recommended Tracks: “Hesitation Blues”, “I Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None…”, “Right or Wrong”

    56 Brad

    Brad Paisley, American Saturday Night

    I’m drawn to albums that can flawlessly blend contemporary and traditional country music, and Paisley’s eighth album is a remarkable example in all senses. It’s a surprisingly revealing, carefully-written album that’s engaging yet lighthearted, and it embraces social consciousness as effectively as it does Paisley-seasoned humor. He’s not the first to do so, but Paisley certainly furthers the case that you can successfully look both forwards and backwards on the same album. – TS

    Recommended Tracks: “Welcome To The Future”, “Everybody’s Here”, “You Do The Math”

    ryan heartbreaker

    Ryan Adams, Heartbreaker

    Adams had already released some exemplary work with Whiskeytown by the time the Aughts rolled around, but it was his classic solo debut that cemented him as alt-country’s “It” Boy. With the aural looseness of folk and the shrewd scrutiny of classic country, Heartbreaker plays like the very encapsulation of despair, each track exposing a cathartic new layer of its creator’s weary, self-mocking psyche. It would all be insufferably bleak if it didn’t sound so strangely healing. – DM

    Recommended Tracks: “AMY”, “Oh My Sweet Carolina”, “Come Pick Me Up”

    54 Bruce

    Bruce Springsteen, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions

    Recorded in Springsteen’s living room, The Seeger Sessions is a project that celebrates the songs of activist and folk singer, Pete Seeger. For this unique recording, Springsteen temporarily breaks away from his rock E Street Band and forms the more organic, big band style Sessions Band, which includes horns, banjo, guitar, percussion, piano, B3 organ, Harmonica, violin and upright bass. The result is a delightful album that sounds like a well executed jam session rather than a stuffy studio affair. – LW

    Recommended Tracks: “Old Dan Tucker”, “O Mary Don’t You Weep for Me”, “Pay Me My Money Down”

    53 Lady

    Lady Antebellum, Lady Antebellum

    There isn’t anyone in country music quite like this vibrant trio, whose debut is a heartfelt, organic mainstream country album with undertones of 70′s-esque R&B. There’s a beautiful imperfection to the pairing of Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott’s equally soulful voices, and they’ve got a particular knack for writing melodies that are as interesting as they are expressive. Lady Antebellum is both a skillful showcase of these strengths and an exciting glimpse at the group’s potential in country music. – TS

    Recommended Tracks: “All We’d Ever Need”, “Love’s Lookin’ Good On You”, “I Run To You”

    52 Alan

    Alan Jackson, Like Red On a Rose

    Who would think that the combination of bluegrass legend Alison Krauss and traditional country legend Alan Jackson would result in an album like this? With Krauss as producer, Jackson became the consummate crooner, singing with such depth and nuance that it was like hearing a completely different singer. – KC

    Recommended Tracks: “Like Red On a Rose”, “Nobody Said That it Would Be Easy”, “The Firefly’s Song”

    51 Brad

    Brad Paisley, Time Well Wasted

    Brad Paisley’s fourth album continues the more aggressively muscular sound that its predecessor, Mud on the Tires had already wisely adopted. As is typical for a Paisley album his sharp wit shows up throughout the disc in the form of sly observations to which people can easily relate. However, he strays from the humor at times in order to deliver some of the most beloved songs of his career, including “Waitin’ on A Woman” and “When I Get Where I’m Going.” – LW

    Recommended Tracks: “Rainin’ You”, “Easy Money”, “Time Well Wasted”

    - – -

    CMA Awards: Predictions and Personal Picks

    Sunday, November 8th, 2009

    The CMA Awards are upon us again, and I must say that this is the most underwhelming lineup I’ve ever seen, and I started watching the show back in 1991. We’ll be back to live blog the festivities on Wednesday night. In the meantime, enjoy our personal picks in each category, along with who we think will actually win.

    brad-paisleyEntertainer of the Year

    Should Win:
    • Kenny Chesney
    • Brad Paisley – Leeann, Tara
    • George Strait
    • Taylor Swift – Kevin, Dan
    • Keith Urban
    Will Win:
    • Kenny Chesney
    • Brad Paisley – Kevin, Leeann, Tara
    • George Strait
    • Taylor Swift – Dan
    • Keith Urban

    Kevin: Much like the field finally cleared for him in the Male Vocalist race two years ago, I expect that this is Paisley’s year to win with his sixth nomination. I think Taylor Swift deserves to win, though. There’s no getting around the fact that she’s the biggest thing out there right now.

    Leeann: I won’t be shocked (or really even disappointed) if Taylor Swift picks it up, but I really feel it’s finally Brad’s year.

    Dan: Swift is the face of the genre right now, and she’s putting out better-written material than many of the veterans in this category. It looks like a race between her and Paisley, and I think she may actually get it.

    Tara: It wouldn’t be inappropriate for Swift to take this award, and I would much (understatement) prefer her to win this over the vocalist award. But to me, Paisley is the all-around entertainer, and I think it’s his year to be recognized.

    brad-paisleyMale Vocalist of the Year

    Should Win:
    • Kenny Chesney
    • Brad Paisley – Leeann, Tara
    • Darius Rucker
    • George Strait – Dan
    • Keith Urban – Kevin
    Will Win:
    • Kenny Chesney
    • Brad Paisley – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara
    • Darius Rucker
    • George Strait
    • Keith Urban

    Leeann: I have no doubt that Paisley will win again, as he  has had a strong year and the CMAs tend to prefer him for this award.  While I think Urban is technically a very worthy opponent, the combination of Paisley’s warm voice and stronger album makes me continue to root for him.  I’d also be just as happy if Strait won, however, and feel that his and Paisley’s albums were the strongest of the year.

    Dan: Looks like an easy Paisley win, but I’ll give Strait the nod for all-around strength this past year.

    Tara: I don’t anticipate that Paisley’s winning streak will be broken. I’m pulling for him on the strength of his material, but wouldn’t mind one bit if Urban took the award. Just please, CMAs, don’t give it to Rucker!

    Kevin: Paisley’s poised to pick up his third trophy, with his only real competition being five-time winner George Strait. I’d give a fourth trophy to previous winner Keith Urban over the rest of the field. He really sang rings around the rest of ‘em when comparing their latest albums.

    Carrie Underwood 09Female Vocalist of the Year

    Should Win:
    • Miranda Lambert - Leeann
    • Martina McBride
    • Reba McEntire
    • Taylor Swift
    • Carrie Underwood – Kevin, Dan, Tara
    Will Win:
    • Miranda Lambert
    • Martina McBride
    • Reba McEntire
    • Taylor Swift
    • Carrie Underwood – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara

    Dan: I tend to find Underwood boring, but I do think she released some of her better singles this past year. Swift just isn’t a strong enough vocalist to merit this prize, and I’d rather see Lambert win in a year where she has more momentum going, which could well be next year.

    Tara: It will no doubt spark controversy when Underwood takes her fourth trophy and joins the ranks of Reba McEntire and Martina McBride, and that’s another discussion all together – but looking at the nominees for this year, it’s clear she deserves to win. In terms of sheer vocal talent, few artists in the genre come close to her. I’d love to see Lambert take this award (and Underwood would too!), but like Dan, I don’t think it’s her time just yet.

    Kevin: I won’t believe a different winner in this race until I see it. I was underwhelmed by the latest albums from Lambert, McBride, McEntire, and Swift, and quite frankly, Underwood is the only lady of the five to put out more than one single this year that I actually really liked (“Just a Dream”, “I Told You So.”) I remain in her corner.

    Leeann: Carrie will deserve to win this award when she wins it this year.  I, however, still prefer Lambert’s voice and feel that her output (album) is the most interesting of the nominees.

    Sugarland JoeyVocal Duo of the Year

    Should Win:

    • Big & Rich
    • Brooks & Dunn
    • Joey + Rory
    • Montgomery Gentry
    • Sugarland – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara
    Will Win:
    • Big & Rich
    • Brooks & Dunn
    • Joey + Rory
    • Montgomery Gentry
    • Sugarland – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara

    Tara: Sugarland continues to excite me, and I think they deserve this award again.

    Kevin: I love Joey + Rory, but Sugarland have really been blowing me away lately.  I’d pick them for Entertainer if they’d been nominated.

    Leeann: I’d technically love for Joey + Rory to win, but I know full well that Sugarland is the duo that truly deserves to win based upon their impact this year.

    Dan: Sugarland. But I want to talk to whoever is picking their singles.

    lady-antebellum-and-a-chairVocal Group of the Year

    Should Win:

    • Eagles
    • Lady Antebellum – Tara
    • Little Big Town
    • Rascal Flatts
    • Zac Brown Band – Kevin, Leeann, Dan

    Will Win:

    • Eagles
    • Lady Antebellum – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara
    • Little Big Town
    • Rascal Flatts
    • Zac Brown Band

    Kevin: I find Zac Brown Band more interesting, and I think they have a real shot at winning this. I suspect Lady Antebellum has a bit more industry support, though, so I’ll give them the edge.

    Leeann: Lady A will win because they’ve got more industry support and popularity with radio, but the Zac Brown Band has certainly put out more interesting music and have a refreshingly unique sound that deserves to be rewarded.

    Dan: Pretty much what Kevin and Leeann said. “Chicken Fried” notwithstanding.

    Tara: It’s definitely a race between Zac Brown Band and Lady Antebellum, and I can understand why my co-bloggers are rooting for the former. But even if Lady Antebellum’s talent needs a little cultivating, their music strikes a very personal chord with me, and I’ll be thrilled when they take this award. Can you believe Rascal Flatts might actually walk away from an awards show empty-handed?

    zac-bbNew Artist of the Year

    Should Win:
    • Randy Houser
    • Jamey Johnson – Dan
    • Jake Owen
    • Darius Rucker
    • Zac Brown Band – Kevin, Leeann, Tara

    Will Win:

    • Randy Houser
    • Jamey Johnson – Kevin
    • Jake Owen
    • Darius Rucker – Dan, Leeann, Tara
    • Zac Brown Band

    Kevin: A weak lineup that speaks volumes about why country music is where it is today. I think Zac Brown Band should win. They’ve really been the real breakthrough act of the five. But I suspect in this battle of “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” co-writers, Jamey Johnson will emerge victorious.

    Leeann: While I’m tempted to root for Jamey Johnson, I think Zac Brown Band has a chance of keeping me intrigued over the next few years (even if they fall out of the mainstream), though I don’t think they’ve reached their potential  just yet.  I predict that Darius Rucker will actually win, however, as he’s been the most successful in the last year.

    Dan: Time will tell whether Johnson is able to remain a strong artistic force, but I’d say he has as good a chance as any of these five if he can keep from getting self-important. Rucker is the biggest star on the ballot, though, and I suspect he’ll squeak the win over Johnson and Zac Brown Band.

    Tara: Johnson and Zac Brown Band are both deserving recipients of this award, but I personally prefer the band’s music. With the commercial success Rucker’s seen in the past year, though, I think it’s his award to lose. Not too sure how I feel about that.  

    thatlonesomesongAlbum of the Year

    Should Win:

    • Jamey Johnson, That Lonesome Song – Leeann, Dan
    • Brad Paisley, American Saturday NightTara
    • Sugarland, Love on the InsideKevin
    • Taylor Swift, Fearless
    • Keith Urban, Defying Gravity
    Will Win:
    • Jamey Johnson, That Lonesome Song – Kevin, Dan, Tara
    • Brad Paisley, American Saturday Night
    • Sugarland, Love on the Inside
    • Taylor Swift, Fearless – Leeann
    • Keith Urban, Defying Gravity

    Leeann: While Johnson’s album hasn’t really stuck with me over the past year or so, I still think it’s the best album out of the bunch.  I think Swift will win, however, due to the volume of sales and hit singles.

    Dan: All of these albums have strengths, but That Lonesome Song is the only one that makes me optimistic about country music’s future. I expect it to triumph, though Swift’s has a great shot, too.

    Tara: Paisley’s album, to me, strikes that sweet balance of traditional and contemporary. I think it’s a strong, interesting and relevant album that epitomizes why Paisley is so deservingly successful. But Johnson will deserve this award when he takes it, and I recognize and appreciate his positive influence on mainstream country music.

    Kevin: I expected more nods overall for Jamey Johnson. I think that the eligibility period hurt him, with the project less fresh in voters’ minds. But the CMA values traditional country more than any other awards organization, so I expect him to win this. I enjoy the Sugarland album far more than any of the other four, so I’m rooting for that one.

    Jamey smile 2Single of the Year

    Should Win:

    • “Chicken Fried” – Zac Brown Band
    • “I Run to You” – Lady Antebellum
    • “In Color” – Jamey Johnson – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara
    • “People Are Crazy” – Billy Currington
    • “Then” – Brad Paisley
    Will Win:
    • “Chicken Fried” – Zac Brown Band
    • “I Run to You” – Lady Antebellum
    • “In Color” – Jamey Johnson – Kevin, Leeann, Tara
    • “People Are Crazy” – Billy Currington – Dan
    • “Then” – Brad Paisley

    Dan: I’ve just got a bad feeling about that Currington single. “I Run To You” does have some smokin’ production, but “In Color” is the only one of the five I can still stand.

    Tara: Ouch. I’m pleased that “I Run to You” is nominated as it’s a personal favorite, but I don’t think any song other than “In Color” is deserving of this award. Again…ouch.

    Kevin: This is the weakest lineup in the history of this category.

    Leeann: Johnson’s song feels old to me now, but it’s the best song in this underwhelming category, though I’m sure David Letterman disagrees.  While I like the production on “People Are Crazy” the best in this line-up, the hook (not to mention the frustratingly weak story development) is just lame.

    randy-travisSong of the Year

    Should Win:
    • “Chicken Fried” – Zac Brown & Wyatt Durette
    • “I Told You So” – Randy Travis – Kevin, Leeann, Tara
    • “In Color” – Jamey Johnson – Dan
    • “People Are Crazy” – Bobby Braddock & Troy Jones
    • “Then” – Chris Dubois, Ashley Gorley & Brad Paisley
    Will Win:
    • “Chicken Fried” – Zac Brown & Wyatt Durette
    • “I Told You So” – Randy Travis – Leeann
    • “In Color” – Jamey Johnson – Kevin, Dan, Tara
    • “People Are Crazy” – Bobby Braddock & Troy Jones
    • “Then” – Chris Dubois, Ashley Gorley & Brad Paisley

    Tara: I would absolutely love to see Travis take this award; Underwood’s success with the song proves that the best-written country songs are timeless. I think “In Color” has more pull, though.

    Kevin: I think Johnson will win, but kudos to Carrie Underwood for recognizing the value of the Randy Travis-penned gem and making it a hit all over again.

    Leeann: This is not one of my favorite Randy Travis songs, but for nostalgia’s sake, I’m rooting for him to win this one. I even think it has a chance of winning, since it was a hit song for one of today’s country music’s most popular artists. I think the Paisley composition is, by far, the weakest though.

    Dan: I like probable-winner “In Color” marginally more than “I Told You So.” Any of the other three winning would hurt me way down deep.

    randy-travis-and-carrie-underwoodMusical Event of the Year

    Should Win:

    • “Cowgirls Don’t Cry” – Brooks & Dunn featuring Reba McEntire
    • “Down the Road” – Kenny Chesney with Mac McAnally
    • “Everything But Quits” – Lee Ann Womack with George Strait
    • “I Told You So” – Carrie Underwood featuring Randy Travis – Kevin, Tara
    • “Old Enough” – The Raconteurs with Ricky Skaggs and Ashley Monroe – Leeann, Dan
    • “Start a Band” – Brad Paisley and Keith Urban
    Will Win:
    • “Cowgirls Don’t Cry” – Brooks & Dunn featuring Reba McEntire
    • “Down the Road” – Kenny Chesney with Mac McAnally
    • “Everything But Quits” – Lee Ann Womack with George Strait
    • “I Told You So” – Carrie Underwood featuring Randy Travis – Kevin, Dan, Tara
    • “Old Enough” – The Raconteurs with Ricky Skaggs and Ashley Monroe
    • “Start a Band” – Brad Paisley and Keith Urban – Leeann

    Kevin: Will the CMA really pass up the chance to give a trophy to Randy Travis for the first time in 21 years? I hope not.

    Leeann: Paisley’s and Urban’s collaboration was originally accidentally left off the ballot, but the superstar pairing is the most likely to win.  Conversely, I suspect that the inclusion of the collaboration with Ricky Skaggs and Ashley Monroe was likely an accident, but I’d still love to see this dark horse nomination win. It’s certainly the most interesting song of the category.  I might have gone for the Underwood/Travis pairing if Travis’ inclusion didn’t seem so random.  I liked Underwood’s original version better, as Vince Gill’s harmony seemed more natural.

    Dan: It’s totally between “I Told You So” and “Start A Band”, but I’m pulling for the underdog Raconteurs record, too. I like my collaborations a little spontaneous like that, and it’s always great to see outsiders included in the CMA fold.

    Tara: While I have a particular soft spot for “Down the Road,” which I thought was one of the best singles of 2008, it should come as no surprise that I’m pulling for the beautiful, rough-and-pure “I Told You So.” I think it will easily win.

    george_straitMusic Video of the Year

    Should Win:
    • “Boots On” – Randy Houser
    • “Love Story” – Taylor Swift
    • “People Are Crazy” – Billy Currington
    • “Start a Band” – Brad Paisley and Keith Urban
    • “Troubadour” – George Strait – Kevin, Dan, Tara
    Will Win:
    • “Boots On” – Randy Houser
    • “Love Story” – Taylor Swift – Kevin, Dan, Tara
    • “People Are Crazy” – Billy Currington
    • “Start a Band” – Brad Paisley and Keith Urban
    • “Troubadour” – George Strait

    Dan: I enjoy the Strait video most, but Swift’s is the flashiest, and that tends to win out.

    Tara: Strait’s video is poignant and tastefully done. I never understood the appeal of Swift’s Shakespearean video, but apparently a whole generation of country music fans does. My money’s on Swift.

    Kevin: I think the Swift fairytale will get the most votes, but the Strait clip hypnotizes me every time it’s on. Who knew a simple slide show could be so powerful and such a perfect fit for a song?

    paul-franklinMusician of the Year
    Should Win:
    • Eddie Bayers (drums)
    • Paul Franklin (steel guitar) – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara
    • Dan Huff (guitar)
    • Brent Mason (guitar)
    • Mac McAnally (guitar)

    Will Win:

    • Eddie Bayers (drums)
    • Paul Franklin (steel guitar)
    • Dan Huff (guitar)
    • Brent Mason (guitar)
    • Mac McAnally (guitar) – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara

    Dan: I should really start paying more attention to this kind of thing. But I know Paul Franklin’s been doing steel for everyone from Lyle Lovett to Rascal Flatts in the past year. Respek!

    Franklin’s the one I’m most familiar with, and I agree with Kevin and Dan that he deserves it. I’ll admit I’m not entirely sure how to gauge who’ll win this year, but I suppose I’d go with McAnally again.

    Kevin: I guess that McAnally will repeat his victory from last year. The other previous winners won quite a bit of time ago – Dann Huff in 2001 and 2004, Brent Mason in 1997 and 1998.  My sympathy goes to Eddie Bayers, who is nominated for the tenth time and has yet to win. I have no choice but to pull for Paul Frankin, though, who has lost this award sixteen times.  Here’s hoping that seventeen’s a charm!

    Leeann: Please don’t let it be Dann Huff! That’s all I ask.  Of course, I’m partial to the steel guitar, not to mention that it’s a shame that a steel guitar player has to work so hard to win a country music award.

    The Worst Singles of the Decade, Part 5: #10-#1

    Sunday, November 1st, 2009

    monkeyThe Worst Singles of the Decade, Part 5: #10-#1

    Alan Jackson, “www.memory”

    Wasn’t there anyone who could tell him that this wasn’t going to work? It’s a terribly awkward effort to force a classic concept into a current framework. (See also: Lorrie Morgan, “1-800-Used-To-Be”)

    Reba McEntire & Kelly Clarkson, “Because of You”

    This could’ve been great. Two great singers, one great song. The fatal flaw is that it just doesn’t work as a duet. The lyrics don’t make sense when it’s two people singing to each other.

    Lonestar, “Mr. Mom”

    Mr.Mom was the first movie that I saw in theaters. Back then, the concept of a stay-at-home Dad was novel. By the time this song rolled around, it was hard to even take the conceit of the song seriously. This guy’s not struggling because he’s a guy. He’s struggling because he’s a bumbling fool.

    Kenny Chesney, “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy”

    The song that made Chesney a superstar doesn’t involve him lounging around on a tropical island, but it sure does make me thankful that he stopped singing about country living.

    Kellie Coffey, “When You Lie Next To Me”

    It’s rarely the prototypes that are terrible. It’s usually the copies. By the time “Where Were You” became “I Raq and Roll”, the post-9/11 song was insufferable. Here’s what “Breathe” finally devolved into: a schlocky mess that is such a lazy copy that “Just breathe” becomes “Just be.”

    Toby Keith, “Stays in Mexico”

    Though it’s a fairly tasteless song to begin with, production choices sink this one in the end. Silly sound effects and a backing track that makes “Hot! Hot! Hot!” seem subtle and understated push this dangerously close to novelty status.

    Rascal Flatts, “Bob That Head”

    A desperate attempt to come off like edgy rockers.

    Taylor Swift, “Picture to Burn”

    Criticizing Swift for being an irrational teenager is like criticizing water for being wet.  But this really is Swift at her absolute worst. Not only is a juvenile lyric coupled with a disastrous vocal performance, both of which are bad enough in their own right.  But the underlying message that most of Swift’s songs send to her teenage girl audience is on most naked display: Your happiness and self-worth are solely determined by the men and boys in your life.”

    John Michael Montgomery, “The Little Girl”

    The most horrific “inspirational song” that I’ve ever heard is directly ripped off from an urban legend that showed up in songwriter Harley Allen’s inbox.

    Chad Brock, “Yes!”

    Nothing captures how country music embraced mediocrity better than this Chad Brock single, which actually spent three weeks at #1. The storyline is completely unbelievable, the production is as generic as a Karaoke track, and Brock’s performance is so faceless that it might as well be a demo recording.

    As awful as some of the other songs on this list are, they at last aspired to make a larger point. Spectacular failures can still demonstrate a noble ambition. “Yes!” aspires to be nothing more than radio filler, and it succeeded in dulling down the radio dial during its entire run.  Hearing it again on satellite radio last month was the inspiration for this list.  The song’s only indication of personality being the exclamation point in the title? That secured its place atop the list.  It truly does represent country music being drained of all of its heart and soul until just a token fiddle is all that’s left to identify it as such.

    The Worst Singles of the Decade, Part 1: #50-#41

    Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

    Worst SinglesAs we begin our look back on the last ten years in country music, we’re starting with the bottom. Over the next few days, you’ll be reading about the worst that country music sent to radio in the 2000s, much of which they actually played.

    But first, a disclaimer. This list makes no attempt to objectively list the worst singles of the decade. If that’s what I was going for here, I’d just post a collection of homemade tracks and twenty Rascal Flatts singles and call it a day. Instead, this list takes a broader view, including songs from accomplished artists that were just disappointing, copycat and fad-chasing numbers, and just plain old mediocre efforts.

    This isn’t the type of thing we normally do, but I’m sure I’ll hear what I’m right about, what I’m wrong about, and what I forgot to include in the first place!  Look for the best-of lists to follow as the year starts winding down.

    The Worst Singles of the Decade, Part 1: #50-#41

    Mark Wills, “19 Somethin’”

    Pick a decade, man.

    Toby Keith, “Who’s Your Daddy?”

    The biggest casualty of Keith’s ascent to superstardom was his quality check. When your label lets you put out anything and radio goes ahead and plays it, the blame must be spread around for such silliness as this.

    Halfway to Hazard, “Daisy”

    In which a girl’s sole reasons for existing are to make a boy a man, lead him to God, and give him a child. After that, you can just kill her off in the final verse.  This is why people hate country music.

    Martina McBride, “(I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden”

    McBride’s bloodless cover of the Lynn Anderson classic lacks all of the layers of irony found in the original, but it secured its place on this list by the parenthetical addition to the title.  “Oh, it’s that song about a rose garden!”

    Rascal Flatts, “Revolution”

    Then again, if Martina sounds like she doesn’t get the layers of meaning in “Rose Garden”, Rascal Flatts make clear they have no idea at all what John Lennon was singing about on the White Album.  That they have the audacity to start going “Shoo-be-doo-bop” in the background as Gary LeVox sings about Chairman Mao is simply insane.

    Joe Nichols, “If Nobody Believed In You”

    He’s worried that God is finally giving up on mankind. He was able to keep the faith through all those epic wars and acts of genocide, but no prayers in public school  pushed Him over the edge.

    Miranda Lambert, “Dead Flowers”

    Person #1: “Wow, this song has no melody at all.”

    Person #2: “Did she just compare herself to Christmas lights?”

    Person #1: “And it just goes on forever. Who’s singing this anyway?”

    Person #2: “It’s by….Miranda Lambert.”

    Person #1: “Miranda Lambert?…..It’s…..brilliant!”

    Person #2: “Yes. Brilliant!”

    Lady Antebellum, “Lookin’ For a Good Time”

    She should look for an Autotuner instead.

    Billy Gilman, “She’s My Girl”

    “The way she moves, the way she grooves. She drives me wild with her wild-child smile.”   It took Billy Gilman singing a romantic song to make all of his inspirational songs seem painless in comparison.

    Sammy Kershaw & Lorrie Morgan, “He Drinks Tequila”

    He drinks tequila, she talks dirty in Spanish. That’s the premise.  Lorrie Morgan yelping like a chihuahua is the unfortunate result.

    CMA Noms ’09

    Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

    cma_awardIt’s that time of year again! For each major category, we’ll look at who’s broken in since last year, who’s been booted out, plus some initial thoughts. As always, we invite you to share your own opinions in the comments. Without further ado:


    • Kenny Chesney
    • Brad Paisley
    • George Strait
    • Taylor Swift
    • Keith Urban

    Who’s In: Taylor Swift

    Who’s Out: Sugarland

    Snap Judgment: With Carrie Underwood and Sugarland a little out of the spotlight recently, it’s no shock to see the regular foursome of Chesney, Paisley, Strait and Urban prevail. Swift was a logical inclusion given her across-the-board dominance, but I gotta say that I’m surprised to see her acknowledged for it by the historically traditional-leaning CMA.

    Male Vocalist

    • Kenny Chesney
    • Brad Paisley
    • Darius Rucker
    • George Strait
    • Keith Urban

    Who’s In: Darius Rucker

    Who’s Out: Alan Jackson

    Snap Judgment: Pretty predicable. Rucker has shown he can get serious spins at radio, which is probably what won him this slot over Jamey Johnson.

    Female Vocalist

    • Miranda Lambert
    • Martina McBride
    • Reba McEntire
    • Taylor Swift
    • Carrie Underwood

    Who’s In: Reba McEntire

    Who’s Out: Alison Krauss

    Snap Judgment: Again, no big surprises. Martina always hangs in there somehow, doesn’t she?

    Vocal Duo

    • Big & Rich
    • Brooks & Dunn
    • Joey + Rory
    • Montgomery Gentry
    • Sugarland

    Who’s In: Joey + Rory

    Who’s Out: The Wreckers (finally!), oddly not Big & Rich

    Snap Judgment: I guess there has to be at least one defunct act in this category every year, huh?

    Vocal Group

    • Eagles
    • Lady Antebellum
    • Little Big Town
    • Rascal Flatts
    • Zac Brown Band

    Who’s In: Zac Brown Band

    Who’s Out: Emerson Drive

    Snap Judgment: I’m baffled to see the Eagles still here. I expect there will be a lot more shake-up in this category next year, with Love and Theft, Eli Young Band and The Lost Trailers all experiencing a rise in profile recently.

    New Artist

    • Randy Houser
    • Jamey Johnson
    • Jake Owen
    • Darius Rucker
    • Zac Brown Band

    Who’s In: Completely new line-up!

    Snap Judgment: A strong group. Johnson, Rucker and Zac Brown Band are selling better than many of the veteran acts, so they’re the serious contenders this year, but all five nominees show great artistic potential.


    • Brad Paisley, American Saturday Night
    • Jamey Johnson, That Lonesome Song
    • Sugarland, Love On The Inside
    • Taylor Swift, Fearless
    • Keith Urban, Defying Gravity

    Snap Judgment: Probably as good a line-up as you could’ve hoped for. Never thought I’d live to see a CMA category where I thought Keith Urban had the weakest offering!


    • “Chicken Fried” – Zac Brown Band
    • “I Run To You” – Lady Antebellum
    • “In Color” – Jamey Johnson
    • “People Are Crazy” – Billy Currington
    • “Then” – Brad Paisley

    Snap Judgment: Sigh.


    • “Chicken Fried” – Zac Brown & Wyatt Durette
    • “I Told You So” – Randy Travis
    • “In Color” – Jamey Johnson, Lee Thomas Miller & James Otto
    • “People Are Crazy” – Bobby Braddock & Troy Jones
    • “Then” – Brad Paisley, Chris DuBois and Ashley Gorley

    Snap Judgment: I mean, it’s not like Randy Travis ever had his own hit with “I Told You So” or anything.

    Musical Event

    • “Cowgirls Don’t Cry” – Brooks & Dunn featuring Reba McEntire
    • “Down The Road” – Kenny Chesney with Mac McAnally
    • “Everything But Quits” – Lee Ann Womack with George Strait
    • “I Told You So” – Carrie Underwood featuring Randy Travis
    • “Old Enough” – The Raconteurs featuring Ricky Skaggs and Ashley Monroe
    • “Start A Band” – Brad Paisley with Keith Urban

    Snap Judgment: How in the world did that Raconteurs record sneak in there? Props, CMA!

    Music Video

    • “Boots On” – Randy Houser
    • “Love Story” – Taylor Swift
    • “People Are Crazy” – Billy Currington
    • “Start A Band” – Brad Paisley with Keith Urban
    • “Troubadour” – George Strait

    Snap Judgment: Not bad. Houser’s doesn’t have much, but the only one I outright dislike is Currington’s. It’s just another excuse for him to sit around looking scruffy on a beach.


    • Eddie Bayers
    • Paul Franklin
    • Dann Huff
    • Brent Mason
    • Mac McAnally

    Picking the CMA Nominees: Vocal Duo and Vocal Group

    Thursday, July 30th, 2009

    It’s often argued that Vocal Duo and Vocal Group should be combined into one category, but this is one of those rare years where the two categories have more than five worthy nominees between them.

    My picks for Vocal Duo:

    The only real filler in this category is Big & Rich, who have been largely dormant this past year.

    As for Vocal Group, all five of my picks have been very active these past twelve months:

    • Eli Young Band
    • Lady Antebellum
    • Little Big Town
    • Rascal Flatts
    • Zac Brown Band

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    It’s often argued that Vocal Duo and Vocal Group should be combined into one category, but this is one of those rare years where the two categories have more than five worthy nominees between them.
    My picks for Vocal Duo:
    Big & Rich
    Brooks & Dunn
    Joey + Rory
    Montgomery Gentry
    The only real filler in this category is Big & Rich, who have been largely dormant this past year.
    As for Vocal Group, all five of my picks have been very active these past twelve months:
    Eli Young Band
    Lady Antebellum
    Little Big Town
    Rascal Flatts
    Zac Brown Band
    What are your picks for Vocal Duo and Vocal Group?

    Album Sales Update: July 2009

    Saturday, July 11th, 2009

    It’s time for an album sales update, our first since May 23.   Brad Paisley is off to a strong start with American Saturday Night, selling 130k in its first week. That’s about 70k less than his previous two studio albums – Time Well Wasted and 5th Gear – opened with, but not a terrible drop-off, considering the state of the music market.

    Meanwhile, the new studio albums by Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban are slowing down considerably, now being outpaced on a weekly basis by 2008 releases by Taylor Swift, Zac Brown Band, Darius Rucker and Lady Antebellum.

    Among younger acts with a new album in 2009, the most impressive sales are coming from Jason Aldean, while 2008 releases from Kellie Pickler, Billy Currington, and Randy Houser are showing new signs of life.

    Biggest disappointments? It’s hard not to look in the direction of Martina McBride, who has barely cleared the 100k mark on her new studio set.  Lee Ann Womack’s 2008 set just made it over that mark, too.  Then again, one only needs to have sold 455 copies to make the chart this week, with the anchor position going to Wynonna with that total. Her covers album Sing – Chapter 1 has sold 41k to date.

    Here are the latest totals for albums released over the past three years that are still charting:


    • Rascal Flatts, Unstoppable – 842,000
    • Keith Urban, Defying Gravity – 452,000
    • Jason Aldean, Wide Open – 384,000
    • Kenny Chesney, Greatest Hits II – 281,000
    • Dierks Bentley, Feel That Fire – 219,000
    • Martina McBride, Shine – 104,000
    • John Rich, Son of a Preacher Man – 103,000
    • Eric Church, Carolina – 94,000
    • Rodney Atkins, It’s America – 88,000
    • Jake Owen, Easy Does It – 81,000
    • Randy Travis, I Told You So: Ultimate Hits – 78,000
    • Montgomery Gentry, For Our Heroes – 64,000
    • Willie Nelson & Asleep at the Wheel, Willie & The Wheel – 56,000
    • Steve Earle, Townes – 47,000
    • Colt Ford, Ride Through the Country – 45,000
    • Jason Michael Carroll, Growing Up is Getting Old – 45,000
    • Wynonna, Sing – Chapter 1 – 41,000
    • Hank Williams Jr. – 127 Rose Avenue – 34,000
    • Ryan Bingham, Roadhouse Sun – 15,000
    • Tracy Lawrence, Rock – 11,000
    • Darryl Worley, Sounds Like Life – 8,000
    • Holly Williams, Here With Me – 5,000
    • Charlie Robison, Beautiful Day – 3,000
    • Tanya Tucker, My Turn – 3,000


    • Taylor Swift, Fearless – 3,464,000
    • Sugarland, Love on the Inside – 1,683,000
    • George Strait, Troubadour – 914,000
    • Alan Jackson, Good Time – 869,000
    • Darius Rucker, Learn to Live – 754,000
    • Kenny Chesney, Lucky Old Sun – 721,000
    • Zac Brown Band, Foundation – 681,000
    • Rascal Flatts, Greatest Hits Vol. 1 – 680,000
    • Lady Antebellum, Lady Antebellum – 674,000
    • Toby Keith, 35 Biggest Hits – 652,000
    • Jamey Johnson, That Lonesome Song – 509,000
    • Toby Keith, That Don’t Make Me a Bad Guy – 403,000
    • James Otto, Sunset Man – 374,000
    • Julianne Hough, Julianne Hough – 314,000
    • Kellie Pickler, Kellie Pickler – 261,000
    • Dierks Bentley, Greatest Hits – 255,000
    • Brad Paisley, Play – 247,000
    • Dolly Parton, Backwoods Barbie – 208,000
    • Tim McGraw, Greatest Hits Vol. 3 – 206,000
    • Billy Currington, Little Bit of Everything – 191,000
    • Trace Adkins, X – 185,000
    • Montgomery Gentry, Back When I Knew it All – 184,000
    • Joey + Rory, Life of a Song – 167,000
    • Blake Shelton, Startin’ Fires – 165,000
    • Eli Young Band, Jet Black and Jealous – 108,000
    • Lee Ann Womack, Call Me Crazy – 102,000
    • Craig Morgan, Greatest Hits – 81,000
    • Hank Williams III, Damn Right Rebel Proud – 80,000
    • Randy Houser, Anything Goes – 79,000
    • Lost Trailers, Holler Back – 69,000


    • Taylor Swift, Taylor Swift – 4,129,000
    • Carrie Underwood, Carnival Ride – 2,918,000

    2009′s Remaining Release Schedule Comes into Focus

    Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

    2009Thus far, 2009′s releases have done little to fire up the charts,

    with most of this year’s strongest-selling albums being holdovers from 2008. While Rascal Flatts, Jason Aldean, and Keith Urban have sold strongly, the chart remains dominated by last year’s releases from Taylor Swift, Sugarland, Zac Brown Band, Lady Antebellum, Darius Rucker, and Jamey Johnson.

    So what’s left for 2009? Here’s what we know so far:

    New Releases

    • Carrie Underwood will release her third studio album on November 3, with a lead single going to radio this fall. Her previous set, Carnival Ride, is nearing sales of 3 million, and produced four #1 singles and a #2 single, all five of which were certified gold in their own right.
    • George Strait will release Twang on August 11. It’s the follow-up to his 33rd platinum album Troubadour, a set which produced his 43rd #1 single and earned him the first Grammy of his career, along with a pair of CMA trophies (Single and Album)
    • Miranda Lambert is readying Revolution for September 29. Lead single “Dead Flowers” is struggling at radio, but that’s never slowed her down at retail anyway.
    • Reba McEntire’s Valory debut Keep on Lovin’ You arrives August 18. Lead single “Strange” is approaching the top ten.
    • Willie Nelson releases another standards collection called American Classic on August 25.
    • Rosanne Cash will release The List, a covers album, on October 6.
    • Sarah Darling releases Every Monday Morning on July 28.
    • Mac McAnally’s Show Dog debut – Down By the River – comes out on August 4. McAnally recently scored a big hit teaming up with Kenny Chesney on “Down the Road”, and was the co-writer on several classic Sawyer Brown singles like “All These Years” and “Thank God For You.”
    • Mindy Smith releases Stupid Love on August 11.
    • Radney Foster and The Confessions release Revival on September 1, with guest appearances by Dierks Bentley and Darius Rucker.
    • Chris Young releases The Man I Want to Be on September 1.

    Reissues and Compilations

    • Brooks & Dunn release the 30-track #1 Hits…and Then Some on September 8. Track listing here. The set is preceded by lead single “Indian Summer.” The duo’s previous set, Cowboy Town, was their first to fall short of gold certification. The new hits compilation is similar in set up to top-selling collections by George Strait, Toby Keith and Reba McEntire in recent years.
    • Wounded Bird just released 2-albums-on-1-CD collections for Kris Kristofferson on July 7. Eight albums are included from his 1972-1981 output
    • A pair of Tommy Cash’s albums from 1970 will combine on one CD on July 21; Tommy is the younger brother of Johnny Cash
    • Hank Snow’s 1958 album When Tragedy Struck is being remastered and reissued on August 11.

    I’ll be picking up many of the above releases, but I have to say that I’m most looking forward to picking up all of the remastered Beatles albums and the Madonna anthology this fall.

    What releases are you most looking forward to in the second half of 2009?


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