Tuesday, March 10th, 2009
Amongst the glut of faux traditionalists that populated the country airwaves during the nineties, there was one voice that cut right through the clutter, such was its raw verve and unabashed authenticity. Aaron Tippin sings with pure country conviction about the invisible Americans, giving voice to the working men and women who seem to have vanished from the collective national consciousness.
In truth, Tippin was their last great champion, scoring radio hits with such anthems as “I Got it Honest”, “I Wouldn’t Have it Any Other Way” and “Working Man’s Ph.D.” So it seems fitting that he has returned with a concept album that celebrates the American trucker, collecting most of the high-profile road songs in country music history, but also including some low-profile gems that give In Overdrive greater depth and resonance.
One of the reasons the album works so well is that Tippin sounds like he could conceivably be a truck driver. He restores the “little white pills” to “Six Days on the Road” that Sawyer Brown censored on their hit cover, the distance between the narrator and the character is completely eliminated on his version of Alabama’s “Roll On”, and all the Urban Cowboy sheen is completely decimated when he tears into “Drivin’ My Life Away.”
Wednesday, November 12th, 2008
2008 CMA Winners
Entertainer: Kenny Chesney
Male Vocalist: Brad Paisley
Female Vocalist: Carrie Underwood
Album: George Strait, Troubadour
Vocal Duo: Sugarland
New Artist: Lady Antebellum
Vocal Group: Rascal Flatts
Song: Jennifer Nettles, “Stay”
Single: George Strait, “I Saw God Today”
Music Video: Brad Paisley feat. Andy Griffith, “Waiting on a Woman”
Musical Event: Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, “Gone Gone Gone”
Musician: Mac McAnally
Predict the Winners:
Kevin – 8
Leeann – 7
Blake – 7
Dan – 7
11:03 Thanks again for another great night. See ya at the Grammys!
11:02ish To Blake and Dan: A Song For You.
11:02 Blake: Down with our dictator!
11:02 Dan: Kevin sucks.
10:57 If I was a petty man, I’d be gloating about out-predicting all of my co-writers at Country Universe. Wait a minute. I am a petty man. I won! Yes! I won! This country universe is mine. Y’all just live in it. Suckers. (Except for you Leeann. You didn’t get all up in my grill, talking smack before the throwdown. You’re cool.)
10:56 ENTERTAINER – Kenny Chesney
10:54 Standing O for Shania. Good God, she’s beautiful. Welcome home.
10:50 So the only artist I see live who charges Eagles prices is Madonna, and I have to say that if she just stood there and growled, I’d feel ripped off. Come on, guys. Slap on some heels. Throw in some synchronized dancing. Jump some rope. Rub up against something. You’re supposed to be legends.
10:49 Dan: Once again, a washed up rock act gives us one of the better performances of the night. I like the Eagles, but that’s sad.
10:48 You know it’s bad when you’re hoping that Shania’s the surprise guest because you want to see some real country stars.
10:46 Paisley’s right about that. The Eagles have a lot more to do with country music today than most seventies country stars.
Category CMA Awards, Live Blog
Tags: Alan Jackson, Alison Krauss, Brad Paisley, Brooks & Dunn, Carrie Underwood, Dixie Chicks, Eagles, Emmylou Harris, George Strait, James Otto, Jason Aldean, Jennifer Nettles, Jerry Reed, Johnny Cash, Keith Urban, Kellie Pickler, Kenny Chesney, Kid Rock, Lady Antebellum, Lil' Wayne, Loretta Lynn, Mac McAnally, Madonna, Martina McBride, Marty McGuire, Pat Benatar, Pink, Rascal Flatts, Reba McEntire, Robert Plant, Rodney Atkins, Sawyer Brown, Shania Twain, Statler Brothers, Sugarland, Taylor Swift, Toby Keith, Trace Adkins, Trisha Yearwood, Wailers, Warren Zevon
Sunday, November 9th, 2008
For a look back at the other major categories, visit our CMA Awards page.
- Luke Bryan
- Easton Corbin
- Jerrod Neimann
- Chris Young
- Zac Brown Band
Usually there isn’t this much turnover in this race unless most of last year’s nominees are ineligible. This year, only one of the four eligible nominees from last year – Zac Brown Band – earns a nomination. With their massive success and their multiple nominations, they’ve got an excellent shot at winning. Then again, Easton Corbin is elsewhere on the ballot, too. It could be a horse race.
- Randy Houser
- Jamey Johnson
- Jake Owen
- Darius Rucker
- Zac Brown Band
Thirteen years after winning the Best New Artist Grammy as part of Hootie & The Blowfish, Darius Rucker won the country music equivalent, adding an exclamation point to the most successful pop-to-country crossover in a generation.
- Jason Aldean
- Rodney Atkins
- Lady Antebellum
- James Otto
- Kellie Pickler
The industry favorites Lady Antebellum became the fourth band in history to win this award, following Rascal Flatts, Dixie Chicks and Sawyer Brown.
- Jason Aldean
- Rodney Atkins
- Little Big Town
- Kellie Pickler
- Taylor Swift
In the year since winning the Horizon Award, Swift has solidified her position as the genre’s most successful rising star. While her debut album hasn’t reached the sales heights of the first discs by previous winners Carire Underwood and Gretchen Wilson, Swift is still one of the genre’s only significant sellers.
- Miranda Lambert
- Little Big Town
- Josh Turner
- Carrie Underwood
I had a sneaking suspicion that Josh Turner was going to take this home, but as I’ve said before, Carrie’s got the best pipes since Trisha Yearwood. That she’ was acknowledged for that at such an early stage of her career is pretty amazing. Somehow I think the thrill of winning Horizon was short-lived, as winning Female Vocalist the same night left that memory in the dust.
- Dierks Bentley
- Big & Rich
- Miranda Lambert
- Julie Roberts
Four of these five were nominees again the following year, and all in categories besides just Horizon, though Lambert got another shot at that as well. I think Big & Rich and Sugarland are making the most interesting music, and they’re moving more units than Bentley, though he’s no slouch himself. The CMA showed good judgment this year.
Category CMA Awards
Tags: Alan Jackson, Alison Krauss, Big & Rich, Billy Dean, Blake Shelton, Boxcar Willie, Brad Paisley, Brooks & Dunn, Bryan White, Buddy Jewel, Caroline Dawn Johnson, Carrie Underwod, Chely Wright, Clint Black, Dan Seals, Darryl Worley, David Ball, David Frizell, Deana Carter, Deborah Allen, Desert Rose Band, Dierks Bentley, Dixie Chicks, Doug Stone, Dwight Yoakam, Earl Thomas Conley, Eddy Raven, Faith Hill, Garth Brooks, Gary Allan, George Strait, Gretchen Wilson, Highway 101, Holly Dunn, James Otto, Jamie O’Neal, Jason Aldean, Jessica Andrews, Jo Dee Messina, Joe Nichols, John Anderson, John Berry, John Michael Montgomery, John Schneider, Josh Turner, Julie Roberts, K.T. Oslin, Kathy Mattea, Keith Urban, Keith Whitley, Kellie Pickler, Kenny Chesney, Kentucky Headhunters, Lady Antebellum, LeAnn Rimes, Lee Ann Womack, Lee Greenwood, Lee Roy Parnell, Little Big Town, Lorrie Morgan, Mark Chesnutt, Martina McBride, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Mel McDaniel, Michael Martin Murphey, Michael Peterson, Miranda Lambert, Montgomery Gentry, Nickel Creek, Pam Tillis, Patty Loveless, Phil Vassar, Randy Travis, Rascal Flatts, Ray Charles, Reba McEntire, Restless Heart, Ricky Skaggs, Ricky Van Shelton, Rodney Atkins, Rosanne Cash, Sammy Kershaw, Sara Evans, Sawyer Brown, Shania Twain, SHeDaisy, Shelly West, Shenandoah, Sugarland, Suzy Boggus, Sweethearts of the Rodeo, T. Graham Brown, T.G. Sheppard, Taylor Swift, Terri Clark, Terri Gibbs, The Forrester Sisters, The Judds, The O’Kanes, The Whites, The Wilkinsons, Tim McGraw, Trace Adkins, Tracy Lawrence, Travis Tritt, Trisha Yearwood, Vern Gosdin, Wade Hayes
Monday, July 4th, 2005
We’ve been a bit overwhelmed in country music with patriotic songs since 9/11, and many of them have the stench of expolitation, poor taste, or just plain bad songwriting. In my opinion, the best songs about America tell about Americans, and their experiences. Some of the songs on this list do that; others do talk about America as a whole, but not in your typical flag-waving style. I think they all give Lee Greenwood a run for his money. Here are my 12 favorite songs about America:
12. Sawyer Brown, “Café On The Corner”
The story of 50-year old man who has lost his farm, and is now cleaning tables and washing dishes at a small-town café. The darker side of the American dream, this was released just when the homeless were looking more and more like us. What if you want to work but you can’t find the work? Bashers of welfare and other social safety net programs would do well to listen.
11. Alabama, “Song of the South”
A loving and sentimental celebration of the Depression-era and New Deal south (“We all picked the cotton but we didn’t get rich”) It tells the story of a family that moves from a farm into town, taking advantage of the new federal programs that helped the south so much. It’s ironic that there is such anti-Washington sentiment across the south, since the federal government invested so much to modernize that region and southern states still receive the highest amount of federal aid and benefits, much higher than all other regions of the country.
10. Kathy Mattea, “Beautiful Fool”
A poignant tribute to Martin Luther King that acknowledges the sacrifice he made and the legacy of non-violence that he did not invent, but rather continued: “Mahatma Gandhi, Jesus Christ, history repeats itself so nice, consistently we are resistant to love.”
9. Todd Snider, “This Land Is Our Land”
Is this what those crazy liberals are teaching are kids about America? Pretty much. Snider twists the title of a classic folk song to speak in the voice of America’s pioneers – our earliest capitalists. His history is actually pretty accurate – the take-over of land from the Native Americans was not fueled by racism or a concept of manifest destiny – there was just a lot of money to be made. One line: “There’s a lot of land but we need it all, for slave trade and shopping malls.” The narrator makes the “it’s just business” case in a matter-of-fact tone that suggests “hey, we might as well take the land, they’re not getting any real use out of it.” Smart references to contemporary wonders ranging from paper plates and diet pills to pesticides and oil spills, and suggests that even though the land has long been ours, we’re still finding new ways to waste and abuse its resources.
8. Dixie Chicks, “Travelin’ Soldier”
Many suggest that the reason the popularity for our current war is dwindling is that more and more people know somebody who has died, been injured or is currently in danger in Iraq. The most revealing part of this hit is the indifference of the football crowd: “One name read, and nobody really cared, but a pretty little girl with a bow in her hair.” It’s easy to be unmoved by the casualties of American soldiers, and Iraqis for that matter, if there’s no personal connection. Perhaps the biggest service of this song is to put a name and face on every soldier through telling us the story of one.
7. Mary Chapin Carpenter, “Stones In The Road”
Chapin traces how the children who witnessed the cultural revolution grew up and apparently didn’t learn the right lessons. A rebuke of the concept of success that makes people “climb that ladder rung by rung.” She suggests, however, that deep down, we know this is wrong, as evidenced by our encounters with the homeless – “we give a dollar when we pass, and hope our eyes don’t meet.” She wants Americans who lived through those changes to listen to that voice of conscience today and make a difference, but the cynicism of adulthood makes her think it isn’t going to happen.
6. Garth Brooks, “We Shall Be Free”
In a hopefulness that is quintessentially American, Brooks suggests that once we fully embrace the concept of equal rights in America, we will truly be a free nation, and celebrates this as a goal to work towards. A bit controversial back in 1992 for the line “when we’re free to love anyone we choose,” and implicit endorsement of gay rights, he seems to instinctively understand that institutionalized fear of different races, religions and lifestyles restricts the freedom of all of us. He sees the beauty that the framework already exists for America to be the beacon of freedom for the entire world. All we need is the courage and the leadership.
5. Alan Jackson, “Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)”
This song captures how Americans across the country all became united for at least a day or two, and how strong the emotional impact of the devastation in New York and Washington was on all Americans. Jackson takes us on a cross-country tour of how Americans from all walks of life responded to the tragedy. Often overlooked is his subtle call for more love in the world as a response to the events. I don’t think anybody’s ever asked him what he means by emphasizing the greatest gift God gave us was love in the chorus, but it suggests that Toby Keith is quite wrong when he says that “everybody” wanted to put a boot in someone’s ass in reponse; we may have been angry Americans, but bloodthirsty is not as universal an emotion as he thinks.
4. Merle Haggard, “Okie From Muskogee”
A classic counter-counterculture hit, this song captures the mid-western resistance to the major social upheavals on the coasts. Characterized as more angry than it really is, Haggard seems to make the point that change is simply unnecessary in Muskogee, where “football is the roughest thing on campus” and “we don’t smoke marijuana” – rather, their illegal drug of choice comes in a jug of White Lightning. Realistically, there probably were many people in Oklahoma smoking pot and “making a party out of lovin’”, but Haggard speaks in the voice of the town, where even if these things do go on behind closed doors, they will not define Muskogee, like the city of San Francisco was defined by the draft-card burning hippie scene.
Certainly, there were people in San Francisco who wished it was more like a small town in Oklahoma, much like many Okies rolled their eyes at Haggard’s white-washed portrait of their towns. The media insistance of diving America into red state vs. blue state is not a new phenomenon, but the way Haggard’s song resonated with Americans from all over proved the dividing lines in America are social and political, not geographical.
3. Johnny Cash, “What Is Truth?”
If Haggard is the dad that doesn’t understand why all the kids are going wild, Cash is the younger uncle who sticks up for them at the dinner table. Cash gives voice to all the frustrations of a generation being sent off to die for a war that isn’t just, and being called cowards by the previous generation who suffered great losses in a war that was very just and necessary. The generation gap is more like a chasm, but Cash tries to bridge it. The most powerful verse captures this struggle:
A boy of three sitting on the floor,
looks up and says, “Daddy, what is war?”
“Why that’s where people fight and die.”
A little boy of three says, “Daddy, why?”
Young man of seventeen in Sunday School
Being taught the Golden Rule
And by the time another year’s gone around
It may be his turn to lay his life down
Can you blame the voice of youth
for asking, “What is truth?”
2. Waylon Jennings, “America”
Forget “God Bless The U.S.A.” This is the 80’s country hit that is the best celebration of America. “I come from down around Tennessee, but the people from California are nice to me; it don’t matter where I may roam, tell your people it’s home sweet home.” He celebrates all of America, his brothers “are all black and white and yellow too.” Who else would have the courage and understanding to celebrate both the soldiers and the draft dodgers in the same verse?
1. Iris Dement, “Wasteland of the Free”
Eerily prescient, this was written in 1995. Every listen gives me chills. Everything that is bringing America down – the corruption of religion by politicians, corporate greed, rampant ignorance, new McCarthyism and war for profit – is exposed in a brilliantly crafted tirade that is overflowing with righteous anger, enough to make you think that if Dement visited the White House, she’d be overturning some tables. Full lyrics here.
Tags: Alabama, Alan Jackson, Dixie Chicks, Garth Brooks, Iris Dement, Kathy Mattea, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Merle Haggard, Sawyer Brown, Todd Snider, Waylon Jennings