Tag Archives: Shania Twain

Daily Top Five: Country Convert Albums

Dixie Chicks Home high qualityToday’s Daily Top Five asks you to pick the five albums you would use to make a case for country music to the unconverted listener.

Here are the five albums I would lend/rip/share in a .zip to someone willing to give country music a chance:

  1. Dixie Chicks, Home
  2. Tim McGraw, Live Like You Were Dying
  3. Reba McEntire, For My Broken Heart
  4. Alan Jackson, A Lot About Livin’ (and a Little ‘Bout Love)
  5. Shania Twain, The Woman in Me

What are your Top Five Country Convert Albums?

 

24 Comments

Filed under Daily Top Five

Album Review: Reba McEntire, Love Somebody

Reba McEntire Love Somebody

Reba McEntire
Love Somebody

stars-412.gif

This is the strongest album Reba McEntire has released in more than twenty years.

Listening to Love Somebody is hearing a legend of the genre rediscover her own voice. She’s always been an excellent singer, but after making her name as both a heartbreak queen and the common folk’s Everywoman, she had tremendous difficulty navigating the post-Shania Twain landscape of female empowerment anthems.

Continue reading

8 Comments

Filed under Album Reviews

Daily Top Five: Favorite Debut Albums

Clint Black Killin' TimeAs we’re prepping our 1993 lists, there have been many debut albums in consideration.   That year brought the first studio sets from big stars  like Tracy Byrd, Toby Keith, Tim McGraw,  Shania Twain, and Clay Walker.    Also, sentimental favorites of attentive listeners, like Brother Phelps. Shawn Camp, Bobbie Cryner, Lisa Stewart,  and Lari White also released their first discs.

Debut albums aren’t always great. Sometimes the artistic voice just isn’t there yet.   But some new artists knock it out of the park the first time out.

Today we ask:  What are your Top Five Debut Albums?

Here’s my list:

  1. Kim Richey, Kim Richey
  2. Clint Black, Killin’ Time
  3. Randy Travis, Storms of Life
  4. Bobbie Cryner, Bobbie Cryner
  5. Emmylou Harris, Pieces of the Sky

 

32 Comments

Filed under Daily Top Five

2015 ACM Awards: Country Universe Viewer’s Guide

The fiftieth annual Academy of Country Music Awards air tonight, and Country Universe has you covered!  Here’s a rundown of all of the major categories, along with some commentary from our writers about who should win, who will, and what the nominations as a whole say about the current state of country music.

Share your thoughts about this year’s show in the comments, and check back for a list of winners when it’s all said and done.

Update: Join the CU crew on Twitter (@CountryUniverse) during the show to share your thoughts as things unfold!

Garth Brooks 3Entertainer of the Year

Should Win:

  • Jason Aldean
  • Garth Brooks – Jonathan
  • Luke Bryan – Sam
  • Florida-Georgia Line
  • Miranda Lambert – Ben, Kevin

Will Win:

  • Jason Aldean
  • Garth Brooks
  • Luke Bryan
  • Florida Georgia Line
  • Miranda Lambert – Jonathan, Ben, Sam, Kevin

BF: I think Lambert is due, but I could get on board with a win for Brooks, whose comeback tour certainly warrants recognition. Those are about the only two possible victories I could swallow.

SG: This is fan-voted, so it really comes down to who can most mobilize their fan base. I give Miranda the nod, simply because she and her husband can both rally the troops. As to who deserves it, it’s hard to deny the impact that Luke Bryan has had on country music, love him or loathe him. He also seems like a fair entertainer, whether it’s shimmying around the stage or falling off them.

Continue reading

14 Comments

Filed under ACM Awards

Daily Top Five: Songs About Money

Shania Twain Ka-Ching!This week brought tax season to an end, and depending on how it went for you last year, you’ll be collecting a refund check or writing one out to the IRS instead.

Seems as good a time as any to share our five favorite songs about money!

Here ‘s my top five:

  1. Merle Haggard, “If We Make it Through December”
  2. John Anderson, “Money in the Bank”
  3. Todd Snider, “Broke”
  4. Shania Twain, “Ka-Ching!”
  5. Alabama, “40 Hour Week (For a Livin’)”

 

 

13 Comments

Filed under Daily Top Five

Daily Top Five: Most Recent Purchases

Dwight Yoakam Second Hand HeartToday’s a fairly big release day for long time country music fans, as two legends release sets today:  Reba McEntire, who returns after five years with Love Somebody, and Dwight Yoakam, who is back with Second Hand Heart, which is only his second album of new material in the last ten years.

We’ve already review the lead Reba single and lead Dwight single.  We’ll have reviews up of both albums at a later date, but they influenced today’s Daily Top Five:  What are your most recent purchases?

I’m still an albums guy, so I’m going to list my most recent five albums purchased, but feel free to list tracks instead, if you’re more the a la carte type.

My five most recent (country) album purchases are:

  1. Shelby Lynne, Temptation
  2. Shania Twain, Still the One: Live From Vegas
  3. Rhiannon Giddens, Tomorrow is My Turn
  4. Punch Brothers, The Phosphorescent Blues
  5. Jason Isbell, Sirens of the Ditch

You can read the CU reviews of Giddens here, and Punch Brothers here, and there’s a good chance you’ll be reading about the Lynne set when we finish our 1993 lists.  Also, a great Starter Kit for Jason Isbell can be read here.  (Start with Southeastern, if you don’t have it already, before moving on to Sirens and the rest of his catalog.  You should have all of his catalog.  He’s that good.)

What are your five latest country purchases?

29 Comments

Filed under Daily Top Five

Discussion: Play the New Stuff, or Stick to the Hits?

Shania Twain Rock This Country TourShania Twain is returning to the road for the first time in more than a decade, and she’s calling it her farewell tour.

Well, technically, she’s calling it the Rock This Country tour, but it’s being marketed as both her return to and retirement from the road.

I should be all over this.  She’s one of my favorite all-time artists, and I loved her tour in support of Up!, which I still consider her best album.

But even though I enjoyed her Vegas television special last month, and even though any set list would be stacked with songs that I love, I’m honestly not that interested in seeing the show.

This is for a simple reason:  She’s not touring in support of new material.

I think I’m in the minority on this one, but I don’t like it when an artist only plays their hits from the past.   There’s something sterile about it, as if artistic vitality has been left in the rear view mirror and the artist is just attempting to recreate a time that has already passed.

Continue reading

14 Comments

Filed under Discussion

CU10 Flashback: Carrie Underwood, Shania Twain and Gender in Country Music

Shania Twain Carrie UnderwoodIn 2008, I was finishing up my degree in journalism and trying to understand what it meant to be a professional writer. I wanted to write about music, but the divide between fan and critic felt, at times, insurmountable.

That fall, I stumbled onto Country Universe through this post, and it changed my perspective. As both a writer and leader, Kevin was thoughtful, rational and personally invested in the country music genre. He showed a deep respect for the genre’s history, but wrote about new artists with tolerance and curiosity. Best of all, he held readers and writers alike to the highest standards of decency.

It’s for that reason that this post shines. Kevin’s ability to take a stand while cultivating constructive dialogue is unmatched. He cut through the divisive hype around Carrie Underwood –an artist who is as special to me now as she was back then—and underlined the real issue at hand: country music’s staggering, frustrating gender bias. Six years and a truckload of interchangeable male artists later, it’s more imperative than ever that we continue this discussion.  – Tara Seetharam

Discussion: Carrie Underwood, Shania Twain and Gender in Country Music

by Kevin John Coyne

August 29, 2008

I fear this post won’t quite live up to its ambitious title, and I realize that I’m stirring the tempest pot a bit by putting those two artists in the same sentence. But the tone that surfaces whenever Carrie Underwood is discussed here is something that I find increasingly frustrating, so I’m going to talk about it. Hopefully, I’ll get a meaningful conversation going along the way.

Continue reading

8 Comments

Filed under Alison Krauss, CU10, Discussion, Flashback, Miranda Lambert, Women of Country on Women in Country

Single Review: Lucy Hale, “You Sound Good to Me”

Lucy_Hale_-_You_Sound_Good_to_MePretty Little Liars actress turned country newcomer Lucy Hale cites Shania Twain and Martina McBride as major musical influences, and to a degree it’s perceptible on her debut single “You Sound Good to Me.” The track begins with a light, airy fiddle hook, and segues into an effervescent uptempo pop-country love song with an atypically sparse production arrangement by country radio standards (murky background vocals aside).

Unfortunately, things go very wrong in one important area – the vocal. Hale’s performance sound constantly strained and often pitch-challenged as she struggles to reach high notes and keep up with the brisk tempo. Worse yet, Hale’s voice rings generic and faceless, lacking any hint of distinctive personality or flair and instead sounding like that of any random karaoke bar patron.

It doesn’t help that the song itself is hardly anything special – standard Music Row radio filler courtesy of three of the industry’s current favorite hired-gun songwriters. There’s none of the distinctive cleverness, spunk or massive pop hooks that marked the best work of Hale’s role models. If such a song is going to work on any level at all, it needs a strong vocal performance to carry it. Without that crucial element, “You Sound Good to Me” quickly sinks like a stone.

Written by Ashley Gorley, Luke Laird and Hillary Lindsey

Grade: C-

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHz9qFCZOvs&list=PL1hdtH2WAGAyA74JjXkpwimtbkC5ORCFf&feature=share

5 Comments

Filed under Single Reviews

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

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!

untitled (63)

#40
“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

Will Hoge Strong
#39
“Strong”
Will Hoge

Individual rankings: #10 – Sam

Yeah, it’s the Chevy song, but whatever it takes to get Will Hoge introduced to a larger audience can’t be a bad thing. His lyrics about a true salt-of-the-earth individual ring true without ever steering into maudlin territory, and the line, “he ain’t jut tough, he’s strong,” is a great hook. It probably moved a fair number of pickup trucks, too. – Sam Gazdziak

Dierks Bentley Bourbon in Kentucky

#38
Bourbon in Kentucky”
Dierks Bentley

Individual rankings: #9 – Leeann

Although Bentley vies for radio play, “Bourbon in Kentucky” still sounds unique enough to stand out from the generic bombast of the male players on current country radio. In service to the intense angst of the song, the wailing guitars and the mix of Bentley’s and Kacey Musgraves’ emotive vocals make this single a riveting sonic and emotional experience. – Leeann Ward

Laura Bell Bundy You and I

#37
“You and I”
Laura Bell Bundy

Individual rankings: #8 – Jonathan

Laura Bell Bundy goes more-Shania-than-Shania on a cover of Lady Gaga’s “You and I” that aches and shakes in equal measure. Bundy’s music is best when she embraces her campiest impulses, so it makes perfect sense for her to take a signature hit by the most theatrical star in pop and lasso it into the country genre. – Jonathan Keefe

Kenny Rogers Dolly Parton Old Friends

#36
“You Can’t Make Old Friends”
Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton

Individual rankings: #7 – Kevin

After several attempts to recreate the youthful playfulness of the classic “Islands in the Stream”, Rogers and Parton embrace their age and confront their own mortality. It’s an obvious truth that no matter how great a new friend is, they can’t replace the shared memories of someone you’ve known for a long time. Even if you’ve since parted ways, you still share a part of the other’s identity. How fitting that these two old friends are ours as well, making the entire proceedings that much more poignant. – Kevin Coyne

Steeldrivers; Rounder Records; Photo: David McClister

#35
“I’ll Be There”
The SteelDrivers

Individual rankings:  #7 – Leeann

It’s almost unheard of for a group to lose a lead singer as dynamic as Chris Stapleton and still be as strong as ever with a replacement. Gary Nichols, however, managed to seamlessly slip into the SteelDriver’s front spot with the newly revamped band’s first single, “I’ll Be There.” The song is deliciously haunting both in content and melody. – Leeann Ward

Charlie Worsham Want Me Too

#34
“Want Me Too”
Charlie Horsham

Individual rankings:  #7 – Dan

Imagine if your favorite Keith Urban song and your favorite Diamond Rio song were to meet in the middle ‘neath that old Georgia pi-i-iiine. You might end up with something like Worsham’s second single, a lovestruck tail-wagger with Urban drive and Rio harmonies. Show me a cuter line from this year than “My heart’s skippin’ like a stone on the water!” – Dan Milliken

Taylor Swift Red

#33
“Red”
Taylor Swift

Individual rankings:  #6 – Dan

“Red” is a curious mix of brilliant similes (“Fighting with him was like trying to solve a crossword and realizing there’s no right answer”), plain ol’ descriptions posing as similes (“Touching him was like realizing all you ever wanted was right there in front of you”), and logical pretzels twisted against their will into similes (“Forgetting him was like trying to know somebody you never met”—what!). But Swift’s passion and command of melody pull the disparate pieces together, resulting in one of the year’s most unique and compulsively listenable singles. – Dan Milliken

Easton Corbin All Over the Roa

#32
“All Over the Road”
Easton Corbin
Individual rankings:  #6 – Ben

A delicious slice of steel-heavy nineties-esque escapist country bliss – complete with a breezy melody and an infectious, laid-back vocal performance. More please. – Ben Foster

Brad Paisley Beat This Summer

#31
“Beat This Summer”
Brad Paisley

Individual rankings: #11 – Ben; #19 – Leeann

With a hooky sing-along melody, addictive guitar riff, and a unique genre-bending arrangement, Paisley proves that summer hits don’t have to suck.  – Ben Foster

Mando Saenz Pocket Change

#30
“Pocket Change”
Mando Seanz

Individual rankings:  #5 – Sam

Texas radio stations jumped on this single when it was released, with good reason. Saenz has been known for his quiet, introspective ballads in the past, but “Pocket Change” starts with a slow burn before exploding into a full-blown rocker. “Where’s my Studebaker, I’m nobody’s pocket change,” he snarls as he walks/runs away from a bad love. – Sam Gazdziak

Ashley Monroe Weed instead of roses

#29
“Weed Instead of Roses”
Ashley Monroe

Individual rankings:  #16 – Tara, Jonathan; #20 – Sam

One woman’s plea to pump some action into her deflated marriage – via weed, leather and whips. It pops because it’s provocative, but it works because Monroe blends delightful charm with tongue-in-cheek boredom like the pro that she is.  – Tara Seetharam

Carrie underwood see you again

#28
“See You Again”

Carrie Underwood

Individual rankings:  #1 – Kevin

“See You Again” combines three of my favorite things: death, positivity, and power vocals. The entire premise that a person can look past their grief because their faith tells them they’ll be reunited with their lost loved one is hardly new to country music, but it’s rarely presented with such confident bravado and so little melancholy. I can’t think of another singer who could pull that off as believably as Underwood, who by the end of these proceedings makes me hope that the choir of angels in heaven sound like her insanely catchy backup singers do here. – Kevin Coyne

Old Crow Medicine Show Carry Me Back to Virginia

#27
“Carry Me Back to Virginia”
Old Crow Medicine Show

Individual rankings: #9 – Sam; #12 – Jonathan

For anyone who wants to discover Old Crow Medicine Show beyond “Wagon Wheel,” this song is an excellent primer. Lightning-fast fiddle and vocals from Ketch Secor with a song about the Civil War, and crack band of musicians that favor enthusiasm over the precision that is often found in bluegrass. They’ve been often imitated but never duplicated. – Sam Gazdziak

Kacey Musgraves Blowin' Smoke

#26
“Blowin’ Smoke”
Kacey Musgraves

Individual rankings: #7 – Ben; #15 – Sam

For three glorious minutes, the voice of the working class is heard once again on country radio. Musgraves suitably renders the song with a rundown sigh of a performance, while a gritty, rumbling arrangement places the listener right in the midst of the smoky haze. – Ben Foster

Ashley Monroe You Got Me

#25
“You Got Me”
Ashley Monroe

Individual rankings: #14 – Kevin; #15 – Ben; #16 – Leeann

On the surface, it’s obvious that this is about an entangled dysfunctional relationship, but listening deeper reveals that the relationship is with an addictive substance. Encased in a deep melancholy, the song cleverly and astutely captures the parallels with the two types of relational embattlements. The observations acknowledge that while the sources may be different, many of the general effects are the same. – Leeann Ward

Amos Lee Chill in the Air

#24
“Chill in the Air”
Amos Lee

Individual rankings:  #14 – Tara; #15 – Dan; #16 – Kevin

A smooth yet moody cocktail of country, folk, and soul that rides its long drawl into a sweet, simple chorus. Shoulda been a hit. – Dan Milliken

The Band Perry DONE

#23
“DONE.”
The Band Perry

Individual rankings: #6 – Jonathan; #15 – Tara

At a time when most contemporary country acts are aspiring to sound like arena rock, metal, and post-grunge bands that were terrible in the first place, The Band Perry at least had the good taste to blatantly rip off one of the best rock singles of the last decade for their hit “DONE.” – Jonathan Keefe

Tillis Morgan I Know What You Did Last Night

#22
“I Know What You Did Last Night”
Pam Tillis & Lorrie Morgan

Individual rankings: #10 – Kevin, Ben

They may be in their fifties, but make no mistake about it: Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan can still party down when they want to. Built around good-humored conversational interplay between two old friends, “I Know What You Did Last Night” is one of the freshest, most entertaining up-tempos sent to radio this year, and a reminder that Tillis and Morgan are still two of country music’s most vibrant talents.  – Ben Foster

Rhonda Vincent I'd Rather Hear I Don't Love You

#21
“I’d Rather Hear I Don’t Love You (Than Nothing at All)”
Rhonda Vincent

Individual rankings:  #9 – Ben; #10 – Leeann

Rhonda Vincent is always supreme whether she’s singing traditional bluegrass or, in this case, a good ol’ country weeper. Supported with the best kind of country acoustic instrumentation, Vincent’s voice satisfyingly leans into the heartbreak and desperation of a woman who is gripping a relationship that is obviously already dead. She knows it’s over, but her heart says that it’s not over until he literally says it’s over.  – Leeann Ward

Country Universe’s Best of 2013:

13 Comments

Filed under Best of 2013