Steve Earle

Album Review: Allison Moorer, Down to Believing

October 4, 2015 // 2 Comments

Since making her debut with 1997’s Alabama Song, Allison Moorer has been one of country music’s most consistent albums artists. The singer-songwriter has three unqualified masterpieces to her credit— the flawless stone-country heartbreak cycle of The Hardest Part, the politically charged The Duel, and the somber, heady Southern Gothic of Crows. Despite having those triumphs— and other excellent albums like Alabama Song and Good Fortune— to her credit, Moorer’s latest effort, Down to Believing, is perhaps the finest album of her career because it finds Moorer challenging both her singing and her songwriting voices to plumb truly difficult emotional depths.

Daily Top Five: Favorite Tribute Albums

July 22, 2015 // 6 Comments

Some of my favorite albums are tribute albums, because I enjoy hearing artists cover or reinterpret songs that I know and love. Country music artists have participated in a wide range of tribute albums and these are five of my very favorites. What are some of your favorites? Here’s my list: Steve Earle, Townes Various Artists, Bob Wills Tribute Various Artists, Keith Whitley: A Tribute Album Various Artists, Common Thread: Songs of the Eagles Asleep at the Wheel & Various Artists, A Tribute to Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys

Daily Top Five: Favorite Songs by Your Favorite Songwriter

April 21, 2015 // 19 Comments

There’s a cool Guy Clark documentary Kickstarter campaign happening right now that I encourage country music lovers to check out and, perhaps, make a pledge toward. Long time publicist, biographer and Guy Clark champion, Tamara Saviano, is in the process of producing and directing a documentary on Clark, a revered songwriter in country music. The campaign is already almost fully funded, which is a testament to the wide and strong impact of Clark. However, while they’ve almost raised the initial funds, any extra money on top of that modest goal will only allow the documentary to be even better than it already promises to be, not to mention the opportunities for various perks that are offered to backers of the project. After reading about and pledging to this campaign, I’ve been going down a Guy Clark Rabbit hole for the last couple of days, which has included listening to songs Read More

Album Review: Emmylou Harris, Wrecking Ball: Deluxe Edition

May 26, 2014 // 0 Comments

Emmylou Harris Wrecking Ball Deluxe Edition

Emmylou Harris

Wrecking Ball: Deluxe Edition


Nonesuch has released an impressive deluxe edition of the landmark Emmylou Harris album, Wrecking Ball. For those who are new to the set, this is the edition you should buy. But it’s also worth the upgrade for those who already have this set in their collection.

Produced by Daniel Lanois, this album was a stunning departure for Harris, so much so that she personally requested that it not be eligible for the country charts. That’s funny in retrospect, given that alongside legends like Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, and Neil Young, the album was anchored by compositions by up-and-coming songwriters like Gillian Welch, Lucinda Williams, and Julie Miller. With further cuts by writers like Anna McGarrigle, Steve Earle, and Rodney Crowell, Wrecking Ball helped set a template for what would become a vibrant Americana scene over the years that followed.

2014 Grammy Awards: Staff Picks & Predictions

January 23, 2014 // 4 Comments

The Country Universe staff has picked and predicted the 2014 Grammy Awards below, strange bunch that they are. Chime in with your thoughts, and catch the show on Sunday at 7 p.m. CST.

daftpunk-randomaccess-vinyl_grande-1.jpg?v=1368726630Album of the Year

Should Win:

  • Sara Bareilles, The Blessed Unrest
  • Daft Punk, Random Access MemoriesKevin
  • Kendrick Lamar, good kid m.A.A.d. cityJonathan
  • Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, The Heist
  • Taylor Swift, Red

Will Win:

  • Sara Bareilles, The Blessed Unrest
  • Daft Punk, Random Access MemoriesKevin, Jonathan
  • Kendrick Lamar, good kid m.A.A.d. city
  • Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, The Heist
  • Taylor Swift, Red

Kevin: With electronic music so mainstream now, it would be wise and timely for NARAS to acknowledge the excellent comeback of one of its pioneers, especially as the year’s best country albums (Brandy Clark, Kacey Musgraves, Ashley Monroe, etc.) and the year’s best rap album (Kanye West) didn’t score nominations in the top category.

Jonathan: Lamar and Daft Punk would both be worthy winners of an award that rarely seems to go to one. Hip-hop and R&B have notoriously struggled in the general field in recent years, so Daft Punk’s cachet with the rock contingent should give them the edge over Swift, who didn’t score the across-the-board support many were expecting from her this year. If the voters are feeling especially timid, though, watch out for “Brave” yelper Bareilles as a spoiler.

2014 Grammy Nominees

December 7, 2013 // 14 Comments

The nominations for the 56th Annual Grammy Awards have been announced. Taylor Swift has the top nomination connected to country music, earning her second nomination for Album of the Year. She took home the award four years ago for Fearless.

Here are the general category nominees, along with all country and country-related categories:

Taylor Swift RedAlbum of the Year

  • Sara Bareilles, The Blessed Unrest
  • Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
  • Kendrick Lamar, good kid m.A.A.d. city
  • Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, The Heist
  • Taylor Swift, Red

If Taylor Swift wins, she will be the first country-related artist in history to win the category twice with individual projects. Alison Krauss also has two victories, one for her collaboration with Robert Plant (Raising Sand, 2009), and another for her contributions to the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack (2002.) The award has only been won by country artists in two other years: Glen Campbell for By the Time I Get to Phoenix (1968), and the Dixie Chicks for Taking the Long Way (2007).

Grammy Awards 2012: Staff Picks & Predictions

February 11, 2012 // 2 Comments

The 54th annual GrammyAdele Awards air this Sunday at 8 p.m. Eastern. Look for appearances by Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley and Lady Antebellum as well as country-ish performances by Jason Aldean, Glen Campbell (with the Band Perry and Blake Shelton), Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood. We’ve picked and predicted the awards below – share your thoughts, and be sure to drop by on Sunday night for our live blog!

iPod Playlist: Originals And Covers

July 14, 2011 // 19 Comments

As I’m sure the rest of you do, I make playlists all the time. Many of them are lists of individual artists, but some of them have a concept.

My latest playlist is of covers. First, I have the original version (or the one that’s famous for being the original) followed by my favorite cover of it. My only rule is that I have to like both versions. So, songs where I like the cover but not the original won’t make the list.

Grammy Pre-Telecast Winners

January 31, 2010 // 110 Comments

Here are the winners in the country and country-related categories from the pre-telecast:

Best Country Song: Liz Rose & Taylor Swift, “White Horse”

Best Country Instrumental Performance: Steve Wariner, “Producer’s Medley”

Best Country Collaboration with Vocals: Carrie Underwood & Randy Travis, “I Told You So”

Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals: Lady Antebellum, “I Run to You”

Best Female Country Vocal Performance: Taylor Swift, “White Horse”

Best Male Country Vocal Performance: Keith Urban, “Sweet Thing”

Best Contemporary Folk Album: Steve Earle, Townes

Best Bluegrass Album: Steve Martin, The Crow/New Songs for the Five-String Banjo

Best Americana Album: Levon Helm, Electric Dirt

Best Southern/Country/Bluegrass Gospel Album: Jason Crabb, Jason Crabb

Best Country Albums of 2009, Part 2: #10-#1

January 15, 2010 // 49 Comments

Round 2 – FIGHT!

Play On
Carrie Underwood

World: meet Underwood. She’s fiercely compassionate and endearingly idealistic (the riveting “Change”). She holds her beliefs with a firm but quiet conviction (“Temporary Home”). She’s as comfortable and convincing at tearing down a wrong-doer (the Dixie Chicks-esque “Songs Like This”) as she is nursing an irreparable heartache, whether it’s in the form of a haunting country standard (“Someday When I Stop Loving You”) or a rich pop ballad (“What Can I Say?”). And she’s one of the most gifted vocalists of this generation, possessing an instrument that, when colored and layered with emotion as she’s aptly learned to do on Play On, can have bone-chilling effects.

Like it or leave it, Play On is the most authentic encapsulation of Underwood’s artistry and persona to date, and serves as an exciting glimpse at how far a little growth can carry her. The best is yet to come, but in the meantime, the “good” is pretty damn good. – Tara Seetharam

Sara Watkins
Sara Watkins

As most people know by now, Sara Watkins is the female member of the now-disbanded (hopefully temporarily) New Grass trio, Nickel Creek. While Nickel Creek was difficult to classify in a certain genre (not bluegrass, not country), they were embraced by bluegrass and country music fans alike. Each member of the popular trio has released intriguing projects outside of Nickel Creek, but Watkins’ album has assumed the most decidedly country direction of them all. As a result, we are treated to a sublime album thanks to Watkins’ sweet voice and a set of impressively solid songs. – Leeann Ward

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