Tag Archives: Tim McGraw

ACM Winners and Live Blog

acm-awards

WINNERS:

ENTERTAINER: Carrie Underwood

ALBUM: Taylor Swift, Fearless

SINGLE: “You’re Gonna Miss This” – Trace Adkins

FEMALE VOCALIST: Carrie Underwood

MALE VOCALIST: Brad Paisley

VOCAL DUO: Sugarland

TOP NEW ARTIST: Julianne Hough

VOCAL GROUP: Rascal Flatts

SONG: “In Color” – Jamey Johnson

LIVE BLOG:

11:00 Wonderful ending to a pretty good night!

10:59 ENTERTAINER: Carrie Underwood!!!

10:57 Matt and Jamie Foxx should co-host next year.

10:56 Matthew M. was the “Walkaway Joe” in Trisha’s video from 1992.

10:54 The show got better as it went on. I’ve really enjoyed most of the later performances.

10:49 This is the best I’ve heard Rascal Flatts in a very long time. I would buy this song arranged and performed like this.

10:47 Not much in the way of multiple winners tonight, at least in the marquee categories. Brad Paisley has 3 (Male, Video, Vocal Event), Julianne Hough has 2 (New Artist, New Female Artist.)

10:45 ALBUM: Taylor Swift, Fearless (Leeann has to be far ahead by now)

10:42 Blake got Brad Paisley’s slot, I think. Good to hear him. I like this song.

10:36 Who will win Female Vocalist? You need a better teaser than that. Who’s in charge of the clips here?

10:35 SINGLE: “You’re Gonna Miss This” – Trace Adkins  (His first industry award since winning ACM Top New Male Vocalist twelve years ago.)

10:34 Anybody else lose sound?

10:33 She’s getting a Crystal Milestone award for winning an award last year? Really?

10:30 I really need to see them live. If they’re this good on award shows, they must be amazing with their own audience.

10:29 Jennifer Nettles attended Keith Urban’s charisma workshop.

10:28 Reba just said “Any-hoo.”

10:22 The contrast in phrasing between Adkins and the choir is jarring. But Good Lord, this is the best song of the night.

10:19 Amazing how war songs are timeless, even when they describe wars from long ago.

10:15 FEMALE VOCALIST: Carrie Underwood

10:13 She’s getting lost in the mix, but from what I can hear, it’s like “For My Broken Heart” with a brighter morning.

10: 12 New Reba. Good so far.

10:07 Little Jimmy Dickens got served.

10:05 MALE VOCALIST: Brad Paisley

10:04 None of these guys are really at the top of their game.

10:02 She really does put everyone else to shame. This is better than the record.

10:01 Carrie saw it in the window and she just had to have it.

9:54 It’s been 34 minutes since the last award. Yeesh.

9:53 “Hell Yeah”, Part II. Among country recycled grooves, I dig MG’s the least.

9:51 Ladies and gentlemen, Anita Cochran on lead guitar!

9:50 Then again, I’m not sure she’s singing live. Anybody heard the record?

9:49 Alright, I’ll say it. She’s got better vocal chops than most of the people on tonight’s show. I’d like to swap teen idols with pop music right about now.

9:47 Perhaps one of the reasons it’s been such a wild ride for both you and Miley is that you won’t get off her horse.

9:45 Random aside: Is anyone else seeing the Gene Simmons commercial for Cherry Dr. Pepper? Why doesn’t Cherry Coke Zero get such a big promotional push???

9:42 Coming up…Miley Cyrus and Carrie Underwood. Why not?

9:41 This live blog brought to you from New York City. We’re not part of the real world, but thankfully the internet can beam us to those of you who live in it.

9:40 Good to know some tools are still made in America.

9:39 A rundown of working class anthems should’ve included Aaron Tippin.

9:37 I didn’t realize LeAnn Rimes did so much humanitarian work. I guess she has nothin’ better to do.

9:35 She dances like Natalie Maines. Heh.

9:34 I like the imagery. She’s quite the songwriter, assuming that she wrote this.

9:33 Am I the only one who can’t help but think about Mindy McCready’s “Maybe He’ll Notice Her Now” with these lyrics?

9:32 New Miranda Lambert song. Can’t wait to hear it.

9:26 Urban reminds me just how much the new artists lack charisma. He should give workshops on charisma.

9:23 Of all the country superstar recycled grooves, Urban’s is my favorite.

9:21 If Nettles had turned quickly at an angle, this show would be on tape delay next year.

9:20 VOCAL DUO: Sugarland (Finally! First time B&D ever lost a pure Vocal Duo race at the ACM’s!)

9:19 I think we may have peaked for the evening. Sigh.

9:17 So far, this is the only performance of the night that I can say improves on the recorded performance.

9:15 Lee Ann Womack is doing “Solitary Thinkin’.” One of the better tracks from Call Me Crazy.

9:10 Lady Antebellum sounds very generic.

9:06 She gets a crystal milestone award for her incredible record sales? Her albums combined haven’t matched the sales of Underwood’s first album, the first three Dixie Chicks albums, three Shania Twain albums.  Why didn’t Rascal Flatts get this award? John Michael Montgomery? Toby Keith? Kenny Chesney? I’m just confused.

9:05 This reminds me of the Brooke White girl from Idol last year.

9:03 David Copperfield did not, in the end, pull an auto-tuner out of his hat.

8:54 Standing O? Wow, the value of those have plummeted. Must be the economy.

8:53 TOP NEW ARTIST: Julianne Hough

8:52 We like to blame the sound mix for less than par performances. But notice how George Strait still sounds great  – and mark my words, Carrie Underwood will, too.

8:51 I love this song. “Troubadour” couldn’t be a better fit for him.

8:50 I wonder how many of the new artists knew that was a George Strait song.

8:49 He could do a sketch as Wanda the Ugly Girl trying to out-dress Carrie Underwood.

8:48 Seriously, he’s killing. Please let him host next year.

8:47 Jamie Foxx. I’d love to see him host the show next year.

8:43 Poor Nashville viewers had to deal with storm warnings during the Johnson performance. How cool would it have been if those popped up last year during Taylor Swift’s performance of “Should’ve Said No”?

8:41 As for the actual performance, he sounds good. Still overwhelmed by the backing track, but that seems inevitable on these shows. I’m surprised they didn’t do a stripped-down performance a la “Stay.” Those are the only ones that ever sound good on these shows.

8:40 So I get the whole conceit here, but give me a break. There weren’t huge projection screens in the days of black-and-white photographs. Or TV for that matter. This is way too pretentious for my tastes.

8:39 Oh dear God. It’s in black and white. I didn’t see that coming.

8:38 Here comes Jamey Johnson. I suspect we’ll see it in color.

8:36 I wonder if McGraw’s production differences had something to do with those screens behind the artists?

8:35 Toby Keith’s best recent performance wasn’t on a country music award show. Check out his roast of Larry the Cable Guy.

8:29 I’m excited for Toby Keith, though he always seems to do rave-ups. Shame, since he’s such a great balladeer.

8:27 VOCAL GROUP: Rascal Flatts (There goes my lead)

8:26 I wonder if next year she’ll be back singing “Amy and Vince” or “Tim and Faith.”

8:23 I feel bad that Heidi Newfield has nearly no chance despite five nominations. A bit weird to see her dolled up. She was Gretchen Wilson before Gretchen Wilson was Gretchen Wilson.

8:22 Home Depot has been a big friend to this show. They supply the wooden performances.

8:17 Methinks that Jamey Johnson would look better out of color. Yikes.

8:16 SONG: “In Color” – Jamey Johnson  (I called this one, y’all – he’ll repeat at the CMA’s)

8:15 J Love is a huge fan of country music. I’m a huge fan of the Ghost Whisperer. Cool.

8:14 Random pics in the back of young college-age girls partying. Weird.

8:12 Anyone in the comments want to explain the appeal of Chesney playing live? What are his shows like? I’ve never been.

8:11 First time in a long time there’s been a woman in there. I think the Dixie Chicks were the last ones.

8:10 Who’s on the couch with Brad Paisley and Little Jimmy Dickens?

8:09 A gay joke? Really?

8:09 George Strait is indeed the man himself.

8:08 Please say Rascal Flatts from the behind of a cow.

8:07 That was interesting, but I wonder how much cooler it could’ve been if it was done later in the show, and was built around ballads with “Very Last Country Song” being the framework.

8:06 I do not want to hang with you and your gang.

8:05 I think they’ve run through all of country’s multi-platinum acts.

8:04 Love me some Carrie Underwood. Hope she has a big night.

8:03 Sugarland, I wouldn’t mind hearing the full song. At least Leeann got a bit of “It Happens.”

8:02 Wow, George Strait snarled at his reference until he noticed the camera was on.

8:01 Taylor Swift doing “Picture to Burn.” Is this a medley of annoying songs performed poorly?

8:00 We’re starting with some sort of jam beginning with Brooks & Dunn. “Play Something Country” still annoys me. The melody is ripped off from “Shut Up and Kiss Me.”

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Hall of Fame, By the Numbers

hall-of-fameMy good friend and favorite sports blogger Charles Geier, of The Widening Geier fame, has long used statistics-based reasoning when making the case for the best in sports, whether for the current season or throughout the history of a given sport.

He recently launched an in-depth site called Sports Statistics – By the Numbers, which details the crucial importance of statistics, and of course, it got me thinking about country music.

Music statistics are difficult to use in the same way, if only because chart success is but one measure of an artist’s impact. However, with country music being such a commercial genre, it’s interesting to see how the most successful chart acts have fared among Country Music Hall of Fame inductees.

Looking through Joel Whitburn’s Hot Country Songs 1944-2008 and Hot Country Albums 1964-2007, it’s immediately clear that the charts are important. All of the top ten country singles artists are in the Hall of Fame, as are eight of the top ten country albums artists.

But what about those not in the Hall of Fame who are ranked high in either measure? Should they be next in line, or should they still wait? What follows are the top ten singles artists and album artists that have yet to be inducted or announced as inductees of the Hall of Fame. Their rank overall is included after their name.

Top Country Singles Artists Not in the Hall of Fame

  1. Reba McEntire (Overall Rank: #11)
  2. Hank Williams, Jr. (#15)
  3. Alan Jackson (#18)
  4. Garth Brooks (#23)
  5. Ronnie Milsap (#26)
  6. Kenny Rogers (#27)
  7. Tim McGraw (#29)
  8. Brooks & Dunn (#33)
  9. Tanya Tucker (#34)
  10. Don Williams (#37)

Top Country Albums Artists Not in the Hall of Fame

  1. Hank Williams, Jr. (Overall Rank: #5)
  2. Kenny Rogers (#10)
  3. Garth Brooks (#12)
  4. Reba McEntire (#13)
  5. Alan Jackson (#18)
  6. Randy Travis (#19)
  7. Tim McGraw (#22)
  8. Anne Murray (#23)
  9. Toby Keith (#24)
  10. Ronnie Milsap (#27)

This year’s artist inductees to the Hall of Fame are Barbara Mandrell and Roy Clark. Mandrell ranks #55 on the singles list and #64 on the albums list. Clark comes in at #118 on the singles list and #63 on the albums list. Both artists, however, were very successful on television, so they also reveal how limiting such lists can be.

Thoughts?

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Chris Willman Joins The Huffington Post

rednecksOne of country music’s finest journalist has a new outlet for his talents. Chris Willman has written for Entertainment Weekly for many years and he also wrote the essential book Rednecks and Bluenecks, which explored the history of politics in country music.

He’s now joined The Huffington Post, and the online format allows him to write exponentially longer essays. His first explicitly country article is up now, and it’s a fascinating read: Jamey Johnson and John Rich Help Country Radio Get Real.

One of Willman’s gifts as a writer is his ability to get artists to speak more deeply and more candidly about their craft. Thus, even an interview with an artist like John Rich, who I generally find insufferable, is still interesting. The article closes with tidbits about upcoming Tim McGraw and Brad Paisley songs, too.

The Huffington Post isn’t for everybody, so thankfully I can link directly to Chris Willman’s index page, avoiding the tabloid politics entirely. Since the man wrote my favorite line ever in a music review*, I’ll be checking it regularly for updates.

* His 2002 Shania Twain review -“Up! is like Abba Gold without all the melancholy.”

Thanks to CU reader Dudley for the link.

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Into the Circle: The Country Music Hall of Fame Changes Criteria

halloffamelogoThe Country Music Association, mere weeks after inducting its 2009 class, has announced a change in the Hall of Fame criteria. Per the CMA website:

Three inductees will continue to be announced as new members of the Country Music Hall of Fame annually, each selected from a different category.  Beginning in 2010, the categories will be renamed and defined as follows:

  • Veterans Era – This category will be for professionals that have been in the industry longer than 25 years. It combines the former “Career Achieved National Prominence Between World War II and 1975″ (which was voted on annually) and “Career Achieved National Prominence Prior to World War II” (which was voted on every third year in rotation) categories into one.
  • Modern Era – This category will be for professionals that have been in the industry at least 20 years, but no more than 25 years, and takes the place of the former annual “Career Achieved National Prominence Between 1975-Present” slot.
  • Rotating Categories – The third slot will continue to be a rotating category, with each group in the spotlight every third year. The Recording and/or Touring Musician and Non Performer slots will remain, joined by a new Songwriter category.

The Modern Era category seems far too limiting, especially given the numerous artists and industry insiders that are fully deserving of this honor. The change does present Randy Travis, Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson the opportunity to be inducted within the next two to three years, but also leaves legends such as Connie Smith, Jean Shepard and the Oak Ridge Boys to “compete” with newer acts such as Reba McEntire and Hank Williams, Jr. for one solitary spot each year.

Eventually, all of those artists appear to be locks for the Hall of Fame, but, as My Kind of Country alluded to earlier in the week, very few artists in modern-day country music will truly be remembered. Here’s a list of ten contemporary artists who could make the Hall of Fame one day. Although their careers aren’t complete, they have the potential to be lauded for their talent in the coming years. Sound off in the comments with your opinions on who is in, who is out and who could still make a case for induction. Feel free to add any other artists you’d deem worthy. This is not my judgment of who should/should not be included, but a random listing of ten artists who could at least present interesting cases in, say, 2020.  Feedback it up. (For a glance at near-future candidates, see Six Pack: Hall of Fame Inductees. Barbara Mandrell, Roy Clark and Charlie McCoy are the 2009 honorees.)

  • Clint Black
  • Rosanne Cash
  • Faith Hill
  • Kathy Mattea
  • Martina McBride
  • Tim McGraw
  • Kenny Rogers
  • Pam Tillis
  • Shania Twain
  • Dwight Yoakam

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Pat Green, “Country Star”

pat-greenWhat can I say? Pat Green’s “Country Star” is gimmicky, bland and altogether misses the mark. It shamelessly namechecks artists such as Faith Hill, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Big & Rich, Brooks & Dunn, Vince Gill, Willie Nelson, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban and alludes to a Toby Keith song with not even so much as a gesture toward originality. Along with its vapid lyrics, the production is unbearably stale.

The progressive decay of Pat Green’s once quality and fresh-sounding material is overtly purposeful, so it is impossible to feel sorry for him. It, nevertheless, is depressing to witness all the same.

To completely sell out, as Green has no doubt done, is a sad price to pay, all for the sake of being a “country star.”

Grade: D

Listen: “Country Star”

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Grammy Flashback: Best Male Country Vocal Performance

Updated for 2009

While the Grammys have honored country music from the very first ceremony in 1959, they did not begin honoring by gender until 1965, when the country categories were expanded along with the other genre categories. This year, the 45th trophy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance will be awarded.

In a continuation of our Grammy Flashback series, here is a rundown of the Best Country Vocal Performance, Male category. It was first awarded in 1965, and included singles competing with albums until the Best Country Album category was added in 1995. When an album is nominated, it is in italics, and a single track is in quotation marks.

As usual, we start with a look at this year’s nominees and work our way back. Be sure to vote in My Kind of Country’s Best Male Country Vocal Performance poll and let your preference for this year’s race be known!

jamey-johnson-lonesome2009

  • Trace Adkins, “You’re Gonna Miss This”
  • Jamey Johnson, “In Color”
  • James Otto, “Just Got Started Lovin’ You”
  • Brad Paisley, “Letter to Me”
  • George Strait, “Troubadour”

As with the album race, this year’s contenders for Best Male Country Vocal Performance are a combination of unrecognized veterans and promising newcomers. In fact, none of this year’s nominees have won in this category, and only one of them – Brad Paisley – has a Grammy at all.

First, the veterans. Paisley has numerous ACM and CMA victories to his credit, including two each for Male Vocalist.  Although he’s been nominated for this award twice before, this is the first time he’s contended with a cut that can’t be dismissed as a novelty number. The touching self-penned “Letter to Me” is his best shot yet at taking this home.

Trace Adkins has been at this a bit longer than Paisley, but this is his first Grammy nomination. His crossover exposure from Celebrity Apprentice might help him out here, along with the fact that the song was considered strong enough by voters to earn a nomination of its own.

But the real veteran to watch out for is George Strait. After being nominated only twice for this category in the first 25 years of his career, voters have now given him three consecutive nominations. This is one of four nods he’s earned for the 2009 ceremony, and “Troubadour” is essentially the story of his epic career distilled into a radio-length song. It would be the perfect way to honor the man and his music in one fell swoop.

However, there’s a newcomer that might be a Grammy favorite already.  We just haven’t found out yet. Not James Otto, of course, who is nominated for his charming romantic romp “Just Got Started Lovin’ You”, but rather, Jamey Johnson. The recent Nashville Scene critics’ poll further confirmed the depth of his support among tastemakers, and his nominations for Best Country Song and Best Country Album indicate that he’s very much on the academy’s radar. It helps that he has the most substantial track of the five, and it’s the obvious choice for traditionalists, who have little reason to split their votes in this category. If voters aren’t considering legacy when making their selections, he has a great shot at this.

2008

  • Dierks Bentley, “Long Trip Alone”
  • Alan Jackson, “A Woman’s Love”
  • Tim McGraw, “If You’re Reading This”
  • George Strait, “Give it Away”
  • Keith Urban, “Stupid Boy”

The often offbeat Grammy voters have been surprisingly mainstream in this category for the past three years, a trend best exemplified by this lineup, which was the first in more than a decade to feature only top ten radio hits. Tim McGraw and Keith Urban were the only two who had won this before, and it was Urban who emerged victorious. “Stupid Boy” was a highlight of his fourth studio album, and this was the only major award that the impressive collection would win.

2007

  • Dierks Bentley, “Every Mile a Memory”
  • Vince Gill, “The Reason Why”
  • George Strait, “The Seashores of Old Mexico”
  • Josh Turner, “Would You Go With Me”
  • Keith Urban, “Once in a Lifetime”

Vince Gill returned to win in this category for a ninth time with “The Reason Why.” Not only is he, by far, the most honored artist in this category, his wins here account for nine of the nineteen Grammys currently on his mantle.

2006

  • George Jones, “Funny How Time Slips Away”
  • Toby Keith, “As Good As I Once Was”
  • Delbert McClinton, “Midnight Communion”
  • Willie Nelson, “Good Ol’ Boys”
  • Brad Paisley, “Alcohol”
  • Keith Urban, “You’ll Think of Me”

Urban’s biggest and probably best hit launched his second album to triple platinum and established him as a crossover artist. He gave a killer performance of the song on the show. Toby Keith was a first-time nominee here, and while he publicly groused that the Grammys put too little emphasis on commercial success in picking their nominations, he lost to the only track that was a bigger hit than his own.

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Grammy Flashback: Best Country Album

A look back at the previous winners and nominees of the Best Country Album Grammy, updated to include the 2009 contenders.

The Grammys have been doing better in the country categories since they reintroduced the Best Country Album category in 1995, which had only been in existence for two years in the 1960s. Prior to 1995, albums and singles were both eligible in the vocalist categories, so full albums would compete against single tracks in Best Male Country Vocal Performance,  for example.

Looking over the history of this fairly young category, you can see trends emerge, with certain acts clearly being favorites of NARAS. You see the same trend with the CMAs, just with different people. What is clear with the Grammys is that radio and retail success will only carry you so far. For awards that are supposed to be based on artistic merit, that’s how it should be.

As with the CMA flashbacks, we’ll begin with a look at this year’s nominees, then discuss previous year’s in reverse chronological order. Winners are in bold.

Be sure to drop by My Kind of Country and vote in their Best Country Album poll. Let your preference be known!

trisha12009

  • Jamey Johnson, That Lonesome Song
  • Patty Loveless, Sleepless Nights
  • George Strait, Troubadour
  • Randy Travis, Around the Bend
  • Trisha Yearwood, Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love

Four veterans and one newcomer vie for this year’s Best Country Album, and it’s a wide-open race with no obvious favorite. The critically acclaimed breakthrough album of Jamey Johnson could earn him his first Grammy. The legendary George Strait would like to start a Grammy collection of his own. Like fellow nominee Patty Loveless, this is his third nomination for this award. While Loveless has also yet to win this one, she does have a Grammy already, for her contributions to the multi-artist collaboration “Same Old Train.”

Randy Travis is a real contender here; five of his previous albums have won Grammys. Two of them (Always & Forever, Old 8×10) won in the Best Male Country Vocal Performance category, back when albums and singles competed with each other in that race. And while this is his first nomination for Best Country Album, he was won Best Southern, Country, or Bluegrass Gospel Album three times, for Glory Train (2007), Worship & Faith (2005) and Rise and Shine (2004.)

While Vince Gill broke the all-female trend in this category last year, he was nominated in an all-male field. If the trend begins again this year, this will be a battle between Loveless and Trisha Yearwood. The latter’s Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love is arguably the strongest album in this category, and while Yearwood won three Grammys in the nineties, she has never won Best Country Album, despite earning more nominations than any other artist in the history of the category – Heartache is her eighth set to contend for the trophy. She’s beyond overdue, but her competition is formidable.

vince-gill-these-days2008

  • Dierks Bentley, Long Trip Alone
  • Vince Gill, These Days
  • Tim McGraw, Let it Go
  • Brad Paisley, 5th Gear
  • George Strait, It Just Comes Natural

With the exception of Shania Twain’s Come On Over, no album that has also been nominated for the general Album of the Year race has failed to win Best Country Album. So it was no surprise when Vince Gill picked up the trophy for his four-disc opus These Days. In his acceptance speech, he good-naturedly ribbed Kanye West, providing one of the evening’s brightest moments.

2007

  • Dixie Chicks, Taking the Long Way
  • Alan Jackson, Like Red On a Rose
  • Little Big Town, The Road to Here
  • Willie Nelson, You Don’t Know Me: The Songs of Cindy Walker
  • Josh Turner, Your Man

The Chicks became the first artists in Grammy history to win four genre Best Album awards, breaking their tie with Eminem, who has won three Best Rap Album trophies. This was one of five trophies they took home at the February 2007 ceremony, and the album returned to #1 on the country chart and back to the pop top ten on the strength of those victories.

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Single Review: Tim McGraw, “Nothin’ to Die For”

timmcgraw2

Country music history is littered with stormy relationships.  Hank and Audrey. George and Tammy. Tim McGraw and Curb Records. With the seventh (!) single from his 2007 album, Let It Go, Curb is milking the platinum set for all its worth with this harsh rebuke of alcoholism, well-sung by McGraw, but also very much in the vein of “Live Like You Were Dying.”

As a friend of the story’s failed hero, McGraw warns the man that swerving in and out of sobriety is a recipe for disaster. When McGraw moves into the chorus with the lines, “You’d give your last breath to your wife, take a bullet for your kids/Lay your life down for your country, for your Jesus, for your friends,” he has, in one fell swoop, struck a nerve with those that value children, soldiers and heaven. Clever country music marketing.

McGraw then tells him that these blessings all trump alcohol in the grand scheme of things, and that he should get right back on track before losing his life. But the heavy drinker doesn’t warrant much sympathy (his workaholic nature is the only given excuse for his depression), and, even with a convincing vocal from one of Nashville’s greatest songpickers, we never reach the real heart of this sad tale.

Ultimately, “Nothin’ to Die For” is carefully constructed to spotlight that first couplet of the chorus, a reminder of life’s little treasures. This master technique, a gelling of familiar themes into a short series of lyrics, is the format’s calling card of late. As Honest Abe said, “You can fool some of the people all of the time….”. The heartwarming message overwhelms the tale of a truly tragic character who’s succumbing slowly to the call of the bottle.

Grade: B-

Written by Lee Thomas Miller and Craig Wiseman

Listen: Nothin’ to Die For

Buy: Nothin’ to Die For

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Discussion: 2009 Wish List

wynonna-singAnybody looking forward to particular releases next year?  Country Music Central is my go-to place for upcoming releases, and it looks like things are typically slow for the first quarter.

I’m looking forward to the  new Dierks Bentley and the Willie Nelson/Asleep at the Wheel collaboration.   The new year should also bring studio albums from Keith Urban and Tim McGraw.    More than anything else, I’d like some new music from Shania Twain and Faith Hill, who have gone quite a few years without a proper new album.

But what I’m most pumped for right now is the February release of Wynonna’s Sing – Chapter 1.   Listening to the samples below, this sounds like it will be the most interesting covers collection since Dwight Yoakam’s.

What releases are you looking forward to and hoping for in 2009?

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Kevin J. Coyne’s Top Singles of 2008

Gone are the days where this would just be called the Country Universe’s Top Singles of 2008.   The collective tastes of our writers makes for more distinguished lists, but thankfully, there’s still a place for my personal favorites.   Here are the twenty singles of 2008 that I enjoyed the most.

#20: Reba McEntire & Kenny Chesney, “Every Other Weekend”

A welcome return to domestic themes, which have often provided McEntire with her best work.   This plays out the like the epilogue to “Somebody Should Leave.”

sara-evans#19: Sara Evans, “Low”

Triumph in the face of adversity, as the surrounding negative energy is rejected in favor of a positive and determined move toward the future.  Plus, it’s a little bluegrassy, which just sounds cool.

#18: Keith Urban, “You Look Good in My Shirt”

Even Conway Twitty wasn’t so good at slipping in mature themes so skillfully.    There are children across the country bopping along to this one without a clue about how she ended up wearing that shirt.

#17: Josh Turner featuring Trisha Yearwood, “Another Try”

Turner’s unsure vocal reveals emotion for a moment, then pulls back, then reveals a little bit of it again.   He’s hoping for one more chance, but it doesn’t sound like he’s convinced himself that he’ll truly “hang on for dear life” next time.

#16: Tim McGraw, “Let it Go”

Letting go of the past doesn’t mean that you forget your mistakes.    Rather, you resolve to learn from them without letting them dictate your future.

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