As 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: Kim Richey, Kim Richey Clint Black, Killin’ Time Randy Travis, Storms of Life Bobbie Cryner, Bobbie Cryner Emmylou Harris, Pieces of the Sky
“Kiss You in the Morning” Michael Ray Written by Larry Michael White and Justin Tyler Wilson Launching a new artist with this generic a single does a tremendous disservice to their budding career. “Kiss You in the Morning” sounds exactly like everything else on the radio. It covers the most well-trodden lyrical ground in today’s country music. Ray’s a decent enough singer and the production is controlled, so it’s not memorable for being bad. Trouble is, it’s not really memorable at all.
“Diamond Rings and Old Barstools” Tim McGraw with Catherine Dunn Written by Barry Dean, Luke Laird, and Jonathan Singleton Tim McGraw should be applauded for finally meeting the potential that many of us had hoped for after he left the oppressive Curb Records. His most recent album, particularly his last couple singles, have dialed back the loudness, embraced a more traditional and organic sound, reconnected him with the warm vocals with which he had all but lost, and the last two singles have even presented more thoughtful lyrics than he’d been singing in the last few years.
This year’s Grammy Awards air on Sunday, February 8, and country music will be represented with performances Eric Church, Miranda Lambert, and the tantalizing pairing of Brandy Clark and Dwight Yoakam. Most of the awards will be handed out before the show, and we will post the relevant winners here, as part of a Grammy Open Thread where CU readers and writers can share their thoughts on this year’s awards. Four CU writers, including myself, have shared our predictions and personal picks for the general and country-related categories below. Of course, one of the coolest things about the Grammys is that it celebrates a wide range of music from the past year, and as you’ll see by our varying levels of participation, our tastes here at CU run the gamut. This year, I’m as excited about the performances by Madonna, Kanye West (twice!), and that Hozier and Annie Lennox duet Read More
The third most prestigious country music industry award nominations – but the most important ones handed out in the spring – have been announced. Here’s a rundown of all the major categories, along with some back-of-the-envelope analysis: Entertainer Jason Aldean Garth Brooks Luke Bryan Florida Georgia Line Miranda Lambert Who’s In: Jason Aldean, Garth Brooks, Florida Georgia Line Who’s Out: Blake Shelton, George Strait, Taylor Swift Last year’s winner, George Strait, didn’t get a return invitation, but Garth Brooks, who has won this award six times before, returns to the competition. Much like Strait’s farewell tour was a reminder of his extensive popularity, Garth’s ability to sell out several dates per city overshadows the lukewarm reception to his new material at radio and retail. Taylor Swift’s exit is directly tied to her cutting ties with the genre. Jason Aldean’s return makes logical sense, but it’s quite the mystery to see Read More
2014 was a banner year for country music albums. In addition to the predictably solid entries from the Americana, folk, and bluegrass scenes, some excellent albums also surfaced from the unlikeliest of sources: mainstream, radio-friendly contemporary country artists! Here are our twenty favorite albums from 2014. Fingers crossed that 2015 is as good or better than this year has been. #20 Jennifer Nettles That Girl KJC #8 | LW #16 A confident, intelligent solo project that washes away all of the bitter taste left by Sugarland’s preceding studio album, The Incredible Machine. Nettles manages to remind us what was so appealing about the trio-turned-duo in the first place, while also staking out her own musical territory that has room for independence anthems alongside wry, humorous commentary on society and, of course, palpably vulnerable heartbreak numbers. – Kevin John Coyne Recommended Tracks: “Me Without You”, “Know You Wanna Know”, “Jealousy”
The countdown concludes with our top twenty singles of 2014. Check out the first twenty entries here, and look for our countdown of the year’s twenty best albums tomorrow. #20 “The Devil is All Around” Shovels & Rope LW #5 | JK #13 The soulful husband-wife duo that comprises Shovels and Rope delivers a no holes barred analysis of trials and temptations, which boils down to the idea that the devil is all around, which means that one must do what he can to push against such a devastating force. – Leeann Ward
Does failure to reach a consensus indicate a year that lacked quality, or a year that had enough interesting singles that subjective taste is enough to prevent a consensus? This was the dilemma faced by the Country Universe staff as we compiled our Best Singles of 2014 feature. We followed our usual routine. Each writer submitted their list of the twenty best singles of the year, and our numbers guru Jonathan Keefe used his time-test algorithm to produce a collective ranking. But this year, there was only one single that appeared on four out of five lists. The rest: three or less. Rather than shorten the list to showcase only those songs chosen by multiple writers, we decided to stick to the usual forty slots, and let quite a few songs embraced only by one writer to have their place in the sun. The result is probably the most diverse Read More
Updated: Best Country Duo/Group Performance The Band Perry, “Gentle on My Mind” Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood, “Somethin’ Bad” Little Big Town, “Day Drinking” Tim McGraw featuring Faith Hill, “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s” Keith Urban featuring Eric Church, “Raise ‘Em Up” Best American Roots Performance Greg Allman & Taj Mahal, “Statesboro Blues” Rosanne Cash, “A Feather’s not a Bird” Billy Childs featuring Alison Krauss and Jerry Douglas, “And When I Die” Keb’ Mo’ featuring the California Feet Warmers, “The Old Me Better” Nickel Creek, “Destination” Best Country Solo Performance Eric Church, “Give Me Back My Hometown” Hunter Hayes, “Invisible” Miranda Lambert, “Automatic” Carrie Underwood, “Something in the Water” Keith Urban, “Cop Car” Best New Artist includes last year’s actual best new artist! Iggy Azalea Bastille Brandy Clark (!!!!) HAIM Sam Smith Best Americana Album Rosanne Cash, The River & The Thread John Haitt, Terms of My Surrender Keb’ Mo’, Read More
Country Universe has reviewed more than a thousand singles during its ten year run. Some of them have been real turkeys. Here are some of the worst, with highlights and links to the original reviews. “Party Like Cowboyz” Big & Rich Reviewed on December 12, 2012 “Yes, from the opening cry of ‘Come on, cowboys and cowgirls, it’s time to par-tay!’ to the stupid ‘Z’ slapped onto the end of the title, this is just bad, bad, bad.” – Ben Foster