Tag Archives: Toby Keith

2011 Singles: A Wish List

The bulk of our work at Country Universe this month has been catching up on singles currently at radio.  Collectively, they’ve been abysmal, with review grades rarely reaching a B, let alone an A.

How can we turn this around? Here are five songs that I’d love to see sent to radio tomorrow.  Share your own in the comments!

Zac Brown Band, “Let it Go”

A dizzying dose of positivity, with a few great musical twists to boot.  The Serenity Prayer never sounded so good.

Court Yard Hounds, “Ain’t No Son”

The only truly country song on their album. The only truly great song on their album.

Toby Keith, “In a Couple of Days”

It’s easy to take Keith for granted, so consistent are his vocals and song structures.  Usually, its his lyrics that trip him up. It’s his heartbroke ballads, like this gem, that showcase his talent best.

Reba McEntire, “The Day She Got Divorced”

Country singers used to sing about people like this all the time.  Flawed anti-heroines like this don’t come along too often anymore.

Carrie Underwood, “Change”

I suspect those with more refined tastes than mine are clamoring for “Someday When I Stop Loving You”, an admittedly beautiful ballad, but this is the track I’m returning to the most from Play On. I think it captures the nagging cynicism that prevents many of us from fully embracing our inner benevolence.


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Filed under Miscellaneous Musings, Recommend a Track

Win an Autographed Copy of Toby Keith’s New Album, Bullets in the Gun

The good folks at Show Dog-Universal have given us an autographed copy of Toby Keith’s new album, Bullets in the Gun to give away to one lucky Country Universe winner.

This is my favorite Toby Keith album since 2006’s White Trash with Money. As was the case with that album, Keith seems loose and mostly good-natured, which results in a friendlier more relaxed album than we’re accustomed to hearing from him.

To enter the drawing, leave a comment to tell us your favorite Toby Keith album. If you’re feeling ambitious, go ahead and let us know the best songs from your favorite Keith album too.

All comments through Friday, October 15, will be entered into the random drawing.


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Movin’ On Up

We’re proud to note that our very own Dan Milliken has been published by CMT.com for the first time.

Check out his write-up of the Toby Keith classic, “Who’s That Man”:

The impossible question of divorce is how to divide lives that have become so intricately knitted together. As Keith demonstrates in this dark, brooding song, no answer to that question comes without its toll. The narrator of “Who’s That Man” has lost every staple of his former life in the collapse of his marriage, and as if that weren’t bad enough, someone else is filling his shoes without any apparent hitch.

Of course, this is an awesome and impressive new platform for Dan’s writing, but let’s be honest. Just like Country Universe got a hell of a lot better once he joined us, CMT can only be elevated by his trademark wit and undeniable talent.

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Single Review: Tim McGraw, “Felt Good On My Lips”

I think Tim McGraw is one of country music’s strongest singers. He doesn’t have the range or depth of a Vince Gill or a Toby Keith, but he can do what a great singer is supposed to do: deliver a song with sincerity and believability. That may seem like a low bar to clear, but it never ceases to amaze me how many country artists trip over it these days.

McGraw has a stellar track record in this area, but you’d never know it listening to “Felt Good On My Lips.” In fact, it seems that the record itself has so little confidence in McGraw’s ability to deliver a song that it puts every modern recording barrier it can think of between his vocal and the listener.

I don’t have the technical studio recording vocabulary to accurately describe what’s being done to his voice here, so I’ll just say it sounds like he’s singing into a transistor radio that’s miles away from where the musicians are playing.  His voice is so processed that it’s hard to tell it’s even Tim McGraw until he lets loose a bit in the chorus.

Is the song any good? I can’t really tell. I’ve never developed the ability to appreciate a song for its own sake. The singer has to deliver the goods for me to enjoy it.  The production sank this record before the song had any chance to win me over. The whole thing has the vibe of a long lost demo being spruced up for a posthumous cash-in.

Grade: C-

Listen: Felt Good On My Lips

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Back to School

Another summer has come and gone.  For those of you headed back into the classroom, here’s some helpful advice from some country music stars:

1. Avoid social stereotypes.

The girl in the bleachers might be your dream girl…

…and overlooking that guy with the guitar can come back and haunt you.

2.  Always finish your reading assignments.

Especially if you’re gonna write about what you read.

3. Math Class is important, too.

4. Sometimes passing notes can be a good thing.

5. Work hard, but keep your worries in check.

It’ll all work out in the end…

…as long as you stay in school.

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Filed under Miscellaneous Musings

Single Review: Toby Keith, “Trailerhood”

Most of us can admit that Toby Keith is a premier balladeer. Something that has been largely forgotten about him in the last few years, however, is that he’s also rather good at having good fun too. Lately, he’s mostly associated with swagger and subpar music (with the exception of some decent ballads here and there), but “Trailerhood” is here to remind us of how jovial Keith can sound when he lets his boisterous guard down and just allows himself to have some fun.

In the most organic production of an up-tempo single that we’ve heard from Toby in a very long time, “Trailerhood” vividly paints a picture of a happily redneck community of trailer dwellers. He humorously describes the characters of the trailerhood with affection and counts himself among them, as he says “It takes one to know one.”

The song follows the “look how country I am” theme of late, but also veers from it a bit by avoiding indictments of those who aren’t. Likewise, it’s all done in good humor (, which can be heard in Keith’s affable performance and accompanying cheerful production.

Written by Toby Keith

Grade A-

Listen: Trailerhood

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Win an Autographed Copy of Trace Adkins’ Cowboy’s Back in Town

Thank you to everyone who participated in our recent Marty Stuart giveaway. It’s heartening that such a strong response was received for an artist who is no longer in the mainstream. I hope our five winners will enjoy Stuart’s fine new album.

Now, we are pleased to announce that courtesy of Show Dog-Universal, Country Universe is giving away two (2) autographed copies of Trace Adkins’ brand new album, Cowboy’s Back in Town, which was released last Tuesday, August 17.

As his first record on the Toby Keith owned record company, one can’t help but be curious to hear what the transition will mean for Adkins. With a big helping of raucous tunes and a handful of softer melodies, Adkins begins the new chapter in his career with a bang.

To enter the random drawing for one of the copies of Adkins autographed albums, leave a comment that tells us your favorite Trace Adkins song(s). The contest will be closed Thursday August 26 at midnight.

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Picking the CMA Nominees: Male Vocalist of the Year

If turnover has been slow in the Entertainer category, it’s been nothing less than glacial in the Male Vocalist race.  Over the past ten years, only eleven men have received nominations.  Four of those eleven – Dierks Bentley, Vince Gill, Darius Rucker, and Josh Turner – have been nominated only once.

Now, Toby Keith and Tim McGraw were regularly invited to the party in the first half of the last decade, with four and three nominations, respectively. But the race has essentially been dominated by the same five men: Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley, George Strait, and Keith Urban, who combine for forty nominations in just one decade.

The recent history has been pretty boring. After two consecutive wins by Alan Jackson, we’ve had three consecutive wins each by Keith Urban and reigning champ Brad Paisley.

Will there be a new winner this year, or even a new nominee? Should there be?

Let’s take a look at last year’s race:

2009

  • Kenny Chesney
  • Brad Paisley
  • Darius Rucker
  • George Strait
  • Keith Urban

Darius Rucker was the new face to enter the race last year. No brand new nominee has been nominated again in this category since Keith Urban earned his first nomination in 2004. He’s been in the race ever since.  I’d say Rucker’s close to a lock, along with Paisley. But just like in the Entertainer race, a case could be made for a decent shake-up, especially some of this category’s veteran acts have dipped at radio and retail.

Here’s who I would nominate this year. Share your picks in the comments:

Jason Aldean

Anybody else notice that this guy’s outselling the rest of the male solo artists? All the while, he’s been completely ignored at the country awards shows for his last two projects.  He’s not overdue just yet, but he’s due.

Dierks Bentley

He went out of his comfort zone to release a bluegrass-flavored album that was pretty darn good.

Brad Paisley

He just missed my list for preferred Entertainer nominees, but he’s at the head of the pack in this category. With his domination at radio, not to mention a stronger studio album than his previous two, I wouldn’t be shocked for him to become the third artist in history to win four of these.

Blake Shelton

His hit-making has certainly been kicked up a notch as of late.  He may be destined to toil just under the radar of this category like Trace Adkins and Gary Allan before him, but it would be nice to see him get a nod.

Josh Turner

A decent comeback at radio and retail, coupled with him being a great singer who’s been overlooked, makes me hope he finishes out this category.

___

I left off previous nominees Keith Urban, George Strait, and Darius Rucker because they haven’t put out new albums during the eligibility period, so it seems like a good time to let some new folks get a chance. I left off Kenny Chesney because he’s been doing nothing but stopgap releases for the past year, none of which sold to  his normal standards.  I left off Tim McGraw, even though he’s made some music I really like lately, because he hasn’t been doing as well as usual at radio and retail.

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Filed under CMA Awards

400 Greatest Singles of the Nineties: #100-#76

Many a star was launched in the nineties, a few of them right out of the gate. This section includes the debut singles from Toby Keith, Jo Dee Messina, LeAnn Rimes, and Doug Stone, along with Grammy-winning hits by Alison Krauss and Dwight Yoakam.

400 Greatest Singles of the Nineties: #100-#76

#100
The Battle Hymn of Love
Kathy Mattea & Tim O’Brien
1990 | Peak: #9

Listen

Wedding songs are typically made of the same fiber, but this one is a little different: it’s energized by burning conviction and fierce pledges. – Tara Seetharam

#99
Blue
LeAnn Rimes
1996 | Peak: #10

Listen

Sure, the novelty of thirteen year-old Rimes’ prodigious Patsy imitation helped things along. But that unshakable yodeled hook would have made “Blue” a classic in any era of country music. – Dan Milliken Continue reading

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Filed under Back to the Nineties

400 Greatest Singles of the Nineties: #150-#126

Signature hits, breakthrough hits, and why-weren’t-they-hits abound in this entry.

400 Greatest Singles of the Nineties: #150-#126

#150
Gone Country
Alan Jackson
1994 | Peak: #1

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A perfect time capsule of the boom times, as Jackson wryly notes all of those genre-hoppers who saw dollar signs in the growing country music scene. Funny how they didn’t arrive on radio until a decade later. – Kevin Coyne

#149
I Want to Be Loved Like That
Shenandoah
1993 | Peak: #3

Listen

Sometimes the deepest understanding of love comes from what you see around you. The narrator in this song won’t settle for anything less than the unwavering love he’s witnessed in his life, and his examples are stunning in the way they slice straight to the core of love, to the bond that can’t be broken by the physical world. This is one of the purest tributes to love I’ve ever heard. – Tara Seetharam Continue reading

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Filed under Back to the Nineties