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CU's Top Singles of 2012

December 29, 2012 Ben Foster 47

2012Something you probably already know about us here at Country Universe:  We love country music.  A lot.  While truly great country music has become scarce on country radio, we are fortunate to live in an age in which modern technology has made great music more accessible than ever, regardless of whether Top 40 radio dares touch it.

At the close of each year we separate the grain from the chaff, and share the music we discovered over the past year that made us glad that we stuck with our genre of choice.  We at Country Universe have put our heads together to create the following lists of favorite singles and albums of 2012.

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Someone Like You

September 1, 2011 Kevin John Coyne 25

I didn’t expect much.

I’ve had the Adele album for a good bit now, and “Someone Like You” is my favorite track on it. I’d already heard how the song shot to #1 in the U.K. after she performed it on the Brit Awards.

I checked out that performance, and thought it was good. Not great, but good.

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Best of 2011?

December 28, 2010 Kevin John Coyne 30

End-of-year lists abound, and we still have another on the way. But what about the best albums of 2011?

We’re in that super cool period of anticipation, where we wonder what the albums we know about will sound like, and hope that the albums that we don’t know about will be from artists who we can’t get enough of.

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iPod Check: Hidden Treasures

June 16, 2010 Kevin John Coyne 37

This edition of iPod Check is all about those great songs that you love which aren’t that well known. Put your iPod or favorite playlist on shuffle, then list the first ten songs that come up which weren’t singles or widely heard album cuts.

Bonus points for a little blurb with each song!

My list is after the jump.

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Single Review: Jack Ingram, “Barbie Doll”

May 31, 2010 Dan Milliken 8

Country, blues and rock ‘n’ roll – mostly the lattter two – combine for a hearty serving of frat boy fun on Jack Ingram’s latest single. “Barbie Doll” has been a fan favorite since its initial release on Ingram’s 1999 set Hey You, but this latest iteration boasts a driving arrangement that may finally get the track on mainstream radio.

The song marries Ingram’s straightforward hook sense to Todd Snider’s rambling barroom-sage style, wringing as much talk as it can out of a pretty slight premise (“dude, that girl you’re checking out is a total B-word”) and culminating in a big group shout-a-long.

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

January 15, 2010 Dan Milliken 49

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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The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 3: #160-#141

December 16, 2009 Dan Milliken 17

The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 3: #160-#141


“Last Call”
Lee Ann Womack
Peak: #14

Womack’s second-best Aughts song about late-night temptations is still better than a lot of people’s first-best songs about anything. Even in avoiding her drunken ex’s advances, she sounds positively heartbroken, suggesting she’d gladly make the other decision if she didn’t know better. – Dan Milliken

159 Shania Up

“She’s Not Just a Pretty Face”
Shania Twain
Peak: #9

Her motivation for her music has always been escapism, but I love the personal touch she slips into this one. Her late mother is the one who she’s referring to when she sings “at night, she pumps gasoline.” – Kevin Coyne

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Recommend Ten Tracks: 2009 Edition

December 12, 2009 Kevin John Coyne 17

2009Can’t say that I’m loving country music in its 2009 version, though my steadfast allegiance to the genre runs deep, so I hold out hope as a new decade is about to begin. Tonight, I’m recommending ten tracks from albums that were released this year. I’ve avoided singles so there’s some sense of discovery. I look forward to discovering music that I missed through the comments!

Recommend Ten Tracks: 2009 Edition

Lorrie Morgan, “I’m Always On a Mountain When I Fall” from A Moment in Time

I love the effect that was created by having this album recorded live in the studio. It’s like hearing her in a smoky nightclub. This is by far my favorite track on the album, a loser’s lament that was quite worthy of revival.

Aaron Tippin, “Prisoner of the Highway” from In Overdrive

He already has the default voice of the overworked working man, so his world-weary vocal is a perfect fit for this song about an imprisoned by the freedom of the road.

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The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 8: #30-#21

December 8, 2009 Kevin John Coyne 22

The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 8

30 Trisha

Trisha Yearwood, Heaven, Heartache, and the Power of Love

The latest album from Trisha Yearwood was one of her best yet, with a surprisingly loose sound and quite a few more uptempo tracks than is the norm for this queen of the ballads. The best moments came from the pens of female songwriters, most notably the poignant “Dreaming Fields” penned by Matraca Berg. – Kevin Coyne

Recommended Tracks: “This Is Me You’re Talking To”, “Dreaming Fields”, “Sing You Back to Me”

29 Pam

Pam Tillis, Rhinestoned

On Rhinestoned, Pam Tillis demonstrates that she need not limit herself to covering her father’s songs in order to make a stellar traditional leaning album in her own right. The album, co-produced by Tillis, is consistent with accessible melodies, gentle, classic arrangements and impressively nuanced performances. While this is Tillis’ best album of the decade, it’s also possibly the best of her substantive career.

Recommended Tracks: “Something Burning Out”, Band in the Window”, “Life Has Sure Changed Us Around” (with John Anderson)

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The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 4: #70-#61

December 3, 2009 Kevin John Coyne 16

The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 4

70 Tillis

Pam Tillis, It’s All Relative: Tillis Sings Tillis

By the time she released a tribute to her father Mel, she’d become something of a legend in her own right. So it’s no surprise that she approached Mel’s stellar songwriting catalog as if she was recording any other studio album, taking the best of the bunch and making them her own. Bonus points for preserving the original fiddle breakdown from “Heart Over Mind” while making that classic shuffle a forlorn ballad, and a few more for hitting the archives of the Country Music Hall of Fame until she found a forgotten gem that should’ve been a hit back in the day (“Not Like it Was With You.”) – Kevin Coyne

Recommended Tracks: “Mental Revenge”, “Detroit City”

69 Dwight

Dwight Yoakam,

Yoakam takes a new, inspired spin on the greatest hits album concept, presenting us with a hearty sampling (over 20 songs) of his catalog served acoustic style. It simply works for the country legend. He introduces some delightful new twists and turns to his old classics, and as it should go with acoustic music, the album is driven by unadulterated, raw vocals, coupled with honest storytelling – the purest form of country music. – Tara Seetharam

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