Tag Archives: Todd Snider

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

Round 2 – FIGHT!


#10
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


#9
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 Continue reading

49 Comments

Filed under Album Reviews, Best of 2009

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

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

lee-ann-womack-call-me-crazy

#160
“Last Call”
Lee Ann Womack
2008
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

#159
“She’s Not Just a Pretty Face”
Shania Twain
2003
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

Continue reading

17 Comments

Filed under Decade in Review

Recommend Ten Tracks: 2009 Edition

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.

Miranda Lambert, “The House That Built Me” from Revolution

I find her new album to be a bit unwieldy as a whole, but I love this particular track about a woman asking the new owner of her childhood home to allow her some time alone with the place that raised her. Having just sold our family home of thirty years, this song has been resonating with me, as we truly can’t go home again.

Todd Snider, “Money, Compliments, Publicity (Song Number 10)” from The Excitement Plan

The wry and witty folkster at his most wry and witty, yet still spilling out nuggets of brilliance from the corner of his mouth.

Carrie Underwood, “Someday When I Stop Loving You” from Play On

Don’t count me among the folks that wish that Underwood would just stick to simple songs like this with quiet arrangements that showcase her voice at its most tender. I like my pop-country and want some more, thank you very much. But for those of you who just want to hear that voice and the barest of accompaniment, this track is golden.

Patty Loveless, “When the Last Curtain Falls” from  Mountain Soul II

Given the preference, I’ll take my Patty Loveless down from the mountain. I love that pure country voice contrasted against electric instrumentation. But the best reason to listen to Patty Loveless is to hear her wrap her voice around complicated and truly adult material that reflects the reality of life and love.  This track could stand toe to toe with the best of her material to date.

Tim McGraw, “If I Died Today” from Southern Voice

It’s not nearly as accessible an assessment on one’s own morality as “Live Like You Were Dying”, but it’s a heck of a lot more believable than sixteen seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu.

Love and Theft, “Slow Down” from World Wide Open

He’s talking to life and it’s a sadly beautiful conversation.

Holly Williams, “Birds” from Here With Me

This song is hauntingly gorgeous, a requiem for a dying love and a wishful hope for the new love that has yet to come.

Keith Urban, “Thank You” from Defying Gravity

Urban’s explorations of his demons have produced some of his best tracks, like “You’re Not My God”, and this one is a winner, a love letter to the wife that helped pull him away from the precipice.

17 Comments

Filed under Best of 2009

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

The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 8

30 Trisha

#30
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

#29
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. – Leeann Ward

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

28 Patty

#28
Patty Loveless, Dreamin’ My Dreams

The reigning Miss Country Covers has proven almost ad nauseam that she can re-render a standard with the best of them. But the might of Patty Loveless’ talent emerges more fully in her musically diverse contemporary albums, which allow her powerful voice to flex its complete range of colors and nuances. Those sets also exercise more of her taste, giving opportunity for song selections which, at their sharpest, present an inspiring vision of how country music can evolve without losing its core identity. Dreamin’ My Dreams is an achievement on both fronts, arguably one of the brightest moments in a very distinguished career. – Dan Milliken

Recommended Tracks: “Keep Your Distance”, “When Being Who You Are Is Not Enough”, “Nobody Here By That Name”

27 Peter

#27
Peter Cooper, Mission Door

Peter Cooper’s Mission Door is an album built around the most country of instrumentation, centered around Lloyd Green on steel guitar. Full of insightful glimpses of troubled lives, it might be considered a throwback, but on the strength of its writing and sound it never seems to try to exist in the past. – William Ward

Recommended Tracks: “All the Way to Heaven”, “715 (For Hank Aaron)”, “Sheboygan”

26 Robert Alison

#26
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Raising Sand

Alison Krauss and Led Zeppelin’s front man, Robert Plant, are surely an unlikely duo. It turns out, however, that they managed to make one of the most intriguing duets projects of the decade. With vocal styles that are on opposite ends of the spectrum, they find a way to meld together to create an easy harmony that causes the listener to forget their vocal dissimilarities. Moreover, T Bone Burnett’s slow burning productions perfectly compliment this diverse set of songs to make it a legitimately cohesive record. – LW

Recommended Tracks: “Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us”, “Please Read the Letter”, “Through the Morning, Through the Night”

25 Todd

#25
Todd Snider, East Nashville Skyline

One of music’s most poetic songwriters lays bare his fears, demons and revelations, throwing in the requisite dry wit and some loosey-goosey social commentary for good measure. Snider has rarely sounded countrier, and he’s never sounded better. – DM

Recommended Tracks: “Alcohol And Pills”, “The Ballad Of the Kingsmen”, “Sunshine”

24 Randy

#24
Randy Travis, Worship & Faith

Randy Travis has dedicated most of this decade to his spiritual side. Of all of his gospel albums, this collection is the most traditional both in arrangements and content, which covers several beloved hymns, gospel and praise and worship songs. Travis sings these meaningful compositions with a depth of sincerity that truly makes partaking of this rootsy project a spiritual experience. – LW

Recommended Tracks: “He’s My Rock, My Sword, My Shield”, “Just A Closer Walk with Thee” (with John Anderson), “Sweet By and By”

23 Sugarland

#23
Sugarland, Love On the Inside (Deluxe Fan Edition)

More so than any act since the Dixie Chicks, Sugarland can fuse mainstream country with roots instrumentation in such imaginative ways that even pop audiences will lap it up.  This is the best commercial country album from the tail end of the decade, powered by the Nettles/Bush songwriting chops and the awe-inspiring vocals of Miss Nettles. – KC

Recommended Tracks: “We Run”, “Keep You”, “Very Last Country Song”

22 Keith

#22
Keith Urban, Be Here

Urban is an exceptional vocalist, songwriter and guitar player, but what separates him from his contemporaries is the raw, explosive emotion he throws into his performances. Be Here finds him channeling this passion more vigorously than ever and in new, more revealing ways – like the wrenching confession, “Tonight I Wanna Cry.” Urban bypasses the role of interpreter on this album and simply inhabits the material; he’s as complex a person to be able to sing realistically, yet poignantly, of both life’s highest mountaintops and deepest valleys. Even further, Be Here is as accessible as it is personal, a quality that is perhaps what has made Urban one of the most accomplished recording artists in mainstream country music. – Tara Seetharam

Recommended Tracks: “Days Go By”, “Tonight I Wanna Cry”, “Live To Love Another Day”

21 Neko

#21
Neko Case & Her Boyfriends, Furnace Room Lullaby

Neko Case’s Furnace Room Lullaby is familiar with its use of reverb and Case’s overflowing voice. What may not be familiar for some is how much Case, who has moved more towards alternative influences with recent albums, draws from country influences on her sophomore album. – WW

Recommended Tracks: “Set Out Running”, “Porchlight”, “South Tacoma Way”

– – –

22 Comments

Filed under Decade in Review

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

    The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 4

    70 Tillis

    #70
    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

    #69
    Dwight Yoakam, dwightyoakamacoustic.net

    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

    Recommended Tracks: “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere”, “Things Change”

    68 Gillian

    #68
    Gillian Welch, Time (The Revelator)

    Time (The Revelator) is Gillian Welch and David Rawlings with much of their typical production stripped away. Accompanied by acoustic guitar and banjo, Gillian sings with emotions as much as she sings notes that create a surprisingly full sound. – William Ward

    Recommended Tracks: “I Want to Sing That Rock and Roll”, “Red Clay Halo”

    67 Reba

    #67
    Reba McEntire, Reba Duets

    That McEntire is able to smoothly and effortlessly wrap her voice around eleven other distinctive voices is a tribute to her sheer talent as an artist. With duet partners stretching from Justin Timberlake to Ronnie Dunn, McEntire presents a stunning, layered mix of sounds and styles, demonstrating that when gifted artists come together, no perceived boundaries can stop them from making good music. – TS

    Recommended Tracks: “The Only Promise That Remains”, “When You Love Someone Like That”

    law call me

    #66
    Lee Ann Womack, Call Me Crazy

    Very few country artists can express pain more poignantly than Womack, who taps into a place of tender desperation with her highly-acclaimed 2008 album. The stories are deep and reflective, the sorrow palpable, and the production adeptly sparse – a potent combination. – TS

    Recommended Tracks: “Solitary Thinkin'”, “Either Way”

    65 Nickel

    #65
    Nickel Creek, Nickel Creek

    Nickel Creek has been nominated for Best Bluegrass Album and Best Country Instrumental Performance Grammys and won Best Contemporary Folk Album, yet the group does not easily fit into any of those categories. Produced by Alison Krauss, Nickel Creek’s self-titled album is their most bluegrass-influenced album. – WW

    Recommended Tracks: “The Fox”, “The Hand Song”

    64 Watkins

    #64
    Sara Watkins, Sara Watkins

    Sara Watkins’ self-titled debut holds more than a few surprises, including more country influence than you will hear from any of her former Nickel Creek bandmates’ solo work. Produced by John Paul Jones, pedal steel is prominent on Jimmie Rodgers’ “Any Old Time,” performed as western swing, “All this Time,” and Tom Waits’ “Pony.” – WW

    Recommended Tracks: “All This Time”, “Give Me Jesus”

    63 Dierks

    #63
    Dierks Bentley, Modern Day Drifter

    Rife with accessible melodies, solid lyrics and a penchant for traditional sounds, Dierks Bentley’s sophomore project, Modern Day Drifter, confirmed the promise that was only hinted at on his first album. The title of the album rightly suggests that Bentley will explore the components of breaking the chains of domesticity, which include the freedom (“Lotta Leavin’ Left to Do”, “Modern Day Drifter”, “Domestic Light and Cold”, “the Cab of My Truck”) and the ultimate consequences (“Settle for a Slowdown”, “Down on Easy Street”). Nevertheless, Bentley does not stop with those themes. He also finds room for common themes as love and loss, as demonstrated in the pretty “Good Things Happen”, the smoldering “Come A Little Closer” and heartbreaking “Gonna Get There Someday.” – Leeann Ward

    Recommended Tracks:

    62 Todd

    #62
    Todd Snider, The Devil You Know

    An explosion of righteous anger over poverty with an undercurrent of joyous celebration of America’s underclass. You can never tell for sure if he sees himself as their advocate or their peer, but the songs are so powerful, it doesn’t really matter. – KC

    Recommended Tracks: “Just Like Old Times”, “The Devil You Know”

    61 Rodney

    #61
    Rodney Crowell, The Houston Kid

    After a string of somewhat underwhelming major-label releases in the 90’s, Rodney Crowell rebounded in a big way with this remarkably deep set on celebrated indie label Sugar Hill. Childhood joys and adult insights stand side-by-side in The Houston Kid, producing an emotionally rich and complicated survey of the album’s world. Such is the detail and soul of Crowell’s writing that every second comes across as autobiographical, even the ones that probably aren’t. – Dan Milliken

    Recommended Tracks: “The Rock Of My Soul”, “I Walk The Line (Revisited)”

    – – –

    16 Comments

    Filed under Decade in Review

    100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 2: #90-#81

      The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 2

      90 Miranda

      #90
      Miranda Lambert, Kerosene

      On her first major-label album, Lambert reveals herself as a fiery, spirited artist with a lot to say, and a clever voice with which to speak. Her sharp songwriting skills, though a work in progress as we’d later learn, take her naturally from aggression to desolation and back again. But most notably, through Kerosene, Lambert got the traditionalists to pay a little more attention to mainstream country music and its more promising artists. – Tara Seetharam

      Recommended Tracks: “Kerosene”, “I Can’t Be Bothered”

      89 Kris

      #89
      Kris Kristofferson, This Old Road
      This Old Road has not have received as much mainstream attention as Kristofferson’s recent appearance in Ethan Hawke’s Rolling Stone article; an unfortunate fact, given it was the legendary writer’s first album of new material in 11 years. With This Old Road, Kristofferson shines a spotlight on the world much in the same his earlier writing shined a spotlight on himself. The result is an overtly political album with more depth than most modern attempts have been able to produce. – William Ward

      Recommended Tracks: “The Last Thing to Go”, “Pilgrim’s Progress”

      88 Guy

      #88
      Guy Clark, Workbench Songs

      The recordings  of the songs that Guy Clark, one of country music’s most respected modern songwriters, has written for the most popular artists in country music are typically polished by the best Nashville musicians and slick producers. But Clark’s own albums tend to be more organic, with spare instrumentation that somehow manages to avoid sounding anemic as a result. His well worn voice sings these eleven melodically and lyrically strong songs with warmth and the kind of emotion that easily captures the listener. It’s one of the best albums of his deep catalog that spans over thirty years. – Leeann Ward

      Recommended Tracks: “Walkin’ Man”, “Expose”

      87 Wynonna

      #87
      Wynonna, What the World Needs Now is Love

      It’s hard to believe that it’s been six years since Wynonna’s last proper studio album. This collection is easily one of her best, with effective covers like “I Want to Know What Love Is” and “Flies On the Butter”, along with socially conscious material that provokes thought instead of pandering to already held beliefs (“It All Comes Down to Love”). – Kevin Coyne

      Recommended Tracks: “Sometimes I Feel Like Elvis”, “Rescue Me”

      86 Lee Ann

      #86
      Lee Ann Womack, I Hope You Dance

      The massively successful title track powered this album to triple platinum, but it also overshadowed the excellent songs surrounding it. For those who explored the album beyond track two, there were some of Womack’s finest moments on record, as she had the good taste to plunder the catalogs of Bruce Robison (“Lonely Too”), Bobbie Cryner (“Stronger Than I Am”), Julie Miller (“I Know Why the River Runs”), and Rodney Crowell (“Ashes By Now”). – KC

      Recommended Tracks: “Lonely Too”, “Does My Ring Burn Your Finger”

      85 Chris

      #85
      Chris Thile, How to Grow a Woman From the Ground

      This is the first album from the band that would eventually become Punch Brothers. Garnering a Grammy Award Nomination in 2006, How to Grow a Woman From the Ground is a solid bluegrass album with classical sensibilities and extraordinary instrumentation. – WW

      Recommended Tracks: “Wayside (Back in Time)”, “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground”

      84 Ralph

      #84
      Ralph Stanley II, This One Is Two

      Hyperbole alert, but it’s hard to think of a more beautiful-sounding traditional country album from this decade, or one which more comfortably merges old school aesthetics with modern production polish. Stanley corralled a number of meaty story songs here, but it’s the combination of his warm baritone and the lush instrumentation that gives this gem its quiet strength. – Dan Milliken

      Recommended Tracks: “Cold Shoulder”, “They Say I’ll Never Go Home”

      83 Louvin

      #83
      Various Artists, Livin’ Lovin’ Losin': Songs of the Louvin Brothers

      Tribute albums too often feel redundant, as well-meaning artists deliver nice but forgettable imitations of classic records. Not so with the Louvins’, which sticks veteran and current artists alike on the Bros’ close harmonies and sees each intriguing combination (Pam Tillis and Johnny Cash? Why not!) triumph. I daresay it’s as good an introduction to the duo’s work as any compilation of their own recordings. – DM

      Recommended Tracks: “How’s the World Treating You?”, “Are You Teasing Me”

      82 Todd

      #82
      Todd Snider, The Excitement Plan

      Snider mostly avoids both political themes and complex arrangements on his latest record, emphasizing his greatest strength as a writer instead: his uncanny ability to make the most specifically personal have universal resonance. Listen out for a wonderful cameo from Loretta Lynn on “Don’t Tempt Me.” – KC

      Recommended Tracks: “Barefoot Champagne”, “Money, Compliments, Publicity (Song Number 10)”

      81 O'Connor

      #81
      Mark O’Connor, Thirty-Year Retrospective (Live)

      Mark O’Connor’s Thirty Year Retrospective is a double instrumental album of his live performance with Chris Thile, Bryan Sutton and Byron House.  The album covers a wide range of Mark O’Connor’s career, presenting a range of instrumental country, bluegrass, new grass and jazz with the detail and care often only applied to classical music. – WW

      Recommended Tracks: “Caprice No. 4 in D Major”, “Macedonia”

      – – –

      17 Comments

      Filed under Decade in Review

      iPod Check: Recommend Ten Songs Redux

      ipod2It’s time for another iPod (or any other music player) check. Last time, I asked you to put your music device on shuffle and then tell us the first ten songs that you would recommend. This time, I want you to do the same thing, but then jot down your initial thoughts on the songs as your ten recommended songs play. Then share your informal thoughts in the comments.

      I’ll play along too, but I’ll spare you the Christmas songs that will inevitably come up in my shuffle, which I’d heartily recommend if I wasn’t keenly aware that it’s still only September.

      John Anderson, “I’d Love You Again”

      Nice, sweet song from the rough voice guy who’s still able to sing a tender song with the best of them.

      Todd Snider, “Alright Guy”

      I love how Snider really seems to be pondering this question: “I’m an alright guy? Right? Right?”

      Ashley Monroe, “Can’t Let Go”

      Peppy…reminds me of a Garth Brooks type song.

      Patty Loveless, “What’s A Broken Heart”

      Melancholy…something Patty Loveless does the best.

      Rodney Crowell, “Earthbound”

      A celebration of life that doesn’t happen to be sappy.

      Kathy Mattea, “Junkyard”

      I can relate to this song. My motto has always been “Life’s depressing enough. Why would I want to watch things that would only contribute to the darkness?” That’s why I don’t watch dark films, though it so happens that I don’t have the same philosophy about music.

      The Judds, “Flies on the Butter (You Can’t Go Home Again)”

      There’s just something wistful about this song. Obviously, the theme, but also how it’s performed. Perhaps I’m just imagining it, because I’m wistfully wishing there was a duo on radio like The Judds today…probably why I love Joey + Rory

      Trent Summar and the New Row Mob, “Louisville Nashville Line”

      It’s just imperative to turn Trent Summar and the New Row Mob up when they come up on the iPod.

      Vince Gill, “Don’t Pretend with Me”

      I really like the guitar on this song. It’s cool. In reality, this whole box set is awesome.

      Keith Anderson, “Pickin’ Wild Flowers”

      Guilty pleasure.

      24 Comments

      Filed under Conversations

      Grammy Wish List

      brad-paisleyYesterday marked the end of the eligibility period for the 2010 Grammy Awards, which will be presented in January. To accommodate the earlier award ceremony, this year’s period lasted one month shy of a year: October 1, 2008 – August 31, 2009.

      It’s been something of an underwhelming year musically from my perspective, but I have a few nominations that I’d like to see:

      George Strait

      • Best Male Country Vocal Performance: “El Rey”
      • Best Country Album: Twang

      Strait’s been on a roll since It Just Comes Natural, releasing his most consistent string of albums since the mid-nineties trifecta of Easy Come Easy Go, Lead On and Blue Clear Sky.  It’s often been said that Strait could sing the phone book and make it sound great, and “El Rey” proved that he’d do just as well with la guía telefónica.

      Todd Snider

      • Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album: The Excitement Plan

      This category has been great at acknowledging artists who essentially make acoustic music that isn’t particularly commercial, with previous winners including Nickel Creek and Emmylou Harris.  Snider put out one of his strongest albums this year, and he’s long overdue for some Grammy love.

      Brad Paisley

      • Best Country Album: American Saturday Night
      • Best Male Country Vocal Performance: “Welcome to the Future”
      • Best Country Instrumental Performance: “Back to the Future”

      Paisley has reaffirmed himself as a creative force to be reckoned with and deserves to be amply rewarded with multiple Grammy nominations this year. The rock edge to his token instrumental track is a refreshing new take on his guitar-playing virtuosity.

      Carrie Underwood

      • Best Female Country Vocal Performance: “Just a Dream”
      • Best Country Vocal Collaboration: “I Told You So” (with Randy Travis)

      Even though Underwood won the ACM Entertainer of the Year trophy this past spring, it’s felt like it’s been all quiet on the Carrie front lately. That’s interesting, since I think that the two best singles from her Carnival Ride album were the ones saved for last. She won over a tough lineup with a weaker single last year, so I suspect a win for “Just a Dream” will be even easier to pull off.

      2009 had nominations for strong singles from Lee Ann Womack, Trisha Yearwood and LeAnn Rimes, none of whom are likely to be contenders this year. Perhaps Taylor Swift will finally get a nomination in her gender genre race this time around.

      Sugarland

      • Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal: “Already Gone”
      • Best Country Album: Live on the Inside

      It’s been an very weak year for mainstream country albums, so Sugarland’s collection of legitimized bootlegs might actually get a nomination. It’s not quite as good as Love on the Inside, but it’s still a lot better than most of their mates at country radio have been turning in lately.

      That’s about all I can think about right now, though I’m sure there are some great things I’ve missed. Who do you think deserves some Grammy love this year?

      14 Comments

      Filed under Grammys

      Mark Chesnutt Starter Kit

      mark-chesnuttBack to the Nineties continues with a look at Mark Chesnutt, one of the strongest traditionalists to break through in 1990. He won the Horizon Award in 1993 while he was riding a streak of three consecutive #1 singles.

      Chesnutt’s greatest commercial and radio successes came early on. His first three studio albums went platinum and his fourth went gold. He’d earn an additional platinum record with a hits collection assembled from those sets.

      While he remained a consistent presence on radio for the entire decade, his sales tapered off. His last big hit was his 1999 cover of Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” which went to #1. In more recent years, he’s limited his covers to The Marshall Tucker Band and Charlie Rich.

      Ten Essential Tracks:

      “Too Cold at Home”
      from the 1990 album Too Cold at Home

      Chesnutt’s first twelve singles reached the top ten, starting with this pure country hit that finds him hiding out in a bar on a sweltering summer day. “It’s too hot to fish, too hot for golf, and too cold at home.”

      “Brother Jukebox”
      from the 1990 album Too Cold at Home

      He’s still at the bar for this hit, his first to top the charts. This time, the woman has left him, and his only family left are the jukebox, wine, freedom, and time.

      “I’ll Think of Something”
      from the 1992 album Longnecks & Short Stories

      A bone-chilling cover of a very old Hank Williams Jr. single. His nuanced vocal digs deeper than Williams did on the 1974 original.

      “Bubba Shot the Jukebox”
      from the 1992 album Longnecks & Short Stories

      This was one of the first singles forced by radio, as unsolicited airplay pushed it on to the charts while MCA was still working “I’ll Think of Something.” Songwriter Dennis Linde also penned Chesnutt’s #1 hit “It Sure is Monday.”

      “Almost Goodbye”
      from the 1993 album Almost Goodbye

      It begins like a domestic epic worthy of George Jones, complete with the swelling of the strings for heightened emotional effect. But cooler heads prevail as they realize how much they’d have to lose if they said the word goodbye. After all, “Sometimes the most important words are the ones that you leave unspoken.”

      “I Just Wanted You to Know”
      from the 1993 album Almost Goodbye

      One side of what must be an incredibly awkward telephone conversation, with the woman’s implied silence at the other end of the line making things just a little more uncomfortable.

      “Goin’ Through the Big D”
      from the 1994 album What a Way to Live

      The nineties equivalent of “She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft.)”

      “Trouble”
      from the 1995 album Wings

      Covering Todd Snider. The coolest thing that Mark Chesnutt has ever done. “A woman like you walks in a place like this and you can almost hear the promises break.”

      “It Wouldn’t Hurt to Have Wings”
      from the 1995 album Wings

      Essentially the title track to Chesnutt’s finest major label album, it was also the set’s only big hit.

      “Thank God For Believers”
      from the 1997 album Thank God For Believers

      In a decade that brought several powerful new perspectives on alcoholism, this was one of the best, as the man who struggles with his addiction can’t believe the strength and the faith of the woman who stays beside him.

      Two Hidden Treasures:

      “Strangers”
      from the 1995 album Wings

      Take your pick from this album – perhaps you’d prefer “As the Honky Tonk Turns” or “King of Broken Hearts” – but my favorite is the closing track, where strangers that meet in the evening will be strangers again the next morning.

      “A Hard Secret to Keep”
      from the 2004 album Savin’ the Honky Tonk

      This is the best moment of Chesnutt’s strongest album, the independent release Savin’ the Honky Tonk. It’s an album that more than lives up to its title, especially on this tale of cheater’s paranoia.

      13 Comments

      Filed under Back to the Nineties, Starter Kits

      Satirical Songs

      kinky-friedmanI’ve known about Kinky Friedman for some years now. Actually, I should be more specific and say that I’ve known Kinky Friedman’s name for quite some years now. Because, to be honest, the only thing I really knew about him until very recently is that Willie Nelson supported him for Texas Governor in 2006, which should have peaked my interest enough to research him back then.

      It wasn’t until recently, after doing an Amazon search for stray Todd Snider songs, that I realized that the colorful and fascinating Friedman, while politically extreme at times, was quite the singing satirist. On the 2006 album Why The Hell Not…The Songs of Kinky Friedman, I discovered an incredible cast of artists (Willie Nelson, Todd Snider, Bruce Robison, Asleep at the Wheel, Delbert McClinton, Charlie Robison, Dwight Yoakam, Kevin Fowler & Jason Boland) doing covers of Friedman’s songs, many so sharp that I was more than a little taken aback at first. Through satire and, sometimes, even seriousness, Freidman offers a lot of social commentary that is often colorful and always intriguing.

      Although Friedman’s original versions aren’t especially appe

      aling to me, the tribute album is engaging. Two songs in particular caught my attention right away. Kevin Fowler’s cover of “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven” and Todd Snider’s version of “They Ain’t Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore” are both addictively catchy and amusing. Snider’s song would easily fit next to his own socially charged compositions while Fowler’s choice is performed with a charming cheekiness.

      While it would be violating Country Universe’s comment policy to quote Todd Snider’s song that deals with racism, I will provide a sample of the lyrics from Fowler’s deliciously ridiculous ditty, which is hopefully extreme enough to be obviously satirical in nature as social commentary.

      Verse 1: You uppity women I don’t understand
      Why you gotta go and try to act like a man,
      But before you make your weekly visit to the shrink
      You’d better occupy the kitchen, liberate the sink.

      Chorus: Get your biscuits in the oven and your buns in the bed
      That’s what I to my baby said,
      Women’s liberation is a-going to your head,
      Get your biscuits in the oven and your buns in the bed.

      Kinky Friedman’s brand of social commentary may be understandably too inflammatory and extreme for many people, but my call to Country Universe readers tonight is to recommend a satirical song that you find appealing.

      zp8497586rq

      18 Comments

      Filed under Discussion