In 2008, I was finishing up my degree in journalism and trying to understand what it meant to be a professional writer. I wanted to write about music, but the divide between fan and critic felt, at times, insurmountable. That fall, I stumbled onto Country Universe through this post, and it changed my perspective. As both a writer and leader, Kevin was thoughtful, rational and personally invested in the country music genre. He showed a deep respect for the genre’s history, but wrote about new artists with tolerance and curiosity. Best of all, he held readers and writers alike to the highest standards of decency. It’s for that reason that this post shines. Kevin’s ability to take a stand while cultivating constructive dialogue is unmatched. He cut through the divisive hype around Carrie Underwood –an artist who is as special to me now as she was back then—and underlined the Read More
Songs have such a big impact on our life experience that they sometimes inspire songs of their own. It’s a cool theme that I wish more singers and songwriters would explore. Here are some of my favorite examples of this theme: Trisha Yearwood, “The Song Remembers When” Far and away, the gold standard for songs about songs. I love the way the intro’s guitar hook is repeated immediately after Yearwood, sings, “When I heard that old familiar music start.” Producer Garth Fundis is the unsung hero of this classic recording, which has always seen heaps of deserved praise for Hugh Prestwood’s poetic songwriting and Yearwood’s skillful interpretation.
Eight years ago, we posted our second edition of Hall Worthy, a list of significant country music figures who we felt were most deserving of being in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Since then, a lot has changed. First and foremost, more than half of the list is now in the Hall of Fame (or, at least, headed there later this year.) An additional entry, Wanda Jackson, is now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
A bigger change came in 2009, when new categories were introduced to ensure that two artist inductees would be represented from different eras: The Modern Era (20-44 years of national prominence), and the Veterans Era (45+ years of national prominence.) There are also three more categories that rotate, meaning one from each category gets in every third year: Non-Performer, Songwriter, and Recording and/or Touring Musician.
Finally, since that list was published, our readership has grown tremendously and is incredibly well-versed on country music, past and present. So in this new and now annual edition of Hall Worthy, we are going to run down the list of the most successful artists that are eligible but have yet to make it into the Hall of Fame, in the order of “Hall Worthiness.”
The Modern Era:
Scoring his first hit in 1990 with “Here in the Real World”, Alan Jackson is the most successful country artist that isn’t currently in the Hall of Fame. His storied career has included 25 #1 hits and 49 visits to the top ten. He’s won a slew of awards over the years, including many for his songwriting. He is the most traditionalist of all of the nineties superstars, but has managed to stay relevant regardless of how pop the genre went over the past quarter century, selling more than forty million albums in the U.S. alone. He should be the next inductee for the Modern Era.
On the nineties:
“What I loved about being a woman in country music was there was something for everybody. There were a handful of us, probably 10 of us that were doing really, really well, but we were all a little bit different and I always thought it was easier.
People always said it’s so hard for a woman, but it’s easier because if you were a guy back in the 90’s you had two choices: You either wore the hat or you didn’t. So it was hard to distinguish yourself. As a woman it was easy because your image could be so completely whatever you wanted it to be. It was an awesome time to be a woman in the business.”
Alabama & Friends
To recognize the impact that Alabama has had on modern country music, you could consider their millions of albums sold, their hundreds of awards, their many #1 songs or their induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005. You could also look at how the boys from Fort Payne, Ala. have the distinction of bringing something entirely new into country music.
We at Country Universe were very saddened to hear of Linda Ronstadt’s recent announcement that she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease eight months ago, and that the disease has resulted in the total loss of her ability to sing.
How Country Feels
Randy Houser impressed the critics with 2010’s They Call Me Cadillac, but country radio yawned, and neither of the album’s two singles cracked the Top 30. Houser’s Stoney Creek Records debut thus comes across as a mea culpa of sorts, as Houser shrugs his shoulders in defeat, and gets ready to do some good old-fashioned pandering.
Country music has always been a singles genre, a fact that is clearly reflected on my iPod. Only three of my most thirty played country songs were never sent to radio. That doesn’t necessarily mean radio played them, of course.
My most played country song is Alan Jackson’s “So You Don’t Have to Love Me Anymore”, which didn’t crack the top twenty, and not far behind is Trisha Yearwood’s “Where are You Now”, which didn’t crack the top forty.
But looking at our most played album cuts is a great way to discover great music we might have missed, so it seems like a good choice for an iPod Check. Here are my country album cuts that I’ve played more than 5 times, separated by artist. Sort your list however you like. I’m getting my Amazon MP3 page loaded now so I can buy the great songs I’ve missed which surface in the comments.
I’ve only recently discovered the Most Played feature on iTunes, since it never had any relevance until iPods were large enough in memory to sync all of my music. So going back to early 2011, I have a lengthy list of the songs I’ve played the most.
At this point, it’s easy to forget that Carrie Underwood first kicked off her country music career as an American Idol graduate. Besides being one of country music’s most technically gifted female vocalists, she’s gone on to become one of its strongest commercial forces, with a seven-year-long string of Top-2 hit singles, not to mention albums that consistently sell like hotcakes. But a noteworthy gap has often been seen between the impressiveness of Underwood’s talent and success and the quality of her material. In terms of lyrics and production, at least, Underwood’s new album Blown Away finds her taking steps forward that are small, but steps forward nonetheless.