Vern Gosdin took a long and winding road to Nashville, but once he got there, he became one of the most significant traditional voices of his generation.
A Drinking Song
Here are the staff picks:
Tara Seetharam: “Smoke a Little Smoke” – Eric Church
I’m still digging this one – part trippy, part creepy vibe and all.
As with the similar CMA category of Single of the Year, looking over the history of this category is the quickest way to get a snapshot of country music in a given year. There is a quite a bt of consensus among the two organizations here, and it is very rare for the winner at one show to not at least be nominated at the other. The winners list here would make a great 2-disc set of country classics, at least for those who don’t mind a little pop in their country. The ACM definitely has more of a taste for crossover than its CMA counterpart, and the organizations have only agreed on 17 singles in the past four decades and change.
As always, we start with a look at this year’s nominees and work our way back to 1968.
- Zac Brown Band, “Toes”
- Billy Currington, “People Are Crazy”
- Lady Antebellum, “Need You Now”
- Miranda Lambert, “White Liar”
- David Nail, “Red Light”
There’s usually a “Huh?” nominee among the ACM list in recent years. This year, it’s David Nail. Good for him! Currington hasn’t won yet for this hit, even though he got himself a Grammy nomination for it. With Lady Antebellum reaching the upper ranks of the country and pop charts with “Need You Now”, my guess is that they’re the presumptive favorites. Then again, Miranda Lambert is a nominee for the third straight year, and she’s up for her biggest radio hit.
- Trace Adkins, “You’re Gonna Miss This”
- Jamey Johnson, “In Color”
- Miranda Lambert, “Gunpowder & Lead”
- Heidi Newfield, “Johnny and June”
- Brad Paisley, “Waitin’ On a Woman”
Adkins has been a fairly regular fixture on country radio since 1996, but this was his first major industry award. He also won the ACM for Top New Male Vocalist in 1997.
The following is a guest contribution from Scott O’Brien.
“But someone killed tradition. And for that someone should hang.” –Larry Cordle & Larry Shell, “Murder on Music Row”
Dan Milliken’s recent post got me thinking: The country music I grew up with is nothing like the music on country radio today. If I turned on today’s country radio in 1988, I might not realize it was a country station and keep right on flipping. Back then, Randy Travis and Keith Whitley’s traditional twang ruled the airwaves. Today, they are dominated by the giggly teeny-bopper ditties of Taylor Swift and the boy band sounds of Rascal Flatts. Did they get away with murder on music row? Well, let’s start by briefly uncovering country’s traditional roots.
What is traditional country music? Is it simply anything from the past? That seems too broad; Shania Twain wasn’t traditional. Anything before 1990? Maybe, but that is still a rather wide net. To me, traditional country music is honky-tonk music. It heavily employs steel guitars, fiddles, and forlorn vocals. It moves at a slow pace. There are no drums or electric guitars. The songs typically deal with heavy topics such as heartbreak, cheating, or drinking, with a ballad here and there. In most cases, the goal is to induce pain. Not bad pain, but the therapeutic empathy that tugs your heart and helps you through your personal struggles. The patron saint of traditional country is Hank Williams. Hank’s first disciple is George Jones. Jones’ first disciple is Alan Jackson. The traditional template is supposed to help us decipher what is country and what is not. After all, what makes country music country if not fiddles and cheatin’ songs?
Lyric Street really seems to lead the pack in terms of “country” acts who don’t sound particularly “country”, huh?
Their new rising act on imprint Carolwood is another three-piece boy band who sound like they paid a lot of attention to 80’s pop-rock and care deeply about the inner yearnings of suburban girls between the ages of 11 and 17. If you’re like me, you’ll play the first two seconds of this and marvel that it’s climbing the same charts that once featured the late Vern Gosdin.
But alright, I’ll admit it’s a catchy little thing. I don’t know that music gets a whole lot blander than this – even in fantasizing about ditching town and a paying job, they still sound as safe and neutered as can be – but it’s competent, pleasant pop-rock whose only real artistic fault is just that it’s not nearly as edgy or exciting as it would clearly like to be.
Write this down: George Strait will be recorded in the annals of country music history as the greatest singles artist of all-time. He already ranks third among all artists in terms of chart success, trailing only Eddy Arnold and George Jones. By the dawn of the next decade, he’ll be on top. Now, I don’t place inordinate value on what radio decides worthy of massive spins, but I do think that Strait’s hit singles are usually much better than the album cuts that aren’t sent to radio. Even though I have all of his albums, only two of the tracks on this list weren’t released as singles. With more than thirty albums to his credit, I’m sure that there are many songs that readers love which I haven’t included here. Here are my favorite songs by George Strait. #25 “Blue Clear Sky” Blue Clear Sky, 1996 This is the type Read More
Updated for 2009 While the Grammys have honored country music from the very first ceremony in 1959, they did not begin honoring by gender until 1965, when the country categories were expanded along with the other genre categories. This year, the 45th trophy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance will be awarded. In a continuation of our Grammy Flashback series, here is a rundown of the Best Country Vocal Performance, Male category. It was first awarded in 1965, and included singles competing with albums until the Best Country Album category was added in 1995. When an album is nominated, it is in italics, and a single track is in quotation marks. As usual, we start with a look at this year’s nominees and work our way back. Be sure to vote in My Kind of Country’s Best Male Country Vocal Performance poll and let your preference for this year’s race be known! Read More
For a look back at the other major categories, visit our CMA Awards page. 2010 Luke Bryan Easton Corbin Jerrod Neimann Chris Young Zac Brown Band Usually there isn’t this much turnover in this race unless most of last year’s nominees are ineligible. This year, only one of the four eligible nominees from last year – Zac Brown Band – earns a nomination. With their massive success and their multiple nominations, they’ve got an excellent shot at winning. Then again, Easton Corbin is elsewhere on the ballot, too. It could be a horse race. 2009 Randy Houser Jamey Johnson Jake Owen Darius Rucker Zac Brown Band Thirteen years after winning the Best New Artist Grammy as part of Hootie & The Blowfish, Darius Rucker won the country music equivalent, adding an exclamation point to the most successful pop-to-country crossover in a generation. 2008 Jason Aldean Rodney Atkins Lady Antebellum James Read More
For a look back at the other major categories, visit our CMA Awards page. 2010 Dierks Bentley Brad Paisley Blake Shelton George Strait Keith Urban Bentley and Shelton have never won, but they’re up against Strait, who has won five times, and Paisley and Urban, who’ve won three times each. With the balance of commercial and critical success not significantly different across the category, this race could bring the night’s biggest surprise. But whatever happens, kudos to Paisley for earning his tenth nomination, and Strait for earning his twenty-fifth! 2009 Kenny Chesney Brad Paisley Darius Rucker George Strait Keith Urban Just like in the Entertainer category, 80% of this race for the past three years had been Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, George Strait, and Keith Urban. This year, Darius Rucker took the fifth slot that was occupied by Alan Jackson in 2008 and Josh Turner in 2007. Brad Paisley went Read More