The last few weeks have been full of discussions, debates and even steps and leaps toward major social changes. Songs that most easily hit my sweet spot are songs with thoughtful social commentary. Happily, even with its stereotypes of drinking, cheating and, now, tailgating, country music has not been shy about commenting on social issues. Here are five of my favorite songs with social commentary. What are some of yours? Radney Foster, “Not in My House” Waylon Jennings, “America” Gail Davies, “Unwed Fathers” Peter Cooper, “715 (For Hank Aaron)” Dolly Parton, “Just Because I’m a Woman”
2014 was a banner year for country music albums. In addition to the predictably solid entries from the Americana, folk, and bluegrass scenes, some excellent albums also surfaced from the unlikeliest of sources: mainstream, radio-friendly contemporary country artists! Here are our twenty favorite albums from 2014. Fingers crossed that 2015 is as good or better than this year has been. #20 Jennifer Nettles That Girl KJC #8 | LW #16 A confident, intelligent solo project that washes away all of the bitter taste left by Sugarland’s preceding studio album, The Incredible Machine. Nettles manages to remind us what was so appealing about the trio-turned-duo in the first place, while also staking out her own musical territory that has room for independence anthems alongside wry, humorous commentary on society and, of course, palpably vulnerable heartbreak numbers. – Kevin John Coyne Recommended Tracks: “Me Without You”, “Know You Wanna Know”, “Jealousy”
100 Greatest Men: The Complete List He started out as an unconventional songwriter trying to be a conventional artist. But when Willie Nelson let his hair down, he became a country legend for the ages. Nelson was raised by his grandparents in Texas, who encouraged him to play the guitar and to write songs. When his sister Bonnie married fiddle player Buddy Fletcher, Nelson joined his band as the frontman, staying with him until he graduated high school and did a brief stint in the Air Force.
100 Greatest Men: The Complete List Waylon Jennings was the very embodiment of the country music outlaw movement in the seventies, demonstrating that legendary music can be made if artists are liberated to create it in the way that they want to. Jennings was born in Littlefield, Texas, and was playing the guitar and singing on the radio by the time he was twelve years old. Jennings dropped out of school at age fourteen, and picked cotton while pursuing music in his spare time. When he moved to Lubbock, he became friendly with rising rock star Buddy Holly, who took Jennings under his wing. Holly produced a single for Jennings and had him fill in as a bass player in the Crickets.
My local Public Radio station has a wonderful series called Music that Moves Me, which was conceived and originally produced by the inimitable Suzanne Nance who has now (sadly for us, but happily for her) moved on to bigger things in a big Chicago market. For this series, people across Maine submitted touching or funny stories about how a particular song or specific music has moved them in their lives. As a result, this series inspired me to make a playlist of songs that move me whenever I hear them. The songs that move me the most are those that promote sensitivity and kindness in the world or in me. Here are just a few of the songs that move me. What are some of yours and why? Sarah Jarosz, “Ring Them Bells” Jarosz beautifully interprets this Bob Dylan Chestnut with the help of Vince Gill. There’s just something in Read More
Since its inception, the top honor an artist could be given at the Country Music Association awards is this one: Entertainer of the Year. Originally a revolving door of winners, the winner in early years was often not even nominated the following year. In 1981, Barbara Mandrell became the first artist to win the award twice. Alabama succeeded her with a three year run from 1982-1984. Fourteen years later, Garth Brooks became the first artist two win four times, a feat later matched by Kenny Chesney in 2008.
Here’s a look back at the award from the very beginning, along with some facts and feats about the category and its nominees.
- Bill Anderson
- Eddy Arnold
- Merle Haggard
- Sonny James
- Buck Owens
One year after being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Eddy Arnold was named the very first Entertainer of the Year at the inaugural CMA awards in 1967. Don’t assume it was a sympathy vote. Arnold had three #1 hits in the twelve months leading up to the ceremony, as he was in the middle of his impressive mid-sixties comeback, a period best defined by the 1965 classic, “Make the World Go Away.” He remains the only member of the Hall of Fame to win this award after being inducted.
First as a songwriter, then as a new country superstar, and currently as an alternative country icon, Rodney Crowell has made an indelible mark on country music for nearly four decades.
Though his Hall of Fame career has now stretched several decades, Kris Kristofferson will forever be defined by his legendary songwriting in the late sixties and early seventies.