Tag Archives: Wynonna

Daily Double Top Five: Kentucky Country

patty_lovelessThis week in 1792, Kentucky became the fifteenth state to join the union. It’s also the state that two Country Universe writers – Jonathan Keefe and myself – call home.

Kentucky is well known as the home of bluegrass music, but our state’s rich musical heritage spans multiple genres. A wide variety of music legends hail from the bluegrass state, while its unique natural beauty and varied culture has served as inspiration for many a songwriter.

Jonathan and I have put our heads together for a Country Universe Top Five that covers two topics in one. I’ve chosen my top five favorite artists from Kentucky, while he has chosen his top five favorite songs about Kentucky. Since there are plenty of eligible inclusions for both topics, this leaves plenty of room for reader discussion, so be sure to share your own choices in the comments.

Ben’s Top Five Artists from Kentucky:

1. Patty Loveless
2. Loretta Lynn
3. Wynonna/ The Judds
4. Dwight Yoakam
5. Crystal Gayle

Jonathan’s Top Five Songs About Kentucky:

1. Patty Loveless, “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive”
2. John Prine, “Paradise”
3. Bill Monroe, “Blue Moon of Kentucky”
4. Neko Case, “Bowling Green”
5. Dierks Bentley, “Bourbon in Kentucky”

 

 

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Daily Top Five: Twitter Country

TwitterWe’ve been beefing up our activity on Twitter of late– for those of you not following us yet, you’ll never in a million years believe that our name is @CountryUniverse— and have been enjoying the opportunity to engage with our readers– and, on occasion, with the artists we’ve written about– using that platform.

So, for this Daily Top Five, we’ve listed some of our most essential, “Must Follow” Twitter accounts!

Country Music News, Culture, & Humor:
1). Windmills Country (@WindmillsMusic)
You want opinions that are driven by real data and thoughtful, incisive analysis? No one does it better.
2). Grady Smith (@gradywsmith)
The in-house country music columnist for The Guardian has truly stepped up in a post-Chris Neal, post-Chet Flippo world.
3). Americana Music Association (@AmericanaFest)
Essential coverage of the artists we love who reside on the fringes of the country universe.
4). Jessica Northey (@JessicaNorthey)
No one works harder to create an active social network– in the true sense of the term– that includes both country music fans and artists.
5). Former Hank Williams (@HanksGhost)
Because you’re wondering which of the latest abominations has the late hillbilly poet spinning in his grave.

Country Artists:
1). Gretchen Peters (@gretchenpeters)
It should come as no great surprise what this masterful songwriter can say in a scant 140 characters.
2). Wynonna (@WynonnaMusic)
Whatever you’re imagining the one-of-a-kind Wynonna’s Twitter feed would look like is probably accurate.
3). Sunny Sweeney (@GettinSweenered)
Her background in improv comedy consistently shines: she’s witty and clever in a world that favors snark.
4). Jason Isbell (@JasonIsbell)
As in his songwriting, he doesn’t pull punches here, either.
5). Rosanne Cash (@rosannecash)
She could likely cull a spectacular album from the observations on marriage, aging, and legacy she’s collected.

So, who else would you recommend as an essential addition to the Country Universe followers list?

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You Can’t Play Two Women Back to Back

How could you ever tell them apart?

Thank goodness we have the diversity and variety of male voices in country music to keep things fresh.

With deep gratitude to country music programmers for knowing what we really want.   Thanks to your leadership, the genre is so much richer with talent today than it was in 1993.

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Say What? – Keith Hill

SaladUPDATE: Check out the impeccably researched work of Deb B, also known as Windmills, over at MJ’s Big Blog:

Country Radio & The Anti-Female Female Myth: A Data-Based Look

ORIGINAL POST:

Via Terri Clark’s Twitter, this gem from radio consultant Keith Hill:

This One’s Not For The Girls: Finally, Hill cautions against playing too many females. And playing them back to back, he says, is a no-no. “If you want to make ratings in Country radio, take females out,” he asserts. “The reason is mainstream Country radio generates more quarter hours from female listeners at the rate of 70 to 75%, and women like male artists. I’m basing that not only on music tests from over the years, but more than 300 client radio stations. The expectation is we’re principally a male format with a smaller female component. I’ve got about 40 music databases in front of me and the percentage of females in the one with the most is 19%. Trust me, I play great female records and we’ve got some right now; they’re just not the lettuce in our salad. The lettuce is Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton, Keith Urban and artists like that. The tomatoes of our salad are the females.”

Tossed salad imagery aside, in what other professional setting would such blatant gender discrimination be openly advocated?  The breathtaking condescension toward female listeners in country music is nothing new, but it’s been more than twenty years since any such case could be supported by sales numbers.

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Daily Top Five: Going Solo

WynonnaKristian Bush of Sugarland released his debut solo album this year, and the buzz on it has been good.

Good enough, in fact, to inspire its own Daily Top Five!

What are your favorite solo singles by artists famous for being in a duo or group?

For my list, I stuck to singles from their first solo projects, but feel free to break that rule!

  1. Radney Foster, “Nobody Wins”  (Foster & Lloyd)
  2. Wynonna, “She is His Only Need” (The Judds)
  3. Larry Stewart, “Alright Already”  (Restless Heart)
  4. Ronnie Dunn, “Bleed Red” (Brooks & Dunn)
  5. Heidi Newfield, “What am I Waiting For?” (Trick Pony)

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Album Review: Kimmie Rhodes, Cowgirl Boudoir

Kimmie Rhodes Cowgirl Boudoir

Kimmie Rhodes
Cowgirl Boudoir

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Though she’s recorded steadily since the late 80s, Texas singer-songwriter Kimmie Rhodes hasn’t enjoyed either the commercial or critical cachet of many of the other alt-country and Americana acts. Both Wynonna and Trisha Yearwood have recorded her songs, but she hasn’t been a steady go-to songwriter like, say, Gretchen Peters or Kim Richey. That’s largely the result of how unassuming Rhodes’ work routinely is: Her songs are never less than well-constructed and are always observed in plainspoken but effective lines, while her singing hinges on her gentle, wispy voice.
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The Best Singles of 1994, Part 1: #40-#31

Our Best of 1994 Singles List kicks off today with the bottom quarter of our top forty. The list was compiled by weighing each individual writer’s choices, with preference given to songs that appeared on multiple lists. Each writer’s individual ranking is listed under the songwriter credits.

Bonus retro fun: Check out those cassette singles covers!

Alan Jackson Livin' On Love

#40
“Livin’ on Love”
Alan Jackson

Written by Alan Jackson

SG #14 | JK #23 | BF #37

Country music has, historically, given voice to those disenfranchised by poverty, validating and finding the value in the struggles of economic hardship. What elevates the appropriately bare-bones narrative of “Livin’ on Love” is the warmth and real sense of empathy in Jackson’s performance. – Jonathan Keefe

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CU10 Flashback: Carrie Underwood, Shania Twain and Gender in Country Music

Shania Twain Carrie UnderwoodIn 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 real issue at hand: country music’s staggering, frustrating gender bias. Six years and a truckload of interchangeable male artists later, it’s more imperative than ever that we continue this discussion.  – Tara Seetharam

Discussion: Carrie Underwood, Shania Twain and Gender in Country Music

by Kevin John Coyne

August 29, 2008

I fear this post won’t quite live up to its ambitious title, and I realize that I’m stirring the tempest pot a bit by putting those two artists in the same sentence. But the tone that surfaces whenever Carrie Underwood is discussed here is something that I find increasingly frustrating, so I’m going to talk about it. Hopefully, I’ll get a meaningful conversation going along the way.

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Filed under Alison Krauss, CU10, Discussion, Flashback, Miranda Lambert, Women of Country on Women in Country

Hall Worthy: 2014 Edition

halloffamelogoEight 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:

alan-jackson

Alan Jackson

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.

Randy Travis

Randy Travis

The poster child for the new traditionalist movement was also the first true country music superstar to sell millions of records without any crossover airplay or rock press appeal.  Travis is the primary reason that Nashville turned away from pursuing pop airplay for more than a decade, realizing that there was more than enough money to be made by growing (and eventually saturating) the country market.  His debut album, Storms of Life, remains one of the greatest country albums of all-time, and songs like “Forever and Ever, Amen”, “On the Other Hand”, and “Three Wooden Crosses” were award-winning classics.

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The Judds

Put aside all of the tabloid drama and focus just on the music.  Those heavenly harmonies were reminiscent of the Carter Family, while Wynonna’s breathtaking vocals added a contemporary breadth and soulful twist to their pure country sound.  They were so commercially successful and critically acclaimed that the CMA had to change the rules of the Vocal Duo category so someone else could win Vocal Group.   Wynonna’s solo career following Naomi Judd’s retirement only further extended the legacy of this essential duo.

rickyskaggs

Ricky Skaggs

He’s often overlooked these days, as he’s made bluegrass his primary home.  But when he was a contemporary country star, he found a way to make bluegrass be contemporary country.  He was a central figure in making bluegrass music mainstream, making possible the future success of everyone from Alison Krauss & Union Station to the Dixie Chicks.   He’s managed to be both a pioneer of bluegrass music while also being a steadfast advocate for the bluegrass of old, and still scored eleven #1 country hits along the way and the CMA for Entertainer of the Year.  The Hall shouldn’t wait until he’s old enough for the Veterans Era.

patty_loveless

Patty Loveless

One of the few artists to successfully navigate both the eighties and the nineties on country radio, Patty Loveless is the most significant female artist of the Modern Era who is not yet inducted into the Hall of Fame.  Her acclaimed work for both MCA and Epic saw her develop from a singles artist with the good taste to cover Lucinda Williams, into an album artist that made critically acclaimed and surprisingly progressive traditional music.  Since fading from radio, she’s remained relevant with widely appreciated sets that delve deep into her mountain heritage, with her most recent set earning her a Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album.

Dwight Yoakam

Dwight Yoakam

Extraordinarily talented and unfailingly artistic, Dwight Yoakam remains one of the most significant country artists from the new traditionalist movement, though his traditionalism has always had a West Coast flair that was more Owens than Haggard.   Never that much of a radio favorite, Yoakam still managed to sell millions of records, being one of the few legitimate album artists of his time.   His most recent work, 3 Pears, made more year-end critics lists than any other country album in 2012.

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Trisha Yearwood

The only artist on this list who could never be described as a traditionalist, Trisha Yearwood has earned her place in the Hall of Fame through making more consistently excellent music over a longer period of time than any of her contemporaries.   She’s sold a ton of records and had more than her fair share of radio hits and industry awards, but her ultimate legacy will be having the best set of pipes and the best taste in songs, a combination that many artists – female and male – have never managed to pull off nearly as well as Yearwood has over the years.  That’s what having the voice of a Ronstadt and the song sense of a Harris will do for you.

The Veterans Era:

Hank Williams Jr

Hank Williams, Jr.

By a wide margin, Hank Jr. is the most commercially successful artist of the Veterans Era who is not yet in the Hall of Fame.  His noxious public statements in recent years have reinforced a notion that he’s little more than a Southern rock caricature, but his legacy is greater than Monday Night Football and regional xenophobia. At his peak, he made some of the most significant country rock that’s ever been made, crafting himself a distinguished place in country music history that is wholly separate from his legendary father.  In fact, there’s a better chance right now that a bar in America is singing along with “Family Tradition” than anything from his daddy’s catalog.

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Charlie Rich

An artist who was always years ahead of his time, he had a remarkable run of commercial success in the seventies, a period where the times finally caught up to him for a brief spell.  His bluesy style was embraced by the pop scene for a time, with his hit “The Most Beautiful Girl” being one of those rare country hits that also topped the Hot 100.   A veteran of the Sun Records label that produced Hall of Famers like Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley, Rich made the transition to Nashville while always keeping one foot grounded back in Memphis.

Jerry Reed

Jerry Reed

He was one of the most iconic stars of his time, thanks to his witty novelty records, stunning guitar prowess, and extensive appearances on film.  His songwriting success arrived earlier than his recording stardom, but once he got rolling, he was scoring million-selling hits that ran up the country and the pop charts.  He’s one of the few legends left that were truly unique and distinctive personalities who haven’t yet been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

tanya-tucker

Tanya Tucker

She’s still three years away from eligibility in this category, with 2017 being the first year she can claim 45 years on the scene.  But while the competition is fierce for those Modern Era slots, Tucker should be voted in the first year she’s eligible as a veteran.  Her haunting, gothic early records are still revelatory, and in the years that followed, her gravely voice brought grit and soul to a long string of country hits.  She was able to remain a force to be reckoned with in the first half of the nineties, a remarkable holdover from the early seventies in an era that had wiped away even the stars of the late eighties to make room for the next big things.

Jim Ed Brown

Jim Ed Brown

Another legend that remained relevant over many different eras of country music, Jim Ed Brown’s immortality on record had already been guaranteed in 1959, when his family group the Browns recorded “The Three Bells.”  That classic hit topped the country and pop charts for many weeks, and the Browns kept going through most of the sixties, joining the cast of the Grand Ole Opry a few years before disbanding.  Brown went on to a successful solo career with classics like “Pop a Top” and “Morning” reaching the top five.  Then he teamed with Helen Cornelius and had his biggest hits since his days with the Browns, most notably “I Don’t Want to Have to Marry You.”  At age eighty, he remains a force on the Opry and as a radio host, making him one of the longest-running personalities that the genre has ever seen.

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Single Review: Wynonna, "Something You Can't Live Without"

Wynonna Something You Can't Live WithoutIt’s been thirty years since the world was introduced to the voice of Wynonna Judd, a simple guitar strum being nothing close to enough preparation for the otherworldly voice that opened the debut Judds single, “Had a Dream (For the Heart)”:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WRepFD9Mys

Thirty years later, after about a decade of Judds music and another two decades of solo work, that voice is still that voice.  Wynonna has the ability to harness a true force of nature, having incredible depth and soul that remains under her complete control.

Less under control is her firebrand personality, an increasingly dramatic public image that has been overshadowing her music in recent years, but that’s mostly because she hasn’t been making nearly enough music.   Really, once she sings two or three notes, who really cares about her public image?

But what happens when that image starts to dictate the music? What happens when producers convince themselves that they have to be

just as loud and dazzling as the lady behind the mic?

“Something You Can’t Live Without” is what happens.

You’ve got Wynonna singing a great song that clearly means a lot to her.  She turns in a ferocious performance.   All the musicians need to do is give her a bit of support while mostly staying out of her way.

Instead, not only is the backing music way too loud, there is a cardinal sin committed that is simply unforgivable.  They actually put a digital effect on her voice.

You do that for bad singers. You do that for mediocre singers.  Sometimes, you even do that for good singers.  But to do it to one of the strongest vocalists popular music has ever seen is an insult.

I really like this record overall, simply because I can hear all that great Wynonna underneath the muck.  But much like those synthesizer-drenched Dolly Parton songs from the eighties, it’s just bewildering that the muck is there in the first place.

Such natural, God-given talent needs organic music to back her up.  I don’t care if it’s Memphis blues instead of Nashville country.  Just let her surroundings be as real as she is, and save all the artifice for the reality show circuit.

Written by Cactus Moser and Wynonna

Grade: B

 

 

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