Self-Indulgent Discussion: Second Edition

Back in early August, Kevin posed the following question to readers:

What features would you like to see more of at Country Universe?  Are there things we could be doing better? How can we make this a better site?

The post netted a good number of responses, all of which were taken into serious account, and many of which ended up playing out shortly after. Country Universe has seen a lot of expansion over the two months since the time of that post; in addition to three additional writers (Blake, Lynn, and myself), we’ve tried out a number of new or previously infrequent features, including, though not necessarily limited to:

Now that your memory is jogged, consider this post an opportunity to comment on your current feelings about the site. If you think we’re delivering too much of one thing, need to deliver more of another thing, should do something differently, should do something new entirely, what-have-you, we want to hear it. You can even be positive! (Wow!)

The only stipulation is to stay classy with your remarks. Any and all constructive criticism is 100% encouraged and desirable here; just realize that we work hard on everything you see and do have (some) feelings. But this site is ultimately about serving country music fans (namely, you), and what you tell us has a lot of bearing on what we do. So if you’ve got a concern, don’t hold back!

P.S. Before anyone mentions it, a handful of Favorite Songs by Favorite Artists entries are on the way!


  1. More frequent posting from Dan Milliken would be ideal. He’s a real gem of a writer.

    But seriously, the “staff” here is skilled and diverse as well. Color me grateful to be a part of it.

    With October fast approaching, we have a number of neat happenings on the horizon. Lookin’ forward to it!

  2. I’m highly impressed with this site.

    Some ideas:

    Make sure there is some sort of discussion every day? That would be nice, but I know it’s only about once every week that there isn’t, but I love the discussion threads.

    I also love the “recommend a track” if it isn’t obvious, also the classic albums/singles posts are great too.

    Keep up the amazing work!

  3. Love what you guys do I check it during every break between classes.

    I would like to see some artist reccomendations from Lynn, I heard she likes some of the stuff off of the beaten path and I’d love to expand my music collection.

    The discussions are great but I’d like to see a little more reviews, if it’s not too much to ask. (also you could review older singles that aren’t “Classic”, there’s a lot of great stuff that isn’t as well remembered.)

    And I really do hope the video reviews are going to become a main feature here, nobody does them really other than “Country Music Central” and I like to get multiple opinions on things.

    Otherwise keep up the great work guys (and Gals). Luff Ur Stuff.

  4. Only thing I can think of is removing the avatars on the comments, I think it looks goofy, with all the generic ones. Simple wordpress checkbox to turn on and off.

  5. For us bloggers, can you run a story listing artists and/or songs as country or another genre (pop, rock, heavy metal, etc)?

    I noticed one blogger mentioned Eagles, what about John Denver, James Taylor, Donna and the Buffalo, Los Lobos, Allman Brothers?

    And what about songs? Some of Elvis’ songs are NOT country. ‘In the Ghetto’ is NOT a country song. There is no steel in it and it sounds like a ‘pop rock’ song to me. And what about the ‘country’ songs the Rolling Stones performed? Do they really qualify as country songs?

    It looks like your site lists groups/artists I would consider country rock, bluegrass, and old-style country and western.

    Can someone provide some guidance?

  6. I wish there were an edit feature, so we could revise or delete our own comments. I know I have said a few things I regret here, or that I wish I had worded differently.

    Also, a feature that allowed us to connect with fellow posters via email or personal message would be cool.

    The reviews, the discussions, the open topic threads and most of the other existing features are first rate…Keep up the great work!

    -Steve from Boston.

  7. I know this is minor, but ever since the change to the new design, something has been missing. On the old design, there would be links above to the previous story or to the next story. That isn’t there anymore and even though I come on through the RSS feed, I think it might add a convenience that was there before the redesign. Other than that, good site and the features are really good. I do echo what others said about reviews. What brought me to this site were the single reviews, and I hope those don’t get lost in the shuffle.

  8. I think writer grades at the bottom of each review would be good. Even if one person writes the review, just a grade from everyone else.
    Is a “Blake A” a “Dan B+”?
    If you all represent CU, I think we should get a sense of what you all feel about a song.

  9. Thanks everyone for their feedback (and compliments) so far.

    Chris D, we enjoy the discussion threads as well since it gives us the chance to interact with the readers and gain a different, educated perspective.

    Jordan, video reviews are something that I expect us to explore more in depth in coming months.

    Mike, we try to have a broad spectrum of country music here. Oftentimes, it’s hard to determine where to draw genre lines. All in all, country music has been shaped by other types of music and vice versa. I know we would like to feature artists from other genres that delved into country music.

    Steve F., I like the idea of the readers being able to interact more easily with each other.

    Greg M., I know that we will be working on site redesign in the very short term. Glad you like the reviews.

    Jim O, what type of awards would you like to see?

    Gloria, duly noted! Charlie, interesting idea…

  10. I thought about this, this morning. Don’t forget one of the best country albums released within the last year or two, that in my opinion is one of the best that has come out in a long time:

    Neil Young/Prairie Wind

  11. Thanks for the suggestions, Everyone! I know Kevin takes them very seriously. While we can’t implement everything, I’m sure you’ll see some of your feedback reflected on the site in the near future.

    Mike, I’m not sure Neil Young is considered country, though I’m not familiar with the album of his that you mention.

  12. I’m just going to second Charlie’s suggestion of having all the CU writers posting a score for the reviews, then I can find out which one is closest to my tastes. It’d be interesting as well.

  13. I’m in the same boat as Greg M. I too came originally for single review, and would like to see them continue.

    The discussions and Recommend a Track have been pretty interesting.

  14. Blake – Awards:
    I was thinking of the usual CMA type categories but with nominations compiled by you guys partly based on what people have been saying here.

    In addition some kind of New Artist award that is really limited to people just breaking through.

    Oh and maybe an award or 2 for blogs or bloggers.

    How you would run such a thing though I have no idea.

  15. From what I’ve noticed about this site is that overall it appears to be very limited in looking at, and discussing all of todays country music. “Country Universe” seems to be the wrong term here. Somehow it just doesn’t quite fit, but maybe to most people on this site, it’s a small world after all.

  16. Martin, apparently you and Mike disagree. You think we’re too narrow and he thinks we’re too broad.:) Hopefully, Lynn’s perspective will help to fill your vision of Country Universe a bit more.

  17. Martone,

    It would be helpful if you could mention what about our perspective here is “limited.” Is it the scope of artists we cover, the way we evaluate the music, what? I’m sure it’s a valid concern; we just need you to be a bit more specific.

  18. I guess it would be the scope of the artists. Maybe I’m wrong but I haven’t seen much in the line of Americana/Roots Country artists. Maybe you do, and I just haven’t found it yet, or maybe you tried to open it up to all of todays country music, and there wasn’t enough interest to continue. I’m fairly new to this site, but I’ve been observing longer than I’ve been posting.

  19. I can only speak for me, Martone, but I really don’t know a whole lot about Americana music. I like some of it, but I don’t have a passion for it. So, it would be disingenuous for me to try to write about it too much. Lynn, however, is more naturally immersed in it and I know I’ll learn from her insights as we go along.

  20. That’s a fair concern, Martone. We’ve been trying to dig deeper into Americana artists and the sort recently, but it’s a work in progress. Lynn will hopefully help spotlight a lot of the people we’ve thus far missed, as Leeann said, and we’ll just generally be trying to feature more albums from outside the mainstream.

    But yeah. Stick around, and let us know when there’s something you think we ought to cover!

  21. I love everything you’ve been doing. I really like the “Yesterday’s Songs” and “Retro Album reviews.” I like the things involving classic country as I am trying to educate myself more in that area, and you all have certainley been helping! Keep up the good work!

  22. You guys are wild and wonderful and I love it.

    Okay, I’ll be a little more specific. I especially like Classic Country Singles, the Songwriters Series, and Retro album reviews.

    I don’t like the idea of multiple grades from different writers on a review. That would be distracting, not to mention unnecessarily time-consuming on your end. Just keep doing what you’re doing. With perhaps a little more cowbell.

  23. Leeann,

    Neil Young recorded Prairie Wind live in Nashville at the Ryman Auditorium and Emmylou Harris as well as Ben Keith on slide and Spooner Oldham on piano were there to help as well as a number of Neil’s Nashville buddies.

    Not one song was rock and roll. One might classify it as folk or country folk or just plain country. Voted Amazon’s Editor’s top 100 albums released in 2005. It is a gem and I recommend you listen to it and then decide…. It was Number 11 on the Billboard 200 chart that year. It was just before he went under the knife for a brain aneurism and just after his father passed away.

  24. Mike, I’m definitely going to check this out. I like some old Neil Young, but haven’t really followed his current music. I’m definitely intrigued though.

  25. ‘Prairie Wind’ is actually a studio album; the Ryman shows were only for the filming of the accompanying movie, ‘Heart of Gold.’

    But that’s just a technicality. The arrangements and personnel are pretty much identical. I’d call it country folk if I called it anything.

    Also along the same lines from the Neil catalog: ‘Harvest Moon,’ ‘Silver and Gold,’ ‘Old Ways’ and of course ‘Harvest.’

  26. I don’t want to get binged for harping too much on an off-topic subject, but Chris N. is on top of the info. My mom, is in love with Gary Allen almost to the point of poo-pooing other good artists, but her and I rented the movie ‘Heart of Gold’ and we thoroughly enjoyed it. I made the comment that Neil was, by far, the biggest artist, who has ever crossed over from being the king of the rock genre to the king of the country genre and that ensured into a lively discussion/debate, as my mom always associated him with protest rock: ‘4 dead in Ohio’, ‘Cinnamon Girl’, etc. Which I will admit he is controversial, as with his song ‘Southern Man’ at the time it was released. I don’t think he ever took a ‘Southern Man’ tour through country music territory. The song was somewhat condescending to the southern mentality and evoked the response from the Allman Brothers: ‘And I hope Neil Young will remember – Southern Man, don’t need him around anyhow…’

    But this guy was born on the Ontario prairie. He sings songs about dogs, trucks, lost love, drinking, shooting heroin (earlier period Neil) and all the songs he wrote, himself. He may be the best singer/songwriter in rock – certainly an equivalent to Bob Dylan. He is also a great guitar player. But he plays simple low-key songs delicately. His voice is terrible to some, but unique and memorable, to most.

    Neil is King. One of the songs he sings on the album refers to Elvis.

  27. You are taking my mom’s side of the argument, as I didn’t think in those terms before I saw the movie myself, but after seeing the movie and knowing well Neil’s work prior. The film vindicates Neil as a legitimate country artist, in spite of being on the outside of the support from the Nashville scene.

    There is a fascinating part at the beginning, as he is in the back of a car having conversations with fellow musicians as they ride through the town, including Emmylou. And at the end, you truly believe he is the king of country after a great performance. It is described as a ‘masterpiece’ in Wikipedia.

    That is how one feels after the movie, but I do not particularly ascribe to that belief myself, but one would have to see the movie to make up their own mind. But I do think there are a number of ways in which an individual may be compelled to feel this way.

  28. I had been meaning to watch that movie. I’ll have to actually get around to ding it now. Sorry for being on your mom’s side on this one.:)

  29. Very true, Young owns Hank’s Martin D-28. The tone from that guitar could melt butter. Did you notice that is Clinton Gregory playing fiddle for Young? Gregory put out 4 or 5 CD’s of his own and had a couple Pop Country hits in…I think it was the early 90’s.

  30. There were alot of old guys there, INCLUDING NEIL, and I will have to drill into Gregory as that was great fiddlework. I was even pointing out his fiddle-playing to my 9 year old daughter, as she wss trying to figure out what instrument she was going to play. (she settled on drums and I told her if you can play the drums well, you have the potential to play any instrument,well). Did you also see that Emmylou’s face still looks like she is twenty years old, in spite of the beautiful grey/white hair. She is so hot! I’m in love, and I am half her age! Don’t any of you tell her that I am happily married.

  31. I’m absolutely in love with your yesterday’s songs forum. I love seeing who was in the top 20 and hearing your short reviews on each song.

  32. I love the site, but I have one request. I would love to see more of the yesterdays singles columns. Its cool to look back and remember songs and connect them to memories around those times. You all do a great job, keep it up!

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