The First Annual Country Universe Readers’ Choice Awards

carrie-underwoodCarrie Underwood is the top winner of the inaugural Country Universe Reader’s Choice Awards, earning first place in all four of the races in which she was eligible. In addition to being named Artist of the Year and Female Vocalist, her #1 hit “Just a Dream” won for Single and Music Video.

Also popular with readers this past year were:

Sugarland, who won Vocal Duo/Group by the widest margin of any of the winners, and placed second for Artist and Album.  Additionally, lead singer Jennifer Nettles placed second for Songwriter.

Jamey Johnson, who won for Songwriter, and placed second in the Male Vocalist race.  His hit “In Color” came in third in both the Single and Music Video races, and he also placed third in the Artist race.

– Brad Paisley, who won easily for Male Vocalist and came in second for Music Video with “Waitin’ on a Woman.”

Patty Loveless, who topped both Sugarland and Lee Ann Womack to finish first in the Album race.

Among up-and-comers, Lady Antebellum and Joey+ Rory proved most popular, finishing first and second in the Rising Star race and second and third in the Vocal Duo/Group Race.  Lee Ann Womack and Trisha Yearwood also did well, with both women placing behind Underwood in the Female Vocalist race. Yearwood’s hit “This is Me You’re Talking To” placed second for Single, and Womack’s Call Me Crazy finished third behind Loveless and Sugarland for Album. And with wide disagreement in the Songwriter race beyond Johnson and Nettles, the red-hot Taylor Swift makes her only appearance on the list, placing third.

Our five winners of the Album Giveaway each received an Amazon Mp3 Gift Certificate for the cost of the album they chose from the various top ten lists of our writers.  The winners, and the albums they selected:

  • Araceli Pinto Corrales – Lee Ann Womack, Call Me Crazy
  • Andrew Lacy – Patty Loveless, Sleepless Nights
  • Zachary Jodlowski – Joey + Rory, The Life of a Song
  • Michael Kattman – Reckless Kelly, Bulletproof
  • Laura Britton – Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson, Rattlin’ Bones

Thanks to all of you who voted, and everyone else for your loyal readership!  Read on for the winners, along with the editors’ choices in each category. Percentages reflect the total amount of points received, with the maximum possible percentage of 50%, which would require a first-place vote on every ballot.

If you didn’t submit a ballot this time around, share your preferences in the comments!

The First Annual Country Universe

Readers’ Choice Awards


Artist of the Year

Readers’ Choice:
1. Carrie Underwood (22%)
2. Sugarland (19%)
3. Jamey Johnson (14%)

Editors’ Choice:
1. Jamey Johnson
2. Brad Paisley
3. Carrie Underwood

brad-paisleyMale Vocalist

Readers’ Choice:
1. Brad Paisley (30%)
2. Jamey Johnson (14%)
3. Keith Urban (12%)

Editors’ Choice:
1. Brad Paisley
2. Jamey Johnson
3. Alan Jackson

carrie-underwoodFemale Vocalist

Readers’ Choice:
1. Carrie Underwood (21%)
2. Lee Ann Womack (19%)
3. Trisha Yearwood (19%)

Editors’ Choice:
1. Patty Loveless
2. Trisha Yearwood
3. Lee Ann Womack

sugarlandVocal Duo or Group

Readers’ Choice:
1. Sugarland (34%)
2. Lady Antebellum (13%)
3. Joey + Rory (12%)

Editors’ Choice:
1. Sugarland
2. Joey + Rory
3. Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson


Readers’ Choice:
1. “Just a Dream” – Carrie Underwood (18%)
2. “This is Me You’re Talking To” – Trisha Yearwood (15%)
3. “In Color” – Jamey Johnson (13%)

Editors’ Choice:
1. “What I Cannot Change” – LeAnn Rimes
2. “This is Me You’re Talking To” – Trisha Yearwood
3. “Dig Two Graves” – Randy Travis


Readers’ Choice:
1. Patty Loveless, Sleepless Nights (19%)
2. Sugarland, Love on the Inside (18%)
3. Lee Ann Womack, Call Me Crazy (12%)

Editors’ Choice:
1. Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson, Rattlin’ Bones
2. Kathy Mattea, Coal
3. Jamey Johnson, That Lonesome Song

lady-antebellumRising Star

Readers’ Choice:
1. Lady Antebellum (27%)
2. Joey + Rory (20%)
3. Ashton Shepherd (19%)

Editors’ Choice:
1. Jamey Johnson
2. Ashton Shepherd
3. Joey + Rory

CMA Music FestivalSongwriter

Readers’ Choice:
1. Jamey Johnson (14%)
2. Jennifer Nettles (11%)
3. Taylor Swift (10%)

Editors’ Choice:
1. Jamey Johnson
2. Justin Townes Earle
3. Todd Snider

carrie-underwood-just-a-dreamMusic Video

Readers’ Choice:
1. “Just a Dream” – Carrie Underwood (28%)
2. “Waitin’ on a Woman” – Brad Paisley featuring Andy Griffith (20%)
3. “In Color” – Jamey Johnson (12%)

Editors’ Choice:
1. “Waitin’ on a Woman” – Brad Paisley featuring Andy Griffith
2. “Chicken Fried” – Zac Brown Band
3. “Just a Dream” – Carrie Underwood


  1. Stephen i know what you mean..i want the review too, this site has probably the best reviews and we(carriefans) want to know what they have to say

  2. To the editors-Start at least acknowledging Carrie for the remarkable talent she is!!!What happened to Taylor? I wonder if there is a backlash starting for all the remixing her songs for pop?

  3. Congratulations to Carrie! This girl is such a gem, a wonderful asset to country music. Her star will continue to rise and shine!

  4. This was a lot of fun…Thanks Kevin and editiors for doing this.

    And congrats to the five winners of the random drawing! You had some great stuff to choose from and it looks like you made some great selections.

    Of course I’m thrilled that Patty Loveless won the reader’s Best Album category, and the editor’s best Female Vocalist.

    I’m glad Brad Paisley won best Male Vocalist from both the readers and the editors.

    And congrats to Joey and Rory for their strong showings, and to Jamey Johnson for his wins and strong showings..That’s awesome!

    And now I REALLY have to check out the album Rattlin’ Bones, it must be something really special!

    And you can relax JHD regarding the “incoming”, I’m going to try to sit this one out, :) Can’t speak for the others, however…

  5. Yes, I agree can’t wait to see the Carrie Underwood song review!

    AND YESSS! Taylor Swift 3rd top songwriter. So I wasn’t the only one who voted for her.

    But this was really fun to read through, to see where the majority of the readers were for, and the editors.

  6. @All: I encourage you to read Country Universe daily, but I will say that the Carrie Underwood review is in your not-too-distant future, so check back early in the week. (Official add date is February 2, though the single just debuted at #37.)

    @Debra: Probably the best reviews? C’mon! :)

    @Carrie’s fans: In the editors’ poll, Carrie placed 3rd in Artist and 3rd in Music Video, one of the strongest showings of any artist in the poll, not to mention her popularity among readers.

    @Steve from Boston: You only voted once for album, right? Just kidding. Of course, as you know, Loveless finished fourth in our CU best-of list, so she’s a popular favorite for both staff members and readers. Have you seen her New York Times concert review? If not, Google it.

  7. That was alot of fun and a great idea for a reader activity. Hmm I was worried that I would see TS everywhere, since she is everywhere you look, but I knew the Country Universe fans and editor’s are a smart bunch. Iwas glad to see Jamey Johnson, I think he is really going to start to rise after In Color.

  8. This was really fun! I had a great time voting and getting to see what everyone here thought is awesome! I agree with pretty much all of the picks! In fact, I think I ended up voting for the top three in almost every category!

  9. Joey,

    Carrie might’ve made a top five from the editors (she was in my personal top three), but remember that there were new albums this year from Loveless and Womack that made the top ten lists of several editors, and that Yearwood’s “This is Me You’re Talking To” was also a very popular single among the editors here. In fact, the only editor who wasn’t a huge fan of that single was a big fan of her other ’08 single, “They Call it Falling For a Reason.”

    I’ve been a pretty vocal supporter of Carrie Underwood since she was on Idol. My blog was already in existence for a few months at that point. I think she’s the finest technical singer to come along in country music since Yearwood, which I’ve said more times than I can count.

    I wish Yearwood would lend Garth Fundis to Carrie for an album, since I think he’d do a better job with both recording her voice and complementing it with the production. She has a lot of nuances in her voice that surface in live performances but don’t seem to make it to the record.

    I wouldn’t call Carnival Ride a sophomore slump, since it’s already spawned four #1 hits and is nearing triple platinum, but I will say that I hope she knocks the next album out of the ballpark. I’m rootin’ for her. If the material is stronger overall next time around, you might see her ranking quite a bit higher on the editor’s rankings for 2009. There certainly isn’t an anti-Underwood sentiment among the editors at all.

  10. I am a huge Carrie and Shania fan, but also just a pretty much mainstream country fan overall. My time is limited, so I don’t get to dig into some of the lesser-exposed artists as much as I should. This blog helped me find some great artists in the past year. I am one of the Underwood fans who is hoping and praying she brings in a new producer, and a new music video director when she records her third album. Kevin’s point about her technical ability is so right on target. The thing is, many artists’ live work is best left off of an album (and off TV, for that matter). I think the case could be made that Carrie has the ability to do one great, all-live (acoustic or not) album someday, and those just don’t happen much anymore. Awards and honors are nice, but taking risks, being original in your approach, laying it all “out there,” gets you from a great technician to a great singer.

  11. Blake, ..Sadly, I had to channel the entire intensity of my Patty Loveless devotion into one, legal vote per eligible category. :( :)

    To paraphrase a great American Revolutionary War hero (with apologies) Nathan Hale,,I regret that I have but one vote to give for my Queen of Country Soul…(per said eligible category)

    I think I can guess two of the editors/writers who gave Patty #1 votes for Best Female Vocalist…With five writers, was two votes enough to put her over the top in that category, or did she have some additional help? (I was always terrible at math…) Not asking for names or anything like that, that just wouldn’t be right in a free Democracy..

    It’s great that Patty is a favorite here among readers and editors alike. We stand with many great critics in this, as well as with many of Patty’s peers. And this forum is one refreshing corrective to the marketplace and media which have not always given Miss Loveless her due. Nice to be here among so many smart people with great taste!

    Thanks for the NYT’s concert review lead, Blake..Yes I did see that..And Garrison Keillor also congratulated Patty on a recent episode of Prairie Home Companion for that Times review..(Did you catch that episode? Patty was amazing and knocked four Sleepless Nights songs clear out of the park, including Crazy Arms and Cold Cold Heart..,she had done the same with CCH on Conan just a few nights before) I’m really happy for all the positive press Patty is receiving. As you can imagine, I kinda make it a hobby to read every review, article and interview about PL that I can get my hands on, and I gotta say Blake, that your interview with Patty a while back was probably the finest I have ever read, and maybe one of the best interviews for ANY artist that I have read in recent years. (you can make the check out to CASH in my name…:) ) Seriously, great job.

    And for anyone who is interested, I believe the Prarie Home Companion archives has Patty’s episode online by segment, (maybe the NPR radio site), and the Conan episode that featured Patty is on, Jan 14th episode about 37 minutes into the broadcast. Check it out! :)

  12. in a free Democracy.. – Steve

    Well, you got that right since the Republic died with the bailouts! ;-)

    Patty who? I’m not sure who you’re talkin’ about! :-o

    I did catch that Prairie Home Companion and Patty was absolutely wonderful. Man, when she sang “Cold, Cold Heart” it gave me goosebumps. Still waiting on her to get somewhere close to my zip code but the closest she’s been is four hours away. Just can’t do that distance right now. You can stay up to watch Conan? Geez, you’re a better man than me. 2100 rolls around and I pass right out! Heh!

    I’ve been meaning to send you this link: Rachel Farley .

    Dan Seals and a few others have been touting this 13 yr old singer/songwriter and I finally got to hear her live last week. I like her a bunch. Her style is right up your alley so if you can find time somewhere in your Patty worship check her out. If nothing else she’ll give you another looooong career to follow! ;-)

  13. u <3333 carrie! she is the most influencial singers and / or artists out there today. she’s BEAUTIFUL inside and out and her voice sends shock waves through my body each and EVERY time i hear it

    congrats to her! soooo well deserved!

  14. Hi JHD…

    Er…Sir, just a correction for the record…”Patty worship”?..I prefer to think of my obsession as “devotion”…But I never do confuse PL with the Almighty…She is simply one of His Masterpieces, that’s all, and another reason that I believe in God! But if it ever does reach the point where I’m lighting candles etc, then I’ll admit I have a problem! :)

    Glad you caught that episode of PHC…Patty was amazing…If you think that was great, ya shoulda “seen it in color”! Seriously…she seems to add some extra magic when she does CCH live…I’d challenge anyone to see Patty Loveless do Cold Cold Heart in concert and keep a dry eye. If they are able to, then THEY have a cold cold heart!

    Sorry you weren’t able to make her concert…Morristown NJ was as close as the got to New England this year, and it was roughly four and a half hr trip each way…but if that was my one shot to see this National Treasure and Queen of Country Soul in concert, I HAD to be there!

    And you are absolutely correct about Rachel Farley…I think you are onto something here…She’s almost too good for Country radio and TV…but hopefully in a few years we’ll be discussing her work here on Country Universe’s Reader’ Choice Awards..(like how I brought this back on topic?) Seriously, when I first head her voice just now, I thought she sounded like a cross between Katrina Elam and Julie Roberts…But more rootsy Country. GREAT find, Thanks for the link!

  15. That’s OK Steve, Blake says I have “Rabid Carrie Love” syndrome so your affliction is mild compared to mine! :-o

    I’m really pulling for young Miss Farley. What truly amazes me about her is the maturity of her voice and songwriting. No boyfriend revenge stuff here! Plus I love her response song to Brad Paisley with the fishin’ song. Ha! Sounds ’bout like my Lovely Bride! “So I can watch my shows”. Man, watching her “shows”? If that ain’t country I’ll kiss your grits! :-)

    Sooner or later Patty will mess up and get close enough for me to go watch her! I’d love to catch her at one of the songwriter bars in Nashville. Now that would really be something in an intimate setting. Wow!

    Oh well, a man has to have a dream or wither away. Or something like that! ;-)

  16. Rabid Carrie love explains the poll results at Country Music Central (on the blogroll, everyone), and maybe not your personal feelings on the matter. I’m always amazed at the whirlwind phenomenon that occurs when certain artists hit the scene, and Carrie is one of those cases. Regardless of how people feel about her music, you have to admit that she’s doing something right. Are you foaming at the mouth? No? Then you should be fine!

  17. I know Blake. I was just pulling your chain. Still……. if the shoe fits I’d best wear it huh? Heh!

    Carrie is polarizing and I understand why. I’ve seen the same thing happen when Patsy dropped her cowgirl outfits. Or when Willie, Waylon, & Jessi took on the traditionalists. Again when Bocephus smacked them down as well. Remember Tanya Tucker and what she went through? Kristofferson? Cash in the early years? There are dozens and dozens of examples. Dozens of car\eers either not being made or destroyed because of a very narrow view of what some “think” is country. The history of country music is literally littered with the bodies of traditionalists left in it’s wake.

    Every now and then an artist comes along that upsets the traditionalists’ narrow minds and throws their beliefs right back in their collective faces. Carrie does so simply because she doesn’t fit their narrow view of what country music is. And there is absolutely nothing she can do that will change those minds. For one thing, they refuse to even acknowledge her reverence of the history of the genre. Anytime she sings a traditional song she’s crucified as trying to “market” herself. The fact that she loves old school country means nothing. None will even bother to research her past or admit she IS country. Regardless of how many traditional songs she covers or just how really well she does so!

    What is so ludicrous about it is the hypocrisy attached. The same artists deemed “unworthy” are now their icons. They put on a pedastal the exact same artists they hounded in the past and attack young artists like Miss Carrie for not knowing the history of the genre. Not being “country” enough. Huh! Maybe she knows more than they think! Funny how that works! :-(

    Good music is good music. A star is made because they appeal to the only people that matter; the fans! If you can’t put butts in the seats then does anyone see you perform? Kinda’ like the bear in the woods eh?

    Ah…… traditionalists! NOW I’m foaming at the mouth! :-o

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