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If It’s Comin’ from the Country , It’s Comin’ from the Heart

September 13, 2009 Leeann Ward 5

Country Universe reader, Sheldon, brought this clip to my attention. It’s Dolly Parton singing a song that was specially written for the opening of the 1988 CMA awards that she was hosting that year. Oh, how I wish the Association would have Dolly and Vince host the show someday. But alas, that’s beside the point. Enjoy this fun video.

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Beatlemania, Nashville Style

September 12, 2009 Kevin John Coyne 19

BeatlesI’ve been working my way through the Beatles Remasters that were released earlier this week, thoroughly enjoying myself in the process. As I listened to Help!, I heard Ringo Starr doing his best Buck Owens imitation as they covered “Act Naturally.”

It’s pretty darn cool that the Beatles covered Buck Owens, and plenty of country artists have returned the favor ever since. With the Beatles all over the media these days, it seems as good a time as any to look back on some of country music’s biggest and best takes on the Beatles catalog:

Rosanne Cash, “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party” and “I’m Only Sleeping”

Cash is the only country artist to score a #1 hit with a cover of a Beatles song, as her take on the Beatles For Sale track “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party” became her eleventh and final #1 hit in 1989. An even better listen is her take on “I’m Only Sleeping” from her Retrospective release. It doesn’t hurt that it’s a much better song than “Party”, pulled from Revolver, arguably the best album the Beatles ever made.

Nickel Creek, “Taxman”

This progressive bluegrass band sounds great on record, but you don’t really get the full experience of their talent until you’ve seen their live show. Perhaps all of those royalties from their platinum-selling debut album pushed them into a higher tax bracket, as “Taxman” – another Revolver highlight – soon became a staple of their live shows.

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The Music of Our Parents

September 9, 2009 Leeann Ward 23

imagesOne of the albums that I’m anticipating most this year is Rosanne Cash’s album, The List, which comes out on October 6. Anything new from Rosanne Cash is eagerly welcomed by me, but this project is bound to be particularly special. The album will be comprised of 12 classic songs culled from a list that her father, Johnny Cash (obviously), gave to her as essential listening back when she was eighteen-years old. Since she had to choose only 12 songs out of a reported list of one-hundred, it’s pretty safe to assume that these 12 choices are among her favorites of the list that was lovingly compiled by her father, even if she did not fully appreciate them at the young age of eighteen.

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CMA Noms ’09

September 9, 2009 Dan Milliken 78


It’s that time of year again! For each category, we’ll look at who’s broken in since last year, who’s been booted out, plus some initial thoughts. As always, we invite you to share your own opinions in the comments. Without further ado:

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She Works Hard For the Money. So Does He.

September 7, 2009 Kevin John Coyne 12

Billie Jo SpearsSing for the common man and heaven help the working girl. Country music is full of songs about the working folk. The ones that work a 40 hour week for a livin’, the ones that worked all night in the Van Lear coalmine, the ones who did what they had to do because they didn’t want to let Mama down. Hey, even a girl named Fancy has gotta pay the bills.

In honor of Labor Day, I’m putting y’all to work. What are you favorite songs about working?

I’ll go with one of the somewhat Billie Jo Spears classic “Mr. Walker, It’s All Over,” a #4 hit from 1969. Check it out after the jump, and add your own favorites in the comments!

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Carrie Underwood, “Cowboy Casanova”

September 6, 2009 Kevin John Coyne 68

carrie underwoodIt’s been well established by this point that Carrie Underwood’s eighties pop/rock runs deep in her musical roots. Being part of the MTV generation, this isn’t surprising, as the days of country artists who were only exposed to country music are long gone.

Underwood draws on those roots more than she’s ever done on a traditional single, but fans from her Idol days will have flashbacks to her star-making performance of “Alone” when they listen to “Cowboy Casanova”, as Carrie does her very best to channel Ann Wilson and often pulls it off. I have to say that the verses are catchier than the chorus, though, and if you’re going to do eighties power pop, you need a stronger, bigger chorus.

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Craig Morgan, “Bonfire”

September 6, 2009 Kevin John Coyne 3

Craig MorganIt’s hard to fault Craig Morgan for recording yet another “we’re a bunch of rednecks having a good time” anthem. Such songs have been his bread and butter.

But it’s quite easy to fault him for taking a page from the Jason Aldean playbook and screaming the whole song. Morgan is not a country-rocker, and can’t even pull of being a wannabe country-rocker. His charm has always been his too country twang, a vocal style that you can usually only hear on the bluegrassiest of bluegrass records. When he sings a song like “A Little Bit of Life” or “Redneck Yacht Club”, you can actually hear his big goofy grin.

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Joey + Rory, “To Say Goodbye”

September 6, 2009 Kevin John Coyne 8

Joey RoryIn lesser hands, “To Say Goodbye” could have been hopelessly maudlin. But Joey + Rory deliver a heavy message with a light touch, without any bells and whistles in the production or the vocal. The end result is that the stories of a woman who loses her husband in a plane crash and of a man who tends to his elderly wife who has lost her memory don’t focus on the tragedy. Rather, there’s an emphasis on the quiet emptiness left in the wake of these events.

Both characters have already accepted their difficult circumstances and are beyond the wild pangs of grief. They’ve moved on to simple regret, and are now mourning that they don’t have one more chance to express their love and ongoing devotion to their partner who can no longer receive it. By going the route of understatement, the record leaves us with a far more potent impact that lingers after the last note has played.

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Phil Vassar, “Everywhere I Go”

September 3, 2009 Tara Seetharam 2

PhilVSomewhere underneath “Everywhere I Go” is a great song, but to find it, you have to dig a little too deep. The song’s pleasing melody and bittersweet lyrics –Vassar sings of haunting, lingering memories of a lost love– are coated with layers of dramatic, distracting production. Even the conviction Vassar brings to the song starts to feel slightly artificial when he pushes his vocals over the top in the chorus, the most off-putting aspect of the song.

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