Country Universe Turns Eight: An Introduction

Way back in July 2004, Country Universe went live on its original Blogspot home.   This month marks its eighth anniversary.  Today, our writers are sharing their thoughts about the site and some of their favorite posts from the past eight years.

As the founder of Country Universe, it is amazing to me that what started as a quite self-indulgent little blog has become a showcase for so many talented writers.  I remember being a lone voice in the wilderness.  Now, there is such a sprawling and diverse community of country music blogs and websites that I believe Country Universe would have lost any relevance years ago, had it not been expanded by the new perspectives of a rotating writing staff.

I’ve written so many things over the years that I’m proud of, along with a few posts (and several comments) that I’d like to see disappear down the memory hole.   But the piece that I’m most proud of these days wasn’t well-received upon publication:  Single Review: Brad Paisley, “Online.”

In retrospect, it feels prescient.  At the time I wrote it, bullying hadn’t yet emerged as part of the national dialogue, at least not outside of educational circles.   Hearing “Online”, I immediately related it to the realities that I saw regularly, but I think that the connection was difficult for readers to make if they weren’t directly involved with education.  Today, I think that there would be a greater understanding of my concerns with the record.  At least I hope so.   Either way, it remains my favorite personal piece of writing from the past eight years.

Among my colleagues’ best work, I must single out Dan Milliken’s “The Jealous Heart”, which showcases his ability to interweave his vast knowledge of music with originality and wit.     Ben Foster’s “Pop Goes Country – A Cover Song Report Card”, which critiques many successful and not-so-successful attempts to make a pop song country.  From Tara Seetharam, I particularly loved her conversation starter, “Discussion: Music and Lyrics”, which managed to make The Breakfast Club relevant to a discussion about country music. Total win!

Last, but never least, my first and longest partner at Country Universe.  I’ve said many times that we didn’t really become Country Universe until Leeann Ward joined the staff.   Before then, it was just Kevin’s blog.  But her unique perspective, and more important, her ability to be magnanimous with even our harshest critics, set the climate of mutual respect that would ultimately distinguish our site for the better.   She brought the same dignity to a discussion regarding a quite undignified personality in her piece, “The Trouble with John Rich.”    Most other country commentators eventually voiced the same concerns she outlined way back when.

There have been many great moments from both our former writers and current contributors as well, as you’ll soon discover from our other anniversary posts.  Follow the links below to read the rest of our anniversary coverage, and share your favorites in the comments!

Country Universe Turns Eight:




  1. Kevin,

    First off, congrats on eight years. I didn’t realize it had been that long, and in a world where blogs seem disposable, you might as well count your time in dog years.

    The alternate perspective provided by CU has been refreshing and sorely-needed in a media that doesn’t seem to think critique is necessary. It’s as if country music is sometimes above reproach, but those of us who feel disenfranchised by the format know better. The fact that you have not only been out there loud and proud but have also assembled a top-notch group of writers speaks to your passion and your talent. I have even met a good friend in “real life” thanks to CU.

    Here’s to another eight years of Country Universe. Please keep doing what you do, and know that there are those of us who truly appreciate the effort.

  2. I will second John’s congrats. CU has been almost daily viewing for me for a number of years now and has caused me to spend me quite a bit of money on iTunes. Couldn’t be happier about it though. :)

  3. Kevin I have many things to thank you for over the years. You’ve been an outspoken and well expressed individual in an industry (Music writer) that seems to love to hate just to hate, or love unconditionally. I can always count on you to write from not only your heart but your brain and it’s that refreshing approach that has kept me an avid reader for many years.

    I also have to thank you for introducing me to many of my favorite songs and artists. There’s way too many to name here, but the one that stands out the most to me is Pam Tillis, before I found and read your interview with her I had never heard of her. Since then I’ve fallen in love with her and have spent years trying to get others to discover what a true gem she is. That was the first post I read here, and one of many that have improved my life that you’ve wrote and I couldn’t be more happy to call myself a fan of yours, keep up the good work!

  4. I first found out about Pam Tillis in a Country Weekly feature. (By the time I started listening to country radio, most of her songs had fallen out of regular rotation, with the occasional exception of “Maybe It Was Memphis”) That feature got me doing a little iTunes hunting, but it wasn’t until I happened upon Country Universe, and read about Kevin’s passion for her music that I began seriously scouring her discography, and I’ve since collected all of her country albums. I’ll be seeing her live for the first time in October, along with Lorrie Morgan. I can’t wait.

  5. Thank you so much for your kind words, Kevin.:) I have to say that I liked Pam Tillis, but my appreciation for her music increased significantly after Kevin’s passion for it. He brought Rhinestoned to my attention and the rest is history.

    And great choices from the other writers, Kevin.

  6. …undeniably, eight is a pretty round figure for an anniversary. congrats, kevin.

    i still remember my first encounter with country universe, when i clicked on it on the blogroll of “the 9513” and fell on melba montgomery, somewhere at the bottom end of the legendary “100 greatest women in country music” countdown.

    switching from the engaging “town hall meeting atmosphere” that brady and brody vercher had provided with their brilliant vehicle to the more structured “enterprise bridge feeling” at country universe, where kevin quite often displayed spock-like qualities in his reasoning, while leeann listened to the sounds out there – like the famously short-skirted lt. uhura – and made connections when necessary, had been a inspiring and most entertaining experience for many years.

    hopefully, you and all the talented writers here will keep on finding time to explore the universe of country music, which somewhat unfortunately has been turning out to be quite often a repetitive backroads journey nowadays, for many more years and let us have your views and thoughts on the state of affairs. it is much appreciated.

  7. Congrats on 8 years. It’s quite an achievement to maintain such a quality site in addition to your career as a teacher. Kudos to the other writers as well. I’m sure they have other obligations besides contributing to CU. Keep up the great work.

  8. Congratulations on Eight wonderful years of Country Universe and all you’ve contributed to country music ! Heard this new guy you may want to check out and he is country to the core. His name is Tim Culpepper and has a country music video out called “Ghost” and is following it up with his next single which is the title to his upcoming album called “Pourin’ Whiskey On Pain” ! Check out and get ready for some stone cold country music ! In my opinion, this guy is what country music has been waiting on. Thanks again for all you do Kevin & keep up the good work!

  9. A late happy birthday to Country Universe!

    I personally find it ironic that your favourite post is your review for “Online” Kevin, as that was the first piece I ever read from this site and at the time I vehemently disagreed with it. It’s a tribute to the unbiased, well-explained and concise writing on this site, as well as the fantastic environment and bloggers that welcomes intelligent discussion and diverse perspectives, that despite loving the song and disagreeing with its review that I still came back to this site and I now check it whenever I’m on the computer and value it as a great place to learn about and discuss the genre of music I love, as unfortunately few people my age down here are really into Country.

    Now that I’m at uni with a year to go before becoming a teacher myself, I see exactly what you were saying then (although I still value the song as my “entry” to country music and enjoy it very much). Hopefully there’ll be many more years to come for Country Universe! Love “blogging” with y’all! :D

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