Country Universe Turns Eight: Tara's Take

How to define Country Universe? Thoughtful, authentic, accessible, open-minded – all qualities established long before I came on board. Eight

years in, it’s still home to a rare breed of music criticism that knows no boundaries when it comes to what moves people. I treasure that.

But because of Kevin’s leadership, this blog is more than just a critical eye on country music. Its defining characteristic is that it’s truly a place – a universe — where readers and writers alike are held to the highest standards of respect, honesty and decency. In a genre built on the simplest stories of humanity, this couldn’t be more appropriate.

Country Universe is a blessing in my life for which I am continuously grateful. In the last three years, this blog has not only deepened my relationship with the genre, but challenged me to be a more insightful writer, thinker and person. It’s taught me that being a fan doesn’t have to mean compromising your credibility, that passion and sincerity are as important as intelligence and wit. And, above all, it’s introduced me to a family of writers I never thought I’d be lucky enough to find.

In honor of Country Universe’s 8th anniversary, here are ten of my favorite pieces:

1. The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Conclusion: #20-#1
2. Discussion: Carrie Underwood, Shania Twain and Gender in Country Music
3: Single Review/Shameless Rant: Miranda Lambert, “The House That Built Me”
4. Single Review: Taylor Swift, “Sparks Fly”
5. Sincerity
6. Favorite Songs by Favorite Artists: Sara Evans
9. Single Review: Jerrod Niemann, “Lover, Lover”
7. Favorite Songs by Favorite Artists: Dixie Chicks
8. Favorite Albums: Christmas
10. The Coping Power of Music

Country Universe Turns Eight:




  1. …from the top of my head, i couldn’t pinpoint a specifically memorable contribution you made on this site, tara, but i definitely know, why i enjoy your pieces of writing: it’s the approach you’re capable of taking – unbiased, refreshing, positive and most of all, not afraid of expressing fondness for songs that, if less generously treated, might be not more than just about a “b”, but score big in areas that elevate them to that rather individual, yet astonishingly, commonly shared level of being a “guilty pleasure”.

  2. Tara,
    Your review of Rascal Flatts’ album Unstoppable, which I linked to in my post, was one that I think very well exemplifies the qualities Tom brought out. It’s so easy for a discussion of Rascal Flatts to devolve into a bunch of cheap shots – and I’m probably as guilty of that as anyone else – but I loved that that review was totally classy and respectful, appraising the music entirely on its own merits but without glossing over its flaws.

    I was surprised when it dawned on me that that was your first official review for Country Universe. I was like ‘How on earth was she that good that soon??’

  3. I’ll just publicly say it. My respect for Tara’s writing is pretty much boundless. She is articulate, respectful, humble, and insightful. Even if there’s an instance where I don’t agree with her conclusion, her writing is so good that I’m convinced to at least rethink my thoughts on an artist, song or album. That’s pretty impressive. Anyway, she loves Vince Gill and Christmas music (not to mention our similar taste in a couple of vital television shows), which is just as impressive as far as I’m concerned.:)

    I hope it’s okay for me to tell this story: Back in the day, Tara humbly submitted some samples of her writing to Kevin to see if he would allow her to write a guest post for Country Universe. Along with the impressive (that word keeps coming up) samples, she also included her thoughts regarding Country Universe and philosophy regarding country music and music journalism. Since Kevin is an inclusive leader, he forwarded her email to the rest of us who were on the CU staff at the time to get our thoughts. Right away, we all responded that it was obvious that we might as well skip the formality of having her try out, so to speak, and that we simply needed to ask her to be an official writer. We’ve been proud of her contributions to Country Universe ever since.

  4. Thanks so much, Ben. That’s a philosophy of mine I’ve done my best to stay true to – appreciate you pointing it out!

    Leeann – that is far too sweet and unnecessary. The feeling is mutual, friend. I know I keep coming back to this, but the best thing about being a part of CU is the relationships I’ve formed with the writers. So special.

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