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Est. 2004
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    I've gotten so used to being bored by mainstream country music that listening to "Little White Church" was a bit of a jolt. Thematically, it's essentially the country spin on "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)", though it could hardly be called derivative. I'm having trouble singling out what I like about the song the most. First, it's refreshing to hear those harmonies again, which quite frankly make Lady Antebellum sound like amateurs in comparison. But the instrumentation is just as fresh as the harmonies. They both zig when you expect them to zag. Hand claps appear out of nowhere but don't sound out of place. There's a guitar riff before the final verse that just sounds so frickin' cool, but before you can fully digest it, the vocals are back and suddenly incorporating a dry whisper. It sounds pretty frickin' cool, too. Continue reading

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  • 04/19/10--02:32: ACM 2010: Ladies Night
  • Female artists dominated this year's ACM Awards in a way that would have been unimaginable just five years earlier, with nearly all of the major winners of the evening coming from a female solo artist or a band that prominently features a female vocalist. More significantly, this year's ACM dissented from the CMA this fall in the marquee categories of Entertainer and Female Vocalist, which makes this fall's CMA Awards that much more unpredictable. Here's my spin on the show's highlights: Carrie Underwood wins Entertainer of the Year Perhaps we should have known not to underestimate the fan base of Ms. Underwood, who helped deliver the singing siren her second consecutive win for Entertainer of the Year. With Taylor Swift dominating the Grammys and CMAs, it was easy to forget that Underwood has continued to do quite well in her own right. Her string of hits at radio - eleven consecutive top two hits, nine of which reached #1 - is unprecedented. She's also had ten gold singles, three of which have sold platinum or better. Her third album, Play On, has moved her cumulative album sales past eleven million. Continue reading

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    In the Entertainer and Male Vocalist races, I've been making the case for fresh blood. In those categories, the routine nominees are mostly past their peaks, and there's room to let some rising stars in on the action. Oh, to be able to make the same case for the Female Vocalist race. Let's take a look at last year's nominees: 2009

    • Miranda Lambert
    • Martina McBride
    • Reba McEntire
    • Taylor Swift
    • Carrie Underwood
    For the first time in this category's history, I believe voters are facing a dilemma that plagued the Vocal Duo category for most of the nineties: there just aren't enough worthy nominees to finish out the category. Continue reading

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    Featuring the latest from:

    • Rodney Atkins
    • Steve Azar
    • The Band Perry
    • Laura Bell Bundy
    • Eric Church
    • Easton Corbin
    • Randy Montana
    • Justin Moore
    • David Nail
    • Josh Thompson
    Continue reading

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    Our look back at the year's best singles comes to a close, with unprecedented CU consensus at the top of the list. The top two singles of the year were ranked in that order by three of our four writers, and both appeared in the top ten of the fourth writer. Here's our ten best of 2010:

    The Best Singles of 2010, Part 4: #10-#1

    #10 Draw Me a Map Dierks Bentley

    Bentley is getting a lot of deserved attention for sonically diverging from the mainstream to create a bluegrass inspired album. It’s an excellent album, but to his credit “Draw Me A Map” isn’t so far removed from some of the unreleased songs on his first two mainstream projects; It’s just that he gets to shine a finer focus on it for this album, therefore, this seemingly subversive song for radio gets to be released. The inspired blend of Bentley’s ragged voice with Alison Krauss’ angelic voice takes the song to an even sweeter level. - Leeann Ward

    #9 Broken Chely Wright

    Robert Louis Stevenson once remarked that "Hope lives on ignorance; open-eyed Faith is built upon a knowledge of our life, of the tyranny of circumstance and the frailty of human resolution." He was talking, in context, about marriage. The truth is that no one enters a relationship completely free of burden, and only by submitting to the complications of that truth can we avoid being ruled by them. Wright, for her part, manages the task with simple, earnest grace, probably strengthening her relationship through mere acknowledgment of its inherent weakness. - Dan Milliken Continue reading

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  • 12/29/10--16:57: Sincerity
  • Earlier this year, a discussion with a colleague of mine revealed a mutual affinity for country music. It was a typical conversation that I have with fans that are around my age. We fell in love with the music about twenty years ago, don't think it's quite as good as it once was, but can find a lot of things to like from just about any era, including the current one. So in the 2010 version of making a mix tape, I offered to load up her iPod with a whole bunch of country music. A week later, she took me to dinner as a thank you. We started talking about the music that I'd passed on to her, and she told me that she was listening to the iPod while mowing the lawn. Suddenly, a song came on that made her cry. Full-out cry, mind you, not just a tear or two. So I ask if it was "Love, Me", or maybe "Where've You Been", or something similarly tragic. She was almost embarrassed as she told me that it was the old Anne Murray hit, "You Needed Me." Continue reading

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    There was a lot of good music out there in 2010, provided you knew where to look. Sometimes, you could even find it on the radio. Here are the top ten albums of 2010, according to our staff:

    #10 Easton Corbin Easton Corbin

    With the charisma of Clay Walker and the chops of George Strait, Easton Corbin sauntered onto the mainstream country music scene with a hit song that --refreshingly-- name-checked “country” in all the right ways. He needs no such affirmation, though, as his debut album is a collection of effortlessly neo-traditionalist songs, ripe with sincerity. It’s fair to compare Corbin to his obvious influences, but there’s something about the natural, youthful effervescence he brings to his music that makes it sparkle all on its own. - Tara Seetharam

    Continue reading

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    Usually with country records, you know what to expect after the first twenty seconds. "Good Girl" toys brilliantly with those expectations. Continue reading

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    Laura-Bell-Bundy-Two-Step-2013-1200x1200Laura Bell Bundy made a distinctly memorable impression when she blew into Nashville fresh off Broadway four years ago.  Of all the major label country albums released in 2009, few were more polarizing than Bundy’s genre-bending Mercury Nashville release Achin’ and Shakin’.  Maybe you thought it was brilliant.  Maybe you thought it was atrocious.  But there was one thing that it definitely wasn’t – boring. Continue reading

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    For the second year in a row, our seven writers – Kevin Coyne, Leeann Ward, Dan Milliken, Tara Seetharam, Ben Foster, Jonathan Keefe, and Sam Gazdziak – individually listed our twenty favorite albums and singles of the year. It's a diverse crop of singles, some of which dominated country radio, while others were primarily heard in the Americana, bluegrass, and alternative country worlds. Today, we present the first half of our singles list, with the conclusion to follow tomorrow. Share your favorites in the comments!

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    #40 "Someone Somewhere Tonight" Kellie Pickler

    Individual rankings: #16 - Ben; #19 - Tara

    A sweeping power ballad anchored by an intimate chorus and Pickler’s pleading sincerity. - Tara Seetharam Continue reading

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  • 08/13/15--15:20: Daily Top Five: Texas Songs
  • Texas is the most sung about state in country music. Musicians and singers can even make a good living by just touring around Texas. So, it’s no wonder that even those of us who have no  physical or emotional connection to Texas might still have numerous Texas related songs that we love. Just like the state of Texas, my list of Texas songs is very large, but I did my best to narrow my list down to five of my favorites. Bill Chambers, “Dreaming ’bout Texas” Charlie Robison, “the Girls from Texas” Don Schlitz, “Death in Texas” Laura Bell Bundy, “Texas” Mac Davis, “Texas in My Rearview Mirror”

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    Now that our final lists of the 40 Best Singles of 2015 and 20 Best Albums of 2015 are posted and open for discussion, we have decided to post each of our seven writers’ individual ballots for the year-end countdowns, so we can give at least a bit of attention to even more great music from the past year. When tabulating our lists, we assign points using a weighted ballot that prioritizes the music that each contributor feels most passionately about. The total points across all ballots are added together, and then a consensus multiplier factor recognizes the music that resonated most strongly with the Country Universe crew as a whole. Over the past several years, we’ve tinkered with our formulas a bit, and we’re pleased with how our methodology produces lists that allow for our individual writers’ unique voices and tastes to be reflected while also recognizing quality music Read More

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    We just kind of can’t with this year’s ACM nominees. 2015 was a terrific year for country music, but you’d never know it from the often inexplicable and just as often indefensible slate of nominations that the Academy of Country Music put forth this week. Fortunately, there was plenty of other good news and better taste to go around, with interesting interviews with legends Tom T. Hall, Willie Nelson, and Lucinda Williams and upstarts Lindi Ortega, Cam, and Maren Morris, great live performances from Gretchen Peters, Carrie Underwood, Ashley Monroe, John Moreland, and Josh Ritter, and an unexpected bit of shade-throwing courtesy of Charles Kelley. This week’s news cycle isn’t even dominated by Chris Stapleton for once: Another Chris– Punch Brothers’ Chris Thile– is our MVP for the week. There’s also an impressive crop of new releases and reissues out this week. Oddly, only one of those albums is by Read More

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    tl;dr: This week is heavy on new singles and music videos for those who, y’know, don’t like to read. But that isn’t to say there isn’t still plenty of good reading material, too. Loretta Lynn took over Reddit, Jean Shepard reflected on the anniversary of the plane crash that killed Patsy Cline, and the Georgia Satellites recognized the anniversary of their biggest hit. Jason Isbell issued notice to Steve Goodman’s “You Never Even Called Me By My Name,” while Gretchen Peters wrote a passionate editorial to The Tennesean on behalf of her son, and Holly Williams played Nashville tour guide. On the new music front, there are offerings from Sturgill Simpson, Jason James, Michaela Anne, and many more. This week’s new releases are fairly slim– new albums by Randy Houser and Shooter Jennings along with a slew of reissued radio broadcasts from the late 1970s. Onward! New Releases & Reissues, Read More

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    Day 8 features tracks from Ray Price, Laura Bell Bundy, Jeannie C. Riley, Nickel Creek, and George Jones.