My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Category Archives: News

Trace Adkins’ home destroyed by fire

Trace Adkins’ Brentwood home burned to the ground yesterday. Thankfully, no one was hurt. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family:

Read the full story.

American Idol Season 10: Gone country

Unexpectedly, this week’s American Idol finale features not one but two young singers who will be unleashed on the country music world in the coming months. Perhaps because they represent different styles of country music, they appear not to have split the “country” vote getting to the final two. I mentioned deep voiced 17-year-old Scotty McCreery from North Carolina earlier this year, commenting on his similarity to Josh Turner, but at that point 16-year-old Georgia girl Lauren Alaina had managed to fly under my radar. She is a pop-country singer, with a voice not unreminiscent of a young Faith Hill. Both have selected a number of country songs to perform over the past weeks, and both are likely to head to Nashville once the show is over.

To be perfectly honest, both teenagers seem to have some raw talent but might have been better had they spent a few years honing their vocal and performance skills. Scotty is understood to be the front-runner, regularly eliciting deafening screams from young girls in the Idol audience, and he has by far the more confident polished approach, with an ease on stage which belies his youth and inexperience. Idol judge Randy Jackson even made some rather implausible comparisons to Garth Brooks last week. His poise and confidence will stand him in good stead whether his career takes him to superstardom or if he crashes and burns when out of the Idol bubble.

Back in April I speculated as to whether Scotty’s debut performance would involve “triumph or disaster”. I must confess that even after a dozen weeks of competition, I’m still on the fence. His voice certainly rivals Josh Turner’s in its range, but it signally lacks Turner’s resonance and richness of tone. I have also noticed that when he strays out of the most comfortable part of his range, his tone develops a slightly foghorn quality which is not mellifluous. Canny song choices when he is picking songs to record will be vital if he is to make a record I personally will like. And he is still only 17 – his voice may have room to develop and grow.

I want to root for Scotty, though, just because he is the most traditionally inclined of any real contender who has ever been on American Idol. Season 5’s Kellie Pickler, who has promised her upcoming third album will offer us some more traditional country, was never likely to win and ended up in sixth place, noted more for her dizzy blonde persona and dramatic family background than her singing.

Lauren, who was an early judges’ favorite, appears to have lost some confidence over the course of the show, and has the general demeanour and maturity level one would expect from a high school girl. This is not a criticism – merely an observation, and she will, in due course, grow up. I am inclined to think her voice may possibly have more potential than Scotty’s, as although she has shown some technical deficiencies – issues with her breath control and an occasional tendency to oversing in the manner of Carrie Underwood – she has a very nice underlying tone. Her youth makes her appear to be more malleable by producers and label executives, and her personal musical taste also leans very much pop-country, so I would be less likely to want to buy her post-Idol work.

Both of the youngsters are likely to sign record deals with one of the labels in the Universal Music Group, and I would expect Mercury or MCA Nashville the most likely homes for them. That brings in an additional complicating factor for Scotty McCreery, as his own idol Josh Turner is already on MCA. Regardless of the results of the show, it could be interesting to see what happens with the careers of the two finalists. It’s UMG’s first year in association with Idol. When the Sony group signed artists from Idol, if they didn’t meet with immediate success they were soon disposed of (Kristy Lee Cook, for instance, now signed to Broken Bow). They have been going slower with last year’s third placer Casey James, who has still not released anything. Will UMG want instant returns, or would they have the patience to emulate what RCA did with Nashville Star’s fourth season champion Chris Young or Columbia did with the same show’s Miranda Lambert, namely give these youngsters time after their reality show runs to mature and develop?

Scotty and Lauren duet on ‘I Told You So’:

Classic Rewind: Diamond Rio – ‘Love A Little Stronger’

Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert are getting married today in Texas. To celebrate the occasion, here’s a love song from our Spotlight Artists Diamond Rio, introduced by Reba McEntire:

A thank you note to The 9513

Sometime in the first half of 2008, I was browsing the web for country music news, and stumbled upon The 9513’s daily news roundups.  That first article I read wasn’t easy to track down, but I found it, remembering it having to do with CMT Can You Duet winners Caitlin & Will, because at the same time I was led to Country California and C.M. Wilcox’s (then using the pen name John Maglite) musings about the duo’s future at country radio with their similarities to Lady Antebellum. Right then, Country Universe was in the midst of their 100 Greatest Women countdown, so I had the good fortune of discovering 3 excellent country music-related sites in quick succession, all thanks to The 9513.

From the comments on articles and the forum discussions (remember the comment corral?), I got to know many great people, and after seeing the common ground some of us had, I had the brainstorm to create this humble blogsite, with contributors pulled directly from The 9513’s readership. We launched here in December 2008, with 3 writers. (Chris Dean has since departed to attend college, and is now a missionary in Italy. We wish him luck, and await his return.) From the same pool I plucked my first 2 fellow contributors later came this site’s greatest assets: Razor X and Occasional Hope.

So, thanks to The 9513, we were off and running. But their contributions to our success were far from finished. Brady and Brody Vercher’s daily news roundups sent many new readers our way, and I can’t thank them enough for loaning us an audience. It’s hard to put into words the feeling a green blogger like myself got when I saw my name and my words linked from their news roundups, the column that started it all for me. That first mention must be how country singers feel when they debut on the Grand Ole Opry. More than allowing us to spin-off and sending us readers, the excellent crop of talent at The 9513 influenced me to start on the path to the job I have today as a columnist for American Noise. With the likes of Jim Malec, Blake Boldt, Juli Thanki, Chris Neal, and so many others, setting a standard I could never reach. They continue to up the bar, and I keep trying to catch up.  I’m saddened to see the site retired, and the three of us here at My Kind of Country want to thank the Verchers for creating and maintaining the standard for country music websites, for countless hours of entertaining reads, and for being the stalk from which we sprouted.

– J.R. Journey

Like all its readers, I’ll miss reading The 9513 as part of my daily routine. The breadth of its coverage, from mainstream to bluegrass to Americana/alt-country, means it really did cover the whole of country music in a way no other site could really equal. More than that, though, I feel I can say it changed my life. I would never had begun blogging myself if I hadn’t found the 9513 in, I think, the spring or early summer of 2008. Before that, I felt pretty isolated as a country fan, because I knew hardly anyone in real life who shared my tastes in music at all. The 9513, and the associated forum that started in the summer of 2008, made me feel like part of a community, and that gave me the confidence to write about the music I love. And when I accepted J.R.’s invitation to join the team here, I was overwhelmed by the generosity of their links to many of our posts.

– Occasional Hope

I originally found The 9513 via a Google search, and it quickly became my favorite country music website. The quality of the writing was always superb, and I admired the fearless honesty that characterized their music reviews. More importantly, I forged a lot of new friendships with the people who frequented the site. I never imagined that it would lead to the opportunity to write for this blog. I greatly improved my knowledge of country music thanks to The 9513 and will miss it terribly. Its absence will create a void that will be impossible to fill, despite our best efforts to do so. So to Brady and Brody I offer a heartfelt thanks and my best wishes for your future endeavors.

– Razor X

J.R. Journey’s American Noise excerpts #1

For the past 5 weeks, I’ve been lucky enough to get to share my thoughts on 10 of the latest country singles in my Weekly Country Songs Roundup column at American Noise.  I have to first say a very big thanks to Jim Malec for giving me the chance, and a first-rate venue, to review the newest releases to country radio.  This is the first in a bi-weekly installment where I’ll share few excerpts from the past few weeks, some of my critics picks.

Kenny Chesney featuring Grace Potter – “You and Tequila”

Listen here

Kenny Chesney and Vermont rocker Grace Potter offer my favorite Chesney single since “Better As a Memory” with this sparse and brooding number, written by Matraca Berg and Deana Carter. The two lament the liquor and the love that make them crazy on the song’s winning chorus, with Potter’s silky vocal being the perfect match for Chesney’s smooth crooning. The verses tell of the willingness of the narrator to self-destruct for one more night flying high, offering a bit of self-realization along the way (“It’s so easy to forget, the bitter taste the morning left”) as the acoustic rhythm guitar that makes up the bulk of the production plays on.

Grade: A

Zac Brown Band featuring Jimmy Buffett – “Knee Deep”   

Listen here

At this point in their ascension to country’s reigning supergroup, Zac Brown and Band have earned the right to show off their musical chops a bit, and even to flaunt their famous friends. From the snazzy opening to the solo verse performed by island king Jimmy Buffett, this reggae-infused number allows these six talented musicians some jam time on-stage, while the singer “searches for paradise.” There’s little else to the lyrics than that utopian pursuit, but it’s warm now, and with a melody like this nobody’s pondering the lyrics anyway.

Grade: B


Emmylou Harris – “The Road”

Listen here

Addressing the loss of Gram Parsons directly in song for the first time since the epic “Boulder to Birmingham,” Emmylou Harris’ self-penned “The Road” is more an open elegy to her late mentor than song of heartbreak. It’s swelling alt-country sound doesn’t lend itself to quiet contemplation as much as it marks a turning point when wounds begin to heal, and forging ahead is inevitable, even though you never forget. Harris’ emotive skills are on full-display here and she sounds utterly despondent at crucial moments, such as when she sings, “So I carried on, you can’t be haunted by the past/People come and people go and nothing ever lasts.” Still, she always brings the listener back to that place of peace she’s found.

Grade: A-

Martina McBride – “Teenage Daughters”

Listen here

Leading off an upcoming album for Republic Nashville, Martina McBride offers this tongue-in-cheek take on child-rearing, made all the more believable because we know Martina has teenage daughters of her own, but also because she has carefully cultivated an image of being a fellow soccer mom to her female listeners. Far from being just another tale of unconditional love between parent and child, “Daughters” focuses on the often funny, always chaotic period when teenagers begin to assert their independence by avoidance of their parents at all costs. As she sings of remembering when her daughter “used to think she was cool” and bemoans the current state of their relationship which has left her “tired,” “crazy,” and “in need of a drink,” McBride offers up her most restrained vocal in years. Chunky and scattered rhythms make the track melodically clunky, but that is salvaged by the smart message and a to-the-point vocal.

Grade: B+

Read more of this post

Remembering March 16, 1991

rebapeoplecoverNote: This article was originally posted on this day in 2009.  We’re publishing it again in case any of you missed it, as our tribute to the 10 lives lost 20 years ago today.  After you’ve read our post, be sure to read Ben Foster’s retro review of For My Broken Heart and from our Reba spotlight coverage, Megan Morrow’s concise review of the album that would be Reba’s musical tribute to her friends and co-workers who perished. – J.R.

In the early morning hours of March 16, 1991, a plane crashed into Otay Mountain in southern California. The crash, which left no survivors, occurred shortly after the Hawker Sidley aircraft had taken off from Brown Field, a private airport about 15 miles southeast of San Diego.  In addition to the pilot and co-pilot, Jim Hammon, Reba’s tour manager, and band members Kirk Cappello and Joey Cigainero, keyboardists; Paula Kaye Evans, background vocalist; Michael Thomas and Terry Jackson, guitarists; Tony Saputo, drummer, and Chris Austin, a vocalist who also played fiddle and acoustic guitar, were lost.

Reba herself had spent the night in San Diego to rest up and planned to meet her band the following night for a show in Indiana.  In the aftermath of the tragedy, she was scheduled to perform on the Academy Awards that year, only 9 days after the crash.  She sang the song ‘I’m Checkin’ Out’ from the Meryl Streep flick Postcards from the Edge.  Many music insiders criticized her for going back to work so quickly.

In the People magazine exclusive interview, she explained her decision to go forward with her career:

We were wondering what to do. I was wanting to cancel everything until July. I said, “I’m just not going to go back out there. It’s too much, I can’t do it without them.” I told [Jim’s wife] Debbie I had to make a decision. And she looked at me, just like Jim would have done, and said, ‘Are you thinking about quitting?’ ”

I said, “Well, no, but I don’t know when I can go back.” And she said, “Jim Hammon worked all this time to help get you where you are today. He’d kick your butt if you thought about quitting.” And I hugged her neck and said, “I needed that, you’re right.” I know Jim would tell me, “Now, Reba, you know those fans expect that out of you, and you can’t quit; you’ve worked too hard and too long, and you’ve got to get back up there.”

I’ve got a very good calm that Jim wants me to go back out there. I know Kirk and Joey and Terry and Tony and Chris and Michael and Paula Kaye, they’d want me to, too. So my first time to perform again is on the Academy Awards, and I’m going to sing a song called “I’m Checkin’ Out” from Postcards from the Edge. I’m going to do it for the band. They’re checking out. They’ve got a new place to dwell.

formybrokenheartReba then channeled her pain into her next album, the landmark release For My Broken Heart.  The album is a collection of songs of loss, loneliness, heartbreak, and pain.  And the grief surrounding the recording can be heard on every track, but particularly the album closer, ‘If I Had Only Known’.  Reba dedicated the entire album to her lost loved ones, but this song more than any other addresses the sorrow of losing someone all too quickly without ever saying goodbye:  ‘If I had only known/It was my last night by your side/I’d pray a miracle would stop the dawn/And when you smile at me/I would look into your eyes/And make sure you know my love for you goes on and on/If I had only known’.

To me, this is the mark of a true artist:  one who can face adversity and the worst heartache and then turn that tragedy into a timeless work of art.  The loss of these 8 talented musicians was a blow to the entire country music community, but their legacy lives on.  Every time someone takes solace in the songs on For My Broken Heart, their memory lives on.

Read more of this post

Breaking News: Randy Travis and Lib Hatcher call it quits

According to reports in The Washington Post and The Boot, Randy Travis and Lib Hatcher, his wife of 19 years, are divorcing. The Boot broke the story late on Friday and apparently it has flown under the radar all weekend.

New Alan Jackson tracks available from iTunes

Alan Jackson’s new album Freight Train will be released on March 30. While we’re waiting for the album to drop, Arista will release one new track from the album to iTunes each week. When the full album comes out, you’ll be given the opportunity to buy the remaining tracks at a reduced rate via the “Complete My Album” feature.

The first track, Hard Hat and a Hammer, was released yesterday.

RIP Carl Smith (1927-2010)

It has been reported that 50s and 60s star Carl Smith, the father of Carlene Carter, died yesterday.

Here are a few of his hits:

Discussion: ACM changes Entertainer of the Year criteria, among other tweaks

This article from the Music Row webpage tells all about the Academy of Country Music’s changes to several categories for the 2010 show.

Citing an willingness to adapt with the changing country music industry, the Academy announced a number of changes to some of the major categories.  Most notably, the Entertainer of the Year race will now have 8 final nominees, adding 3 more artists to the ballot.  They’ve also combined the Top New Male Artist and Top New Female Artist into one Top New Solo Artist category, while expanding the Top New Vocal Duo or Group into two separate races, one for Duos and another for Vocal Groups.  It’s true that groups and duos have been making more of an impact, especially where stardom is concerned, in the past few years.  But seriously, are there so many upcoming duos and groups that they need their own award(s), and to shut down 2 solo awards to do it?  That just seems like pouring gas on the fire if you ask me.  It’s hard enough for solo artists to break through these days, and now the competition will be tighter than ever for solo singers, and the ACM will surely find itself scrambling to fill up even three spots in the Duo and Group categories.  Also, all of these recently amended categories will also be open to fan-voting.

I know we’ve already had the fan-voting for Entertainer of the Year discussion before, with most agreeing it cheapens the prestige of the award when rabid fans are involved. But what about the idea to have 8 nominees? Is country music really creating that many superstars right now? Or will we see B-level artists like Jason Aldean or Dierks Bentley competing with the likes of Taylor Swift and Brad Paisley?   The biggest change I think this new criteria will bring is it means more females can, and will, be nominated for the Entertainer trophy at the 2010 ACM Awards.  What do you think?

Rosanne Cash speaks to The Wall Street Journal

RosanneCash01Rosanne Cash recently discussed her new album The List with The Wall Street Journal’s Christopher Farley. She spoke about her famous father, and admitted when asked that she doesn’t listen to country radio (sounds like my kind of gal). You can read the interview and view some exclusive live performances by clicking here.

The next step for Caitlin & Will

Caitlin & WillThe latest news is that Caitlin & Will, winners of the first season of Can You Duet, appear to have been dropped by their record label, Columbia (along with Keith Anderson).

What went wrong? The label certainly doesn’t seem to have known what to do with the duo, whose excellent single ‘Even Now’ was sent to radio, only to be pulled following what was allegedly strong pressure from radio programmers for ‘Address In The Stars’ to be pushed instead. But then radio didn’t play that, either. Even a performance on this year’s Can You Duet failed to make it into a hit. A promised album was delayed in favor of a six-track digital EP. The full length album will presumably now remain on the shelf indefinitely.

There are a number of intriguing questions. Will the pair (each of whom has a strong, distinctive voice) stay together musically, or decide to pursue separate paths? They entered the competition with other singing partners, and Caitlin admitted on the show that she would have liked to be a solo artist, but in their label-approved interviews the two have talked repeatedly about the strength of their musical partnership. We may see now how deeply rooted that partnership really is.

What do you think? Why has it not worked out for Caitlin & Will, when their rivals on the show, Joey + Rory, have made a place for themselves in country music by working with a respected independent label, and even scored themselves a CMA Award nomination? Do they have any chance at surviving as independent artists, or even picking up another major label deal? Will this year’s winners, Steel Magnolia, have any more success?

A swarm of new videos!

CMTHead over to CMT’s website today, and there are 10 music videos that are premiering. Those would be “Southern Voice” by Tim McGraw, “I’m Alive” by Kenny Chesney & Dave Matthews, “White Liar” by Miranda Lambert, “Keep You” by Sugarland, “Consider Me Gone” by Reba McEntire, “That’s How Country Boys Roll” by Billy Currington, “Hit The Ground Runnin'” by Keith Urban, “Sooner Or Later” by Michelle Branch and “Cowboy Casanova” by Carrie Underwood (Click the links to get to the videos, as of now, the Kenny Chesney video doesn’t seem to be working…). The Chesney, Urban, McGraw and Currington videos are all either half or mostly performance videos, so this time around the girls have better videos. Here are my 3 favorites:

“White Liar” by Miranda Lambert
I saw it was a wedding scene, and I knew it would be awesome: it doesn’t disappoint. Look at the preacher… You might see another country star!

“Keep You” by Sugarland
A simple video set in a theater, for some reason Jennifer Nettles cuts her hair in the most depressing way possible. It kinda makes sense, but looks gorgeous and has an amazing song, so it’s still good.

“Cowboy Casanova” by Carrie Underwood
Definitely a pop video with dancing and outfits, but the retro vibe is awesome, and at the end that guy has to be freaked out. Random synchronized dancing terrifies me.

What do you think of the new videos? Anybody else think that Michelle Branch really looks like a Hippie? Will Keith Urban make more than one non-live video per album?

Americana Music Association celebrates 10th anniversary

The Wall Street Journal did an interesting piece this week on the Americana Music Festival in Nashville. You can read it by clicking here.

Some more ‘Mountain Soul II’ previews

Saguaro Road Records has released the following video clips featuring songs from the upcoming Patty Loveless album Mountain Soul II. Hope you enjoy them, and don’t forget to enter our Mountain Soul II CD giveaway contest.

Read more of this post

Miranda’s “Revolutionary” EP

Dead FlowersOkay, this is pretty cool. Most people already know that Miranda Lambert’s new album, Revolution, comes out in just a few weeks on September 29th. However, this is new: On September 8th (tomorrow), you can go to Best Buy and buy Dead Flowers, a small EP of a few songs:

“Dead Flowers”
“Take It Out on Me”
“I Just Really Miss You”
“Nobody’s Used to Be”

The first one we know- the last 3 were all bonus tracks for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend offered from different stores. If that weren’t enough, the EP only costs $1.99 and it comes with a coupon for $2 off Revolution when it comes out. Is that a deal or what? I just had to share this deal- of course as a poor college student, I just have to bum a ride to Best Buy…

Breaking news: Brooks & Done

Brooks_DunnAs reported today in The 9513 forums, Kix Brooks & Ronnie Dunn are calling it a day.

For more information, check out the Brooks & Dunn website or CMT.com.

Sampling a little Mountain Soul

mountainsoul2Amazon has some preview clips from Patty Loveless’ upcoming Mountain Soul II album, which will be released on September 29th on Saguaro Road Records. She’s re-recorded quite a few songs that appeared on previous albums, such as “Handful of Dust”, “Half Over You”, “Big Chance”, “Blue Memories” and “Feelings of Love”, in addition to ten brand-new ones.

This is going to be a very strong contender for best album of the year — in my book, anyway. I can’t wait until it’s available. Click here to listen.

Another shot for Blaine Larsen

blainelarsenOne of my favorite singers to come along in the past few years is Washington native Blaine Larsen.  In 2004, he released his first album on the small Giantslayer Records, under the wing of the label’s owners Tim Johnson and Rory Lee Feek, now of Joey + Rory fame.  The next year, the 19 year-old had an album out on BNA, the same tracks from his debut, with one single added.  It turned out to be the hit ‘How Do You Get That Lonely’, which was written by Rory Lee Feek and Jamie Teachenor and became Larsen’s only top 20 country hit to date, rising to #18.  He would release three more singles from his first 2 albums over the next couple years, with little success.

I first heard Blaine Larsen on the radio one day in 2005.  I remember thinking he was a great singer and also that it was nice to hear a mature voice on the radio.  His richly defined baritone and the powerful single ‘How Do You Get That Lonely’ definitely had my attention.  A couple days later the video was playing on CMT and I saw this skinny blonde kid, obviously younger than I am but sounding like a seasoned veteran.  I got over that initial juxtaposition and have been impressed with this guy ever since.  I kept expecting him to hit big with one of his singles, but despite some mild success – three top 40 hits – he hasn’t had that initial breakthrough yet.

Now Blaine Larsen has been signed as the flagship artist for the newly-founded Treehouse Records.  His first single ‘It Did’ is up on his MySpace page and is going to radio sometime this month.  Maybe this new deal with the label firmly behind him is just what Blaine Larsen needs.  Here’s wishing him good luck.

Also, check out this choice track from his sophomore album, ‘Lips of a Bottle’, featuring Gretchen Wilson.

Download ‘Love’s Gonna Live Here’ for free

tanya_tucker624Amazon MP3 is offering Tanya Tucker’s latest single “Love’s Gonna Live Here” as a free digital download.

The song is the first single from Tanya’s upcoming My Turn CD and features Jim Lauderdale as a guest vocalist on this remake of the Buck Owens classic.  Read our review of the song.