My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Darius Rucker

Week ending 4/13/19: #1 singles this week in country music history

1959: White Lighting — George Jones (Mercury)

1969: Woman Of The World (Leave My World Alone) — Loretta Lynn (Decca)

1979: I Just Fall in Love Again — Anne Murray (Capitol)

1989: I’m No Stranger To The Rain — Keith Whitley (RCA)

1999: How Forever Feels — Kenny Chesney (BNA)

2009: It Won’t Be Like This for Long — Darius Rucker (Capitol)

2019: Beautiful Crazy — Luke Combs (Columbia Nashville)

2019 (Airplay): Beautiful Crazy — Luke Combs (Columbia Nashville)

Week ending 4/6/19: #1 singles this week in country music history

1959: When It’s Springtime in Alaska (It’s 40 Below) — Johnny Horton (Columbia)

1969: Who’s Gonna Mow Your Grass — Buck Owens and his Buckaroos (Capitol)

1979: I Just Fall in Love Again — Anne Murray (Capitol)

1989: I’m No Stranger To The Rain — Keith Whitley (RCA)

1999: How Forever Feels — Kenny Chesney (BNA)

2009: It Won’t Be Like This for Long — Darius Rucker (Capitol)

2019: Beautiful Crazy — Luke Combs (Columbia Nashville)

2019 (Airplay): Beautiful Crazy — Luke Combs (Columbia Nashville)

Week ending 3/30/19: #1 singles this week in country music history

1959: Don’t Take Your Guns To Town — Johnny Cash (Columbia)

1969: Who’s Gonna Mow Your Grass — Buck Owens and his Buckaroos (Capitol)

1979: I Just Fall in Love Again — Anne Murray (Capitol)

1989: Baby’s Gotten Good At Goodbye — George Strait (MCA)

1999: How Forever Feels — Kenny Chesney (BNA)

2009: It Won’t Be Like This for Long — Darius Rucker (Capitol)

2019: Beautiful Crazy — Luke Combs (Columbia Nashville)

2019 (Airplay): Beautiful Crazy — Luke Combs (Columbia Nashville)

Week ending 10/13/18: #1 singles this week in country music history

1958: Bird Dog / Devoted To You — Everly Brothers (Cadence)

1958 (Disk Jockeys): Alone With You — Faron Young (Capitol)

1968: Harper Valley P.T.A. — Jeannie C. Riley (Plantation)

1978: Heartbreaker — Dolly Parton (RCA)

1988: Streets of Bakersfield — Dwight Yoakam & Buck Owens (Reprise)

1998: Where The Green Grass Grows — Tim McGraw (Curb)

2008: Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It — Darius Rucker (Capitol Nashville)

2018: Meant To Be — Bebe Rexha featuring Florida Georgia Line (Big Machine)

2018 (Airplay): Blue Tacoma — Russell Dickerson (Triple Tigers)

Week ending 10/6/18: #1 singles this week in country music history

1958: Bird Dog / Devoted To You — Everly Brothers (Cadence)

1958 (Disk Jockeys): Alone With You — Faron Young (Capitol)

1968: Harper Valley P.T.A. — Jeannie C. Riley (Plantation)

1978: Heartbreaker — Dolly Parton (RCA)

1988: Honky Tonk Moon — Randy Travis (Warner Bros)

1998: Where The Green Grass Grows — Tim McGraw (Curb)

2008: Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It — Darius Rucker (Capitol Nashville)

2018: Meant To Be — Bebe Rexha featuring Florida Georgia Line (Big Machine)

2018 (Airplay): Hotel Key — Old Dominion (RCA)

Week ending 6/2/18: #1 singles this week in country music history

1958: All I Have To Do Is Dream / Claudette — The Everly Brothers (Cadence)

1958 (Disk Jockeys): All I Have To Do Is Dream — The Everly Brothers (Cadence)

1968: Honey — Bobby Goldsboro (United Artists)

1978: Do You Know You Are My Sunshine — The Statler Brothers (Mercury)

1988: What She Is (Is A Woman In Love) — Earl Thomas Conley (RCA)

1998: This Kiss — Faith Hill (Warner Bros)

2008: I’m Still A Guy — Brad Paisley (Arista Nashville)

2018: Meant To Be — Bebe Rexha featuring Florida Georgia Line (Big Machine)

2018 (Airplay): For The First Time — Darius Rucker (Capitol Nashville)

Single Review: Chris Stapleton – ‘Traveller’

imagesIt’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly five years since Chris Stapleton gave up his gig as lead vocalist for The SteelDrivers. Since then, in addition to writing hits for the likes of Kenny Chesney, Josh Turner, George Strait Darius Rucker and Miranda Lambert (among others), he briefly fronted the rock band The Jompson Brothers before being signed as a solo act to Mercury Nashville in 2013. “Traveller”, which was sent to radio yesterday is his second single for Mercury and the title track of his upcoming solo debut album which will become available one week from today.

The mid-tempo “Traveller” is decidedly more mainstream than the music Stapleton made with The SteelDrivers, yet it still has an Americana feel to it that makes it different from anything else that is played on country radio stations these days. Part of that is due to Stapleton’s soulful and somewhat gravelly voice, which at times is reminiscent of Travis Tritt. However, that voice is accompanied by acoustic guitar, plenty of pedal steel and a beautiful harmony vocal from an unidentified female singer, all of which should appeal to fans who are tired of arena rock masquerading as country, even if this is a little more left-of-center than what those fans usually listen to. Thematically (though not sonically) it is similar to Merle Haggard’s “Ramblin’ Fever.”

Unfortunately for Stapleton — and for country music in general — neither he nor his music is what radio is generally looking for today. With his Jamey Johnson-style long hair and beard, he is no pretty boy, and while that shouldn’t matter, in this day and age good looks trump talent almost every time. Additionally, his voice is probably a bit too rough for many fans who are used to more cookie-cutter singers. I don’t expect it to be a huge commercial success, but it will likely get some attention in the Americana world as well as from followers of The SteelDrivers as well as fans who have learned to look beyond the mainstream for decent entertainment.

Listen to it here.

Grade: A

Razor X’s favorite singles of 2013

Compiling a list of my favorite singles is no mean feat these days; I’ve been disengaged from country radio for quite a few years now, with no desire to reconcile, and although I try to keep up with new music, much of it is no longer considered mainstream. As such, I’m at times only vaguely aware of which songs I liked during the year were actually released as singles. I was, however, able to cobble together a list of songs that may not all be great, but are at least tolerable.

10. It Ain’t The Whiskey — Gary Allangaryallan2_v_p

In a better year, this song probably wouldn’t have been even under consideration for my best-of list, but after being disappointed by most of Gary Allan’s recent work, this track is one that I at least can listen to without cringing.

9. Tonight I’m Playing Possum — Randy Travis with Joe Nichols

This is another song for which I could only muster up lukewarm enthusiasm, but even though it doesn’t rank among either Travis’ or Nichols’ best work, it does at least pay tribute to one of the greatest voices country music has ever known.

8. When The Lights Go Out (Tracie’s Song) — Mark Chesnuttmarkchesnutt

A road-weary musician’s heartfelt declaration of love to his better half, this is the type of song I really miss hearing on country radio.

7. Like A Rose – Ashley Monroe

In years gone by, my favorites list would likely have been dominated by female artists. There have been a lot of complaints — with some justification — in recent years that the ladies aren’t getting a fair shake from country radio, but the truth is that most of them haven’t doing anything that is very interesting. Ashley Monroe is a notable exception, but sadly, radio isn’t isn’t taking much notice of her solo work. The title track to her current album is a real stunner that deserves a listen.

6. Borrowed — LeAnn Rimesleannrimes

This semi-autobiographical number, sung from the point of view of an unrepentant adulteress is hands down the best thing LeAnn Rimes has released in years. It’s unfortunate that it failed to chart.

5. Give It All We Got Tonight — George Strait

MCA started a “60 for 60” campaign to make this single the 60th #1 hit of the then 60-year-old George Strait’s career. The enjoyable midtempo tune only made it to #7 in Billboard — perhaps another victim of the chart’s new methodology — but it did make it to #1 in Mediabase. Regardless of its chart position, it’s well worth a listen.

4. I Got A Car — George StraitGeorge-Strait-9542120-1-402

I usually try not to include an artist more than once on these lists, but I was having that hard a time coming up with ten singles that were worthwhile. It’s a typical circle-of-life story that has become a staple of the Strait catalog.

3. Sweet Annie — Zac Brown BandZac-Brown-Band1

The Zac Brown Band is one of the few bright spots on country radio these days and one of only a handful of acts that consistently delivers.

2. I Wish I Still Smoked Cigarettes — Ronnie Dunn

This one is brand new, so a lot of fans may not have heard it yet. We haven’t reviewed it yet so I won’t say too much about it now, other than to say that after a few very disappointing releases, Ronnie Dunn is back.

1. Wagon Wheel — Darius Ruckerdariusrucker

This Bob Dylan-penned tune about a hitchhiker trying to get home to see his sweetheart is the surprise hit of 2013 and the only decent song to reach #1 this year. I still prefer the Jeremy McComb version, but Rucker’s version is also good. I never expected this one to succeed, partly because it’s a remake of an old song, and partly because songs I like don’t tend to do well on radio these days. I’m glad to have been proven wrong. I wish Rucker would do more music like this and less of the interminably dull stuff he’s been churning out.

Occasional Hope’s favorite singles of 2013

i let her talkCountry radio may have gone from bad to worse this year, but as ever there were a few bright spots – and some great singles away from the mainstream offerings. Here are my favorite singles of 2013:

10. Wagon Wheel – Darius Rucker
A vibrant, charming cover with rootsy production. What a pity the rest of the album was so deadly dull.

9. It Ain’t The Whiskey – Gary Allan
A bit loud, and perhaps rather similar to past songs, but a great vocal makes this worthwhile.

8. Songs About Trucks – Wade Bowen
An emotion I think we can all get behind – no more songs about trucks, please. But this isn’t just a complaint, this song also has a genuine emotional storyline which lets it stand on its own merits.

overnight success7. Overnight Success – Zane Williams
The independent artist explains how to become a country star, overnight (well, after nine or ten years hard work, of course). A fine song, by turns ironic, self-deprecating and good humoured.

6. Stripes – Brandy Clark
The witty song isn’t the best on the singer-songwriter’s excellent album 12 Stories, but it’s highly entertaining nonetheless. It’s a pity it hasn’t got more mainstream attention.

what are you listening to5. What Are You Listening To – Chris Stapleton
A very tastefully arranged recording, a well written song, and intensely emotional vocal. It wasn’t as successful as I had hoped it would be, and the singer-songwriter and former SteelDriver still awaits release of his solo album for Mercury, but it’s a fine and memorable record.

4. I Got A Car – George Strait
The story song about a couple’s journey from first meeting to starting a family, written by Keith Gattis and Tom Douglas, was an obvious single choice from George’s current album. It is packed full of charm, and shows the veteran (unexpectedly named the CMA Entertainer of the year) still has commercial potential.

3. Could It Be – Charlie Worsham
A debut single from a young artist with a fresh, youthful sound. Utterly charming. I wasn’t as taken by the album, but the single (which reached #13 on the country airplay chart) stands up as one of the more refreshing moments on country radio this year.

borrowed2. Borrowed – LeAnn Rimes
A cheating song from LeAnn’s somewhat controversial Spitfire album. Her mature vocals are beautiful, and the self-penned song draws with an unsparing honesty on LeAnn’s own experiences with her early relationship with her current husband, when both were married to others. The song’s complicated emotions didn’t help LeAnn’s increasingly chequered image, but it’s a fine and deeply truthful song – what country music is all about. The production is delicately sensitive and allows the vocals to shine.

1. I Let Her Talk – Erin Enderlin
A fantastic story song from the singer-songwriter, this beautifully realised tale narrates a bar room encounter between two women drowing their troubles. In an unexpected twist the meeting turns out to be between a man’s wife (the narrator) and his clueless “careless drunk” lover. Erin wrote the song with the great Leslie Satcher, and it is perfectly constructed. This was the promotional single for Erin’s independent album of the same name, and although it received limited mainstream attention it was absolutely the best single of the year for me.

Album Review: Neal McCoy – ‘Pride – A Tribute to Charley Pride’

prideNeal McCoy has never been one of my favorite artists as his taste in material at times has been questionable. The Neal McCoy songs that I like, I tend to like quite a lot; the ones I dislike, I tend to really dislike. That said, I’ve seen him in concert and he is an excellent and quite high energy performer.

Neal was a protégé of sorts of Charley Pride and toured with Charley for a number of years. While there is very little of Charley’s influence in Neal’s singing, particularly in songs like “Billy’s Got His Beer Goggles On”, “24/7/365” and “The Shake” , Neal has always spoken highly of Charley Pride and of the positive influence Charley has been on his career

Until 2005, Neal had never recorded any of Charley’s songs. Then in 2005, he recorded a live duet with Charley on “You’re My Jamaica” that appeared on Neal’s That’s Life album. Since then, nothing more of Charley songs had been recorded – until now.

Given good material, Neal is a fine singer. Charley Pride, who was not himself a songwriter, recorded one of the greatest catalogues of songs during his long and successful career with RCA so it stands to reason that a Charley Pride tribute could prove to be an artistic success.

Neal does not attempt to clone Charley’s vocal style or song arrangements, a wise move since Charley Pride can truly be said to be inimitable. Moreover, Neal could never be described as a stone-cold traditionalist. Instead, Neal McCoy makes these songs over to fit his own singing style, updating some of the songs with a modern take on the traditionalist arrangements Charley used, and in other cases going for something entirely different. Neal wisely stays away from Charley’s “poor boy” songs, going mostly for Charley’s post-1970 songs.

Neal kicks off the album with a rockin’ version of “Is Anybody Goin’ To San Antone” that probably owes as much to Doug Sahm’s later version as to Charley’s version. Instead of the staccato violins of Charley’s rendition, harmonica tends to dominate this recording.

“I’m Just Me” was Charley’s second biggest hit. Neal gives it a pretty straight-forward vocal treatment, but the instrumental background is mixture of zydeco and country, which really works. That extra male voice you hear on this track is Raul Malo of the Mavericks.

It takes a brave man to tackle Charley’s signature song “Kiss An Angel Good Morning”. You don’t want to do a carbon copy of Charley’s arrangement, but since everyone with any interest in country music knows the song, you don’t want to take too many liberties with the song. Neal slows the song down very slightly and extends the song by allowing the musicians somewhat longer instrumental breaks than on the original recording which used short ‘turn-arounds’. Darius Rucker joins Neal on this track.

“Kaw-Liga” was Charley’s first #1 record reaching the top on Cash Box. The song, itself a cover of one of Hank Williams’ songs (the other side of Hank’s single was “Your Cheatin’ Heart”) is Neal’s only misstep on the record. The arrangement is a bit melodramatic and Neal can’t quite get Charley’s sound effects going vocally. It’s not a bad track (I’d give it a C+) but it’s not up to the rest of the album.

Most people have forgotten about “You’re So Good When You’re Bad”, one of Charley’s last #1 records from 1982. The song was about as close to R&B as Charley let his records get, and Neal relaxes the tempo a bit and gives in to that soulful R&B groove. Piano seems to be the predominant instrument on this track.

“It’s Gonna Take A Little Bit Longer” had more twang to it than did any other major label single released in 1972. Released in late spring, radio stations everywhere played the song constantly, many playing it every hour as the pent up demand for real country sounds cascaded upon disk jockeys. The song spent three weeks at #1 with lead guitar, steel guitar and fiddles twanging away in unison through the choruses and instrumental breaks. Neal gives the song a very heavy-handed hard country approach but uses a more acoustic sound featuring harmonica, piano and dobro to achieve the effect. I love this recording.

Charley Pride focused on heart songs for much of his career, particularly after getting past the ‘poor boy’ classics of the mid to late 1960s. Rarely did he till the pastures of nostalgia, but when he did, he did so effectively. “Roll On Mississippi” from 1981 was one of those efforts. The song reached only #7 on Billboard, breaking a string of 35 consecutive songs to reach #1 on Billboard, Cashbox and/or Record World. It is, however, a nice song with Neal ably assisted by Trace Adkins.

“Just Between You And Me” was Charley Pride’s first chart hit reaching #9 in early 1967. Written by the legendary Jack Clement and released after a couple of singles that didn’t chart but were well received, it kicked off a long string of top ten records that wouldn’t end (excluding a gospel record and a special Dallas Cowboys tribute limited release) for the next 52 records. Neal gives the song a modern traditionalist treatment with piano and fiddle on the verses and tasteful steel guitar on the choruses and instrumental breaks. The relaxed tempo suits Neal’s voice well and the track is a standout.

“Mountain of Love” was written by Harold Dorman, who had a decent sized hit with the song in 1960 and enjoyed the royalties from a number of successful covers. This song is not necessarily identified as being a Charley Pride song so Neal’s somewhat rockin’ blues rendition isn’t likely to bother Charley’s fan too much.

“Someone Loves You Honey” is a quintessential Charley Pride heart song from 1978 which Neal pairs with a classic ‘Nashville Sound’ arrangement complete with steel guitar shadings and a rather languid delivery that suits the song perfectly. I consider this the best track on the album.

Neal closes out the album with his take on Charley’s #1 record from 1979, “You’re My Jamaica”. Charley’s take on the song had a very Caribbean feel to it and Neal has focused more heavily on the Caribbean elements of the song.

One thing that has changed since the time Charley Pride recorded these classics is the length of the tracks. Other than “You’re my Jamaica”, none of Charley’s recording ran more than 3:06 and most were in the 2:15 to 2:45 range. In contrast only two of these tracks are less than three minutes long, the shortest track being “It’s Gonna Take A little Bit Longer” at 2:46 (Charley’s version ran 2:35). On average Neal’s recordings are about 45 seconds longer than the Charley Pride originals.

Garth Fundis was the producer of this project which is fitting since he was a studio engineer on many of Charley’s earliest recordings. Between Neal’s vocals and Garth’s production, they have achieved what any tribute album should seek to achieve: a properly respectful but not imitative album chock full of good music. This album will stay in my CD player for quite a while.

Grade: A

Week ending 6/8/13: #1 singles this week in country music history

jimreeves1953 (Sales) (tie):
Mexican Joe — Jim Reeves (Abbott)
Take These Chains From My Heart — Hank Williams (MGM)

1953 (Jukebox): Mexican Joe — Jim Reeves (Abbott)

1953 (Disc Jockeys): Mexican Joe — Jim Reeves (Abbott)

1963: Lonesome 7-7203 — Hawkshaw Hawkins (King)

1973: Satin Sheets — Jeanne Pruett (MCA)

1983: Lucille (You Won’t Do Your Daddy’s Will) — Waylon Jennings (RCA)

1993: Should’ve Been A Cowboy — Toby Keith (Mercury)

2003: I Believe — Diamond Rio (Arista)

2013: Cruise — Florida Georgia Line (Republic Nashville)

2013 (Airplay): Wagon Wheel — Darius Rucker (Capitol)

Week ending 6/8/13: #1 albums this week in country music history

loretta lynn - entertainer of the year1968: Glen Campbell – Hey Little One (Capitol)

1973: Loretta Lynn – Entertainer of the Year: Loretta Lynn (MCA)

1978: Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson – Waylon & Willie (RCA Victor)

1983: Alabama – The Closer You Get (RCA)

1988: Randy Travis – Always & Forever (Warner Brothers)

1993: Wynonna – Tell Me Why (MCA/Curb)

1998: Garth Brooks – The Limited Series (Capitol/Pearl)

2003: Jo Dee Messina – Greatest Hits (Curb)

2008: Julianne Hough- Julianne Hough (Mercury)

2013: Darius Rucker – True Believers (Capitol)

Week ending 6/1/13: #1 songs this week in country music history

Jeanne Pruett1953 (Sales): Mexican Joe — Jim Reeves (Abbott)

1953 (Jukebox): No Help Wanted — The Carlisles (Mercury)

1953 (Disc Jockeys): Your Cheatin’ Heart — Hank Williams (MGM)

1963: Lonesome 7-7203 — Hawkshaw Hawkins (King)

1973: Satin Sheets — Jeanne Pruett (MCA)

1983: You Take Me For Granted — Merle Haggard (Epic)

1993: I Love The Way You Love Me — John Michael Montgomery (Atlantic)

2003: I Believe — Diamond Rio (Arista)

2013: Cruise — Florida Georgia Line (Republic Nashville)

2013 (Airplay): Wagon Wheel — Darius Rucker (Capitol)

Week ending 4/13/13: #1 singles this week in country music history

Darius-Rucker1953 (Sales): Kaw-Liga — Hank Williams (MGM)

1953 (Jukebox): Your Cheatin’ Heart — Hank Williams (MGM)

1953 (Disc Jockeys): Kaw-Liga — Hank Williams (MGM)

1963: Still — Bill Anderson (Decca)

1973: Super Kind of Woman — Freddie Hart & The Heartbeats (Capitol)

1983: We’ve Got Tonight — Kenny Rogers & Sheena Easton (Liberty)

1993: The Heart Won’t Lie — Reba McEntire & Vince Gill (MCA)

2003: Have You Forgotten? — Darryl Worley (DreamWorks)

2013: Wagon Wheel — Darius Rucker (Capitol)

2013 (Airplay): Somebody’s Heartbreak — Hunter Hayes (Atlantic)

Single Review: Darius Rucker – ‘Wagon Wheel’

wagon wheelAlthough when he first announced his move into country music, Darius Rucker spoke enthusiastically about his love of tradition, his label persuaded him to play it safe and record a preponderance of happy domestic numbers with polished production. For a while that worked for the artist, who has become the first African American to achieve mainstream commercial success in country music in years. However in recent months the increasing saminess of his material seems to have come home to roost, with the title track to his upcoming third country album, True Believers not making it very far into the top 20 on the country radio chart, and the album’s release date deferred.

In what may be a make-or-break moment for his career, Darius’s newest single is a song which while not traditional country in it the purest sense, is a lot more rootsy and organic sounding – and much better – than anything he has sent to radio so far. It is a song which will be familiar to many country fans, although it has not previously been a chart hit on country radio

The song in its current form was expanded on a chorus and melody by folk legend Bob Dylan, with story verses added by Ketch Secor of the modern old-time string band Old Crow Medicine Show. Old Crow Medicine Show were the first to record the song in its current form, around a decade ago, and that version was recently certified gold, reflecting slow but steady sales. It was covered a few years later in a slightly more polished style by Jeremy McComb, a talented independent artist who has not quite managed to break through despite getting pretty close to the top 40 with his 2008 single ‘Cold’.

Darius Rucker’s version features Lady Antebellum, an unexpected choice as their own music is so often bland, but while their voices are not particularly identifiable here, they make decent background singers. The arrangement is broadly similar to both previous versions, if a little slicker and more radio friendly, with prominent fiddle, banjo and mandolin making this one of the most country sounding records on today’s country radio. The singalong melody is a natural crowd pleaser, and the breezy feel is very attractive and should appeal to radio programmers who like the Zac Brown Band’s music. Fans of the original may feel, justifiably, that Darius brings little new to the song, but on its own merits, this is an enjoyable recording.

The world weary story of a man travelling south through the US to get to his sweetheart suit Rucker’s gravelly voice very well, and he tackles it with commitment and credibility, with his dreams of seeing his beloved giving it a sunny, optimistic feel. I feel I’ve always wanted to like Darius Rucker’s records more than I actually have, but this track has a lot more life than any of Rucker’s previous singles. I really like this single, and hope it does well for him.

But after his last two singles faltered on the charts, this could be a crucial point in his career.

Grade: B+

2012 CMA Awards: our predictions

The 46th annual Country Music Association annual awards ceremony will take place on November 1, 2012 at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. The show will air live on ABC television again this year and is presented by the pairing of Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood, who will take over hosting duties for the fifth consecutive year. Eric Church and his massive hit “Springsteen” lead the list of nominees, with Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton close behind him.

On awards night, look for a musical tribute to Willie Nelson and The Band Perry to debut the first taste of their Rick Rubin produced sophomore album. There’s also talk that Female Vocalist nominee Kelly Clarkson will debut “Don’t Rush” on the telecast, a duet with Vince Gill featured from her Greatest Hits, Chapter One album in stores Nov. 19. Also look forward to a duet from Tim McGraw and Faith Hill (which I’ve heard is during the Nelson tribute), and solo performances from each.

Entertainer of the Year

Jason Aldean
Kenny Chesney
Brad Paisley
Blake Shelton
Taylor Swift – Jonathan Pappalardo, J.R. Journey

The usual solid yet unspectacular group. Carrie Underwood fans are likely fuming at yet another snub, while everyone else will bark at the inclusion of Swift, a two-time winner and the incumbent, for her increasing lack of country credibility. But Aldean is the nominee to watch, as his recent stadium tour announcement will likely endear him to voters in the years to come.

Jonathan Pappalardo: I’ll bet on the safest choice this time around and say Taylor Swift is going to win. Chesney may have had the biggest tour, and Aldean is on fire right now, but Swift has the lock on this category.

J.R. Journey: Taylor Swift now not only represents about one-fourth of the total United States GDP, she also hawks makeup, perfume, and shoes on the side. And she just had the #1 song in 12 countries. I say Swift is most likely to succeed on CMA night.

Female Vocalist of the Year

Kelly Clarkson
Miranda Lambert – Jonathan Pappalardo
Martina McBride
Taylor Swift – J.R. Journey
Carrie Underwood

Kelly Clarkson, really? She did score a #21 hit with the country version of “Mr. Know It All” so her nomination is somewhat, albeit very marginally, justified. She has yet to fully embrace a career in country music. McBride is a snoozer scoring her 14th consecutive nomination and 15th overall as her career takes a downward spiral. See, this is what happens when all the great female artists of late (Kimberly Perry, Jennifer Nettles, Shawna Thompson) are members of duos and groups.

Jonathan Pappalardo: While I’d love to see this award go to Clarkson (to tick off the industry if nothing else), she’s a pop singer who’s done a bang up job covering country songs in concert. That’s about it. Miranda Lambert, meanwhile, is the biggest star in country music right now that actually looks and sounds country. And her intuition to form the Pistol Annies proves she’s not afraid to take creative risks. Its her award to lose, and I don’t foresee that happening.

J.R. Journey: Taylor Swift is the likely winner here for pretty much the same reasons she’ll win Entertainer of the year. Miranda Lambert’s new solo music is way below her usual standards this year and I think Carrie Underwood’s dog already had its day in this category, so I don’t see voters leaning toward either of them. 

Male Vocalist of the Year

Jason Aldean
Luke Bryan
Eric Church
Blake Shelton – Jonathan Pappalardo, J.R. Journey
Keith Urban

Another somewhat standard list until you take into account Urban is here in place of red-hot Dierks Bentley. Bentley’s exclusion, which comes on the heels of three back-to-back #1 hits is shocking. Urban should be joining Brad Paisley and been made to sit this one out this year.

Jonathan Pappalardo:  There’s seemingly no stopping Blake Shelton right now despite one mediocre single after another. He’s the biggest star here next to Jason Aldean and the all around better vocalist. He’ll sail to his third straight win no problem.

J.R. Journey: Blake Shelton is coming off two consecutive wins here and his visibility remains higher than Aldean’s, the next closest competitor. Long shots for the win Luke Bryan and Eric Church are still newcomers and first time nominees leaving Keith Urban the longest shot “veteran” slot. For my money, Shelton will repeat a third time here.

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Album Review: Trace Adkins – ‘Proud To Be Here’

Trace Adkins’s artistic identity may be the most fractured in country music, raging from the depths of ‘Honky Tonk Badonkadonk’ to the artistic heights of songs like ‘Til The Last Shot’s Fired’. This album, Trace’s second for Show Dog Universal, has its share of the raucous and insubstantial, but mainly it focuses on Trace the family man, satisfied with his life. Unlike the similarly themed recent work of Brad Paisley, Josh Turner and Darius Rucker, however, the songs on this theme are all solid and worth hearing. I have already written about the heartwarming ‘Just Fishin’, the album’s first hit single and one of the best things to hit country radio this year. This track alone was produced by Michael Knox, with the remainder of the album in the hands of Kenny Beard.

The title track (written by Chris Wallin, Aaron Barker and Ira Dean, apparently specifically for Trace) is also very good, with a reflective look at the protagonist’s life, with memories of an early career playing “for tips and compliments”, while driving a truck worth substantially less than the radio. The equilibrium of the present day is convincingly portrayed, as Trace declares:

I’m just proud to be on the right side of the dirt
I’ve been loved and I’ve been lost and I’ve been hurt
I leave the hard stuff up to God
Try not to worry about a whole lot
And I have no regrets for what it’s worth
I’ve been living on borrowed time for years
And I’m just proud to be here

The production gets a bit heavier than I would like in the second half, but this is a heartfelt vocal on an excellent song which seems to reflect Trace’s true feelings about his life.

‘Million Dollar View’, written by David Lee Murphy and George Teren is a cheerful country-rocker about satisfaction with a happy domestic life which sounds tailor-made for country radio. Much better, but potentially also commercial, is the mellow take on chilling out and escaping from the world’s pressures on ‘Days Like This’, which is one of Trace’s rare writing credits, alongside producer Kenny Beard and Casey Beathard.

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Single Review: Darius Rucker – ‘I Got Nothin”

The third single release from Charleston, SC 1966 and his seventh solo single overall is Darius Rucker’s most country effort to date; one in which he explores the tried and true theme of a relationship at the breaking point and one man’s desperate last-ditch attempts to salvage it. In the opening lines, we learn that the protagonist and his wife or girlfriend have been up all night talking, and likely shouting and crying as they find themselves at a crossroads. She’s packing her things and is getting ready to leave; he’s trying his best to find the right words to talk her out of it, but he’s coming up short. Well written and nicely produced with just enough fiddle and steel to keep traditional fans happy without alienating mainstream radio, “I Got Nothin'” has all the makings of a hit and in the hands of a more capable vocalist it could be a very good record.

Unfortunately, the glue that should hold the whole thing together — Rucker’s performance — is as inadequate as the main character’s efforts to convince his wife/girlfriend to stay. The lyrics are emotionally charged and worthy of a performance that tears the listener’s heart out — think George Jones singing “The Grand Tour” or Gene Watson singing “Farewell Party”. But Rucker sounds strangely disconnected and plods through the song paint-by-numbers style. At the end of the song we don’t learn whether his lady love stays or goes, but I suspect she leaves just out of sheer boredom. In an environment that demands very little innovation or originality from artists, “I Got Nothin'” will likely garner enough airplay to propel it into the upper realms of the charts, but those of us who can remember a time when we could routinely expect better than this will find little to get excited about.

Written by Darius Rucker and Clay Mills

Grade: B-

Week ending 4/30/11: #1 singles this week in country music history

1951: The Rhumba Boogie — Hank Snow (RCA)

1961: Don’t Worry — Marty Robbins (Columbia)

1971: Empty Arms — Sonny James (Capitol)

1981: A Headache Tomorrow (Or A Heartache Tonight) — Mickey Gilley (Epic)

1991: Down Home — Alabama (RCA)

2001: Ain’t Nothing ‘Bout You — Brooks & Dunn (Arista)

2011: This — Darius Rucker (Capitol)

Week ending 11/13/10: #1 singles this week in country music history

1950: I’m Movin’ On — Hank Snow (RCA)

1960: Alabam — Cowboy Copas (Starday)

1970: I Can’t Believe That You’ve Stopped Loving Me— Charley Pride (RCA)

1980: On The Road Again — Willie Nelson (Columbia)

1990: Home — Joe Diffie (Epic)

2000: The Little Girl — John Michael Montgomery (Atlantic)

2010: Come Back Song — Darius Rucker (Capitol)