Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My CMA Picks: Musical Event of the Year

Starting off with an FYI for those who may haven't heard: the winners of both this award and Music Video will be announced on Good Morning America tomorrow morning. I'm sure that they'll mention who won at some point during the CMA Awards, but I wanted to bring it up just in case anyone had any interest in seeing them announced live. 

This is one of the first years where I've actually heard all of the songs nominated in this category. I listen to a ton of music and try to listen to as much new stuff as possible, but there's usually one or two songs nominated that I've never heard. This category is strange that way. Meanwhile, odds are that this will be one of the shortest posts I've done in this series because I just don't have a lot to say about any of these songs. 

The nominees:
"Dixie Highway", Alan Jackson featuring Zac Brown Band
"Feel Like a Rock Star", Kenny Chesney duet with Tim McGraw
"Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die", Willie Nelson with Snoop Dogg, Kris Kristofferson and Jamey Johnson
"Safe and Sound", Taylor Swift with The Civil Wars
"Stuck On You", Lionel Richie with Darius Rucker

My pick for CMA Musical Event of the Year? "Dixie Highway", Alan Jackson featuring Zac Brown Band

"Feel Like a Rock Star", probably the favorite for this award. I think this song has a huge chance of winning because of how big it was. It's Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw, two of the biggest names in country music. The song got a lot of radio play and I feel like I've seen the video about 200 times. I didn't really care for it. I thought it sounded too much like some of Kenny's other songs.

"Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die". I'm having such a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that Snoop Dogg is up for a CMA. I mean it's Snoop Dogg, for heaven's sake. That alone made me not want to pick it. That and the fact that I just don't like it. I have a lot of respect for Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, two of the legends in country music. And I really like Jamey Johnson. But this song doesn't do anything for me. It probably has a chance since it's Willie Nelson and they are doing a tribute to him during the CMAs. Which would be a good time to have them announce that they won.

"Safe and Sound". Another strong contender. Written by Taylor, The Civil Wars and T-Bone Burnett for the Hunger Games soundtrack, this song was quite a departure for Taylor. It fit the feel of the movie very well and Taylor and The Civil Wars made for a very interesting trio. Perhaps the most unique song nominated.

"Stuck On You". Nice remake of a good song. I really like how well Lionel Richie and Darius Rucker's voices blend together on this. But I don't really think it's going to win based on the fact that I heard this one the least. I don't think it had anywhere near the impact of a couple of the other songs.

I pretty much picked "Dixie Highway" because I really like the playing found on it. That and I would love to see Alan Jackson win another CMA. It'd be a cool win for Zac Brown Band too, of course, but it's been so long since Alan won anything. This is kind of a hybrid of some other Alan Jackson songs, but it works. I think it's a fun track to listen to and easily my favorite song of the bunch. I'd like to see it win, though I'm not sure it can. I'd say that they have a better chance of winning than Lionel and Darius do. But still not as big of a chance as the other nominees have. 

My CMA Picks: Song of the Year

I want to take a moment and say that my thoughts and prayers are with everyone who was affected by Hurricane Sandy, particularly those in New Jersey and New York. The pictures and footage they've been showing are just heartbreaking. They have a long road ahead of them and it's not going to be easy. Let's not forget about these people in the days to come. And of course, let's say a few prayers for all of the firefighters, police officers and all the other emergency responders in these places, along with all the crews that are going to be working to restore power to those who lost it.

I know there's a lot of information out there about ways we can help, but I thought I'd provide some links here as well:
The American Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org/hurricane-sandy?scode=RSG00000E017&subcode=paiddonationsbrand&gclid=CIS7wZ66qrMCFYd9Ogod0HcA_g
World Vision: http://www.worldvision.org/?lpos=top_img_wvLogo
The Humane Society: http://www.humanesociety.org/news/dispatch/2012/10/hurricane-sandy-103012.html
Samaritan's Purse: http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/articles/hurricane_sandy/

Those are just a handful of places where you can donate. I'm sure there's many others - just make sure that you give to a reputable charity if you do decide to donate.

Now, to talk about Song of the Year. Remember that this award is given to the songwriter(s). This is usually a pretty tough category and this year is no exception. I think I could make an argument for any of them.

The nominees:
"Even If It Breaks Your Heart", written by Will Hoge and Eric Paslay
"God Gave Me You", written be Dave Barnes
"Home", written by Dan Wilson, Brett Beavers and Dierks Bentley
"Over You", written by Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton
"Springsteen", written by Eric Church, Ryan Tyndell and Jeff Hyde

My pick for CMA Song of the Year? "Home", written by Dan Wilson, Brett Beavers and Dierks Bentley.

"Even If It Breaks Your Heart" is a strong contender. This song struck a chord with fans and artists alike, a song encouraging people to follow their dreams. Even when it's painful, as it often is. This song went all the way to #1. Proving to be the perfect follow up to Eli Young's previous single "Crazy Girl".

"God Gave Me You", the only song written by just one person. This is a beautifully crafted song and was very successful. I couldn't pick it, however, due to the same reason why I didn't feel right picking it for Single of the Year. It was released and went #1 last year and I can't get over my belief that Song of the Year should go to a song that was actually a single at some point of 2012. But it is a lovely song.

"Over You". One of the strongest in this category and probably the best song on Miranda Lambert's Four the Record CD. Written by Miranda and Blake about Blake's brother, this song hit fans on an emotional level. I'm sure that many will consider this to be the favorite and the fact that it was written by Miranda and Blake is going to be hard for the voters to ignore. But it wasn't my choice. I'm in the minority and well aware of it, but the more I heard it the less of an emotional punch it had. The opposite was true for a while, in the first couple of months after it was released. But it just didn't hold up as well  for me for some reason. It wouldn't surprise me if it won though. As again, I'm pretty positive I'm in the minority.

Another song I wouldn't be surprised to see win is "Springsteen". This was my pick for Single of the Year after all and you could pretty much take what I said about it in that post and apply it here. This song hit a major nerve with fans. A song celebrating the magic of the right song. It was so nicely crafted and got its point across so well. There's a reason why people connected so much with it and I would have no problems whatsoever if Eric and the other two writers, Ryan Tyndell and Jeff Hyde, took this one.

Ultimately, I had to go with "Home" and I'll be honest and admit that a tiny part of that decision comes from my wanting to see Dierks win something. But a large part, the biggest part, is that I really believe that it's the best written song in the category. I say this acknowledging that every song nominated is extremely well written; I understand why each got nominated. I definitely don't want to take anything away from any of the other songwriters in this category. I'd say it has a good chance, a much better chance here than it does for Single. In saying that I kind of feel like this might be the underdog in the category or at least the most understated. That's part of its charm, I think.

See I think songwriters have to be careful when they write a song like "Home". Songs praising the United States tend to do well in country music, but a lot of those songs come across as trying too hard. Like the song is trying to beat you over the head with how patriotic it is - and in doing so, misses the point. It's not about proving anything. It's not about taking sides, as so many of these type of songs can be. This is a song that any and every American can relate to. I think the beauty of "Home" is that the songwriters don't try to pretend that our country is perfect. It doesn't take cheap shots at the country either. It's about loving the country, flaws and all. It's about taking pride in our country and caring enough to want to try to make it better. It's about remembering how we got to where we are; never forgetting those who fought and sacrificed to make this country what it is. It's about knowing that it's okay that we're not all the same and it's okay that we have our problems. Because that's part of what makes this country so great.

Lyrically speaking, there is not a weak spot to be found in the entire song. This was a beautifully crafted song and the music fits it so perfectly. There's something very majestic about it and that's not a word I generally use to describe songs. I've been listening to it as I've been writing and trying to decide what lyrics to include and it's so difficult because it's so strong. I'll go with this segment, "Brave, gotta call it brave/ To chase that dream across the sea/ Names, then they signed their names/ For something they believed/ Red, how the blood ran red/ We laid our dead in sacred ground/ Just think, wonder what they'd think/ If they could see us now". That's some fantastic songwriting right there.

And of course, "It's been a long hard ride/ Got a ways to go/ But this is still the place/ That we all call home/ It's been a long hard ride/ And I won't lose hope/ This is still the place/ That we all call home". Beautiful. My pick for Song of the Year.









Monday, October 29, 2012

My CMA Picks: Album of the Year

Ah, Album of the Year. One of the biggest awards of the night, second only to Entertainer in my opinion. My choice for Album was an easy one. Another category where I was able to make my pick right away.

Without further ago, here are the nominees for Album of the Year:
Chief, Eric Church
Four the Record, Miranda Lambert
Home, Dierks Bentley
Own the Night, Lady Antebellum
tailgates and tanlines, Luke Bryan

And my choice for Album of the Year?
Chief, Eric Church. No question.

What do I think of the other nominees?

Starting off with what I'm sure many will consider one of the favorites for this award, Miranda Lambert's Four the Record. This album has gotten a whole lot of praise from critics, fans and other artists alike. But in all honestly, I'm just not feeling this one. I think Miranda is a lot better than this album. In fact, I know she is. I loved Kerosene, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Revolution. This album was a bit of a disappointment and one that makes me wonder what we'll see from her in the future. I'm not saying it's a bad album, I just don't think this is Album of the Year worthy. I kind of feel like Miranda is to this category what Kenny Chesney is to Entertainer. It seems like they both keep getting nominated because people think they should be. But that's not a good enough reason to nominate someone. It's just not. That said, she definitely has a shot at winning. Not going to deny that.

Home. I love that this album got nominated because it's so strong, but I hate that it had to go up against Chief. Dierks Bentley doesn't get anywhere near the attention he should and I'd be pretty stunned if he walked away the winner in this category. But it's one of the best albums in the group and perhaps the best he's ever put out. This nomination was very well deserved. If nothing else, I hope that his sales spike after all this. Right now I just don't think enough people are familiar with it, but it's great to see him get a nod at least.

I'm going to lead off by saying that I like Lady Antebellum. They have a few songs I absolutely love and they seem like cool people. But that said, I think that Own the Night is their weakest album to date. I find it forgettable. There's a couple of songs I like, but I couldn't tell you anything about the others. Their last two singles, "Dancin' Away with my Heart" and "Wanted You More" were interchangeable for me. They're better than this. It did manage to win Best Country Album at the Grammy's and they've had a great touring year, so I'd say they have a shot. But just like Four the Record, I don't think this is Album of the Year worthy.

tailgates and tanlines. I was pleasantly surprised that this got nominated and I can't help but feel like people are underestimating Luke's odds. This is a great album, one that's given us "Country Girl (Shake It for Me)", "I Don't Want This Night to End", "Drunk on You" and his latest single "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye". And the thing about it is that as good as all of those songs are, there's really not a bad song on the album. It's a very solid album from start to finish. My favorite song is probably "You Don't Know Jack" and I'd strongly everyone to look it up. Luke's is so popular right now and I love that it's paying off in the form of some well deserved nominations. Among other things. I don't know if he'll win it or not, but I think he has a chance.

So that's everyone else. Now let's talk about Chief. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

My CMA Picks: Single of the Year

I'm going to start this off with mentioning that the eligibility period for this years CMAs started on July 1st, 2011 and ended on June 30th, 2012. I point this out because I was pretty surprised by a couple of the songs up for this award. Not because I don't like the songs, but because it seems like it's been so long since they were released. Come to find out, when a song comes out doesn't really matter. What matters is when it reaches its peak chart position - which has to be somewhere in the top fifty. So there we go. I still think it's weird that a couple of these songs are in the running, but then, I am not a member of the Country Music Association.

For anyone interested in how the voting process works and what the criteria for all the awards is, you can read about it here. That all said, my picks have more to do with my own personal preferences and factors that I think should be considered. That should go without saying, but I wanted to make it clear.

Meanwhile, while I'm clarifying some things, I know some people get confused about the difference between Single of the Year and Song of the Year. Well, Single is awarded to the artist and their producer(s) while Song of the Year is given to the songwriter(s). Chart position and radio play seem to get taken into consideration in both cases. My understanding is that Single tends to look more at the overall impact a song had, with Song focusing more on the quality of the song itself. I could very well be wrong about that last point, but that's how I chose to think about it when I made my picks.

So now that that's all out of the way, let me review the songs nominated:

"Dirt Road Anthem" by Jason Aldean and produced by Michael Knox, Broken Bow Records
"God Gave My You" by Blake Shelton and produced by Scott Hendrinks, Warner Bros. Records
"Home" by Dierks Bentley and produced by Brett Beavers and Luke Wooten, Capitol Records
"Pontoon" by Little Big Town and produced by Jay Joyce, Capitol Records
"Springsteen" by Eric Church and produced by Jay Joyce, EMI Records

This was a tough one because I really like all of the songs nominated. Not to mention the artists themselves. But my choice for CMA Single of the Year? "Springsteen" by Eric Church.

"Dirt Road Anthem" is one of the songs nominated that surprised me. It was released in early February 2011 and reached #1 in the last week of July. Now, I haven't exactly kept my love of Jason Aldean and his music a secret around here. I like "Dirt Road Anthem" quite a bit, though it's not one of my favorite songs of his overall. My reason for not picking it is because I kind of feel like the song that wins should be a song that was a single at some point of 2012. But it would be foolish to count it out. The song was huge for Jason. How huge? Well, it's been certified triple platinum, if that gives you an idea. It gets a great response live and may have made the biggest overall impact of any of the songs nominated. And Jason's current popularity can only help him here.

And so does "God Gave Me You" by Blake Shelton. This is a beautiful song with an equally beautiful video. It was released in July of last year and became Blake's fifth consecutive #1 in October. And so, that is why I didn't pick it. But even still, I would not rule it out.

Dierks Bentley's "Home" is a wonderful song that was inspired by a terrible tragedy. I'm of course talking about the shooting last year in Tuscon, Arizona that killed six people and critically wounded U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. "Home" is probably the best written song in the category, but I think it has a better chance at winning Song of the Year.

"Pontoon". The song of the summer of 2012. Proof that you never know what kind of song will completely take off and take off this did. The was Little Big Town's very first #1 and considering how much radio play it got and continues to get, that came as no surprise. "Pontoon" was my second choice in this category and was a very close second. This song has a huge chance of winning, in my opinion.

But ultimately, I had to go with "Springsteen". Because it too had a big impact and that impact was felt on a more emotional level. This song isn't about Bruce Springsteen and at its heart, it's not about a lost love. Rather, it's about the power of a song. Not just any song, but the right song. The kind of song that can instantly transport you to another place or time. Even somewhere you haven't thought about in who knows how long. My favorite line in "Springsteen" is this one, "Funny how a melody sounds like a memory". It's true. We all have those songs. And I love that we have this song to celebrate that. So yeah, I had to go with "Springsteen".





My CMA Picks: Duo of the Year

The nominees:
Big & Rich
Love and Theft
Sugarland
The Civil Wars
Thompson Square

I kept going back and forth between a couple of them, but ultimately my pick for CMA Duo of the Year? Thompson Square.

My thoughts on the other nominees?

First up is Big & Rich. After taking a break for the past few years to pursue individual projects, they're back to making music together. Their new CD, Hillbilly Jedi, came out last month and the lead off single from said CD "That's Why I Pray" became a top 15 hit on country radio. But I really don't see them having a shot here.

Love and Theft. My second choice. As I said in my pick for new artist, I really believe that they have a huge chance of winning this. They just had their first #1 with "Angel Eyes" and have really been making a name for themselves lately. They've put on a great show every time I've seen them. I really like these guys and I'd have no problem whatsoever if they managed a win.

Sugarland. It'd be silly to rule them out, so I won't. It's been quite a while since they've released a new single and their last CD, Incredible Machine, came out two years ago. Now Jennifer is pregnant and going to be having her child sometime next month and I have to wonder what that means for Sugarland. My instinct is that it could be a while before we hear new music from them. But they had a strong touring year, perhaps the strongest of the bunch. They're also the reigning champions, having won this award for the past five years. That's going to be hard for the voters to ignore. But, much like group, this category is in a rut. There was the great Brooks & Dunn, who formerl dominated this category, winning a total sixteen times. And now Sugarland has won five times. It's time to let someone else win, especially since it's been so long since we've had new Sugarland music.

The Civil Wars. This duo has received a lot of praise from critics and fans alike and they've deserved all of it. But they're the least known of all the nominees and I don't think they have a chance. It's pretty interesting that they got the nomination though. And that's really all I have to say about them.

So why Thompson Square? Well, for starters there's the fact that they won Duo at the ACMs this year, providing what was seen by many as the biggest upset of the night. That's something that should be taken into consideration. Their latest single "Glass" made it into the top 15 and they had a very solid touring year, opening for Lady Antebellum and doing some dates with Rascal Flatts. Vocally speaking, Shawna Thompson is the most traditionally sounding country singer in this category and that's not going to hurt them. Especially not at the CMAs, who can be known to lead a little more towards the more traditional artists. So her voice is only going to help. Not to take anything away from Keifer, mind. The real magic of Thompson Square is how well their voices complement each other, after all. That combined with the obvious chemistry that comes from them as a couple. It's something that sets them apart from the rest of the nominees. It would not surprise me in the least if they walked away with this one.

And there you have it, my pick for Duo. This one was a bit on the shorter side for me, but that's okay. The next category up is Single of the Year and then we get to one of the biggest awards of the night, Album of the Year. Followed by Song of the Year, Musical Event of the Year and finally, Music Video of the Year. Of course, I write this as Hurricane Sandy is making its way towards the East Coast and, seeing as how I'm currently in Maryland, this may pose a problem. Hopefully not. But we'll have to see. In the meantime, I'm going to try to get the next couple of posts up later today (Sunday) before anything major happens.

And that said, to everyone out there who may also be affected by Hurricane Sandy, please stay safe and be careful. I will certainly be keeping everyone in my thoughts and prayers.

Thanks for reading!




Friday, October 26, 2012

My CMA Picks: Vocal Group of the Year

After the difficulty of the category, this one felt like a breeze. One of the categories where I instantly knew who my pick would be. Makes this a whole lot easier, lemme tell you.

The nominees:
Eli Young Band
Lady Antebellum
Little Big Town
The Band Perry
Zac Brown Band

My pick for CMA Vocal Group of the Year?
Little Big Town

Before I talk about the other nominees, I just have to say once more how ridiculous I think it is that Rascal Flatts didn't get a nomination this year. Biggest snub of the CMAs, in my opinion. Though that's probably a sign of how tough this category could become. What with all the groups currently doing so well in country music. There was a time when you always knew who'd get nominated in this category because that's all the groups there were. Now in addition to the nominees and Rascal Flatts, we have Eden's Edge, The Farm, Pistol Annies and Gloriana. And then there's Lonestar, who are going to be putting out a new album at some point with Richie McDonald back on lead vocals after taking a break from the group. I've also been seeing a lot about the Canadian group High Valley, who have just released their first single here in the United States. I have a feeling there's a group I'm not thinking of and if any of you think of one I didn't mention, please let me know. My point being that nominations in this category are no longer a given. Who knows what this'll look like a year from now.

But for now there's just five groups I want to focus on and of course I'm going to start with Eli Young Band. I believe that they have a shot at this award, if only a small one. Their two last singles "Crazy Girl" and "Even If It Breaks Your Heart" were huge for them, the latter of which being nominated for Song of the Year. They've been one of the openers on the Rascal Flatts tour and have just released a new single "Say Goodnight". The response for which seems to be pretty positive based on what I've seen. Is that enough to give them a win? My instinct says no, but there's no doubt in my mind that they deserved the nomination.

Lady Antebellum. Perhaps the favorite for this award. They are the reigning champions, after all, and their tour this year was a big success. They had a whole lot of sold out shows and did a string of shows in both Europe and Australia. Those are going to be hard facts for the CMA voters to ignore. It shouldn't surprise anyone if they win. But I think it's time for the torch to be passed to another group. Honestly, this category feels a little stale to me, largely because of what I talked about earlier. How you could always predict the nominees because there weren't as many groups to pick from. There's a desperate need for a shake up here and I'd love to see it happen this year.

The Band Perry. I really don't have much to say about them, aside from the fact that their nomination confuses me a little. I know they've been on the road with Brad Paisley, on what was another huge tour. And from all accounts, they got great responses from the crowds. Their latest single, "Postcard from Paris", was a top ten hit. But still, this one kind of threw me. And I don't say that to be insulting towards them in anyway. That was just my reaction. I don't think they can be counted out; they probably have a chance here.

Zac Brown Band. I don't have much to say about them either. They had a solid year, released a new album Uncaged and had yet another successful tour. I don't think they have much of a shot. They always seem to get nominations, but it rarely results in them winning. But who knows.

And now, it's time to talk about Little Big Town.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My CMA Picks: New Artist of the Year

This one was a tough one for me. Another one where I've changed my mind multiple time. But as evidenced by the existence of this post, I've finally made my decision.

First the nominees:
Lee Brice
Brantley Gilbert
Hunter Hayes
Love and Theft
Thompson Square

And my pick for CMA New Artist of the Year?
Lee Brice.

If you've been reading this series, you know the drill by now. I'm going to talk a little bit about each of the other nominees before I explain why I went with Lee.

Starting with Brantley Gilbert, who has had a pretty solid few years. First, scoring two cuts on Jason Aldean's My Kinda Party album. Two cuts that of course became very big singles for everyone involved and came with the added benefit of getting Brantley's name out there. He'd had a very loyal following before that, but those cuts made him known among the general country fans who hadn't heard of him previously. As an artist, he has two #1's under if his belt. Namely "Country Must Be Country Wide" and "You Don't Know Her Like I Do". He's just released a new single "More Than Miles" so we'll see how that does for him. Meanwhile, he's currently in the midst of his first tour as a headliner and from everything I've been seeing about it, it will no doubt be a big success. Brantley has one of the most passionate fan bases I've ever seen - I've witnessed it live and still can't believe the response he gets. That all said, I wonder about his odds at the CMAs. He certainly can't be counted out, but he may prove to be a little too rough around the edges for the CMA voters.

Hunter Hayes. I spent most of my time going back and forth between Hunter and Lee for my final pick here. This was after finally managing to rule out a couple of the others. I came thisclose to picking Hunter and I'll be perfectly happy if he wins this. Hunter seems to be on a roll lately. What with "Wanted" going all the way to #1 and being certified platinum. He was recently inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame - something that I wasn't aware of until today. At 21 years old, Hunter is the youngest person to ever be inducted. Right now Hunter is on the road opening up for Carrie Underwood on her Blown Away tour. A gig that surely isn't going to hurt him any. Aside from all of that, Hunter is the only nominee to not only have written or co-written every single song on his debut album, but he also played every single instrument on the CD. He sings every vocal part and even co-produced it. Pretty impressive, I'd say. I saw him at the Grand Ole Opry a few months ago and the response he got was just incredible. I've never seen that many people head to the front of the stage for an artist there before! This guy is very talented and there's no telling what he's going to do. It's my belief that we've just seen the tip of the iceberg of what he's capable of.

Love and Theft. I have to admit that I was pretty sad when it was first announced that they were changing from a trio into a duo, but it would appear that that move was a good one. Their career is really starting to take off and "Angel Eyes" was one of the biggest songs put out by any duo this year. I'd say they have a fair shot of winning Duo of the Year, but that's another post all together. I've had the pleasure of seeing them live more than once and they always put on a good show. I really like these guys and yeah, I'd have no problems with them taking this one.

Thompson Square. Oh Thompson Square. It pained me to eliminate them from my top two picks because I love them. They, along with Love and Theft, have added some much needed new blood to country music duos. There just aren't enough of them for my liking, so I love that we have new duos coming out and doing as well as they're doing. Thompson Square has gotten to do some big tours in the past couple of years. The most recent being Lady Antebellum. And they'll be joining Luke Bryan on his first headlining tour next year, which is bound to be huge. If Luke's rising popularity is any indication. This is such a great tour for Thompson Square to be on and I'm very happy for them. Them and fellow opening act Florida Georgia Line. This tour should do big things for everyone involved. Getting back to Thompson Square, they had a top twenty single this year with "Glass" and are fixing to release the debut single from their upcoming new album on the 30th of this month. You can go hear a preview of the song of their website, http://www.thompsonsquare.com/ ,if you are so inclined. I have a good feeling about this one; hope it does well for them.

So there's the other nominees and yes, it's a tough category this year. I really feel like I could make an argument for why any of them deserve to win and it's going to be interesting to see who gets it. But I didn't pick any of them. I went with Lee. Wanna know why? Keep reading.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Interview with Shane Morgan

Well, this post is a first: my first interview with an up and coming artist. Actually it's my first interview with an artist period. This isn't something I imagined I'd be doing, but when the opportunity came up I knew I had to do it. And it's something I'd like to do more often. So, that said, if you are an artist and would be interested in doing an interview, let me know! You can get in touch with me here, on twitter or Facebook or you can email me at countrymusicatk@hotmail.com. 

This interview is with a guy currently working to make it in country music, Shane Morgan. Shane can be found on twitter at @OfficialSMorgan, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ShaneMorganOfficial or https://www.facebook.com/shanemorganmusic and you can also check out his official website here. He has a CD available on either CDbaby, http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/shanemorgan. You can also purchase his album on iTunes, https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/im-getting-gone/id366770066. So be sure to go check him out on any of the above sites if you want to learn a little more about him. 

Now let's get to the interview, shall we? 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

My CMA Picks: Male Vocalist of the Year

This category kills me. It was so easy to choose my picks for Entertainer and Female Vocalist - I knew what my pick was the first time I saw the nominees. But then we get the Male Vocalist and I really like all five nominees. Three of whom are my favorite artists right now; not just in terms of male artists, but period. And the other two aren't terribly far behind. In all honesty, I wouldn't have much of a problem with any of them winning. It'll be a mixed reaction no matter what. Happiness for the winner and sadness for the losers. More so than any other category for me. This choice was a tough one and I've changed my mind more than once. A lot more than once, in fact. But after so much consideration, I have finally made my final decision.

The nominees? Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Blake Shelton and Keith Urban.

My pick for CMA Male Vocalist of the Year? Eric Church.

First, my thoughts on the other nominees. Starting with Jason Aldean, who I'd argue has probably had the best year of any of them. His record breaking My Kinda Party tour sold out every single date, selling 1.9 million tickets. His newest single "Take a Little Ride" is his 6th consecutive #1 and his new album Night Train is coming out in just a few days. When I wrote about why I believe he deserves to win Entertainer of the Year I said that I believed that this album would be his best to date. Well, iTunes has the entire Night Train up for free streaming until it's released and after listening to it, I have to say that my belief was correct. This is the best album he's ever done and I have a feeling it's going to be huge. All of that makes him a tough competitor in this category and hard not to pick. But seeing as he's my choice for Entertainer, it didn't seem right to pick him here too. Besides, my guess is that he could easily walk away with one of them, but not both. It'd be one or the other and I'd much rather see him get Entertainer.

Luke Bryan. I'll be honest and admit that I spent most of my time going back and forth between Luke and Eric. I love that they were both nominated, as both are deserving and this category needed some new blood. They shake things up nicely. Luke is crazy popular right now and seems to be getting more popular all the time. He's grown so much as a performer this year, though that's not to say that he wasn't always a good one. "Country Girl" just put him on a whole new level. Not just in terms of his success, but in terms of his confidence. He has such a great stage presence and I would not be surprised if he starts getting Entertainer nominations. It's only a matter of time. He's been on the road with Jason Aldean all year and no doubt has contributed to the overall success of the tour. Luke will be headlining his own tour next year, bringing Thompson Square and Florida Georgia Line along as openers. I have a feeling that that tour could be huge for him. Vocally speaking, he has more range that people may realize. He has a good shot at winning this.

Blake Shelton. The reigning Male Vocalist of the Year and, in my opinion, the best singer of the five nominees. If this was just about the vocal, it'd have to be Blake. But really, the title of this award is misleading. It's not all about the voice; other factors have to be taken into consideration as well. I feel like this year was more about him being on 'The Voice' than it was about him as an artist. Not to say that he hasn't been doing well as an artist; he's had a strong year overall. It'd be silly to rule him out for this award which is why I'm not. I believe that other nominees had better years than he did and honestly, I want to see this category get shaken up. Which is why I couldn't pick him.

Keith Urban. First I have to say that I can't believe that this is the only award he's up for. He should at least be in the running for Entertainer since his live show is incredible. Lately he seems constantly overlooked at awards shows, for reasons I just don't understand. I have a lot of love for Keith, but I don't think he has much of a chance here. He's sort of laid low this year, touring wise, though he's of course been busy doing other things. 'The Voice' in Australia and now 'American Idol'. And you know, getting inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, which trumps everything else in my opinion. That's something that I hope gets taken into consideration when the CMA voters vote. But still, I just don't see him getting this one. Not this year anyway.

So that's the other guys. Now let's talk about the Chief.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

My CMA Picks: Female Vocalist of the Year

The nominees:
Kelly Clarkson
Miranda Lambert
Martina McBride
Taylor Swift
Carrie Underwood

My pick: Carrie Underwood. This was a pretty easy choice for me, for a number of reasons. But before I go into those, let me talk about the other nominees.

Kelly Clarkson. She's a great singer, but I don't understand why she got nominated in this category. Yes, her duet with Jason Aldean was a huge song for both of them. Sure, she released a country version of a song that had already been a single on pop radio. And yeah, she's good friends with Reba McEntire. But none of that makes her a country singer. Her inclusion in this category makes absolutely no sense. If she ever does a fully country album and starts releasing country songs to radio - and country remixes don't count - than I would have no problems with her being nominated for country awards. She could do well in country music, but she needs to fully commit to a project instead of just flirting with the genre. 

Miranda Lambert. As the reigning female vocalist of the year, Miranda certainly can't be counted out. She's had a pretty good year this year and to say she has a good chance of winning again would be an understatement. I don't have much else to say about her honestly.

Martina McBride. Without question one of the best singers in music today. All music; not just country. The way I see it, her voice is so good that she'd deserve a nomination every year that she continues to make music. But I just don't see her winning this. Not this year anyway. Not when some of the other nominees have had the years they've had.

Taylor Swift. Her Speak Now tour was huge and her new album, Red, is coming out this month. There's been a lot of buzz about her lately, though that's not exactly a new thing. Taylor probably has a decent chance of winning. I'm not sure that her new single "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" is going to help her out much. Because though there is a so-called country remix, it's a pop song. I'd also say that while she definitely seems to grow as a vocalist with each passing year, she's still the weakest vocalist in this category. But again, you never know. She might take this one home.

And then there's Carrie.


What can I say about Carrie? Well, for starters, her latest album Blown Away was recently certified platinum. Considering that it just came out in May, I'd say that's pretty impressive. The song "Blown Away" has become her 16th top 10 single and as I'm writing this is sitting at #2. Her Blown Away tour, which began in mid-September, seems to be off to a good start and I've been hearing and reading all sorts of rave reviews about it. Carrie may have stayed out of the spotlight before Blown Away was released, but as all of the above proves, she's back. And she's back in a big way.

Vocally speaking, she's one of the best singers in music today. She's singing better than she ever has and is making the best music of her career to date. Out of all of the nominees most recent albums, Blown Away is my personal favorite. My instinct tells me that this award is hers to lose. Sure, it could easily go to either Miranda or Taylor. And maybe they'll decide to throw a major curve ball and give it to Kelly Clarkson. But I just don't see that happening.

So yeah, I'm going with Carrie.