Country Perspective’s Best Female Country Artist of 2014 Nominees

As 2014 comes to a close, Country Perspective will be handing out a number of awards to the artists, songs, and albums we covered over the year. We’ll be crowning the best of the best and the worst of the worst. Very much like last year, this year featured some great album releases from female artists that brought some of the best country music in 2014. Some of these women had strong debut albums, others added to an already strong catalog, and all are a wonderful representation of country music. Regardless of their respective stories, these seven women are making some of the best country music today, and their work this year is worthy of being nominated for Country Perspective’s Best Female Country Artist of the Year.

Awards will be handed out in mid-late December. Josh and I will deliberate and reach the final decisions together, but we will also take reader input into consideration. So if you have a strong opinion about an artist listed here feel free to comment below and let us know. Who knows, you may sway the vote! In going over nominees this year, we believe that this particular category is a tough to award because, quite frankly, these women all have a reasonable case to be crowned as Country Perspective’s top female artist.

  • Sunny Sweeney – Sunny’s third album, Provoked, was met with critical acclaim. The album was a great collection of honest, personal songs, most of which Sunny co-wrote. She delivers these songs with passion and emotions that add to each song’s story. Provoked also featured several song of the year worthy tracks, one of which can be found on our list of Song of the Year. In my opinion, Sunny has the perfect blend of classic and contemporary country sounds, and the consistency of her music, in both sound and quality cannot be overlooked.

Lee Ann Womack – Fans waited and waited for Womack’s next album and were finally treated to The Way I’m Livin’ this year. Another album that was not only met with critical acclaim, but also received a Grammy nomination for Country Album of the Year. Her song, “When I Come Around” is also featured on our list for Song of the Year. And who could forget Womack’s beautiful tribute to Alan Jackson at the 2014 CMT Awards? Alongside Kacey Musgraves, the Texas women sang Jackson’s “Livin’ on Love” in honor of his Impact Award. Country music certainly missed Lee Ann Womack and she made a roaring return this year.

  • Kacey Musgraves – Kacey’s sole official release this year was her single “The Trailer Song”, but she had a huge presence and impact around the award show grounds over the year. Kacey Musgraves is doing everything in her power to bring the roots of country music back to the spotlight. Her duet at CMT Awards with Lee Ann Womack was without a doubt a big moment from this year. At the 2014 CMA Awards, Musgraves not only had a great performance with the one and only Loretta Lynn, but Musgraves’ hit single, “Follow Your Arrow”, was awarded Song of the Year. “Do you guys realize what this means for country music?!” Musgraves exclaimed in her acceptance speech. Kacey Musgraves may just be the most important artist in the mainstream light right now.

Angaleena Presley – Angaleena Presley got her start as a songwriter, penning numerous songs on country trio The Pistol Annies’ first two albums. Presley released her first solo debut album, American Middle Class, this year, and it did not disappoint. Simple, honest songs about the hardships and struggles of small town America. Presley is a gifted songwriter whose stories represent the history of how country music was built.

 

  • Lucette – This Canadian country singer has what I personally consider the most impressive debut album of 2014. Black is The Color is a chilling, brilliant collection of songs with great writing and vocals. Dave Cobb’s production on this album is phenomenal, and Lucette’s “River Rising” is a Song of the Year candidate. Some select dates of Lucette’s tour this year also features Sturgill Simpson. Basically, Lucette is surrounding herself with the right people, and she certainly has a bright musical future.

Karen Jonas – Yet another impressive debut album. A dark collection of classic country and blues, Karen Jonas’ Oklahoma Lottery is downright amazing. Great songwriting, fantastic instrumentation, and Jonas’ voice is haunting. This is another singer who I’m excited to see develop and grow in the country music world. You’ll find the title track from the album on our Song of the Year list, and rightfully so. Karen Jonas jumped onto the scene this year and made quite the impact.

 

  • Tami Neilson – This New Zealand country star is in one word, spectaculaTami Neilson Album Coverr. Tami’s sound is straight out of the 1950s, and her new album, Dynamite!is a great showcase of what Tami Neilson is capable of: great vocals that carry each song and perfectly convey the emotions appropriate for the subject matter. Her albums have been critically acclaimed and awarded several times in New Zealand, and it’s hard to imagine that Dynamite! won’t fare differently. Tami Neilson is an absolute gem to listen to.

Please share your thoughts and help us decide who to crown as Country Perspective’s Best Female Country Artist of 2014. This category is full of worthy candidates who all deserve to be recognized for their accomplishments this year. Your comments and votes will certainly be helpful in determining the outcome of this award. If you haven’t already, check out the rest of our nominations for our awards: best male singer, best duo or group, best and worst albums, and best and worst songs of 2014.

Album Review – The Doobie Brothers’ Southbound Sees Current Country Artists Tackle Classic Hits

Classic rock artists having current country stars cover their hits seems to be a new trend. This all really began, if memory serves me correctly, when Lionel Richie put out an album of current country artists covering his biggest hits. It went over great and Richie has even said he has thought about doing another album like that one. This year alone we’ve had a tribute album to The Allman Brothers, a terrible Mötley Crüe tribute album and mainstream country artists even attempted to cover the great Merle Haggard’s greatest songs. Now we have The Doobie Brothers doing that exact same thing. Did you really think The Doobie Brothers just showed up at 2014 CMA Awards for nothing? All about business and promotion, baby. Personally I enjoyed their performances, although I thought Jennifer Nettles brought them down a little with her terrible dancing. Nevertheless, let’s go through another classic rock tribute album done by mainstream country artists. It can’t be as bad as the Mötley Crüe one, right?

The Best Songs on the Album

Well I’ll tell you right up front that this is better than the Crüe tribute album, but that isn’t saying much. There are some definite bright spots on this album. The Zac Brown Band fits perfectly with “Black Water.” Southern fried country is Zac Brown Band, so of course they do great with a southern roots rock song. Keep in mind this review is slightly different from normal reviews because I’m judging more of how the artist covers the song and the choices made by production rather than the song itself. The signifier of a great cover to me is if it does justice to the integrity of the song and yet makes it feel fresh. The Zac Brown Band nails both of these aspects. They already did justice to their cover of The Allman Brothers’ “Midnight Rider” earlier this year with Vince Gill and they deliver again with this Doobie Brothers cover.

The choice of Sara Evans for “What a Fool Believes” is a fantastic choice. It’s higher pitched and perfectly suits a dynamic female voice. This song is a great reminder of how great Evans’ vocals are and how I wish she was still on radio. It’s evident The Doobie Brothers and Evans have good chemistry, making for a great cover. You may not like this song and I understand that completely because it could get annoying after several plays. But give credit to Evans doing a grade A job with this cover. You’ll never believe who else does a great job on this album: Tyler Farr. He covers “Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me)” and hits a home run. The heavy rock influence suits Farr’s rough voice and style, which makes for a great cover. Farr makes it his own and still pays homage to the sound of the song. He stands out and shines beside The Doobie Brothers. His vocal range is stretched a little, but he makes it work. I want to see more of this Farr and never again want to see the “Redneck Crazy” version of Farr.

“You Belong to Me” is covered by an artist I had never heard of before. Amanda Sudano Ramirez covers this song and does a fantastic job. She is one half of the indie duo Johnnyswim and is the daughter of the late “Queen of Disco,” Donna Summer. While her inclusion on an album of country artists is interesting since she’s more of a folk/blues singer, she really stands out. Her voice is great and I want to hear more of her music personally. Vince Gill plays guitar on this song and does phenomenal as always. The other song that stood out to me is Charlie Worsham covering “Nobody.” There’s a separate introduction to this track, giving it a special feel and for good reason Charlie Worsham does a great job with The Doobie Brothers on this song and it’s great to see an underrated artist like Worsham get this special attention. This is how a cover should be done and it’s a good way to close the album.

The Worst Songs on the Album

While there were these bright moments, there were also some downright puzzling moments. Take for instance “Long Train Runnin’.” The choice of Toby Keith for this song is at best puzzling. Really it’s a bad choice. This song is another higher pitched song that suits a female artist more so than a male artist, especially a male artist like Keith who doesn’t have dynamic vocals. I would have picked Carrie Underwood to cover this song. Keith just sounds so out-of-place and is stretching his vocals too far at times. Huey Lewis sounds great on the harmonica at least.

There’s one point in this album where there are three straight songs where I have the same criticism with each of them. When covering a song with the original artist it’s important not to get buried by the original artist. You should shine along side them and make the song sound new. Love & Theft does not do this on “Takin’ It to the Streets.” Casey James does not do this on “Jesus Is Just Alright” and Brad Paisley doesn’t do it on “Rockin’ Down the Highway.” It feels like they’re just in the background and contribute absolutely nothing to the song. They are all forgettable covers and you won’t remember them tomorrow.

This is all leads to perhaps the most puzzling choice of artist on the entire album. I would say “South City Midnight Lady” is the most serious toned song on the album. Who do they pick to cover it? Jerrod Niemann, the same artist who put out a song called “Donkey” and rapped alongside Pitbull earlier this year. This is a stupid choice, despite the fact Niemann does okay with the song. Just like those three songs above though, it’s not very memorable. The performance is dry and boring.

The Rest of the Album

Blake Shelton and Hunter Hayes cover “Listen to the Music.” This is an interesting duo to cover this song. Then again they decided to take a more pop country approach with this upbeat and memorable song, so it makes sense to put Blake and Hayes on this song. It was also a good move to put Hayes just on guitar and not have him sing. It would’ve been funny hearing him attempt to cover this song. The original is still better, but this isn’t a bad cover. It’s just a little too generic for my taste. Chris Young covers the upbeat “China Grove.” Even though I find Young’s voice to sound a little generic at times, I think he does a solid job covering the song. It seems to fit his comfort zone just right and Young doesn’t sound like he’s out of place at any point. He also reminds everyone that he has the chops to sing more dynamic songs and not the boring pop country he has put out recently.

Overall Thoughts

This is pretty much what I expected out of The Doobie Brothers’ Southbound album. There are some good moments, bad moments and boring moments. Most of the time cover albums prove to be pretty pointless from a quality and artistic standpoint. This is nothing but a quick cash grab. If I want to hear these songs I’ll go listen to the original versions, not bastardized versions with Toby Keith or Love & Theft. Cover albums work in when the artists actually collaborate together to create great, new versions of the song. The most recent example of a good cover album would be Mary Sarah’s Bridges earlier this year. You could tell Sarah actually spent a good amount of time with these artists and it shined through in the final product. Other than Bridges, I would say this is the best cover/tribute album I’ve seen put out by mainstream country music this year. Not a high bar to hurdle, but there was still a few covers worth listening to on Southland. I would recommend this album only if you’re a hardcore Doobie Brothers’ fan or if you like mediocre cover albums.

Grade: 6/10

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [Nov. 15]

Every week I take a look at the current top ten country songs on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and give each song either a +1, a -1 or a 0. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the current top ten country songs, with the highest possible score being a +10 and the lowest possible score being a -10. The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the current state of mainstream country music and determine if it’s improving or getting worse. To see the full list of hot country songs for this week, click here. Let’s take a look at this week’s top ten.

  1. Sam Hunt – “Leave The Night On” -1
  2. Jason Aldean – “Burnin’ It Down” -1
  3. Blake Shelton – “Neon Light” 0
  4. Florida Georgia Line – “Dirt” +1
  5. Carrie Underwood – “Something In The Water” +1
  6. Keith Urban – “Somewhere In My Car” -1
  7. Frankie Ballard – “Sunshine & Whiskey” -1
  8. Maddie & Tae – “Girl In A Country Song” +1
  9. Little Big Town – “Day Drinking” -1
  10. Tim McGraw – “Shotgun Rider” +1

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: -1

The pulse improves to -1 from -2 last week. Could the pulse actually move into positive territory?! Just based on the ear test I can tell mainstream country has been improving a little lately. There were actually no bro country songs performed on the CMA Awards. This is all despite the fact that traditional country fans’ worst nightmare has come true: Sam Hunt is #1 on the country chart. No!!! I still have yet to hear a good argument as to why people listen to Sam Hunt music. There’s nothing creative nor country about it. Anyway the reason the pulse improved this week is because Luke Bryan dropped out of the top ten with his bland pop country and was replaced with Tim McGraw’s “Shotgun Rider.” Could McGraw be coming back to the good side? Well his new album was certainly one of the best in mainstream country this year and it’s good to be enjoying his music again. Let’s hope the pulse continues to improve.

The Five Best Moments of the 2014 CMA Awards

Last night country music held its 48th annual CMA Awards show and if you missed the results you can find them here. Nobody would blame you if you didn’t want to sit through another awards show last night that included non-country performances and shots of Florida Georgia Line grinning in the audience. There were however some great moments on the show and it was actually one of the most pleasant country awards shows I’ve seen in a while. So if you missed the show last night, here are the five best moments that are worth checking out:

1.) Kacey Musgraves & Loretta Lynn Perform “You’re Lookin’ At Country”

 

When Kacey Musgraves came out and started performing “You’re Lookin’ At Country” with her fantastic band and that awesome backdrop, I nearly fell out of my chair. If that wasn’t enough Kacey introduces the surprise country legend of the night, Loretta Lynn to join her in the song. It was the most country moment of the night and I was thrilled to hear an actual country song on the CMA Awards. I can only imagine the confused looking faces of bro country fans listening to this. That’s what real country music sounds like!

2.) Vince Gill Wins The Irving Waugh Award of Excellence

 

Another surprise of the night was Vince Gill winning the Irving Waugh Award of Excellence for his fantastic work in the industry. The only other artist to win this award is Johnny Cash, which is pretty damn cool. The co-hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood performed a quick acoustic performance of one of this classic songs and this was followed by a great video package tribute to Gill. He teared up during this and then delivered a fantastic speech. Just watch the video above because I can’t properly describe this moment in the show. Thank you Vince Gill for your contributions to country music!

3.) The Band Perry Covers Glen Campbell’s “Gentle on My Mind”

 

I have never been the biggest fan of The Band Perry’s music, but last night they hit a home run with their cover of dying country legend Glen Campbell’s “Gentle on My Mind.” It was a touching and fantastic performance from the trio and I only hope they realize that this is the kind of music they should be making. I’m also happy that Campbell is being paid tribute by the country music community because the man is absolutely deserving of it. Great job The Band Perry and CMAs.

4.) Kacey Musgraves, Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally Win the 2014 CMA Song of the Year Award

 

One of the most underrated moments of the night was the announcement of the 2014 CMA Song of the Year. The winning song was “Follow Your Arrow,” a nice surprise that caught me off guard. This was a great win for women and progression in country music. Many might not like the song itself, but it shows the country music committee will honor a song that goes outside the norm and challenges the rules of the genre. This was also a great win for Brandy Clark, who didn’t win New Artist of the Year, but absolutely deserved it. Luckily she was properly honored here and it’s nice to know Clark is now a winner of a CMA award. Chalk this up as another win for traditional country music.

5.) Carrie Underwood’s Performance of “Something in the Water”

 

I’ve knocked Underwood in recent years for doing too much pop country, but this is a pop country song that I fully support. I already gave high praise to the song in my review and she was amazing in her live performance last night too. In a nigh filled with several flat and out of key performances, Underwood displayed her dynamic vocals for the whole world and put several other artists to shame with her talent. Miranda Lambert and Little Big Town had the unfortunate task of following this performance and they sounded like chumps compared to Underwood. You don’t have to like Carrie’s music, but you have to acknowledge she has a fantastic voice.

That was the five best moments from the CMA Awards. If you watched the show let me know in the comments if you agree with this top five and if not feel free to mention what you thought were the best moments.

2014 CMA Awards – Predictions & Live Results

The 48th edition of the CMA Awards will hit the air tonight at 8 pm ET on ABC. That means we get to sit through another pointless award show and watch lots of performances from pop and hip-hop singers because mainstream country music is ashamed of itself. I’m sure there will many moments where we are face palming and yelling expletives at the television screen. But we’re doing it together! I’ll be posting the live award results right here. As for my commentary and analysis of the show, I’ll be live tweeting on Twitter. You can follow me at @realcountryview or twitter.com/realcountryview. For those not on Twitter you can simply go to the Twitter link I just listed and hit refresh throughout the night.

To see my initial thoughts and opinions on the 2014 CMA Award Nominations, click here. My predictions can be found directly below the live results. If I get half of my predictions I’ll feel lucky because you never know what backstage politics are taking place for this award’s show. All I know is when in doubt just pick Miranda Lambert because she always cleans up at these awards shows. So let’s take a look at my predictions and who I would pick…

 

Live Results

Entertainer of the Year: Luke Bryan (Nooooooooooo!)

CMA Irving Waugh Award of Excellence: Vince Gill (only other artist to receive the award is Johnny Cash)

Male Vocalist of the Year: Blake Shelton

Female Vocalist of the Year: Miranda Lambert

Album of the Year: Miranda Lambert – Platinum 

Vocal Group of the Year: Little Big Town

New Artist of the Year: Brett Eldredge 

Vocal Duo of the Year: Florida Georgia Line

Single of the Year (award goes to artist & producer): Miranda Lambert – “Automatic” 

Song of the Year (award goes to songwriters): Kacey Musgraves, Shane McAnally, Brandy Clark – “Follow Your Arrow” 

Musical Event of the Year: “We Were Us” – Keith Urban & Miranda Lambert

Music Video of the Year: Dierks Bentley – “Drunk On A Plane”

Musician of the Year: Mac McNally

 

 

Predictions:

Entertainer of the Year: Who I Would Pick – George Strait

Prediction – George Strait

Male Vocalist of the Year: Who I Would Pick – Dierks Bentley

Prediction – Luke Bryan

Female Vocalist of the Year: Who I Would Pick – Kacey Musgraves

Prediction – Miranda Lambert

Album of the Year: Album I Would Pick – Riser, Dierks Bentley

Prediction – Crash My Party, Luke Bryan

Vocal Group of the Year: Who I Would Pick – Zac Brown Band

Prediction – Little Big Town

New Artist of the Year: Who I Would Pick – Brandy Clark

Prediction – Cole Swindell

Vocal Duo of the Year: Who I Would Pick – None. Shovels & Rope or First Aid Kit would win in a country music world with justice.

Prediction – Florida Georgia Line

Single of the Year: What I Would Pick – “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s,” Tim McGraw & Faith Hill

Prediction – “Automatic,” Miranda Lambert

Song of the Year: What I Would Pick – “I Hold On,” Written by Brett James and Dierks Bentley

Prediction – “Give Me Back My Hometown,” Written by Eric Church and Luke Laird

Musical Event of the Year: What I Would Pick – Any of them, except “Something Bad” by Carrie Underwood & Miranda Lambert and “We Were Us” by Keith Urban and Miranda Lambert

Prediction – “Something Bad” by Carrie Underwood & Miranda Lambert

Music Video of the Year: What I Would Pick – Don’t care

Prediction – One of the Miranda Lambert videos