Pam Tillis, "Thunder and Roses"
Los Super Seven, "Canto"
Trick Pony, "Trick Pony"
Jimmy LaFave, "Texoma"
Old 97's, "Satellite Rides"
Clay Walker, "Say No More"
April and Beyond:
Tim McGraw, "Set This Circus Down"
Back in Circulation:
Kris Kristofferson, "Kristofferson"
Charlie Rich, "Behind Closed Doors"
Joe Maphis, "Fire on the Strings"
Rodney Crowell, "Diamonds & Dirt"
Buck Owens, "Carnegie Hall Concert"
Clarence "Tom" Ashley, "Greenback Dollar"
FREE MUSIC DOWNLOADS
Country-soul belter Shelby Lynne gives her considerable voice a good workout on this live reading of the gospel staple "Amazing Grace." Recorded for the "Red Hot + Country" television special, this performance has never been released, and is available as an exclusive free download as part of Amazon.com Presents 10 Years of Red Hot: A Special Benefit for AIDS Awareness and Relief.
More on Red Hot downloads, CDs, and AIDS awareness
Go to all Country downloads
Faith Hill took home three big awards at the 43rd Grammy Awards, pacing the country music field as she has throughout the past two years. Hill's success was to be expected, but the night always boasts its share of surprising and downright odd choices--like, for example, Shelby Lynne taking home a major award for Best New Artist. "I Am Shelby Lynne" is indeed a wonderfully original country-soul album; on the other hand, Lynne was a Nashville recording artist more than a decade ago! Here is a list of the top winners in country, along with our thoughts (and in some cases, our own choices).
BEST FEMALE COUNTRY VOCAL PERFORMANCE
"Breathe": The smoldering title track to Hill's multiplatinum smash album benefitted from a sultry vocal performance and a seductive video to boot. For Hill, this victory follows last year's CMA award for Female Vocalist of the Year and her ACM award for Top Female Vocalist. Hill's star is on the rise and her first-ever Grammy nod is an indication that more accolades may be in store for the Mississippian.
"The Grass Is Blue"
"Travelin' Prayer": On paper it seems unlikely, but Dolly Parton's roaring version of a nearly 30-year-old Billy Joel song opens "The Grass Is Blue" in impressive fashion. Atop soaring fiddle and rippling banjo, Parton tears into the tune like gangbusters. For her to have even seen the possibilities of this song as a bluegrass burner is worth commending in and of itself.
BEST MALE COUNTRY VOCAL PERFORMANCE
"American III: Solitary Man"
"Solitary Man": Once you saw he was nominated, you just knew that Cash would take home this award. The Grammy folks love to give the nod to legends whose time may not be long. Of course, Cash is absolutely deserving. His voice may not have the resonance it once did, but its emotional force remains unaffected.
"A Thousand Miles from Nowhere": As much as we love Cash's whole album, we're giving the nod to Dwight Yoakam here. Yoakam was inspired to do an all-acoustic solo project because of the warm reception fans gave to the acoustic sets during his shows. The result is the most intimate album of Yoakam's career and one of the best country albums of the year, one that puts the focus squarely on his passionate, mournful voice and his classic country compositions.
BEST COUNTRY PERFORMANCE BY A DUO OR GROUP WITH VOCAL
"Ride With Bob"
Asleep At The Wheel
"Cherokee Maiden": In reality, Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel have been paying tribute to Bob Wills throughout their entire career, even if their records haven't explicitly said so. Their second homage to Wills helped focus much deserved attention on the man's enduring music and introduced a whole new audience to the wonderful world of Western swing.
Oddly enough, "Cherokee Maiden" was the only song on "Ride with Bob" that did not feature a special guest artist. Instead, Benson and crew carry the day themselves, showcasing the crack instrumental skills that are central to Western swing's appeal. And any opportunity to celebrate Wills's legacy should be taken.
BEST COUNTRY COLLABORATION WITH VOCALS
"Let's Make Love" (duet with Tim McGraw): Let's face it. George Jones and Tammy Wynette may always be the President and First Lady of country music, but these days Tim McGraw and Faith Hill are the dominant forces in the genre's mainstream wing. Considering this, it's hardly surprising that this husband-and-wife duet took home the prize for Country Collaboration. The track, which also appears on McGraw's "Greatest Hits," is quite a steamy ballad indeed.
"Latest Greatest Straitest Hits"
"Murder on Music Row" (duet with Alan Jackson): This song created quite a stir in Nashville for its condemnation of the country music machine. Strait and Jackson, two of country's leading traditionalists, take the industry to task for mixing out the fiddles and steels while mixing in the rock drums. Thus we have a case where the industry is rewarding the artists for bashing the industry. Fair enough, though one could make the case that Strait himself hasn't been immune to commercial pressures in recent years. This track, however, is an instant classic.
BEST COUNTRY INSTRUMENTAL PERFORMANCE
"Leaving Cottondale" (with Béla Fleck): Banjo wiz Alison Brown teams up with one of her primary musical influences and takes home an award in one of the night's biggest surprises. "Leaving Cottondale" was actually first recorded for Brown's debut album, 1990's "Simple Pleasures," but the furiously paced new version is truly a head-turner.
With her sixth release, Brown returns to her bluegrass roots--which, for someone of her generation, includes both traditional breakdowns and more progressive, jazz- and classical-influenced compositions. It's nice to see this veteran banjo picker given her just rewards. "Leaving Cottondale" is only one of many terrific tunes on the diverse album, which boasts a cadre of talented guest pickers and singers.
BEST COUNTRY SONG
"I Hope You Dance [ECD]"
Lee Ann Womack
"I Hope You Dance" (Mark D. Sanders and Tia Sellers, songwriters): The title track to Womack's third album had this Grammy sewn up the day it hit the airwaves last spring. Its majestic, if not grandiose sound captured the attention of country fans immediately, and its enjoy-life-while-you-can lyrical message captured their imagination just as fast.
Womack's song beat out a pair of Faith Hill numbers plus lightweight entries from Vince Gill and Billy Gilman. We give the nod to Womack's song as well in a particularly weak field that tends to highlight the melodramatic.
BEST COUNTRY ALBUM
Hill's third award of the evening capped an incredibly prosperous year for this country crossover star. While fans debate how "country" Hill's music really is--is she a pop diva in country clothes?--her albums continue to sell like mad and her fandom grows bigger by the hour. Wednesday night's triumphs will only help her build momentum for the future as she looks to challenge Shania for the title of crossover queen.
"Real Live Woman"
It's difficult for Yearwood to compete with the Hills and Twains of the world when she sticks to mature, heartfelt music of the sort that permeates "Real Live Woman." The Georgia-born belter with the perfect pitch has always shown an affinity for the music of her idol, Linda Ronstadt. Like Ronstadt, she deftly and tastefully blends elements of pop and country while finding material from unexpected sources. On her eighth album, Yearwood sounds as gritty and gutsy as she ever has.
BEST BLUEGRASS ALBUM
"The Grass Is Blue"
The Tennessee-born Parton brings home the hardware for her very first full-fledged bluegrass release. The move to bluegrass is a natural progression for a singer who never lost sight of her mountain roots even as she detoured into the glitz and ritz of pop stardom.
Buttressed by some of the most respected pickers in bluegrass, Parton's vibrant, willowy voice makes a seamless transition to the idiom and delivers a superb album. Along the way she covers her own material (including brand-new compositions and old favorites) and the songs of other artists ranging from Flatt & Scruggs, the Louvin Brothers, and Hazel Dickens to Johnny Cash, Billy Joel, and Southern rockers Blackfoot.
Complete list of Grammy nominees and winners
You'll find more great music, articles, and interviews in Amazon.com's
Country Music section.
NEW AND NOTABLE
"When Somebody Loves You"
Jackson's ninth effort ranks with the Georgia traditionalist's best work, proving once again why he's one of the most respected figures in mainstream country. As usual there are a handful of uptempo odes to the simple Southern life and a few heartfelt ballad readings. The two highlights are both testaments to Jackson's songwriting ability: "www.memory," one of the better Internet-referencing songs so far, and the terrific "Three Minute Positive Not Too Country Uptempo Love Song," another clever jab at the Nashville hit-making machine.
Dolly Parton ~ more
Parton's dramatic artistic resurgence continues with the release of her second consecutive acoustic release, a bluegrass-oriented follow-up to the wonderful "Grass Is Blue." Similar in feel to that album, "Little Sparrow" features a number of acoustic music's top pickers and singers supporting Parton as she runs through a varied program. Among the diverse artists covered this time are the Louvin Brothers, Collective Soul, and even Cole Porter.
"The Truth About Us"
Tim Easton ~ more
Once considered the most promising singer-songwriter in Columbus, Ohio, Tim Easton is poised to make a splash in the big leagues. Easton recently moved to Los Angeles, got himself a record deal with New West Records, and now responds with a solid, at times spectacular label debut. The record features backing by members of alt-country heroes Wilco, but Easton's gruff vocals and vivid, introspective songs are the real stars. Fans of people like Steve Earle and Townes Van Zandt should find much to enjoy here.
"Highways & Dance Halls"
Tyler England ~ more
Tyler England, Garth Brooks's college buddy and former sideman, is back in business with "Highways & Dance Halls," his first album in four years and his first for Brooks's Capitol Records. With Brooks himself at the production helm, England delivers a winning neo-traditionalist project that highlights his understated vocal style and stays true to the country roots that his former employer has tended to leave behind. With special guest Steve Wariner, England also revisits his one big RCA hit, "Should've Asked Her Faster." If this album is any indication, he won't be a one-hit hat act for long.
"When It All Goes South"
Alabama ~ more
For 20 years, Alabama have cultivated a large, devoted audience, amassing a slew of No. 1 hits (42 to be exact) along the way. In recent years, they've been striving hard to remain relevant, as their collaboration with 'N Sync would attest. "When It All Goes South" finds them mining modern R&B, soft rock, and, well, softer rock territory with mixed results. And one has to wonder how you go from an 'N Sync guest spot on one album to Christopher Cross on the next. Perhaps the adult-contemporary world holds more promise than the boy-band set.
More and more filmmakers are turning to the sounds of country music to capture the right mood in their soundtracks. There are currently four excellent major soundtracks that rely heavily on country:
"O Brother, Where Art Thou?" ~ more
The soundtrack to the Coen brothers' new movie features a stirring selection of Southern roots styles including old-time mountain music, blues, gospel, and even chain-gang chants. Alison Krauss, Gillian Welch, and Ralph Stanley are among the participants.
"All the Pretty Horses" ~ more
For director and country fanatic Billy Bob Thornton's film, Marty Stuart blends traditional country and bluegrass with orchestral flourishes of strings and percussion on his first movie score.
"The Gift" ~ more
Young neo-traditionalists such as Neko Case and the Souvenirs mix and mingle with legends like Loretta Lynn, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, George Jones, and Willie Nelson, who contributes a brand-new recording. Billy Bob Thornton cowrote the screenplay.
"You Can Count on Me" ~ more
This soundtrack surveys the existing catalog of Steve Earle's E-Squared label, including Marah, the V-Roys, Bap Kennedy, and of course Earle himself.
Following are some noteworthy best-of collections aimed at the country consumer:
Tim McGraw ~ more
Mr. Faith Hill is on top of the country world right now, racking up awards and selling out arenas, and this 15-song set is a fine introduction for those who haven't yet jumped on the bandwagon.
"The Ultimate Collection"
Patsy Cline ~ more
Looking for a nice compromise between the classic but meager "12 Greatest Hits" and the four-disc "Patsy Cline Collection"? This two-disc, 32-song set will fit the bill.
"The Best of Joe Ely"
Joe Ely ~ more
This 20-song collection is a well-chosen overview of Ely's career and a perfect way to get acquainted with the Texan's roadhouse recipe of country, rock, blues, and Tex-Mex.
DIGITAL DOWNLOADS: MERLE HAGGARD
Country legend Merle Haggard has spent the better part of his career
singing about his wild side, his "ramblin' fever," and his turbulent
love life, but the compelling new "If I Could Only Fly" finds a
tender and mature Hag. His priorities may have changed, but his
music's emotional force surely has not. Download a pair of new Hag
tunes for free.
To download two new Merle Haggard cuts go to: CLICK
Emmylou Harris and Allison Moorer are among the dozens of artists
available for sampling in our Free Downloads area at:
ADVANCE ORDERS: DOWN THE ROAD APIECE
"I Need You"
LeAnn Rimes ~ more
The 18-year-old Rimes continues her exploration of various pop-music styles that she showed on the "Coyote Ugly" soundtrack, adding a duet with Elton John.
"The Houston Kid"
Rodney Crowell ~ more
Crowell's Sugar Hill debut, his first record of new material in four years, is a reflective 12-song cycle that deals with his childhood and the rough neighborhood where he lived it.
"Who I Am"
Jessica Andrews ~ more
The sophomore effort from this young singer boasts a title track that's making headway on radio and on television.
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