Category Archives: Awards

The Low Down on Justin Timberlake

jt cmas

JT and New Artist of the Year Chris Stapleton break it down at the 2015 CMAs.

Ex-boy bander Justin Timberlake performed at this year’s CMAs and can now be heard on some country music radio stations. As a listener of all genres of music I think that this could actually be an interesting and achievable endeavor for Justin; however, I know that many of you (with little knowledge of JT) might be nervous about this. Never fear, your resident JT expert is here to save the day and fill you in on what you’ve missed throughout his career. Here is the low down on the “soul of Memphis” as Brad Paisley would say.


Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Justin was raised a southern boy with a very distinct southern voice. The world was first introduced to Justin’s talent when he got a spot alongside, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Ryan Gosling and other star kids on The Mickey Mouse Club in 1993. On MMC, Justin got immense amounts of training in singing, dancing and acting (all of which he could already do very well). In 1995, Justin would go on to leave MMC at the age of 14 and later that year form superstar boy band *NSYNC.

***Side note: My favorite part of Justin’s career started this year (also happens to be the year I was born). And in just 3 years, I would be able to mutter the words “I love Justin” while I was toddler dancing around watching him and the rest of the boys on my parents TV (back when MTV played music videos 24/7). ***


LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 1999: *NSYNC, (clockwise L) Chris Kirkpatrick, JC Chasez, Joey Fatone, Lance Bass and Justin Timberlake sit for a portrait in Los Angeles 1999. (Photo by Bob Berg/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Chris Kirkpatrick;Justin Timberlake;Joey Fatone;Lance Bass JC Chasez

*NSYNC: Justin with the curly platinum-blond hair on the right, then Lance, Joey, JC and Chris on the left.

*NSYNC: the boy band to end all boy bands. Justin, Joey, JC, Lance and Chris took on the world from ’95 to ’02. Although Justin had previously been on a TV show, which he gained recognition from, he was thrust into the spotlight when he became the non-official lead singer of this group of talented guys. *NSYNC really created a name for Justin in the pop music scene. The Grammy-nominated group reigned victorious in pop music while attracting screaming girls from all over the world.


In 2002 hearts broke everywhere at the dismemberment of *NSYNC; however, Justin quickly arose from the ashes of boy-bands-who-were and started producing solo albums and acting in major Hollywood films. He has won more awards as a solo artist, including nine Grammy’s, than with his boy band. As his emergence as a solo artist prevailed, he proved that he was not only a pop artist but also could pull some R&B and soulful vibes, as well. This southern boy has proved himself in more areas than many hopeful singers and actors can think of in a lifetime.

jt and brit

The early 2000s power couple, Britney and Justin. (And look at that cowboy hat… Ready for country music, am I right?)


Justin is a man of few flaws (in my eyes) which comes from his pretty squeaky clean image. His portrayal in the media from his *NSYNC days was the cute, blond, curly headed boy dating Britney Spears and making girls cry as he walked by. He was perfect. Today his image remains the same. His very public friendship with Jimmy Fallon makes him funny, his recent marriage to Jessica Biel makes him desirable but unattainable and his overall career in music, movies and TV makes him well rounded and an admirable celebrity.


During the 2015 CMAs, Justin took the stage with New Artist of the Year winner Chris Stapleton to take on Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey” and later his own “Drink You Away” (a very country sounding song, if you ask me). Well, you don’t have to ask me because apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so. The CMA audience liked Justin’s performance so much that “Drink You Away,” a song released in 2013 shot up on the iTunes charts and is now getting airtime on country radio.

So what’s to come of Justin Timberlake in country music? No one can be sure but from what we know of him and his career and his sound, we can be sure that it won’t suck. Nope, not one bit. I think this southern Tennessee boy has covered everything except country, so honestly it’s time.


Filed under Awards, Blog Post 4, Live Music, Movies and TV

Reese Witherspoon as June Carter Cash

reese1Growing up listening to country favorite, Johnny Cash, my family eagerly awaited the release of the movie based on his life and career, Walk the Line, in 2005, two years after Cash’s death. The movie portrayed Cash’s struggles and his constantly teetering career beautifully. The cast of the movie performed each part with stunning similarity to the assumed characteristics of the real life stars. My favorite part in the movie, however, was Reese Witherspoon as June Carter Cash.

Reese Witherspoon has always been a great role model and southern sweetheart to all her fans. She has had plenty of roles in movies that strengthen fans’ love for her. She stepped up to the next level when she performed as June Carter Cash in Walk the Line. Not only did she perform the character of June with magnificence, but she also learned to sing for the part, stunning fans and critics everywhere. Who knew Reese had such an amazing voice for singing?

It wasn’t something she learned overnight, however. According to an article from “Taste of Country,” Reese, and Joaquin Phoenix alike, went through vigorous vocal training from famed music producer, T-bone Burnett. An article from IMBD stated also that Reese really did learn to play the instruments she uses in the movie and sang for the movie without being dubbed like actors are in most singing scenes. Speaking to MTV in 2004, before the movie was released, Reese spoke of her role in the film. “It’s been so hard; it’s been really, really one of the hardest movies I’ve ever had to make. I had to do four months of rehearsals. I had to learn to play autoharp. I had to take singing lessons. I had to record an album, which was the most challenging, horrifying experience of my life. Me singing in front of people while they’re listening to me is just horrifying. And it gets exponentially horrifying when extras show up and have to watch you and you have to pretend you’re at a concert and singing and they like it.”

Reese never did get to meet June Carter Cash, as she died before production of the movie began. Witherspoon did, however, get to listen to a pre-recorded interview with June and speak to her children in order to learn more about the woman she was to portray. She also got to research June’s closet for inspiration before shooting for the film began. In the same interview with MTV about the movie, Reese said, “I met with the family, I met with her children. I talked to them. I visited her house, got to walk through her closet and stuff. I know that sounds strange, but just to see her things and see all her musical instruments and see where she lived and spent a lot of her time, a lot of that kind of stuff has been really helpful. Friends of the family have been on set and I’ve had a lot of time to sort of absorb that side of it.”

Witherspoon certainly wooed the crowds with her portrayal as June. She won an Oscar for best performing actress in 2006 for her role in Walk the Line. She stayed humble, as always in her career. I still, to this day, will have a mood that leads me to open up the soundtrack to Walk the Line on my phone and begin playing Witherspoon’s covers of June. I have a deep respect for June Carter Cash and her music, but something about the way Reese Witherspoon performed June’s songs brought new life to the lyrics and tunes played. Reese, you’re a truly talented woman.


Filed under Awards, Blog Post 3, Movies and TV, Women

6 Best Moments of the CMA Awards

The 2015 CMA Awards (a.k.a the water cooler gossip at work on Thursday) had some pretty mixed reviews. There are countless articles and disagreements regarding outfits, performances, and winners. While scrolling through lists of the best and worst moments, it was funny to see how some peoples opinions of best moments were others ideas of the worst. I think people just don’t know how to feel about the overall award show this year, except for one thing — no Taylor Swift. She has moved on from country music and I am glad everyone finally acknowledged it. Love it or hate it though, I want to focus on the positive aspects. We can bash on it all we want, but there were some pretty awesome parts that show it hasn’t gone completely down hill.

6. Chris Stapleton’s Many Wins

Stapleton made a name for himself when he won best new artist, best album for Traveller (which spiked 4,000% the day after the show), and best male vocalist. USA Today would even say he “is here to save country music.” This genre has taken an interesting direction in the past decade and Stapleton has taken it back to its real roots. He said in his acceptance speech, “about two years ago I lost my dad and I made this record thinking about the music he would have liked.” He was genuinely surprised by his many wins and with a beard like that you can’t help but love him.

5. Luke Bryan Not Shaking His Butt

Luke is turning 40 next year and, although he won entertainer of the year, he let go of his bro country image with his performance of “Strip It Down,” while fully clothed. We were finally able to focus on his vocals to understand why he was nominated for Male Vocalist of the Year. It is good to see him finally acting his age.

2004. Tribute to the Late Little Jimmy Dickens

This 4-foot-11 Grand Ole Opry star made many appearances in earlier CMA awards with Brad and Carrie. He unfortunately passed away earlier this year so it was only right to honor him with an urn. Well a miniature urn inside a bigger urn that Paisley pulled out. He mentioned that Dickens wanted to leave making people laugh and he surely accomplished that. There were a few questionable jokes during their intro, but they nailed that one.

3. Carrie Underwood.

As Little Big Town would say, I’ve got a girl crush. With her 12 perfect outfit changes and wowing of the crowd with her current song “Smoke Break,” there was nothing she did that wasn’t flawless. Whether she had princess Leia buns or knee high leather boots, she rocked it. Her and Brad Paisleys monologue wasn’t their best one in their eight years as hosts, but she looked pretty doing it.

2. Miranda Lambert Keeping it Honest

Great timing Blake. With their split up only months ago and Blake’s announcement of his new girlfriend just 20 minutes before the show, Miranda’s statement of “I needed a bright spot this year” is very accurate. She deserved Female Vocalist of the Year and killed her performance of “Bathroom Sink” with her new pink hair. Blake tried to “win” the break up but failed. I can’t wait to see the new album she releases all about him.

1. Justin Timberlake & Chris Stapleton

Since I began with Chris Stapleton, it is only fair to end with him considering his enormous success during the award show. Not only did he win three awards as I mentioned earlier, but also had the best performance of the night hands down. I think who really stole the show though was JT. “The Nashville sound meets the soul of Memphis” said Brad Paisley. I would not be upset if Timberlake went country, because I believe he can do it all. Thank you to this duo for killing it.

2608Even though ratings were down 16% from last year, I think country music is finally starting to get over the hump of the pop sound. With the successful boom of Chris Stapleton and the non-bro Luke Bryan, I believe that country music will start to make its way back up. There is hope for this genre.


Filed under Awards, Blog Post 4, Lists

Country Music Hall of Fame: The Class of 2015 & 5 People who Still Haven’t Been Recognized

Note to students: You’re welcome to comment on this post for a grade.

HOF Class of 2015Earlier this week, the Country Music Hall of Fame formally welcomed its new class of inductees, which included the vocal harmony groups the Browns (in the Veterans Era category) and the Oak Ridge Boys (in the Modern Era category), as well as the iconic guitarist Grady Martin. At some point, the new members and the old members who attended the ceremony got together for the kind of photograph that my family takes after weddings and other family reunions. Looking at the picture, I had the following thoughts:

  • Of course Brenda Lee is sitting in Grady’s son’s lap. She’s 70 years old and still the queen of the “Christmas party hop.”
  • What a shame that Jim Ed Brown, the best known of the three Browns, couldn’t make it. At least the Hall of Fame had the heart to bring the medal to his hospital bed before he died.
  • For all the complaining I do about the Hall of Fame, I have to admit they made a great decision inducting Connie White. Despite the record-shattering success she had with “Once a Day” in 1964, she’s exactly the kind of woman performer that the Hall of Fame typically overlooks.
  • In this group, Vince Gill (58) and Garth Brooks (53) look like teenagers. Vince needs to shave.

I also couldn’t help but wonder about all the people without medals who were left to stand around eating cocktail weenies on toothpicks while the picture was being taken — among them Garth’s wife Trisha Yearwood and Connie’s husband Marty Stuart.

But Trisha and Marty are only two of many worthy performers who are still waiting for the Hall to welcome them in. Being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame wouldn’t mean anything if they let everybody in, and yet there are some exclusions that make me scratch my head more than others.

Here are five names that I would love to see recognized next year with plaques in that hallowed Nashville rotunda:

1. Rose Maddox

The Maddox Brothers and RoseRose Maddox led a storied career as a sassy country belle for more than 40 years. As the lead vocalist of the Maddox Brothers and Rose in the 1940s and 1950s, she helped invent rockabilly music, she popularized the flashy suits that everyone from Porter Wagoner to Marty Robbins would be wearing by the late 1960s, and she primed the live country scene in California for the likes of Wynn Stewart (also uninducted), Buck Owens, and Merle Haggard. As a soloist in the 1960s, she had several chart hits, and her influence can be heard in many of the women who followed her into the industry, among them Jean Shepard, Wanda Jackson, Brenda Lee, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, and Dolly Parton — all of whom (but Wanda, see below) have beat poor Rose into the Hall of Fame. Seriously, what more can a gal do?

2. Skeeter Davis

In 1953, Skeeter Davis and her friend Betty Jack Davis made history as the first female group to hit #1 on the country charts with “I Forgot More than You’ll Ever Know about Him.” Their hopes of becoming a successful duo were dashed later that summer, when Betty Jack was killed in a car accident. A few years later, Skeeter re-emerged as a solo performer, and in the early 1960s she racked up a number of pop-country crossover hits including “The End of the World,” which is one of the decade’s most enduring songs in any genre. In the 1970s, she shed her image as an innocent girl singer and recorded edgier material including the anti-war song “One Tin Soldier.” Along with Dottie West she is one of the few major stars of the Nashville Sound era who hasn’t yet been recognized by the Hall of Fame.

3. Stonewall Jackson

While we’re on the subject of big stars from the 1960s who’re still waiting for their Hall of Fame plaques, let’s talk about Stonewall Jackson. As one might expect from a guy who was named after a Confederate general, Jackson brought an appreciation of history to some of his biggest hits, among them 1959’s “Waterloo,” which uses Napoleon’s defeat as an allegory for falling in love, and 1966’s “The Minutemen (Are Turning in Their Graves),” which draws a contrast between the American Revolution and the anti-Vietnam protests of the 1960s.

He hasn’t recorded a new album since the late 1970s, but he has continued to perform on the Grand Ole Opry. Why he hasn’t been inducted yet is anybody’s guess. Maybe it’s because the lawsuit he filed against the Opry in 2008 for age discrimination turned some powerful Nashvillians against him. Maybe it’s because the Hall of Fame knows that late night TV shows and The Onion will have a field day if it inducts an artist whose name conjures such strong images of the Confederate south. Whatever the hold-up is, I just hope the Hall gets over it while the guy’s still alive to enjoy it. The pictures of him attending other people’s induction ceremonies are heartbreaking.

4. Wanda Jackson

I fell in love with Wanda Jackson last year, when I caught her performing a live show at the Continental Club. Even at age 77, she was a ball of fire, shrieking like a sex-starved inmate during “Riot in Cell Block #9,” yodeling her way through “I Betcha My Heart I Love You,” and turning the heat up on Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good.” The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has rightfully recognized her contributions to rock music, but really, rock was a short detour for Jackson, who started her career singing country music and returned to country music when the rockabilly moment passed. In the 60s, she racked up an enviable number of Top 40 country hits, including “The Box It Came In” (1966) and “My Big Iron Skillet” (1969), which warned no-good husbands that their wives might do them in if they didn’t clean up their acts. As a sign of her versatility, Jackson has also recorded albums in German and Japanese.

5. Hank Williams, Jr.

Hank, Jr., has sold 70 million albums over the course of a career that began in in 1964 and shows no signs of stopping any time soon. With eleven #1 songs (and more than 30 others that reached the Top 10), he is, as my country blog-hero Trigger puts it, “the most decorated artist to not be in the Hall of Fame who has been eligible for an extended period.” I don’t care for the guy’s politics, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think he’s a major and positive influence on country music, or that the Hall hasn’t taken too long getting ’round to recognizing him. Make it a “Family Tradition,” y’all.

CMHOF-LogoWith the 2015 induction complete, the Country Music Hall of Fame can turn its attention to selecting the next three members to join its exclusive ranks. This country fan can only hope that when the new class is announced early next year that one of these five deserving names will finally be called.

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Filed under Awards, Class work, Hall of Fame, News, Women

The Gatlin Brothers: Famous Artists or Just Family?

IMG_4837The entire semester I have learned so much about the country music world in class, yet I never realized how close I’ve been to the real country music world in my own dorm. My friend Lauren Gatlin (you might recognize her last name from the Gatlin Brothers) has grown up around the country music industry her entire life and often spends a casual weekend backstage in Nashville. She was kind enough to spend a little while chatting with me about her father, and even called him during our interview. Her father is Rudy Gatlin, one part of the famous three-part brother band, The Gatlin Brothers. They sing a three-part harmony where Rudy takes on the high harmony. One of the brothers, Steve, plays the base and the other two play the acoustic guitar.

The Gatlin Brothers were huge in the 1970s and 80s, and their music is considered by most to be classic country, but they create gospel music as well. Larry, Steve, and Rudy may be superstars to the average country music fan, but to my friend Lauren they are just family.

Just like any other normal person, these three brothers lived an average childhood in the small town of Abilene, Texas. They all started singing at a very young age as sort of a family hobby. Lauren’s father, Rudy, went on to Texas Tech and it wasn’t until after college that the brothers decided to officially form their band.

Together these brothers won a Grammy in 1976 for their hit song “Broken Lady”, the same year they officially decided to join together as a band. You may recognize them from their other songs such as “All the Gold”, “Houston”, “Night-time Magic”, and “I Don’t Wanna Cry” just to name a few.

However, their success and passion for music hasn’t stopped since. Just three years ago they won the Pioneer Award at the Academy of Country Music Awards. They are also members of the Grand Ole Opry. Rudy, now 62 years old, and his two brothers continue to create music to inspire others. Lauren revealed to me that they are actually working on another gospel album, because that is what they are most passionate about at this time. Lauren told me that her father Rudy and his brothers love reaching out to people on a spiritual level. They have been reassured several times of their positive influence by receiving letters of thanks from fans who turned their life around because of The Gatlin Brother’s songs. Not only is Lauren’s father successful and famous, he’s also a great Christian man and father.


After hearing everything about the Gatlin Brothers from one of their own family members, I was blown away by how normal brothers could reach such high success through simple hard work and dedication. By this point in the conversation I was so fascinated by Lauren’s normal experiences that would be an experience of a lifetime for me. She attended the most recent Academy of Country Music Awards that many of us watched and wrote about for the class. Lauren has met Hunter Hayes, Kenny Rogers, Taylor Swift, Martina McBride, Lady Antebellum, The Band Perry, Little Big Town, Lee Brice and many other famous country music performers.

Even though Lauren’s father is friends with famous artists and is famous himself, he still maintains a normal family life in Dallas while his two brothers still live in Nashville. It just goes to show that famous artists are real people with real lives, and all they really want to do is create music and make others happy.


Filed under Awards, Classic Country