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Looking Back at Country Music in 2006
A retrospective by
Cheryl Harvey Hill, Sr. Staff Journalist 

This has been a very interesting year for country music. A lot of change has taken place within the industry and the myspace.com phenomenon has opened a brand new door between the country music fans and countless independent artists; many of them on par with, or even superior to, major label artists. We've always been champions of the indie artists here at CountryStarsOnline.com so we were pleased as punch when Chris Young garnered the title of Nashville Star. His self-titled, first album on a major label, verified that all the kudos we have been sending his way over the past two years were warranted and it also validated, once again, our ability to recognize potential superstars.

The albums that stood out for me this past year were an eclectic mix of old and new and included artists from such diverse regions as Norway (Karin Wright) and Central Texas (GayLynn Robinson). Among my favorites were also some delicious country staples. At the start of this year Alan Jackson released Precious Memories, a soothing Gospel CD, then came back in the fall with Like Red on a Rose to show why he is the most nominated performer in CMA history but the album that was constantly in my CD player was Toby Keith's White Trash With Money. I love every single song on this album and it personifies country music in that it manages to strike an almost symbiotic chord encompassing every emotion between ecstasy and nonsensical hysteria.

In the "yet to be discovered by the rest of the world" category; Kameron Ross (L) and Crystal Sands (R) immediately come to mind. These two young artists could easily be the Merle and Martina of their generation. Sands and Ross both have been incredibly blessed with way more than just talent. Both are just as easy on the eyes as they are on the ears and both have a delightful sense of humor and winning personalities.  

Other new artists you definitely want to keep an eye on are Ansel Brown (L) and Gene Bowshier (R). Since I haven't heard their full albums yet, I am basing my opinion on the songs I've heard on their myspace pages but I feel confident in predicting that you will soon be familiar with both of these names if you aren't already. Another artist that really impressed me this past year was Stephen Pride; yes "Pride" as in Charlie. You didn't know that Charlie had a brother? Truth is, neither did I until I received this album. What a delightful surprise. Very talented entertainer and his album is one of the best I've ever heard.

Kelly Lang is still on my list of artists to watch not only because she is an amazing singer but because she is one of the most gifted and prolific songwriters anywhere and you may soon be hearing her songs on the sound tracks of some of your favorite movies since she has recently garnered the attention of some of the movers and shakers in Hollywood. Don’t take my word for it; she often showcases her new songs on her myspace.

I am pleased as punch that two of my favorite artists, Joe Nichols and Gretchen Wilson, managed to stay consistently on the charts, which kept them on radio throughout 2006, and equally pleased that Tracy Lawrence and Rick Trevino will both have new albums out at the start of 2007. YAHOO! Opps, sorry, but just the thought of hearing these two on radio again makes it difficult for me to not cheer out loud.

The biggest disappointment of this year is... well, allow me to just cut and paste what I wrote in my summary of 2005: "When it comes to new artists to watch we are STILL waiting for Curb Records to release the debut album of one of the most talented and most beautiful bands to ever grace a stage in Nashville or anywhere else for that matter. The vivacious, rockin', all-female band, Cowboy Crush (AKA Debbie Johnson, Darla Perlozzi, Renae Truex, Becky Priest and Trenna Barnes) is still right at the very top of my list." Now here we are at the end of 2006 and still being told that the album is "nearly finished." Luckily, as they wait for the album to be released, they are touring across the country and around the world. I saw these gals in concert twice this past year and, as implausible as it may seem, they tend to only get better. After their tour through Europe I received several letters from Norway, France and Switzerland, all confirming what we have been saying all along, that these gals are amazingly talented, beautiful and personable. Their vocal harmonies are peerless and as musicians, they also excel. Johnson was featured in the November issue of Bassgirls Monthly and Priest was featured in the December issue of Keyboard Magazine. Write this down, "Cowboy Crush." They are my pick for vocal group of the year, every year, any year. Period. 

One of the saddest moments for me this past year was when I heard about the death of Freddy Fender. I had always been a fan of his music but after interviewing him, I became a fan of the man. He was an incredibly talented entertainer and I will always remember him for his delightful sense of humor (especially when laughing at himself) and how kind he was to me. My heart goes out to his family and his lovely wife, Vangie. Baldemar G. Huerta; agradecidamente, la leyenda continúa.

After more than ten years of working in this industry as a journalist and album reviewer, I would say that the one thing I know for absolute certainty is that success in this business has little to do with talent. There are so many incredibly gifted artists that may never find their way onto CMT or GAC or any major radio station so do yourself a favor; listen to your small local stations, net radio and I guarantee you will discover an overabundance of talent on the Internet; much of it right here on CSO.

Last but not least, I want to say how very proud I am to be affiliated with CountryStarsOnline.com. Jim Weaver and his amazing staff do such a great job of showcasing the diversity that is available in country music today. Working with them not only allows me the opportunity to work at something I love but being a journalist has never been so much fun.

Until next year.
Keepin' it country,
Cheryl Harvey Hill

 

 

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