Music: Country

March 11, 2011

Sierra Hull, Daybreak

Sierra Hull, Daybreak A splendid blend of contemporary songwriting and traditional bluegrass instrumentation, Sierra Hull's second album, Daybreak, is a tremendous accomplishment, sounding simultaneously current and traditional. Hull wrote seven of the 12 tracks and is, at a very young age, an extremely skilled writer, singer, and instrumentalist. Hull's mandolin playing is stunning. Her tone and precision are simply unbelievable considering that she's just 19 years old. And her vocals are as gorgeous and clear as any bluegrass singer today. Like Sarah Jarosz, Hull plays effortlessly with contemporary themes and structure while maintaining an aura of vintage-style authority and power. This is an impressive album and ups the ante over her already great debut album.

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March 10, 2011

Sheryl Crow, Alicia Keys, Madonna, Missy Elliott, More: Napster Playlists Featuring Women

As we continue our celebration of Women's History Month, we thought it would be nice to highlight some of the many Napster playlists focused on music made by women. These are from all different genres and styles, so have a look, click on whatever sounds good to you, and let's hear it from the ladies!

American Women American Women Popular roots music and country hits from some of the top female artists in America. Includes songs from June Carter Cash, Loretta Lynn, and Sheryl Crow.

Hot R&B Female Vocalists Hot R&B: Female Vocalists: Some of the hottest tracks and biggest hits from major stars, including songs from Keyshia Cole, Fantasia, Alicia Keys, and Beyoncé.

Essential Lite Female Vocalists Essential Lite: Female Vocalists: Great soft pop and ballads from many eras, featuring artists such as Peggy Lee, Blossom Dearie, and Roberta Flack.

Women of Comedy Women of Comedy: Hilarious bits from the funniest females in stand-up comedy, including Ellen Degeneres, Sarah Silverman, Sandra Bernhard, and Lisa Lampanelli.

Legendary Ladies of Country Legendary Ladies of Country: Unforgettable female stars of the '60s and '70s who paved the way for today's generations. Includes Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, and Loretta Lynn.

Grrrl Power Grrrl Power: Celebrate the women of alternative rock with a slew of classic tracks from such mainstays as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Hole, PJ Harvey, and more.

Pioneering Women of the Blues Pioneering Women of the Blues: Though blues artists tend to be men, a surprising number of women have made a crucial impact, including Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, and Ida Cox.

Pop Divas The '80s Pop Divas: The '80s: A platinum setting of hits from some of the decade's most glittering solo female superstars, including Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Debbie Gibson, and more.

Female Jazz Vocalists of Today Female Jazz Vocalists of Today: Music from stellar comtemporary vocalists informed by both traditional and modern jazz. Features Dianne Reeves, Cassandra Wilson, and Diana Krall.

Composing Women Composing Women: Works from female composers working in what was once a male-dominated field. Includes Barbara Strozzi, Fanny Mendelssohn, and Meredith Monk.

Women of Contemporary Christian Music Women of Contemporary Christian Music: The most uplifting tracks from female artists leading the way in CCM, featuring Francesca Battistelli, Bethany Dillon, and Heather Hedley.

Ladies First Female MCs Ladies First: Female MCs: Get in touch with the first ladies of hip-hop. But don't expect them to go easy on you—these MCs, including Missy Elliott, Salt-N-Pepa, Queen Latifah, are fierce.

Femmes Fatales Femmes Fatales: Devastatingly seductive sounds from the dark side of alternative music, including music by Björk, PJ Harvey, Portishead, Morcheeba, and more.

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March 08, 2011

Sara Evans, Stronger

Sara Evans, Stronger Sara Evans has away from the recording studio for quite some time. Her last studio album of all original material was Real Fine Place, released way back in 2005. Since that time, she hasn't entirely been out of the spotlight, however. Evans famously bowed out of Dancing with the Stars to deal with a painfully messy and public divorce, and in its aftermath, she took some time away from the music business to straighten out her personal life. Now she's back with Stronger, an album and title that resonates with her emergence from the difficulties of the last few years. And if the tracks on the album are any indication, Evans has, indeed, not only survived the turmoil, but come back a little bit stronger than she was before (just like the song says). As a whole, Stronger isn't necessarily perfect, but it's a great thing to finally get to hear new music from one of country's finer female voices.

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New Music Tuesday: Exclusive Pearl Jam, Glee Cast, Lupe Fiasco, Sara Evans, R.E.M, Avril Lavigne

Most new music comes out on Tuesdays, and each week we cull through the mountain of new releases to bring you some of the best from different genres. Click below, or find them in Napster’s New Releases/Featured Music section.

Pearl Jam, Vs./Vitalogy (Deluxe Edition) Pearl Jam, Vs./Vitalogy (Deluxe Edition) (Alternative, Rock): Napster has four exclusive bonus tracks available for streaming as a preview of the upcoming combined reissue of Vs. and Vitalogy on March 29. The exclusive tracks include previously unreleased live versions of "Even Flow," "Once," and "Daughter."


Glee Cast, Glee, The Music, Volume 5 Glee Cast, Glee: The Music, Volume 5 (Pop, Soundtracks): The latest volume from the series about everyone's favorite glee club includes the "Thriller/Heads Will Roll" mash-up, The Human League's "Don't You Want Me," "Kiss" and "Landslide" featuring Gwyneth Paltrow, and two original songs, a first for the series.


Lupe Fiasco, LASERS Lupe Fiasco, LASERS (Hip-Hop/Rap): Originally titled LupE.N.D., since it was to be the Chicago rapper's last album, this set was tied up in label limbo until fans demanded its release. LASERS expands to Love Always Shines Everytime, Remember 2 Smile, and features "Words I Never Said" and "The Show Must Go On."


Sara Evans, Stronger Sara Evans, Stronger (Country): After a six-year hiatus, the country superstar releases a new album of material. With personal issues behind her, she's now ready for a major comeback, starting with the album's lead single "A Little Bit Stronger," which was also featured in the movie Country Strong.


R.E.M, Collapse Into Now R.E.M, Collapse into Now (Rock): Not many groups can boast 15 studio albums under their belts, but R.E.M. isn't just any group. For their latest, they go for a more expansive sound, enlisting guests including Patti Smith, Eddie Vedder, and Peaches. Their first single is "Mine Smell Like Honey."


Avril Lavigne, Goodbye Lullaby Avril Lavigne, Goodbye Lullaby (Pop, Rock): After several setbacks and delays, the Canadian pop star's latest album finally sees the light of day after two-and-a-half years in the making. Lavigne's writing can be found on all of the album's tracks, including the current single "What the Hell."
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March 04, 2011

Lucinda Williams, Blessed

Lucinda Williams, Blessed Lucinda Williams' talent is undeniable; she's been releasing affecting and intensely personal records for over 30 years now. She is, however, somewhat mercurial and has chosen many times not to offer listeners the easiest road to becoming fans. Her work can be exhilarating and gorgeous, but it can also be deeply introspective and reflective of difficult individual struggles. That is, of course, what being an artist is, or should be, about. That said, Williams has just released Blessed, a truly amazing album by this veteran artist. It's her best work since World without Tears, but it also happens to be her most accessible music in a very long time; those unfamiliar with her work will find it as fine an introduction as anything in her catalog. The songs are immediately appealing, but, as always, contain complex examinations of human experience. Guests on Blessed include Elvis Costello and Matthew Sweet, while production was handled by the legendary Don Was. This is a fascinating, wonderful album.

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March 03, 2011

Buddy Miller, The Majestic Silver Strings

Buddy Miller, The Majestic Silver Strings Just in case there was any lingering doubt, Buddy Miller is, in fact, a genius. The opening strains of "Cattle Call," a cover of the iconic Eddy Arnold song that leads off The Majestic Silver Strings, feel warm, endearing and comfortable. The ethereal and reverberant instrumentation welcomes the listener into Miller's most accomplished and assured outing to date. In the last 10 years, he has released the following amazing albums: Midnight and Lonesome (2002),  Universal House of Prayer (2004), Written In Chalk (with wife Julie in 2009) and now, The Majestic Silver Strings. In that timeframe he has also produced records for Solomon Burke, Allison Moorer, Patty Griffin, and Robert Plant (among others). The Majestic Silver Strings is a compelling collection of tracks (mostly classic country covers) that feature tantalizing guest performances from Griffin, Lee Ann Womack, Emmylou Harris, Julie Miller and a host of equally impeccable musicians. This is undoubtedly one of the top Americana releases of 2011 (and you'd probably be safe even removing the "Americana" from that statement), and it's an album to play over and over and over again.

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February 28, 2011

Drive-By Truckers, Go-Go Boots

Drive-By Truckers, Go-Go BootsDrive-By Truckers are back with another fine album. With Go-Go Boots boosting the band's catalog to an even dozen records in about as many years, DBT have demonstrated an impressive ability to keep the music coming, but more important, their records consistently have an enormously appealing quality. The band has managed to learn and grow, get better at their instruments, write better songs, and generally evolve, asll without losing the rawness and vulnerability that made them such a treasure back in '98 when Gangstabilly first signaled that America had a new favorite country-flavored alt-rock band. Go-Go Boots may be a bit mellower that typical DBT, but the album seems somehow even deeper than the band's recent work and definitely gets more engrossing with each successive listen.

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February 22, 2011

New Music Tuesday: Adele, Keith Urban, Lenny Kravitz, Katy Perry

Most new music comes out on Tuesdays (it's a U.S. record business tradition), and each week we cull through the mountain of new releases to bring you some of the best from across different genres. Click below, or find them in Napster's New Releases/Featured Music section.

Adele, 21 Adele, 21 (Pop) After establishing her fanbase with her breakout debut 19, the UK singer-songwriter continues to impress with her soulful bluesy stylings on her latest album, 21. It features the singles "Rolling in the Deep" and "Someone Like You," which she performed at the recent 2011 Brit Awards.


Keith Urban, Get Closer (Deluxe Edition) Keith Urban, Get Closer (Deluxe Version) (Country): The expanded edition of Urban's 2010 hit Get Closer includes seven additional tracks; three new songs ("Big Promises," "The Luxury of Knowing," and "Winning") and live versions of some of the Australian country star's biggest hits.


Lenny Kravitz, Come On Get It Lenny Kravitz, "Come On Get It" (Rock): Debuting the song at the NBA All-Star Game this past weekend, Kravitz sets the tone for his long-awaited ninth studio album, tentatively titled Black and White America, a funk-rock excursion currently scheduled to be released this summer.


Katy Perry, "E.T." (featuring Kanye West) Katy Perry, "E.T. (featuring Kanye West)" (Pop): Kanye West manages to spice things up with some saucy and suggestive lyrics on Perry's newest single, a rap-added update to the track on her hit Teenage Dream album. Will it be enough to give Katy her fourth #1 in a row? We wouldn't bet against her (see post below).


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February 17, 2011

Thompson Square

Thompson Square Decidedly on the rock side of the country-rock equation, Thompson Square shows up with a debut album that, while somewhat mired in the ordinary, provides just enough oomph to make it worth one's time to click play and give it a good listen. The songs are catchy and the production, which features Jason Aldean's road band in dual roles as musicians and producers (along with David Fanning), is spot-on. Of course, the album features "Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not," a sizable hit for the duo, but other tracks deal playfully with the husband/wife relationship of Keifer and Shawna Thompson (especially "Let's Fight") and are good reason to hope for even better things from Thompson Square in the future.

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February 15, 2011

Aaron Lewis, “Country Boy”

Aaron Lewis, Country Boy Country fans may or may not know Aaron Lewis from his regular gig as frontman of Staind, but the singer-songwriter is making a serious bid to win a Nashville audience with "Country Boy," the first single from his upcoming country EP, Town Line. Lewis worked with veteran producer, label exec, and Stroudavarious Records founder James Stroud (Tim McGraw, Clint Black, Clay Walker) on the record, and "Country Boy" includes guest work by country legends Charlie Daniels and George Jones, as well as a little harmonizing by up-and-comer Chris Young. Guess he's not fooling around here. Indeed, Lewis has country roots—he grew up in rural Vermont—and if he's of a mind to share them, we say more power to him. "I love this country, and I feel like I've gotten to live the American dream," he says in his current label bio. "I'm genuinely blessed to have this opportunity, and I'm glad to celebrate that classic country spirit with this new music." Of course, Lewis isn't the first rocker or pop star to go country—Darius Rucker, Jewel, and Bon Jovi come to mind as recent examples—but we have to ask: Is he the first nu-metal guy to check into Music City? At any rate, he's established his bona fides with "Country Boy," and we'll get to hear the rest of Town Line when it comes out on March 1.

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