The Year in Review: Top 20 Country Music News Stories of 2007

Matt Clark | December 31st, 2007

The 9513 began as a country music news site. During the past year we have diversified our content but daily news roundups remain popular among our readers. Thus, it’s only fitting that our Year in Review series for 2007 ends with a roundup of the year’s top country music news stories.

20. Sammy Kershaw’s Troubles. I suppose that the end of another Lorrie Morgan marriage is hardly newsworthy anymore, but add that to the accusations of scandal engendered by Kershaw’s failed run for Lieutenant Governor and the bankruptcy of his record label and you have one bad year.

19. Dale Watson Calls for the Creation of “Ameripolitan.” Disgusted with the pop sound of modern country radio and fearful that country music could not survive under that name, Texas artist Dale Watson ignited a controversy by suggesting that “country” is now synonymous with “crap” and proposing to reorganize the surviving traditional country music in a new genre called “Ameripolitan.”

18. Miranda Lambert Becomes the New Critics’ Darling. Miranda Lambert is among my favorite current artists and I noticed surprisingly strong cross-genre critical support congealing around Kerosene. What I did not foresee was the widespread praise for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: many cross-genre publications included Miranda’s sophomore album as the only country album on their year-end “best of” lists and Miranda even landed near the top of some. I don’t deny that Miranda deserves the praise, but I can think of many other country artists who are equally or even more deserving of such acclaim. Our own Jim Malec went further and suggested that Miranda Lambert is overrated.

17. Faith Hill Introduces Lori McKenna to the World. Lori McKenna was already respected among fans of obscure singer-songwriter material, but recording of her songs by Sara Evans and Faith Hill brought her to the attention of the Nashville establishment and the mainstream country audience. The result was a critically-acclaimed major-label debut, an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show and a spot on the Soul2SoulII Tour.

16. Vince Gill and Mel Tillis Join Country Music Hall of Fame. Some viewed Tillis’ induction as overdue while Gill’s induction was widely seen as surprisingly early but not undeserved. The Country Music Association’s decision to not recognize the inductees during the CMA Awards ignited controversy and was strongly criticized by our own Brady Vercher.

15. Keith Urban Returns from Rehab. Keith Urban was Sara Evan’s tabloid co-star as celebwatchers speculated about how his rehab stint would affect his music and marriage to actress Nicole Kidman.

14. Sara Evans’ Divorce Finalized. Shocking allegations made by Sara Evans and ex-husband Craig Schelske during their divorce proceedings became tabloid fodder in late 2006 and didn’t let up until the couple’s divorce was finalized in late September 2007.

13. Billy Joe Shaver Arrested in Shooting Incident. Outlaw Billy Joe Shaver was arrested in connection with a bar shooting. Accounts of the events were somewhat contradictory, but our own Brody Vercher did a good job of reconciling the evidence.

12. Stars Plan Crossover Albums. Jewel, Beyonce and Jessica Simpson announced their plans to record country albums while The Eagles and Bon Jovi released their crossover projects.

11. Last of the Breed Tour Together. Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Ray Price collaborated to stage an historic sold-out tour and record a two-disc collection of classic and original music.

10. Three Invited to Join Grand Ole Opry. After a long membership drought, the Grand Ole Opry extended membership invitations to Mel Tillis, Josh Turner and Charlie Daniels.

9. Stonewall Jackson Sues Grand Ole Opry. Dissatisfied with the infrequency of his Opry appearances and concerned for his financial survival, Grand Ole Opry star Stonewall Jackson alleged age discrimination in a lawsuit he filed against the Opry. Charlie Louvin supported Jackson’s complaint and a number of high-profile news stories left fans trying to reconcile Jackson’s accusations with the gray hairs that regularly grace the Opry stage.

8. Hank Thompson Passes. Country Music Hall of Famer Hank Thompson died of lung cancer only a few days after announcing his retirement. The 9513 reader Paul W. Dennis called the “Wild Side of Life” singer “the most consistently listenable artist that the genre has ever produced.”

7. Johnny Cash’s Former Home Destroyed by Fire. The legendary home of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, made famous most recently by the film Walk the Line, was destroyed by fire during renovation work undertaken by the home’s new owner, former Bee Gee Barry Gibb.

6. Sales in Decline. Like the rest of the music industry, country music was mired in a deep sales slump, with disappointing album sales and slowed growth in digital sales.

5. Porter Wagoner’s Comeback. One year removed from a nearly fatal medical crisis, Country Music Hall of Famer Porter Wagoner recorded a new album with producer Marty Stuart. The album was critically acclaimed and resulted in Porter performing on national television, opening for Jack White at Madison Square Garden, and being invited to light the National Christmas Tree by President Bush.

4. Taylor Swift’s Multiplatinum Success. One of the industry’s few commercial bright spots was strong sales of Taylor Swift’s debut album, which reached multiplatinum status on the strength of singles like “Teardrops on My Guitar.” Our own Ben Cisneros analyzed Taylor Swift’s impact on country music.

3. Garth Brooks’ Comeback. After years of semi-retirement, Garth Brooks took a significant step towards a comeback with the release of a Greatest Hits package, a number one single and several sold-out concerts in Kansas City.

2. Country Sweeps the Grammys. The Dixie Chicks may not wish to be considered country anymore, but they combined with Carrie Underwood to give the genre an unprecedented sweep of the major Grammy categories.

1. Porter Wagoner Passes. Nashville mourned and held a public funeral at the Grand Ole Opry House following the death of country music legend Porter Wagoner. Many wonder who will emerge as the new ambassador for the Grand Ole Opry.

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  1. Eva Brazil
    December 31, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    just one question, has Jim Malec seen Miranda Lambert in concert? She is unbelievable and really delivers an amazing show. Not sure what he means with overrated… is he saying all these other well known critics (Blender, Time Magazine, Rolling Stone etc..) who love her music, don’t know what they are talking about.. kind of funny

  2. Hollerin Ben
    December 31, 2007 at 1:15 pm

    nice roundup. This is one of the rare occasions where I completely agree with the top five entries in a countdown/list. well done.

  3. Baron Lane
    January 1, 2008 at 10:51 am

    Nice list. Garth’s comeback is hardly news though, it was just a matter of time and price.

  4. Jim Malec
    January 1, 2008 at 11:37 am

    Eva–

    Yes, I guess you could put it that way. I bet most of the critics at those magazines didn’t listen to more than five country albums all year.

  5. Matt B
    January 1, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Jim, I tend to agree with you w/r/t Miranda. I’ve liked her from the get-go but she’s hardly great in my book. Hell, her album may barely make my “best of list” while none of her songs from this year did.

  6. Eva Brazil
    January 1, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Jim, pretty arrogant stance you take towards your “fellow critics”. However, you still didn’t answer the question if you have seen Miranda perform live?

  7. Rick
    January 1, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    Sale Watson wanting to create a new label for traditional country music is well intentioned but unnecessary. What traditional country music needs is a supporting organizational structure to nuture new traditional artists and promote the genre. The CMA and ACM serve this purpose for mainstream, Top 40 pop-rock-county music, Bluegrass has the IBMA, and Americana has the AMA. The fact traditional artists now get dumped into the catch-all Americana realm marginalizes the music even further rather than supporting it.

    Traditional country music related organizations in Nashville, such as the Country Music Hall of Fame, The Grand Ole Opry, and WSM should be the ones to found and sponsor the Traditional Country Music Association. I’d nominate WSM DJ Eddie Stubbs to be the first president as no one on the planet loves and values traditional country music more than than Eddie. The organization could help plan traditional country music festivals much like bluegrass festivals and maybe foster more traditional over the air radio stations like WSM in other markets.

    Unless such an organization is founded the popularity of traditional country music will contine to decline in the US, and sadly follow the path of Cowboy music into obscurity. Traditional country doesn’t need a new name, just a support structure to help it flourish….

    PS – As for Miranda Lambert, I voted for her consistently during the first season of Nashville Star and I’ve seen her in concert. Even so I still agree that the media hoopla and critical acclaim she’s received so far is far greater than her talent deserves at this point in time……

  8. Matt B
    January 1, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    Eva, even if Jim has seen her live, he could still hold the same position he does. He’s also not arrogant to feel what he feels about ‘national’ critics. It’s much the same way when comparing a national sports columnist to a local beat writer. The beat writer is going to know their ‘team’ better than the columnist.

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