Are you a George Jones guy in a Garth Brooks world? A Loretta Lynn gal trying to understand why people still call Shania Twain a "country" artist?

Well, then this website is for you! Here's your chance to read all about Nashville pop, from the late-'50s "Nashville Sound" and the countrypolitan scene of the '70s to today's chart-toppers and pretty-boy hat acts, seen through the lens of DJ Joe Sixpack, a hick music know-it-all with a heart of gold...

Your comments and suggestions are welcome, particularly suggestions for artists or albums I might have missed. Other types of twang are reviewed elsewhere in my Hick Music Guide.

This is the first page covering the letter "U"

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Donna Ulisse - see artist discography

Uncle Kracker "Seventy-Two & Sunny" (Lava-Atlantic, 2004)
I'm, uh, not, like, really that up on Kid Rock and what he sounds like... I've seen his picture, heard a few tunes, sorta felt like I didn't need to worry too much about it one way or the other. So when I heard this was a record by his "DJ," I thought, "Huh? Neo-Southern Rockers have DJs now?" Still, I'd heard that song Kracker did with Kenny Chesney, so I was a little confused -- was this guy totally rowdy or a big ole wuss? What was the deal? As it turns out, Uncle Kracker's third solo album is pretty good, or at least pretty listenable. It's also surprising how measured and skillful this album is; it's fairly thoughtful, fairly catchy, melodic stuff, country-tinged post-'70s soft rock with a bitter, sardonic edge. I think I may have caught a few veiled, coded good-ole-boy racist signifiers on a tune or two, but, hey -- the rest of the album plays out so smoothly that you kind of have to shrug your shoulders and go, oh well. Its a very sleek, highly crafted pop album, sort of like Beck, but without the Dadaist indierock baggage. I wouldn't put in in my top 10 list (if I had one, which I don't) but it was much more enjoyable and compelling that I had ever imagined. Worth checking out!

Uncle Kracker "Midnight Special" (Sugar Hill, 2012)
(Produced by Keith Stegall)

Carrie Underwood "Some Hearts" (Arista Nashville, 2005)

Carrie Underwood "Carnival Ride" (Arista Nashville, 2007)

Carrie Underwood "Play On" (Arista Nashville, 2009)

Keith Urban & The Ranch "The Ranch" (Capitol/WEA-Australia, 1997)
(Produced by Keith Urban & Monty Powell)

The county-rockin' debut of this Aussie contemporary country star. He's a pretty unimpressive singer; perhaps his high-pitched, strained vocal quality comes as a result of trying so hard to sound American, or maybe that's just what he's got to offer. At any rate, it's not like the songs threaten to overshadow his talent: they're pretty iffy as well, serviceable, but unmemorable. It's interesting, though, in light of the super-glossy overproduction of his later Nashville hits, to hear him be so resolutely twangy and rootsy on this early outing. Obviously he was out to establish his bona fides as a "real" country singer -- sounds pretty forced, but you can see how he was able to attract some major label attention, and eventually to make it into the big time. Kind of reminds me of the Scottish indie-billy band, The Felsons, just with less subtlety and grace.

Keith Urban "Keith Urban" (Capitol Nashville, 1999)
Hailing from Oceania (born in New Zealand, raised in Australia), pretty-boy Keith Urban waves high the banner of slick-but-slightly-soulful country. For the most part, this is way too glossy and tricked-up for me -- the looped drum machine effects and too-perfect production are repellant, his vocals are bland and profoundly unadventuresome. Still, it sold like hotcakes: the apex of "country" as unchallenging EZ listening sonic wallpaper. On some songs he sounds a bit like them fellas from the Eagles, and I guess that's alright. Overall, though, this boybandish pablum is just the sound of your brain cells popping pointlessly, and time passing by while other, better records elude your grasp.

Keith Urban "Golden Road" (Capitol Nashville, 2002)
(Produced by Dan Huff & Keith Urban)

Keith Urban "Be Here" (Capitol, 2005)
(Produced by Dan Huff & Keith Urban)

At this point I think it's safe to say that Keith Urban's conquest of the new Nashville pop sound is complete... He has perfected his art, as far as I can tell, producing his best album yet of perky, inspirational pop tunes, each song with a closely measured, scientifically applied modicum of twang and remarkably ephemeral, anodyne lyrics. Now don't get me wrong, I actually don't mean that as a slam on Urban (or his producers...) This is pop music with a capital "P": it's perfectly tailored to do the job and sell a ton of records, and while it may be completely vacuous, it's also quite salable. I've listened to a lot of commercial country music, and this is about as good as the formula gets. It's not my kind of country, but more power to him, anyway.

Keith Urban "AOL Sessions" (Capitol Nashville, 2005)

Keith Urban "Love, Pain, And The Whole Crazy Thing" (Capitol, 2006)
(Produced by Dan Huff & Keith Urban)

The first half of this album is quite unapologetically Pop, and profoundly non-Country, but it hardly matters: this is also Urban's most solid, most compelling work to date, even with precious little twang in the mix. A strong set of confessional, introspective tunes, all marked by a heavy tilt towards treble reminiscent of '70s AOR, but with an expansive, 21st Century production style that represents Nashville at its sleekest and most modern, but also in some ways at its best. If you like traditional country, forget it -- this ain't gonna be your cup of tea, but as a contemporary adult pop record, it's a real doozy. I guess it came along with a lot of turmoil in Urban's life -- a celebrity wedding, drug rehab, etc. -- and some of that is reflected in the lyrics, albeit in a subtle, masked way. Overall, a big artistic leap for Urban, although on a personal level, it ain't really my kinda country.

Keith Urban "Defying Gravity" (Capitol, 2009)

Keith Urban "Greatest Hits" (Capitol Nashville, 2007)

Keith Urban "Fuse" (Capitol Nashville, 2013)

Commercial Country Albums - Letter "V"

Hick Music Index

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