Review – Artists of Then, Now & Forever’s “Forever Country”

forever-country

So I’m just going to state right up front this isn’t going to be your ordinary, standard review. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever reviewed on the site and contemplated not even reviewing it due to its uniqueness. But I’ve been asked for my thoughts and it’s gotten a fair amount of attention at radio and in sales. Plus I love a challenge. So I decided to tackle “Forever Country.” To give background on the song, it’s been slowly hyped up by the numerous artists apart of it in the build up to its release. If you follow one of these artists on social media, chances are you’ve heard a clip of them singing on the song to give their fans a taste of their participation. This is all for promoting and honoring the 50th anniversary of the CMA Awards coming up on November 2. And it’s impressive the amount of artists that are on-board with this song. In the order they appear on the song, here are the 30 artists who take part in “Forever Country”:

  • Brad Paisley
  • Keith Urban
  • Tim McGraw
  • Faith Hill
  • Little Big Town
  • Luke Bryan
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Blake Shelton
  • George Strait
  • Kacey Musgraves
  • Eric Church
  • Ronnie Milsap
  • Charley Pride
  • Randy Travis
  • Dierks Bentley
  • Trisha Yearwood
  • Lady Antebellum
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Martina McBride
  • Darius Rucker
  • Jason Aldean
  • Rascal Flatts
  • Willie Nelson
  • Brooks & Dunn
  • Alabama
  • Brett Eldredge
  • Reba
  • Alan Jackson
  • Vince Gill
  • Dolly Parton

For the most part that’s a pretty impressive lineup and it does a great job of showcasing various eras of country music, although I would say it’s noticeably missing Garth Brooks (he most likely isn’t a part of this because the song is available on services he’s against such as iTunes, Spotify and YouTube, which has also kept him from being apart of other collaborations too). The song itself is a medley mashup of three iconic songs: John Denver’s “Country Roads,” Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again” and Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.” I really can’t argue with these choices, as they’re all classics in my book. Some might take offense to a pop country artist like John Denver being one of the three artists highlighted here (somewhere the ghost of Charlie Rich is surely pissed), but he’s arguably one of the best pop country artists in the genre’s history. “Country Roads” seems to get the most time in the song upon the first listens, but after further listens and paying close attention I found all three songs got pretty equal time.

“Country Roads” does lead off and appropriately the West Virginia-born Brad Paisley is the one who leads the song. We also get a lot of pedal steel guitar up front and throughout the song, which kudos to the organizers of this song for doing the right thing. One interesting moment that catches my eye is how close Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton are to each other in the song. Luke Bryan separates each of their solo lines and I’m sure the proximity of the ex couple was merely coincidence, but nevertheless I had to point it out. Kacey Musgraves, Eric Church and George Strait all sing near each other, which put a smile on my face. Willie Nelson getting a prominent spot in the middle was definitely the right call. I thought Brett Eldredge sounded really good when he sang his parts and made me wish he would go in a more traditional direction, as his rich voice can really shine when paired with a good song. Brooks & Dunn and Alabama, two of the most prominent groups in country music history, singing together is a special moment. Reba gets the honor of leading off the main part of “I Will Always Love You” and nails it of course. Then Alan Jackson and Vince Gill following makes it one of my favorite moments in the song. Carrie Underwood leading the chorus is the perfect choice, as she can belt that line like both Dolly and Whitney Houston have done it. Then various artists layer all three songs together to create a crescendo until the finish where the queen of country music, Dolly Parton caps it off perfectly. Whoever made the choice to have Dolly close the song is genius.

I think “Forever Country” is a special moment that perfectly honors country music. And unlike other massive collaborations like “We Are The World,” this song isn’t cheesy and sanctimonious. I think a lot of credit is owed to the producer of the song, Shane McAnally. It’s not easy task melding these songs and these performers together, but he managed to really pull it off well. Everyone involved with this should be proud of their efforts and I hope to see a live performance of this at the CMA Awards because it would certainly be a memorable moment. I’m not sure this song will be remembered years from now, but in the moment it’s a really enjoyable collaboration. It’s hard not to get emotional as a country fan listening to this and as a result makes it impossible for me to really nitpick or dislike.

Grade: Two Thumbs Up 

Video is here now and it is amazing! Check it out:

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44 thoughts on “Review – Artists of Then, Now & Forever’s “Forever Country”

  1. I really liked it and being from WV, I’m glad that Brad led off. My only complaint is Luke. I’m not a Luke hater, he seems like a nice guy, but his vocals are like a turd in the punch bowl for me. He just really stands out and not in a good way.

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  2. I thought a lot of the “modern” singers sounded very good stripped down. It was a nice reminder (along with acoustic sets) that some of them can actually sing – poor Luke. That being said, for me the older artists stood out as having the more distinctive voices. You knew when it was Willie Nelson singing.

    Blake & Miranda have always sounded good together singing, my guess is that’s why they were close together, with a Luke stuck in the middle to save them the harmonizing.

    I’m looking forward to the video, a CMA performance would be really cool. I’m generally a sucker for a good mash-up.

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  3. I saw this song on the chart this morning which I thought was unusual. It made me wonder if a song like this has ever climbed the charts and who would get the credit if it actually made it to number one

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    • The credit would be for ‘Artists Of Then, Now & Forever’ just as the credit for the mentioned ‘We Are The World’ was listed as ‘USA For Africa’. Of course that was an original song written by Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson while the writers of this will I assume be listed as Denver and his two co writers along with Willie and Dolly for their songs.

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  4. The real “CMA Musical Event Of The Year”.
    I love the idea, the production & most voices.
    Yes, Brett Eldredge can sing. But he is the weak-spot in the lineup (career-wise). Keith Urban? After “Ripcord” Keith Urban is the last guy to sing “Country Roads”.
    Where are The Judds, Kathy Mattea, Patty Loveless, Anne Murray or Kenny Rogers?

    Billboard Country Update (09/19):
    Country Airplay: Billy Currington (#3 up 5 places) & “Forever Country” (Hot Shot Debut #39)
    Top Country Albums: Jason Aldean (New #1)

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  5. While staunch traditionalists tend to lampoon John Denver, you can’t argue the choice of Take Me Home, Country Roads to be included here. The sentiment behind that song is a representation of everything that country music is all about. (In my opinion) Nearly everytime I hear that song, it gives me goosebumps as I swell with feelings of home. I’m excited to hear this.

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    • It gets lampooned around here, but the reality is that pop country has long been a part of the country genre, just like blues country, rock country etc. And over time their have been some excellent pop country songs. Their is nothing more “wrong” with pop country than any other country sub genre. The bigger issue is that nowadays it’s become pop sung by someone from the south & had the country part removed. And radio has skewed so heavily pop/AC/whatever Sam Hunt is doing & away from traditional country. As part of a larger country mix pop country is fine and has it’s place.

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  6. I enjoyed this mashup. I haven’t dug into the background of why these songs are chosen, and I have to believe Dolly & Willie being alive and active in country music still influenced their respective songs’ inclusion. “Country Roads” does carry the down home sentiment that this Forever Country is aiming for, and in a way, “I Will Always Love You” is a direct message to country music, which I get as well. Just with this basically being a celebration mashup of country music, it’d have been cool to hear a Hank Williams song or a Cash song included as well.

    I did like how well “On The Road Again” & “Country Roads” mashed up!

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  7. “Garth Brooks (we all know why he isn’t on it)” Uh.. why not? I was looking for an answer to this and you’re the only one who has mentioned it… but you don’t say why!

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    • Well this song is available on iTunes, Google Play, YouTube and Spotify, services that Garth are staunchly against. He won’t be involved with music that is made available on these services

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    • Agreed FeedThemHogs! Have been a country music and Garth fan for ages yet I guess I missed whatever the obvious reason for his lack of invitation/participation might have been, especially since they probably could have added him without even counting toward the 30 artists if you just consider him paired with Trisha. Hope whoever wrote this article comes back to clue us in! 🙂

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    • I was wondering the same question!! Please respond? I’ve very curious and he was the first person I realized was missing right away!!!

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  8. I need someone to explain the video to me. Is it how Nashville has changed over the last 50 years? Or just random things? That was the one thing I found distracting. It was a bit too green screeny.

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    • I think the point of it all is to celebrate 50 years of country music (mainly the CMAs). You have many of the hit stars from different eras of country music, and brought them all together to sing a collaboration of three great country songs that honor country’s rich history. There was the green screen building of the CMA venue and the Grand Ole Opry if I’m not mistaken, so there is a bit of tribute to Nashville’s history as well.

      To me, the video is secondary to the song and all the artists involved in this tribute. It’s well produced, and it’s a moment where all these big stars come together for something much bigger than themselves.

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      • I agree, wasn’t complaining, just asking about it. I’ve never been to Nashville so I don’t recognize the landscape. That’s why I was curious if the video was showing what the city looked like 50 years ago to now.

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  9. Just watched the video… Wow that was cool! SALUTE to whoever came up with this idea. I thought they did a fine job of choosing who sang what part. Obviously it’s no coincidence that Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride, and Trisha Yearwood were picked to sing big line of I Will Always Love You. And I think Brad Paisley and Carrie sound really good together, so that was cool that they harmonized in there. Seeing the Randy Travis cameo made my day as well. Charley Pride even made an appearance, which I was glad to see, he seems to be forgotten about in a lot of people’s minds. I know he’s not on the same level as Willie and Merle and Cash and them, but Charley is one heck of a singer. So yeah, I’m a fan of this.

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  10. This is very cool. It sounds a bit odd to mash these three songs together on paper, but it totally works. And the video is so very incredible! I love Kacey Musgraves’s dress, by the way, it is so cute. 🙂

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  11. Ok count me in too for not knowing why Garth wasn’t involved. And while we are it, where’s Kenny Chesney or was he covered by Brad, Tim and Keith?

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  12. Awesome work but the one person missing in my opinion is John Denver himself, could they not have worked him in there ,,, just a thought,,,,

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  13. I am lost as to why Garth Brooks isn’t on the song as well? You shouldn’t assume everyone would know….. how confusing. I googled why he wasn’t and nothing solid for an answer. Maybe we’ll just have to wait because I don’t think an official reason has been released (to press anyway)

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  14. Loved it! I realized that there were some artists that I didn’t know/recognize in it, so I used the list. The only “big” mistake I see in it is that Carrie Underwood is in the wrong spot. Other than that, super helpful!

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  15. Garth.. Self serving??? Crazy talk! I was raised on country and know that it was close to forgotten until we all met Garth in the early 90s. And Garth brought country back. But with that said, great video! Beautiful beautiful work. And I’m sure Garth would agree 🙂

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  16. I thought it was awful. A eulogy mourning what was once real country. The video was surreal. The singers appeared completely disconnected from the scene. The graphics questionable and the overlay of these 3 classic songs sounded noisy and disjointed-off key, sometimes like a cat jumpin’ on the piano. I am surprised and saddened that artists of this caliber would agree to participate. I have always been a big fan of country. But this….not a winner for me. What’s more stunning is that no one else seems to notice.

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  17. Shameful that there wasn’t at least some video or picture of John Denver included, regardless of what Genre it is felt he belonged in, it was his song!! Also, agree that Kenny Rogers and Loretta Lynn as well as many others from the past should have been. Too many newer artists that I don’t even recognize! I am sure Garth was probably asked and turned it down.

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  18. I thought it was a wonderful collaboration of talent and voices. Sure there were people who could have been in the video and people feel they should have been in it. Almost impossible to get everyone. However, for those who felt John Denver was not part of the country music scene, he gets immortalized in a direct reference to country music history. It would have made him proud.

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  19. I enjoy your review of Forever Country and, like you, would love to see a live version of it at the CMAs. However, I am disappointed that you didn’t mention Randy Travis. While he didn’t sing, his appearance in the video is heartfelt and worth a mention. I also don’t share opinion about “We Are The World”. In its time, it was quite ground-breaking and a major achievement. It may seem cheesy now but then it was as notable as this one.

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  20. Randy Travis may not have sang, but he was in the video. I feel like he is too important to the Country scene to leave out.

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  21. It’s a good video,very clever,but,John Denver did not record Take Me Home Country Roads,John Denver with Fat City recorded it, I see that the songwriters of On The Road Again and I Will Always Love You were included in the video,why then didn’t the producer include the singers/songwriters of Country Roads?They are still alive and kicking,Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert wrote Country Roads before Denver showed up,he did however add the 3 words “all my memories ” to the song to get a writing credit,this is sad because I keep reading how the music industry wants songwriters to get their due,and these 2 songwriters were not even thought of when putting this together,this video and tribute could have been something really special,but excluding the singers/songwriters of this classic song shows the producers and all involved were just out to make a buck and get some much needed attention

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