One Last Look Back at Country Music in 2013

Kacey Musgraves performs at the 2013 Billboard Music Awards in las Vegas.

Before we put 2013 in the back of the closet, we at The 615 thought it would be a great idea to look back at ten things that we won't forget about the country music industry in 2013... and maybe a sneak peek into the crystal ball.

TAYLOR SWIFT & CARRIE UNDERWOOD – Arguably the format's two biggest stars, both women had years to remember in 2013. Swift was everywhere during the year promoting Red, and her tour stop in Nashville was a breathtaking evening of music and production. She also once again showed her love of the industry with a donation to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Underwood wrapped up a successful tour of her own with "Blown Away," and took a huge risk in her performance of "The Sound Of Music" last month – paying off beautifully. Again, both ladies took the format to new heights and did so with class!

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MUSGRAVES, MONROE & CLARK – On the other end of the female vocalist spectrum was this talented trio of ladies who dominated the critics'  list during 2013 with albums that should stand the test of time with Same Trailer Different Park, Like A Rose, and 12 Stories, respectively. Think the format is falling apart? Think again!

CASH PRESERVATION – As the music world marked a decade since the passing of "The Man In Black," there were several instances of his legendary career being celebrated in 2013. First, there was the opening of the beautiful Johnny Cash Museum in downtown – which elicited praise from former Vice-President Al Gore. Then, the annual Johnny Cash Music Festival continued to pay tribute to his legacy – as well as restore his Arkansas boyhood home. Then, Sony announced plans to release some never-heard-before music from Cash in the first quarter of 2014!

THE COMEBACK KID – It had been seven years since Kenny Rogers had last released a studio set with Water & Bridges. 2013 marked a career renaissance for "The Gambler," complete with induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, a well-received performance at Zac Brown's Southern Ground Festival, and yet another top ten disc in You Can't Make Old Friends. Thankfully, he hasn't "folded them" just yet!

KEITH URBAN – Whether it be "American Idol," his tour, or Fuse, his latest disc, there is nothing he does that he simply doesn't knock out of the ballpark. He has been very vocal about his support of the Country Music Hall of Fame through his "All For The Hall" concerts. At this rate, he should be there in a few years!

LEGACIES – The industry lost some amazing creative forces in 2013, with legendary exec Jim Fogelsong and Hall of Famers George Jones and Ray Price heading up the list. Losing these artists was undoubtedly sad, but there was no doubt how much both men were loved and respected by their fellow artists -and the industry.

REBA & THE OAKS CELEBRATE - Two of the format's greatest acts of all time marked milestones in 2013. Reba McEntire made headlines with a new exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame – where she has been a member since 2011. And, while the Oak Ridge Boys have been a recording unit – in one form or another – since the 1940s, the lineup of William Lee Golden, Duane Allen, Richard Sterban, and Joe Bonsall marked four decades together in 2013. Hall of Fame voters, are you listening?

GILL AND FRANKLIN, HISTORY TEACHERS – Speaking of the heritage of the format, kudos to Vince Gill and Paul Franklin for showcasing one of the richest periods of the music's history with the July release of Bakersfield. Take five Buck Owens classics and five from Merle Haggard, and you have a recipe for greatness! We would love to attend this history class any day of the week!

WARNER BROTHERS, THE PLACE TO BE – Just like many NFL free agents might choose the Seattle Seahawks or Denver Broncos if they were choosing a team to play for, John Esposito and Warner Brothers might very well be the top place for chances for an artists' success. Take the continued staying power of Blake Shelton, the development of Jana Kramer, Gloriana, and The Farm, Brett Eldredge and Charlie Worsham's big splash, the afore-mentioned success of Kenny Rogers, and the transformation of Sheryl Crow to the format, and if the label had a Chamber of Commerce, it might be a pretty profitable division!

WALKING THE WALK – Bluegrass music might be off the radar of mainstream country, but the January release of Brothers Of The Highway offered more proof that when Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent hit the studio – magic tends to happen. Both men and their band are among the best in the business, but when Dailey hits the high notes – there are few that do it any better!

THINGS TO LOOK FORWARD TO IN 2014 – While 2013 has been a great year for the newer female vocalists, look for some great moments to come from some of the heritage voices of the format. With Rosanne Cash, Dolly Parton, Lee Ann Womack (finally!), Suzy Bogguss, and Martina McBride all releasing new music in 2014, it promises to be a great year. Patty Loveless, can you be far behind?