What you were hearing was what those people actually sound like!
Country (and everything else) is so auto-tuned these days that it is rediculous.
There are poeple who can sing (Martina McBride, Vince Gil, etc..) but so much of it is based upon appearance and who your manager is. There is so much nepotism in country that it is rediculous!
Who cares if anyone can sing as long as they are a hot piece of ass?
You can always use pitch correction to make them sound in tune!
I know of an artist who was once on a major and had a big hit.
He has all kinds of pitch problems and has been singing for years.
To be fair... the guy CAN sing in tune when he TRIES, but he is lazy and that is a bad habit for a vocalist to fall into. YOU GOTTA' WORK TO SOUND GOOD PEOPLE!
His record was out just prior to the current autotune-it-to-death era we are in now, so there must have been a LOT of punching in and making vocal comps to get what they had on the record!
Still, he is the most handsome son of a bitch around, so THAT was what got him as far as he did go.
I'll tell you what... a lot of engineers have learned to destroy decent stuff with compressors in the last few years. I have to listen to an un-natural amount of pop music in my job (long story here) and there is some horrible mis-use of compression. There are some "girl and a piano" releases where they have just NUKED both the vocal and the piano. In fact, some of the producers must be really frustrated with the fact that they just have a chick gushing at the mic and pounding on a piano because they feel compeled to put hedious amounts of compression on both and even put vibrato on the piano on one cut! It must be no fun to make a record with just an over-wrought chick huffing and puffing at a mic and playing semi talented, highschool player piano parts. I feel them thinking, "Gee, all of these songs are kinda' alike! I had better make them sound different. Hmmmm.... lessee.... lot's of compression on this one, vibrato on this piano here, I can make her voice sound like she's talking on a telephone..."
I heard the song that briefly went to #1 on the C&W charts that the guy was crowing about having been mixed ITB.
I heard it through our Nexo rig with a bunch of other C&W hits, so I could make a pretty good assesment of it.
I'll go out on limb and say that it sounded quite tweezed, but it didn't sound as polished as the Nashville hits. The drum ambience sounded somewhat exagerated and un-natural. It was obviously good enough to reach #1 for a while, but the mix was only "OK" compared to the other stuff. Granted it was cut by non-Nashville guys in Tyler, TX, so that puts a degree of anti-Nashville spin on it. I used to know the guy who's studio it was cut in. The Leanne Rimes stuff was cut there. Good players, though.
I wasn't really impressed, but I do admit that I was excited to hear the song and mix in an environment I am familiar with. I wanted to like it. It wasn't bad... it just wasn't as good as the stuff before and after it... sorry.
And one last thing... don't make fun of C&W because it takes considerable skill to pull off a convincing sounding C&W record. The players are some of the most skilled players there are. Never forget that almost ALL contemporary guitar grew out of either country or blues and the licks ain't THAT different. Even jazz came from blues and the distance between good country picking and jazz is pretty short. Many players are not educated in these styles to a degree that allows them to experience the parallels.
Kansas City Jazz, C&W, Be-Bop and Western Swing all have a lot of the same figures and changes. Even Charlie Parker studied western swing and other "hillbilly" styles. There are many similar or near identical licks (especially at the II V changes.)
If you ever want to attempt to learn a complicated instrument, sit down at a steel guitar! ..and if you ever want to hear something impressive as hell, listen to a GOOD steel player play jazz. It is an amazing instrument. Unfortunately, most people only get to hear the same C&W steel guitar "stock modules" or licks in pop country.
Here I say all this and I didn't even watch the CMAs! Those stupid award shows are ONLY put on by the industry to drum up sales. Does anyone unkown ever win? No... it's the same old faces. Brooks and Dunn.... the safe, happy, handsome and kinda' cute dudes that are on Corn Flakes boxes along with NASCAR drivers.
The women? Blond pieces of ass. Ass, ass, ass... give me a chick with a hot ass, blond hair and I'll autotune
that b i t c h until she makes you...
What? You say you have a CHILD with blond hair that looks like she's old enough to date and she wants to be a C&W singer?
Brang her on!
(we have those on every block down here in Texas ever since Leanne Rimes!)
Step right up! Everybody gets to be a star for a few minutes with the skillfull use of my wonderfull talking machine! Handsome young studs, hot, blond women can move to the front of the line. Make way for the cute, BLOND teenage girls... they go first.
Boy... I'm on a roll tonight!