50 Country Albums Every Rock Fan Should Own

kristoffersonSomeone on Facebook pointed to this Rolling Stone list and being the lazy blogger, I use it to comment on the albums I actually own.

45. Lyle Lovett, ‘Lyle Lovett’ (1986)

First time I saw Lyle was on TV after his third album came out, and Bryant Gumbel of the Today show said, “That’s country?” I bought that album, Large Band, but subsequently virtually every album he’s put out, including this eponymous one. In fact, in my collection, which is arranged alphabetically, I have two albums in a row with the great song “God Will,” one by Patty Loveless, and the version by Lyle.

LISTEN to God Will
and You Can’t Resist It

31. Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt & Emmylou Harris, ‘Trio’ (1987)

Some of the most glorious harmonies ever. I have a couple albums by Dolly, over a half dozen by Emmylou and over a dozen by Linda, but this may be my favorite one for each. Moreover, some of the songs they did together in the years before the album was finally released – e.g., I Never Will Marry, the Parton-Rondstadt duet on one of Linda’s albums, are also great songs.

LISTEN to To Know Him Is to Love Him
and Telling Me Lies

19. Dixie Chicks, ‘Taking the Long Way’ (2006)

This is the album that the Chicks put out after Natalie Maines said some unkind things about George W. Bush about going into the war in Iraq; I bought it nearly as soon as it came out. It didn’t do that well with country radio, if I recall correctly, but it had greater crossover appeal, quite possibly more for its politics than its music, though it has some great songs.

LISTEN to Not Ready To Make Nice

16. Kris Kristofferson, ‘Kristofferson’ (1970)

This album, which I’ve had on vinyl since I was in college, got renamed for its most famous song, Me and Bobby McGee, in 1971, and has a nicer picture of Kris. The album contains many of the songs he wrote that were hits for other people.

LISTEN to Blame It On The Stones
and The Law Is For The Protection Of The People

14. Garth Brooks, ‘Ropin’ the Wind’ (1991)

All of Garth Brooks’ six albums at the time were released as a limited series with an extra track on each disc. The whole collection was less than $20. What’s not to like?

LISTEN to Shameless – this is a live recording, not from the album.

12. Loretta Lynn, ‘Van Lear Rose’ (2004)

Much to the chagrin of my buddy Eddie, this is the only Loretta Lynn album I own, no doubt influenced by Jack White’s participation. It is a great collection, and she still had the pipes.

LISTEN to Have Mercy
and Portland, Oregon

11. Johnny Cash, ‘American Recordings’ (1994)

This began the third, and my favorite, phase of Johnny’s career, after being in the musical desert for a number of years. I was given this album, but bought all the subsequent albums (American 2-6, and the box set). I became obsessed with this period of John R.’s music.

LISTEN to Down There By The Train
and Drive On

1. Johnny Cash, ‘At Folsom Prison’ (1968)

And this began the second phase in Johnny’s career, which included the TV show I watched religiously. Getting seeped in his later career got me to get the 2008 Legacy Edition of this album, 2 CDs/1 DVD, even though I own the original release on vinyl.

LISTEN to Folsom Prison Blues

This list inspired me to pick up 22. Dwight Yoakam, ‘Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.’ (1986); 20. Steve Earle, ‘Copperhead Road’ (1988); 4. Willie Nelson, ‘Red Headed Stranger’ (1975); 3. Ray Charles, ‘Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music’ (1962) and 2. Hank Williams, ’40 Greatest Hits’ (1978).

I should note that I have a Patsy Cline greatest hits collection, but not the “definitive” one. I also have albums by Jerry Lee Lewis, Brad Paisley, Randy Travis, Bobbie Gentry, Rosanne Cash, Kenny Rogers, Emmylou Harris, and Dolly Parton, but not the ones listed.

D is for the Dixie Chicks

Natalie Maines’ comments caused an almost immediate and massive backlash against the Dixie Chicks in the US in 2003.

When I first bought the 1998 Dixie Chicks album Wide Open Spaces, I knew the group had copped their name from the Little Feat song Dixie Chicken. What I did not realize is that the group had been around since 1989 as a bluegrass quartet, with the sisters Martie and Emily Erwin and two others. When those other two left – one quit, the other apparently forced out – Natalie Maines became the lead singer. The sisters expanded their instrumental repertoire, and their sound became a more contemporary country.

The 1999 album Fly was even more successful. It “debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 charts, selling over 10 million copies and making the Dixie Chicks the only country band and the only female band of any genre to hold the distinction of having two back-to-back RIAA certified diamond albums.” It was not without controversy, though.

Sin Wagon [LISTEN], from which the term ‘mattress dancing ‘takes on a new twist, and ‘Goodbye Earl’, a song that uses black comedy in telling the story of the unabashed murderer of an abusive husband.” WATCH the video featuring NYPD Blue’s Dennis Franz as Earl.

After a label dispute and some family time, the trio released Home, “independently produced by Lloyd Maines [Natalie’s father] and the Chicks” August 27, 2002. They were performing at a concert in London on March 10, 2003, during what turned out to be the inevitable rollup to the Iraq war, when “Natalie Maines, who along with Robison and Maguire was also a native of Texas, said: ‘Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.'” This caused an almost immediate and massive backlash against the Chicks in the US, and subsequent apologies and clarifications did nothing to tamp it down. That very week, in a buycott action, I bought Home, which I would have likely purchased anyway. I appreciated how the sisters stood by Natalie. (Whereas Simon Cowell bashed her on American Idol, and he was hardly the only one.)

It wasn’t until 2006 before they put out Taking the Long Way, featuring the pointed single Not Ready to Make Nice [LISTEN]. The album went to #1, but the singles were ignored by country radio. I suspect lots of non-country music fans bought it in support of the Dixie Chicks.

Though the group has performed periodically, the sisters have put out two albums as Court Yard Hounds, an eponymous album in May 2010 (which I have), and Amelita in July 2013. Maines released a solo album, Mother in May 2013, which I purchased; it’s much more pop than country.

The Dixie Chicks were touring in Canada in the fall of 2013. Whether they will record together something more than a couple of tracks, only time will tell.


ABC Wednesday – Round 14

Music Meme

Pete Seeger, Justin Bieber, Bobby Goldsboro, John Sebastian, Joe Jackson, Seals & Crofts, Boz Scaggs, Bobby McFerrin, Bruce Springsteen, Pete Droge, Randy Newman and Blotto are all mentioned in this post, at least one of them for no good reason.

An odd series of circumstances has gotten me writing about music far more than usual. I’d picked this meme for Monday, then needed a Q for Tuesday. I realized that I wanted to do birthday things for Billy Joel, Bono/U2, and tomorrow’s topic. I once said that sometimes the blog pieces write themselves; well, occasionally, the blog ORDER does likewise.

Here’s a meme from SamuraiFrog, also done by Scott and Jaquandor.

1. What are you listening to right now?
The Beatles Mono Box. Specifically the Past Masters, the singles, B-sides, etc.

2. What song(s) make(s) you sad?
Goodness, LOTS of songs make me sad. There are whole categories: requiems (requia?) from Mozart to Faure; certain romantic songs – such as Stay With Me by Lorraine Ellison or Gone Away by Roberta Flack. Sometimes, songs that I love that I hadn’t heard lately make me cry, such as the Blue Moon solo on Cream’s Sunshine of Your Love.

3. What is the most annoying song in the world?
Honey by Bobby Goldsboro. Wait, it’s Dominick the Donkey.

4. Your all-time favorite band?
Beatles (all time)

5. Your newly discovered band is?
I don’t know that there is one. The new music I get tends to be the same artists I’ve been buying. For instance, Levon Helm from the Band. indeed, anyone I DO discover tends to be a solo artist, such as Corrinne Bailey Rae, whose album The Sea I recommend.

6. Best female voice?
Julie Andrews. Or maybe Judy Collins.

7. Best male voice?
Nat King Cole.

8. Music type you find yourself listening to most?
Fairly eclectic, but rock mostly.

9. What do you listen to, to hype you up?
Anything with an insistent baseline, such as The Spencer Davis Group’s Keep On Running.

10. What do you listen to when you want to calm down?
Classical music, probably Bach.

11. Last gig/concert you went to?
Springsteen, last year.

12. Band you find yourself listening to the most right now?
Well, RIGHT now, I tend to listen to people whose birthday is in this week in May: Bono (U2), Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, David Byrne (Talking Heads).

13. Most hated band?
I don’t think about bands I dislike. They tend to slip out of my mind.

14. Song that makes you think?
LOTS of songs make me think. Lenten songs, for one group.

15. Band that you think the world should love as much as you do?
I don’t care what other people like; they can do what they want.

16. Coolest music video?
Ever? “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel. But I haven’t watched them in forever.

17. Music video with the most babe watch?
Robert Palmer’s? Have no idea.

18. What do you play/would you play in the bedroom to spice things up?

19. Can you play a musical instrument?

20. Ever been in a mosh pit?

21. Are you in a band?
No, but I’m in a choir. But in junior high, we tried to form a band called Ralphie’s Moonies. Had a hit song called “Pool Shark” that I still remember?

23. Ever dated a musician?
Yes. My wife played the clarinet in high school. Also, I went out with a singer for a time.

28. Do you wish yourself that you were a musician?
Some days. Or maybe I am.

29. Best chick band you know of?
The Dixie Chicks, I guess.

31. Last song that you heard on the radio/cd…etc…?
When Love Comes to Town by U2 and B.B. King

32. What do you think of Classical music?
I love it. Back in the brief period I was collecting cassettes, it was 90% classical. I don’t understand people who don’t like it, to be honest.

33. What do you think of Country music?
I like most of it. I used to listen to it as a kid. It seems, though, that more of the current commercial stuff is lite pop, and thus a bit boring.

34. What do you think of Death metal?
I don’t know what that is.

35. Last BIG band that you saw live?
Springsteen. Or does this mean Big Band, in which case it a Count Basie band. Or was it Duke Ellington’s?

36. Are you a groupie?

37. Do you listen to music in foreign languages?

38. What famous musician would you like to f***!?
Well, none, if only because the reality would never match the fantasy.

39. Worst concert moment?
Thu, 27 July 1989 Albany, NY, Palace Theatre
Joe Jackson, who I like, was performing on his BLAZE OF GLORY TOUR. After playing one, maybe two familiar songs, he played the entire first half of Blaze of Glory. Then after a couple more songs we knew, the entire second half. He felt they were complete suites with the songs segued together, but they were unfamiliar, and him playing six unknown songs in a row, especially a second time, ticked off people enough that they just got up and went to the concession stand, or, worse, just talked through the performance. They did not give the new music a chance, but I blame that largely on Jackson. At the end, more familiar tunes, but a better mix of the very same songs would have created a much better experience, for the audience, and I expect, for him.

40. Funny concert moment?
As recently mentioned, Bobby McFerrin leading an orchestra in SINGING the Lone Ranger portion of the William Tell Overture in 1999.

41. Sad concert moment?
Besides the WORST story: I saw Seals & Crofts Philharmonic (Avery Fisher) Hall, in NYC on November 12, 1971. The opening band, Boz Scaggs, was quite good, but the audience was impatient for the Baha’i duo. Being an opening act must not be a great gig sometimes.

42. Best local act you can think of?
Last local band I actually saw was probably Blotto. No that’s not true; I’ve seen local cover bands such as the Refrigerators. saw Hair of the Dog a few years back.

43. If you were a musical instrument what would you be?
A bass guitar. I feel the bass line.

44. Do you listen to the radio?
Generally wake up to a classical station.

45. Do you watch music TV?
I did from about 1982 to 1986.

46. Do you follow the music charts, like the top 40?
I did religiously until the early 1990s. Even had a subscription to Billboard, and it wasn’t cheap. But now I don’t even know most of it. When I read that Justin Bieber was the youngest solo male artist in 40 years to reach #1, I KNEW instantly that the previous artist HAD to be Donny Osmond doing Go away Little Girl, even younger than Michael Jackson when he sang Ben. I mean, I KNEW this, without looking it up. Scary.

47. Have you met any famous musicians?
Define famous. Talked a bit with Pete Seeger at an anti-apartheid demonstration. Spoke with John Sebastian very briefly. I’ve eaten at an Italian restaurant with Pete Droge and his band a couple times. I was introduced to Anita Baker. Knew the guys in Blotto.
Then there’s the Randy Newman story.

48. Are any of your friends/family/etc. musicians?
Why yes. My niece is in a singer in a band called Siren’s Crush that sings around San Diego, CA. My sister Leslie performed in Puerto Rico as a singer for six years. And my late father was well-known locally (Binghamton, NY) as a singer of folk songs.

49. Song that best describes your feelings right now?
“Daydream” by the Lovin’ Spoonful.

50. Song that describes your life?
“I’m Lucky” by Joan Armatrading.

51. Do you know the names of all the band members that you listen to?
No, but I listen to a LOT of different groups.

52. Does a musician’s physical attractiveness play a role in the music that you listen to?
Not consciously.

53. What famous musician do you want to marry?
Assuming I wasn’t married, Chaka Khan was the first name to come to mind.

53. Favourite movie soundtrack?
West Side Story. Or a Hard Day’s Night. Or Rain Man.

55. Any musician pet hates?
Vocalists who caterwaul.

56. What do your parents listen to?
My mom liked Nat Cole, and musicals such as Carousel, South Pacific, and West Side Story. My father was a fan of folk music (Harry Belafonte, Odetta, Pete Seeger), and gospel.

57. What are you listening to right NOW?
Good Night by the Beatles.

58. Do you wear band etc T-shirts?
I have a Beatles T-shirt someone gave me for my birthday a couple of years ago.

59. Do you cook to music?
I don’t cook as much as I should, but if I’m going to be a while, I’ll put on some music.

60. Do you sing in the toilet?
In the shower, yes. All the time. On the toilet, not usually.

My No Doubt story.

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