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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.