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Monday, May 31, 2010

Country Top Ten Favorites

There are links to songs by the artist following the album description.  Not all samples are from the albums.

           Like other music genres, Country falls into many subcategories and permutations--one person's taste in country music may be quite different from another's.  The early country music was more closely related to the more traditional folk music and the music from the British Isles.  Eventually the music of Appalachia was fusing with the Cajun music of Louisiana which had origins in the Acadian music from Canada, the western music of the cowboys, the delta blues from Mississippi, and so on.  Soon elements of jazz, swing, pop, and rock could all be heard in the songs on the country charts. 

         Country music consists of a wide range of styles and there is something in the genre to fit most musical tastes.  Like jazz, many people have a misconception about what country music is and will swear up and down that they don't like country music.  For several years in my early teens I thought I didn't like country.  It never occurred to me that many of my favorite childhood songs were country--songs like "The Battle of New Orleans" and "The Wayward Wind".  When the Beatles included country songs on their albums I didn't see it as country.  Then songs from Johnny Cash, The Statler Brothers, and Buck Owens were getting played on rock radio and I was liking them.  Eventually I realized country was cool and in the 70s country rock took the music industry by storm.

          In my list of favorite albums, there are so many that I've had to leave off.  This list represents ten favorites that I've enjoyed listening to over the years.  I've tried to range them over my many years of listening.  You may think my omissions to be somewhat of a travesty.  Many of those omissions however are also great favorites.  How can one condense decades of great music into ten albums and be fair about it?  I can't, but here are ten that I like.

Ten Country Favorites

       GP (1973) by Gram Parsons-- This was a big favorite of mine when I was in college.  Parsons was a hugely influential artist who had been a part of the Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers.  His solo efforts are very traditional country with collaboration by many outstanding musicians.  The current CD version of this album is paired with 1974's Grievous Angel, which is an added bonus.  Parsons died in 1973 at age 26 from a drug overdose. 

Kiss The Children Gram Parsons

      Douglas James Kershaw (1973) by Doug Kershaw -- The "Ragin' Cajun" was known for his wild cajun fiddling and his story telling songs.  I saw him a couple of times in concert and he could really put on a show.  His 1973 effort was a real departure from his traditional earlier efforts.  He was apparently trying to get more of a 70s sound to his music.  I personally liked it a lot, but a lot of critics did not.  Fortunately for someone who wants to buy this CD now it has been paired up with Kershaw's earlier Swamp Grass album which includes his hit "Louisiana Man".

Louisiana Man  Doug Kershaw

        Elite Hotel (1975) by EmmyLou Harris -- Harris caught the attention of the music world with her duets with Gram Parsons on his solo albums.   After the death of Parsons, Harris start putting out solo country albums like Elite Hotel and also has recorded many collaborative efforts with artists like Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, Neil Young, Ricky Skaggs, and many others.

Wheels  EmmyLou Harris

           Heroes  (1984) by Murray McLauchlan -- A Canadian artist who never made much of an impact in the United States, McLauchlan has put out many albums of country and folk music.  The Heroes album was largely ignored but it was part of my introduction to McLauchlan and it holds a place in my heart.  I've written about Murray McLauchlan in my blog in the past--one of my favorite concert experiences was catching him in Toronto.

Down by the Henry Moore    Murray McLauchlan

           Angel With A Lariat (1987) by k d lang---  Before her current pop career, lang was a popular country artist in Canada.  Her first few albums in the U.S. were also country.  Over all I prefer her current work, but as a country artist she was very good.  She does an outstanding job of "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden" on this album, not to mention the balance of the album which also includes some credible forays into country-punk.

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden  k d lang

           Highwaymen (1985)  by Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson  -- This country supergroup put out a few fine albums as part of the "outlaw country" movement.  Good country music that is much like the solo efforts of these artists.

Highwayman by the Highwaymen

           The Wheel (1993) by Rosanne Cash-- Johnny Cash's daughter has followed in the footsteps of her parents.  She is an excellent songwriter, singer, and musician.  This album, as is most of her work, might be considered "crossover country" with influences from many genres.  The song production has a very modern sound, but the country roots are not forgotten.  Rosanne Cash has many fine albums that I like, but I guess I lean more toward this effort as a favorite--when I'm listening to another I could probably say that would be my favorite as well.  Let's face it--she's good.

The Wheel  Rosanne Cash

           American IV: The Man Comes Around (2002) by Johnny Cash -- The Man in Black has so many albums that are truly great.  His styles have been varied but his deep rugged voice gives all his music a distinction that is unique to him.  I have picked this later effort because of the excellence of song choices and recording sound, and also because I really like it.  If you've never seen the video of the song "Hurt" then you really should check it out.  It is heart-wrenching.

Hurt   Johnny Cash

           Halos and Horns (2002) by Dolly Parton-- She is definitely the Queen of Country Music.  A phenomenal talent in song-writing, singing, picking, and running a business, Dolly is amazing.  Like Johnny Cash, Parton has so many great albums to choose from.  I really like this effort.  Where else can you hear Bread's "If" on the same album with Zep's "Stairway to Heaven" with a dozen great songs by Dolly thrown in?  Maybe I'm getting old or something, but I would almost say Dolly's version of "Stairway.." is better than Led Zeppelin's-- or at least as good.

Stairway to Heaven  Dolly Parton

          Van Lear Rose (2004) by Loretta Lynn-- And just when you thought it couldn't get any weirder, here's Loretta Lynn's collaboration with the White Stripe's Jack White-- and it works very well.  Loretta wrote the songs in much the same vein as she always has and White has produced the album,  as well as playing and singing on the songs.  Loretta has had some controversy during her career, but this album came on the scene to some good critical acclaim.  I really like this album.

Van Lear Rose  Loretta Lynn

What about you?  Got some favorites of your own?  Add yours to the comments or do a post of your own.  We'd like to hear about it.

Next Monday will be the Heaven Eleven Favorite Religious Albums.   I'll be doing Christian albums, but I'm sure other religions have some music that is enjoyable so if you're not Christian you can still add your list.  And as far as Christian, it is not just limited to Contemporary Christian-- you can go with Black Gospel, Southern Gospel, traditional church music, or whatever lifts your spirit heavenward.


  1. As you must have guessed, I am not particularly a music person.
    Just dropped by to tell you that though I haven't been commenting at all, I read regularly, and often have that ah ha moment too.

  2. So not a country music fan. Though I do love Johnny Cash, but he has got an amazing sense of soul in his voice and his music that I can't resist it. Any 'modern' country makes me think of singing candy. :)

    PS, posting a video of my parents' band today - you might like it :)

  3. A smashing list Lee, I know some of them, as you say one person's idea of Country differs from another. Hope you can put up with mine,

    Have a grand day.

  4. you are invited to follow my blog

  5. Not a bad list. Certainly not my top ten, but you picked some good ones. I didn't know the Murray McLauchlan one. Have't heard a good Gram Parsons in a long time.

    I think EmmiyLou does her best as a backup and duet.

    Good list and post. You and I have talked though, the late 70's and 80's country has all but died. I miss it.

  6. Rayna -- Ah music! Not a music person you say? I was raised on it and it's permeated my being. Good to hear from you.

    Jessica- Very cool video. Thanks for letting me know about it.

    Yvonne --Loved your list. Our faves are similar except I picked some newer releases. Yours was all good country as was mine.

    Steve -- Thanks for the invitation. I am now following and will check out what you have to say.

  7. Gregg -- You should check out Murray McLauchlan. It's a bit hard to find his recordings, but he's pretty good.

    I started listening to Gram Parsons again a few years back when they released one of those tribute albums by other artists doing his music. I'd forgotten how good his songs were.

    EmmyLou is a good harmonist, but I also like the way she interprets songs-- especially some of her Beatles covers.

    Yes, all music keeps changing, but some of the artists don't entirely forget their roots and still go back. We just don't hear much of that on the radio or on TV.

  8. rLEE-b ~
    Congratulations on being the first man in history to write an entire paragraph about Dolly Parton that mentions her singing, her songwriting, and her guitar playing, and yet refrains from making any mention of her more obvious... uhm... assets. You are a true gentleman, sir. (I am referring, of course, to Dolly Parton's big... wigs.) ;o)

    --> "Maybe I'm getting old or something, but I would almost say Dolly's version of "Stairway.." is better than Led Zeppelin's - or at least as good."

    I haven't heard Dolly's version, but I know I prefer Tiny Tim's ultra-lounge version of "Stairway" to Led Zep's. When I was young I liked "loud", but in my old age I prefer "fun". It's hell getting old and turning into a Tiny Tim fan. :o)

    Q: Whaddaya get if ya take Johnny Cash and improve his singing voice, then add more style and a better sense of humor?

    A: Waylon Jennings.

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McD-Fens

  9. I do like Johnny Cash, and Dolly Parton. I must admit to being a fan of new country, too, particularly the artists with incredible guitar skills like Brad Paisley. And bands with catchy tunes such as Dirks Bentley and Rascal Flats. I'm a sucker for the sappy romantic stuff too by Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney. I find country music is like a big blanket of comfort to wrap oneself with, especially during a storm.

  10. I listened to your playlist as I had breakfast and tidied my kitchen this morning....enjoyed every song, thank you for sharing.
    .........:-) Hugs

  11. Dolly is one of my favorites too!

  12. I really enjoyed reading the posts on your blog. I would like to invite you to come over to my blog and check it out. God bless, Lloyd

  13. Stephen-- Did you listen to Dolly's "Stairway" I had in the playlist? It's definitely mellower than Zep but probably not as campy as Tim's.

    Lynn-- I like the new country as well. I'm not a purist by any means and I'm always open to new sounds done well.

    Bernie -- Glad you enjoyed the music.

    Paula -- Dolly is a great talent who hasn't forgotten where she came from.

    Lloyd -- I am now following your blog and will check out what you have to say.

  14. Ahhh, I used to love country so much! I think I got burned out on it! Although I still love "Give Me Forty Acres" and Johnny's "One piece at a Time". Just never mind, I guess I still like a lot of country!
    Love Di ♥

  15. I'm not a huge country music fan - but I do like a lot of artists on your list. Anyone with a pure voice amazes me. kd has the voice of an angel. And who doesn't like Dolly? I adore her - her personality is incredible!

    My daughter loves the more modern country music. She's been to a few great concerts in the last few years :)

  16. Great list; I'm not a huge fan of country, but I definitely feel it has a place, lots of soul and inspiration! I love Johnny Cash and Emmylou! Nicely done~

  17. Diana -- there's too much good country not to be able to find somethings you still like. But I know what you mean--there are times I take a break from Country music.

    Jemi -- My daughters and nieces are big fans of modern country music.

    Ellie -- Thanks a bunch for checking it out.

  18. I wish I had albums like the ones you list. My list strictly goes with ones I have and when I say "I", I mean my wife, mostly. I do wish we had older stuff to play, I guess I said that in my blog too. Great list though. Thanks for posting!

  19. Ron-- I've been accumulating albums for about 45 years now so I guess I've had a big head start on you. Thanks for the comment.


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