Category Archives: Starter Kits

John Anderson Starter Kit

john-andersonAmong the greatest new traditionalists of the eighties, John Anderson is one of the best. That he managed to resurrect his career during the nineties boom, while most of his peers from a decade earlier were shown the door, is a testament to his talent and the timeless quality of his music.

His distinctive voice made him one of the last great stylists of country music, a singer you could identify after hearing him sing the first line. I recommend delving deep into his catalog, and here are the ten tracks that you should start with.

“She Just Started Liking Cheatin’ Songs” from the 1980 album John Anderson

One of Anderson’s breakthrough songs finds him concerned over his lover’s new fondness for cheating songs. “I’m not sure if it’s the cheatin’ she likes, or just the melody,” he worries.

“I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I’m Gonna Be a Diamond Someday” from the 1981 album John Anderson 2

A classic song celebrating untapped potential, courtesy of songwriting legend Billy Joe Shaver.

“I Just Came Home to Count the Memories” from the 1981 album I Just Came Home to Count the Memories

This haunting ballad of a broken home evokes memories of George Jones classics like “The Grand Tour,” complete with melancholy strings.

“Swingin'” from the 1982 album Wild & Blue

For a long time, this was the zenith of his career, resulting in a gold album and two CMA trophies, including Single of the Year.

“Straight Tequila Night” from the 1992 album Seminole Wind

The first single from Anderson’s massive comeback album barely dented the charts, but when “Straight Tequila Night” was sent to radio, it shot to #1.

“When it Comes to You” from the 1992 album Seminole Wind

I’ve never heard the music complement Anderson’s voice so effectively.

“Seminole Wind” from the 1992 album Seminole Wind

An environmental plea that is as poignant and timely today as it was upon release.

“I Wish I Could Have Been There” from the 1993 album Solid Ground

Country music gets its own “Cat’s in the Cradle”, as a working father misses the milestones of his children’s lives, then finds that they’re not around for him in his twilight years.

“Bend it Until it Breaks” from the 1994 album Country ‘Til I Die

His last big hit, and one of his best breakup numbers.

“Long Hard Lesson Learned” from the 1996 album Paradise

Anderson’s final album for BNA featured one of his finest moments, a powerful message of love and tolerance.


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Randy Travis Starter Kit

randy-travisAs his recent stint as an American Idol mentor proves, Randy Travis is one of the most widely recognized and respected traditional country artists of the past three decades. After selling millions of albums in the eighties, Travis remained a force on the country charts throughout the nineties.  This decade, he has won several Grammy awards for his Christian albums, and even returned to the top of the country charts with “Three Wooden Crosses”, a selection from one of those albums.

A Starter Kit for an artist like Randy Travis can only skim the surface. Those looking to dig deeper should check out Leeann’s Favorite Songs by Favorite Artists: Randy Travis feature, along with his recent collaboration with Carrie Underwood on “I Told You So”, which resulted in his first-ever top ten pop hit, a full thirty years after he made his first appearance on the country charts with “She’s My Woman” under his real name, Randy Traywick.

“On the Other Hand” from the 1986 album Storms of Life

His first hit single was an instant classic about the consequences of infidelity.

“Diggin’ Up Bones” from the 1986 album Storms of Life

He’ll forever have coolness for scoring a #1 hit with “exhuming” in the chorus.

“Forever and Ever, Amen” from the 1987 album Always & Forever

This instant wedding classic powered his second album to quintuple platinum status.

“I Told You So” from the 1987 album Always & Forever

The original version is mandatory listening for fans of Carrie Underwood and contemporary country music.

“Hard Rock Bottom of Your Heart” from the 1989 album No Holdin’ Back

The production was startlingly innovative for the time, and Travis deserves kudos for convincing listeners that it’s the woman who was cheated on who is being unreasonable.

“Look Heart, No Hands” from the 1992 album Greatest Hits Volume Two

When Travis released two hits collections simultaneously, he scattered new tracks among both sets. This was the best among a strong crop of new material.

“Before You Kill Us All” from the 1994 album This is Me

Proof positive that Travis can be quite funny.

“Out of My Bones” from the 1998 album You and You Alone

His Dreamworks debut was his best single in years, with killer fiddle and one of his strongest vocals.

“Three Wooden Crosses” from the 2002 album Rise and Shine

Arguably his finest work since the classic hits of his first two albums, it returned him to #1 on the country charts for the first time in eight years.

“Dig Two Graves” from the 2008 album Around the Bend

A poignant bookend to “Forever and Ever, Amen”, where the promise has been kept but time is running short.


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Aaron Tippin Starter Kit

aaron-tippinStarter Kits are Country Universe’s way of introducing country music fans to an artist that they might not be fully aware of. This Starter Kit features Aaron Tippin, who will soon enter his third decade as a country recording artist.

Tippin was a hit from the beginning, launching his career with a gold-selling debut album. Over the course of the nineties and early 2000s, he would reach that sales level multiple times, racking up several top ten hits along the way. He recently released In Overdrive, a solid collection of truck driving anthems.

The Starter Kit includes one track from this recent release, along with nine others from throughout Tippin’s career that are required listening. As always, let me know what was missed in the comments.

“You’ve Got to Stand For Something” from the 1991 album You’ve Got to Stand For Something

Tippin established his artistic identity immediately with his debut single. Pride in family, pride in country, and pride in your beliefs are themes that Tippin would revisit frequently over the years, making much of his best music in the process.

“There Ain’t Nothin’ Wrong With the Radio” from the 1992 album Read Between the Lines

Tippin scored a huge hit with this ode to his car radio, the only part of his vehicle that isn’t falling apart.

“I Wouldn’t Have it Any Other Way” from the 1992 album Read Between the Lines

One of his many hits to champion the underdog, the accompanying video clip has him playing a factory worker who rallies for better working conditions.

“My Blue Angel” from the 1992 album Read Between the Lines

Tippin’s only platinum album is also among his best, with his plaintive wail being used to stunning effect on this lonesome ballad.

“Working Man’s Ph. D.” from the 1993 album Call of the Wild

As the title suggests, it’s a working class anthem that explores the necessary requirements for high achievement in manual labor.

“Whole Lotta Love on the Line” from the 1993 album Call of the Wild

The musical hook of this song is so deliriously infectious that it’s easy to overlook that it also includes one of Tippin’s finest vocal performances.

“I Got it Honest” from the 1995 album Tool Box

Tippin’s finest expression of working class values.

“Kiss This” from the 2000 album People Like Us

Thanks to this snappy kiss off anthem, Tippin earned his first gold album in five years.

“He Believed” from the 2006 album Now & Then

Tippin pays tribute to his father once again. He celebrates his dad’s belief in God and country, but poignantly notes that he believed in his son more than anyone or anything else.

“Prisoner of the Highway” from the 2009 album In Overdrive

The centerpiece of his truck driving odyssey.


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Conway Twitty Starter Kit

conway-twittyStarter Kits are Country Universe’s way of introducing country music fans to an artist that they might not be fully aware of. Our first Starter Kit features Conway Twitty, the legendary Hall of Famer with forty number one singles to his credit.

After having major success on the pop charts in the fifties, Twitty crossed over to country, where he was a regular presence in the top ten from the late sixties until the early nineties. No country music fan should be without some Conway Twitty in their collection. Here are ten tracks to start off with.

“It’s Only Make Believe” from the 1958 album Conway Twitty Sings

Twitty’s clearly influenced by Elvis Presley as a vocalist on this #1 pop hit. He’d later develop a country style but never fully lose the soul sound found on his first hit.

“Hello Darlin'” from the 1970 album Hello Darlin’

Still his signature song, Twitty became a superstar with this plaintive plea to his former lover.

“How Much More Can She Stand” from the 1971 album How Much More Can She Stand

Twitty almost succeeds at making a cheating man sound sympathetic, as he ponders the weakness inside him and the impact it has on the woman that he loves but still betrays.

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