There are so many new concepts going on in country music reissues. Two disc deluxe editions of classic albums. Box sets of an entire artist’s catalog, with the CD’s in miniature LP replica sleeves. Digital issues of concert recordings. (Wolfgang’s Vault is a thing. Check it out.) Two albums on one CD, or carefully curated collections of singles. Bear Family box sets that give you everything. Even 180 gram vinyl records are coming out at a rapid clip.
So I’m wondering what your wish list is. What reissues would you rush out to buy or download on day one?
Here’s my top five list:
- Dolly Parton, The Complete RCA Albums Collection: 1968-1986
- Willie Nelson, Deluxe Editions of Nineties Classics: Across the Borderline, Spirit, Teatro
- Shania Twain, The Complete International Remix Collection: 1995-2006
- Kay T. Oslin, Clean Your Own Tables: The Early Years
- Trisha Yearwood, Rarities and Unreleased Tracks: 1992-2012
The combined efforts of nine women and three men form the upper echelon of our Best Albums list from 1993. This embarrassment of riches showcases just how much great music there was to choose from that year, especially given how many of the genre’s biggest and most acclaimed stars – Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Pam Tillis, just to name a few – were between albums that year.
It was also a strong and diverse enough year that despite some overall consensus among the lists of all of the writers, each one of us has a different album at #1 on our personal lists.
Enjoy the second half of our list, and look for the Singles list to kick off next weekend.
#1 – JK | #3 – SG
In jumping to a major label, Uncle Tupelo was supposed to give alt-country its Nirvana; though that didn’t happen, the critical acclaim and indie following that Anodyne earned served as an impetus for the nascent alt-country scene.
An album that’s both legitimately great and historically important in equal measure, Anodyne proved that alt-country was commercially viable as a refuge for artists and fans who felt at-odds with the increasingly slick mainstream country of the early 1990s. Borne of long-simmering conflicts between co-frontmen Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar, Anodyne is a sprawling and ambitious album that finds Uncle Tupelo at their most fully-realized as a band.
Drawing heavily from country-rock, folk, and traditional styles, it’s easy to hear the band’s lingering influence on both contemporary Americana and on modern country acts like Miranda Lambert and Eric Church. – Jonathan Keefe
Recommended Tracks: “Acuff-Rose,” “The Long Cut,” “Chickamunga”
Today, we kick off our Best of 1993 feature with the first part of our album retrospective. Included in this list are the debut albums of two underrated singer-songwriters, confident projects from the genre’s leading ladies, and highlights from legends of both the mainstream and alternative country landscapes.
When our writers wax rhapsodic about the glory days of the nineties, one reason why is that albums as great as this aren’t even among the top ten albums of the year.
Look for the conclusion of the albums list tomorrow and the singles list next weekend!
Lead Me Not
#9 – JK | #19 – KJC
Rather than establishing a clear identity for Lari White as an artist, Lead Me Not made for an eclectic debut, as White and producer Rodney Crowell explored styles ranging from traditional country and jazzy torch ballads to torrid Southern gospel and even Latin-flavored pop-country. What made the album such a compelling listen, then, were White’s wry POV as a songwriter and her powerhouse, note-perfect performances. Though Lead Me Not proved that Lari White would remain a difficult act to pigeonhole, it also established her as an artist of uncommon range and a singer of real depth and power. – Jonathan Keefe
Recommended Tracks: “Lead Me Not,” “What a Woman Wants,” “Don’t Leave Me Lonely,” “Good Good Love”
The last few weeks have been full of discussions, debates and even steps and leaps toward major social changes. Songs that most easily hit my sweet spot are songs with thoughtful social commentary. Happily, even with its stereotypes of drinking, cheating and, now, tailgating, country music has not been shy about commenting on social issues.
Here are five of my favorite songs with social commentary. What are some of yours?
- Radney Foster, “Not in My House”
- Waylon Jennings, “America”
- Gail Davies, “Unwed Fathers”
- Peter Cooper, “715 (For Hank Aaron)”
- Dolly Parton, “Just Because I’m a Woman”
So with the site up and running again, we’re back to work. What better way to kick things off than with a Daily Top Five of your favorite songs about work?
Here’s my list:
- Sawyer Brown, “Cafe on the Corner”
- Alabama, “40 Hour Week (For a Livin’)”
- Dolly Parton, “He’s a Go Getter”
- Martina McBride, “Goin’ to Work”
- Aaron Tippin, “I Got it Honest”
Just as songs can grow on us over time, songs can lose their shine just as easily. These are the songs that I once enjoyed and even loved in some cases, but have lost their appeal either due to over exposure or changing tastes.
What songs did you once enjoy, but now no longer appreciate?
Here’s my list:
- Tim McGraw, “Don’t Take the Girl”
- Garth Brooks, “The Dance”
- Garth Brooks, “The River”
- Brad Paisley, “Online”
- Dolly Parton, “Think About Love” (Though I’d like this one again with updated production)
In a long, fascinating interview with the Houston Press, Vince Gill was asked about the recent controversy involving female artists and country radio.
Here’s what he had to say:
“That’s one of the greatest tragedies in this stretch of life for me,” Gill says. “Because I’ve been inspired as much or more by women artists, equally, than I have as men. So if there’s only a couple that are getting the opportunity to really knock it out of the park at radio, then you just go, “What about Patsy Cline/Kitty Wells/Tammy Wynette/Loretta Lynn?’
“I could go on and on and on and on and name you about 50 great female artists,” Gill continues. “And I don’t know why that is. To me, they’re making much more…interesting records. They’re saying more things I’d prefer to hear, lyrically and song-wise, and that’s compelling. This Ashley Monroe kid, she writes songs like she’s 80 years old. It’s remarkable, and it’s not dumbing it down. It’s not going for the lowest common denominator. It’s so refreshing, you know?”
We know, Vince. We definitely know!
Bonus quote on his duet partners Dolly Parton, Alison Krauss, and Patty Loveless:
Dolly would be a great one; getting to do “I Will Always Love You” with her. Anything I’ve ever done with Alison Krauss has been pretty magical. To me one of the most seamless-sounding partners has been Patty Loveless. I think we only maybe did one “real” duet together over all these years, but we both sang on each other’s first hit records.
I’ve been singing with her since, gosh, the mid-’80s, when she made her first record and we sang together. There’s something magical about our voices together that I was always drawn to. She sang on “When I Call Your Name,” “Pocket Full of Gold,” and I sang on a bunch of her hits — “If My Heart Had Windows” and then backgrounds on probably 15 or 20 of her records over the years.
I remember an ill-informed journalist reviewing a Patty Loveless album in the mid-nineties and suggesting Loveless get Gill to sing on some of her songs as payback for the harmony she did on his, completely oblivious to the fact that it was Loveless returning the favor for Gill’s work on her eighties hits.
That guy’s probably a radio consultant now.
We’ve all got ’em.
What are the five albums from artist you love that you try to pretend didn’t happen? (Or at least just don’t copy over to your iPod)
Here’s my list:
- Sugarland, The Incredible Machine
- Tim McGraw, Emotional Traffic
- Trisha Yearwood, Where Your Road Leads
- Dolly Parton, Rainbow
- Randy Travis, Full Circle
Once again, technical difficulties derailed yesterday’s Daily Top Five. So we’re doubling down today.
Ever notice how the Vocal Event categories at country award shows honor harmony vocals as much as they do real, full-fledged duets? The spiritual godfather of all of this is “You and I”, the not quite duet by Eddie Rabbitt and Crystal Gayle, “You and I.” But the modern trend goes back to the award-sweeping “It’s Your Love”, the not quite duet by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.
So for today’s Daily Double Top Fives, we’re asking you to make the distinction that the award shows don’t. What are your favorite five duets, which feature two artists actually trading off lines, and what are your favorite five “all-star” harmony vocals?
Here are mine:
Top Five Duets
- Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton, “The Last Thing on My Mind”
- Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty, “After the Fire is Gone”
- Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton, “You Can’t Make Old Friends”
- Suzy Bogguss & Billy Dean, “Something Up My Sleeve”
- Brad Paisley & Alison Krauss, “Whiskey Lullaby”
Top Five Harmony Vocals
- Linda Ronstadt with Emmylou Harris, “I Can’t Help it (If I’m Still in Love with You)”
- Tim McGraw with Faith Hill, “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s”
- Patty Loveless with George Jones, “You Don’t Seem to Miss Me”
- Vince Gill with Patty Loveless, “When I Call Your Name”
- Trisha Yearwood with Emmylou Harris, “Woman Walk the Line”
Today is International Women’s Day. Historically speaking, country music has never enjoyed a reputation for being socially progressive.
For the general public, the definitive statement the genre made was “Stand By Your Man.” That Tammy Wynette classic is often cited as country music’s counterpoint to the women’s liberation movement, although Wynette wrote the thing in fifteen minutes without any agenda in mind. She just needed a song to sing.
I generally consider the classic country era to have ended with the seventies, preceding the Urban Cowboy and New Traditionalist movements. What follows are some of the best deliberate statements made by country artists during those years in support for women’s rights. Some were big hits. Some were not. But they were all ahead of their time and are still interesting to listen to today.